We arrived at the Minnesota Zen Meditation Center 10 minutes before the retreat was to begin. The roads were slippery and the drive wasn't easy but we made it as we walked through the porch door kicking snow off of our shoes. There were people gathered on the porch all staring at the view out front-beautiful Lake Calhoun-or at the wall. It was a little surreal to walk in feeling like we had already missed an introduction or instructions of some sort. We did have one person tell us in a whisper to find a spot and that at exactly 8 we were expected to be on a pillow.
Not ever having been there it was confusing, plain and simple but on the porch there were hot pots of coffee and water with a basket of tea, people seemed friendly or at least interesting. NO one was talking though. I mean I know meditation is done in silence but I expected there to be a beginning meet and greet kind of time and there was it just came later than expected. We meditated for 30 minutes to start off and then we gathered in the main room and heard a lovely dharma talk and understood that the entire retreat was to be in silence. I missed that memo in the retreat outline-truthfully-it wasn't there as I guess that is an understood norm for everyone else but me.
I am an introvert and struggle to make daily conversation and hate chit chat yet it was very hard for me to spend the day in silence. I do like to crack people up and often love to make jokes in inopportune moments. This would have been one of them if I wasn't trying so hard to fit in. I was uncomfortable at first, everyone around me seemed to know so much more. Come to find out almost everyone else in attendance is a regular there. My brother and I were first timers and that made it quite a challenge. By the end of the day though I was thrilled with the experience. We did sitting meditation, walking meditation, and mindful work meditation (which for us was ironing cloth napkins). Even eating lunch was a meditation-and the lunch was vegetarian and delicious. I was able to focus on a few key items in my life that I struggle with and I did a lot of silent (of course)praying for my whole extended family. I loved my one-on-one session with Wanda Isle, our guide for the day.
It was an amazing experience. My brother and I chatted on the way home about our experience, some similar and some different. I was ready to get myself a pillow and a mat and start practicing every day at home. I had the best of intentions.
I looked for cushions and mats-they are expensive. I can just use a pillow though and yet I never once was able to sit down and do this like I know it should be done, not once during my week. I'm a little frustrated with myself. I did do walking meditation once at work when I had some stressful moments and it helped.
I do want to make this part of my regular day, every day. I will work to find some space to do this. I need help though.