ONE STUDENTS REFLECTIONS ON THE 2020 EASTER RETREAT by Sheryl Foo
My Easter tradition is packing up the car and heading off from the Mornington Peninsula to Healesville, attending the annual Evam Buddhist Retreat at Maitripa Centre.
And as tradition has it, my excitement builds as I exit freeways and highways to then hit the winding country road to Maitripa. As I pull onto the entrance and I hear the gravel under my tyres, I know I am entering a sacred space. And as tradition would have it, I always take a deep breath in and with an outward sigh dissolve into this place, my Teachers’ Mandala.
Here I will be for four days and four nights taking refuge and leaving my day-to-day world behind me. My “here and now” retreat time; without technology or communication devices. The mere fact of not having my senses directed to distraction is both agitating and liberating in the face of silence. I should add this is not a compulsory requirement while attending retreat, but personally I treasure this annual time and choose to experience it to the fullest.
But this year there has been big changes from the normal Easter tradition due to the arrival of the COVID19 pandemic demanding home isolation and social distancing. The world took on a new focus and here in Australia gratefully our governments focus was on caring for its people. The urgency of the time demanded this Easter be held in physical isolation at home. So I quietly accepted there would be no E-Vam Retreat in 2020.
Then surprisingly or unsurprisingly, the E-Vam Sangha stepped up and in record time created an online retreat via a program called Zoom. The wonders of technology, science and Buddha Dharma Sangha all converged in a display of Dependant Arising!
It was announced without fuss that the 2020 Evam Retreat would go ahead online. Simultaneously exciting and nerve racking as there were alot of first time experiences for everyone, organisers and students alike. Every individual was so impressive displaying fearlessness in trying something new and there is no doubt we all thrived from it.
Personally I dedicated this retreat to all people suffering through this pandemic. The challenges of retreat were different being in my own home, particularly with some bad habits I was forming during the social isolation. I realised in my own home I had become so dependent on technology. I was cluttering my life with background noise. Filling the gaps with radio, social networking, podcasts, movies, you name it, but not making space for quiet reflection and meditation. The irony is this insight came via a technologically -facilitated -retreat!!
Isn’t life wonderful?
The shake-up of experiencing retreat in a different way did not detract from the many personal benefits for me. Now my home is my sacred space and my Teachers’ Mandala is anywhere I bring it to mind. With the sangha’s support, my personal commitment to my practice is renewed in the face of these changing times. I feel connected and I feel very blessed indeed.
Finally, I’m sure I can safely speak for everyone, in expressing gratitude to the whole organising Sangha who did such a brilliant job delivering a flawless retreat in the service of their Teacher. It is the noblest of heart connections and all of us benefited. Thank you.