Breaking news: Meditation is awesome.
If you’re like me, sometimes you’re cranky and stingy. You’re well-fed, you go to a great school, but your life fucking sucks because you don’t know why you’re doing any of this anyway and the motorcycle that just drove by needs a fucking muffler and you can’t stop thinking about your ex.
But sometimes you’re light and generous. The leaves are flying in the wind. Your boots make a good crunch in the snow, and it’s enough. You smile at passing strangers.
It turns out we can learn something key about all this just by sitting still and noticing what happens. And, like exercising a muscle or learning a language, we can retrain the way we approach life at a very basic level if we want to. Maybe it’s about releasing insecurities and bad habits. Or maybe it’s just about intimacy—about living life, shitty or shining, in full color. I don’t know. This is different for everyone. I do know that meditation is the most educational, transformative, and straight-up useful thing I’ve done in my four years at Wesleyan.
If you want to live more wakefully, or sharpen your mind, or break cycles of tension and negativity, a meditation retreat can be a good way to jump in. (Meditation is the opposite of “retreating,” but you know what I mean). If you think your mind is too scattered or fast-paced to meditate, you’re misinformed: Meditation is not about sitting with a clear mind, it’s about noticing what’s going on. Basically we practice paying attention.
Spring break is, in my experience, just the right window of time to undertake one of these courses. Registration and scholarships are on a first-come basis, and these tend to fill up a few weeks in advance, so if you’re interested get on it! Here’s info on the retreat I’m doing and a few others that coincide with our spring break:
Insight Meditation Society (Barre, MA)
March 5 – 14th; weblink
Three Wesleyan folks are signed up for this and I have four more seats in my car. Insight meditation is simple and accessible. Practicing meditation for nine days anywhere will be challenging, but the teachers here are gentle. If you need to take a break and go for a walk in the woods, you can. They also have a room with yoga mats for use during breaks. About 1/3 of retreatants will have never taken a course like this before. If you want to carpool with us, shoot me an email [nwotton at wes].
Dai Bosatsu Zendo (Catskill Mountains, NY)
March 10-14th; weblink
Dai Bosatsu is a Zen monastery with a very formal practice ethic: even details like unwrapping utensils at meals are tightly choreographed. The result is beautiful, but the residents will not hold your hand as you learn the ropes, so learn fast. The abbot here, Edai Shimano Roshi, is very good. Some experience sitting, or strong discipline, or extreme determination is recommended. I sat here last spring, and am happy to talk if you have questions. [nwotton at wes]
Blue Cliff Monastery (Pine Bush, NY)
March 15 – 19th; weblink
I’ve never visited Blue Cliff, and only know of it through other Wesleyan students. You may have read something by Thich Nhat Hanh; this monastery is part of his school. In addition to sitting, walking, eating and working meditation, this Young Adult retreat (18 – 30 yo) will involve “sharing groups, creative activities, and body awareness techniques.” If you have questions about Blue Cliff you can contact [esherman at wes].
Karmê Chöling Shambhala Center (Barnet, VT)
Shambhala is a well-known American/Tibetan school. Their center in Vermont has a lot going on.
Elsewhere: Here are a few courses I’ve heard of that are happening outside of the Northeast.
Again, feel free to contact me if you have any questions: [nwotton at wesleyan.edu]