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Short term monastic retreat blog series「1」

Updated: Nov 6, 2019

Member's Q & A:

YQ: Yuchen Qian QJ: Qianjun Wang

JD: Jianan Duan SC: Selene Chew

Question 1: Why did you want to attend the short term monastic retreat?

YQ: In the first place, Venerable Miao Zhong suggested that I should sign up for the retreat, and she said people who participated in the past had significant transformations. Back then I had no idea what it was, and the word “monastic” actually sounded a little scary to me. However, since I’ve been volunteering at the temple for a while and learning about Buddhism in the meantime, I was very curious about it, so I wanted to give it a try and experience what it really means to live as a monastic.

QW: After getting to know Buddhism for a year's time, I found myself changed a lot no matter in personal life or work. I have gained lots of inner peace and build stronger connections with the world around me through all activities by SBT and SFYAD. That is the reason why I attended the short term monastic retreat, with curiosity and seeking for more clearness of my mind.

JD: With each day’s work and activities, friends and families, I’m busy a lot of the time. It's not just the physical part, but my mind as well. I wouldn't have time in between tasks to stop and think why I do everything I do. Eventually, I came to a realization that what I do is not controlled by me anymore, and I need to be more aware of my surroundings and mindful of the purpose of my existence. The retreat provides a perfect experience of slowing down the pace and bringing back awareness while answering the questions about life and death.

SC: I’ve always wanted to attend a long meditation retreat, but never had the chance. When I came across this, I thought this might be something similar to that. Later I realized there were many obstacles that made it difficult for me to attend; getting vacation, green card process, work load, etc. Overcoming every one of the obstacles made me really appreciate my chance to attend the retreat.

Question 2: What’s one thing that you find most interesting about the retreat?

YQ: The most interesting thing to me during the retreat was having meals. In my daily life, I had never paid attention to my dining habits before. I didn’t even think that I had “bad” dining habits, until I was having meals during the retreat and was given instructions on how to collect the utensils and food, the order of eating, etc. It was quite amazing to realize how I just took eating for granted and stayed on autopilot for a long time. I also learned to appreciate the food we eat and the people or even all the beings that provide food to us.

QW: Cause and condition. The best scenario is we know every our current conditions and all the causes of those. But in reality, we even fail clearness in really basic things, like walking, eating, speaking. Never underestimate anything in our lives. They all connected.

JD: Nowadays people engage in night unlimited screen-time, I'm no exception. In the retreat there's no access to cell phones or internet. I got super anxious at the beginning of the retreat thinking about all the messages I missed. What I thought were necessities in life like phones, cosmetics, comfortable bed, talking, choices of what to wear, etc. were taken away, and this really helped to bring back my original self and return a peaceful mind.

SC: There are way too many things to pick from. If I were to really pick one to elaborate on, I’d say the fact that there were many rules in the retreat. These rules were not natural for me, but I treat it as a challenge and accept it as it is. We have “rules” for everything: the way we walk, eat, etc. Through following these rules, I realized how difficult it was to change my habits. If I think about something not related to my actions, I’m very likely to make a “mistake”. In fact, as I continuously tried really hard to “follow the rules”, I finally understood what being mindful means. At every single moment, can I be aware of my thoughts and actions? If my thoughts started drifting, so will my actions. And being mindful means being aware of my every thought, so that I can make the best decision.

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