Back from my first one-day retreat

My day started off completely normal. Got up, had my usual two cups of coffee before being able to call myself human, hung out with Leah and the kids and then headed off toward a new beginning. Why say it’s a new beginning? Well I had hoped to break this “plateau” like feeling and get out of some funkiness, today was the day that happened, finally.

I arrived at the retreat about 30 minutes early, needed to get my bearings or something. The retreat was run by the Cape Cod Zen Center, a Kwan Um Zen School. There was to be 6 hours of meditation, both sitting and walking, as well as kong-an interviews. To be honest, I was a bit freaked about these interviews. It wasn’t that bad when my turn came.

I asked my questions, got quite a few answers in return, as well as some insightful advice. Walking back to my cushion I couldn’t help but smile, the interview wasn’t freaky at all, it was quite liberating. As I sat back down thoughts raced around my head, but they weren’t the usual scattered thoughts, much simpler, refined.

What is this?
Don’t know!

What is Zen?
Don’t know!

What is Buddha?
Don’t know!

It was ok to not know, no worries.

For a while I have been “trying on” various sects of Buddhism. Have met people involved in various lineages and have asked millions of questions. But one thing that stuck for me today, without saying a thing, was looking around the room and seeing only grey (robes)!

Grey! No difference, no you, no me, just grey.
The teacher, grey.
The students, grey.
The newbies (me), grey!

What I’m getting at here is something spoke to me and I think, for the time being, the Kwan Um School “fits” for me. I still have a bit of studying to do, questions to ask, retreats to sit, but it felt comfortable and the middle way of teaching this school offers hits home. It’s very stripped down, to the point and it works.

My knees hurt like hell though!


  1. Glad to hear things went well.My first level of shambhala and other teachings,I had interviews to.I sat and walked for 2 days and thought wow everything seems so much clearer,the air ,the sky,the clouds,I felt like a was home.
    I hope things work out for you and trust me many and many questions will come up.
    I am going to a shambhla level 2 training in Oct.
    Take care and best wishes,

  2. Ahhh…what a nice description of your retreat experience. I’ve practiced in the Kwan Um School of Zen for many years — welcome to our little grey world!

    Although I live in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve had the opportunity to sit with the teachers at the Cambridge Zen Center quite a bit over the years. And I stay at the center, when life takes me through Boston. And, of course, I’ve also practiced with Zen Master Soeng Hyang — the first time was nearly 20 years ago!

    I appreciate the simple, direct style of teaching in this tradition. Not much fuss, just do it!

    Even this morning, sitting at home: What is this? What is this?

    My knees do okay on retreat, but my upper back kills me. Every day around 3 pm — my old friend, upper back pain, joins me for the rest of the day. I’m used to it, but have a hard time welcoming it.

  3. Hope your knees are feeling better!

    Shambhala interviews always freaked me out a bit too. Like I was scrambling to find the right answer or stumbled along with what I wanted to say to the teacher. I realized that I was really looking at these interviews as needing to find the right answer in that immediate moment rather than being uncomfortable with the uncertainty or the ‘not knowing’.

    Guess it goes back to the Western scholastic tradition of getting called on by teacher and teased if you replied with the ‘I don’t know’..

    Good luck with the ‘new school’.

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