Sunday, March 9, 2014

Over The Weekend: A Day of Mindfulness

This weekend was a bit hectic for me and I knew that I would need something to calm my nerves when all the stress/chaos calmed down.  So, two weeks ago I registered myself for a little Buddhist retreat.  I've been here before with my husband.  We both came away from that experience with an amazing respect for the mindfulness training that the monks and nuns of Plum Village do. 

Every Sunday, the Asian Institute of Applied Buddhism, in conjunction with Plum Village, hosts "A Day of Mindfulness Training" at the Lotus Pond Temple just alongside the Big Buddha on Lantau Island.  From 9:30 am until 5pm, people who are interested in learning how to integrate mindfulness and some Buddhist wisdom into their daily lives gather at the Lotus Pond Temple.

From Tung Chung MTR Station, walk over to the bus terminus, and take bus 23 to Ngong Ping 

From the Ngong Ping bus terminus, it is always amazing to see Lantau Island's Big Buddha

The morning was incredibly foggy, this view, in itself, was a good retreat from the City
Walking up to the Lotus Pond (which sits just to the left of the Polin Monastery) is a beautiful walk
The street you must walk down to reach the Lotus Pond Temple
The little wooden sign that points you to the Lotus Pond Temple
The pathway towards the temple
The gateway is beautiful, lined with bushes of flowers and covered in greenery
Here is the temple facade

The Lotus Pond below the temple

The beautiful trees, sitting areas, and bells around the temple
How it flowed:
1.  9:30 Singing of Buddhist Hymns (English and Cantonese sometimes)
2.  10:00 Mindfulness Walk and Morning Exercises
3.  10:30 Orientation
4.  11:30 Dharma Talk
5.  12:30 Lunch
6.  1:30 Deep Meditation
7.  3:30 Sharing
8.  5 pm End of Day

This flow changes, definitely.  The activities I loved the most were the Mindful Walks, Dharma Talks, Lunch and Deep Meditation.

The walks are always lovely.  We were instructed to walk mindfully, which was just to mind your steps, your breathing, the things around you, etc.  It was quite a calming start to my Sunday.  We walked around the Polin Monastery grounds, which were chaotic with excited tourists, but a good way to train your thoughts to focus on walking or breathing.

The Dharma Talk this week was about Friendship and ways to show love towards your friends.  The quote that stood out to me was to "water yourself."  The nun, who was speaking said that you always have to work on the good things that you notice about yourself.  She said that someone had once told her that most Hong Kong people change their jobs every two years.  It was shocking to hear that.  But, she went on to say that you should learn what you are good at before you start a job, then stick with it, strengthen yourself in that area, and then you can learn what true success is.  She also shared a beautiful story of how a girl she knew had chosen to become a monastic.  It was  a lovely talk and very inspirational.

Lunch time is also quite a wonderful experience.  We all gathered, women on one side and men on the other, and filled our bowls with the food that the monks and nuns had prepared for us.  Then we all went to the hall, sat on our little mats, and ate in silence, minding the flavors of the food, the way we chewed, the way the food felt in our mouths, etc.  It was quite amazing to experience!

Lastly, Deep Meditation is wonderful.  After washing our dishes and utensils, we had a break, and then prepared our mats for the meditation.  We all laid down, closed our eyes, and listen to our this point, I can't remember what happened.  I just woke up, like how I wake up every morning, only I felt incredibly relaxed and so happy.  There is something special to be said about the Deep Meditation.  I am not sure if I TRULY FELL ASLEEP, or was in meditation, but I absolutely LOVED the feeling of happiness and relaxation.

This was a great retreat, which not only advertises monastic life, but lets you experience it.  Understanding does comes through experience, right!