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Thread: Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey and My Retreat

  1. #1

    Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey and My Retreat

    I have just come back from a weekend introductory retreat at Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey (Soto Tradition) in the glorious Northumberland countryside in North England.
    This was the longest retreat I've done and and in addition to about 6 sessions of formal Zazen on the Saturday, one Friday, and 2 Sunday morning before leaving, the whole thing was done in silence. There were a couple of question and answer sessions throughout the weekend and one-to-one sessions with the senior monks, but most of the time we had to be silent. I liked it a lot. The pressure of finding something to say completely disappears and you're just left with whatever you're doing. Anyway, I had a lovely time and was left with a slightly different idea of my practice. And this has inspired me in my sitting.

    Talking with one of the monks was really helpful. I asked him if it was necessary to question ourselves in addition to do Zazen. (Sometimes I feel that questioning myself really just goes round in circles, so I wasn't sure if it was necessary.) He gave me this analogy: Zazen = sitting in the middle of a football field, waiting to see what comes your way. Questioning = taking the ball and kicking it towards the goal. Something like that anyway...And it made sense to me. It's just a different technique for getting to know yourself and then forgetting yourself. In Zazen, thoughts and emotions arise and you let them go. When questioning yourself, you make thoughts arise around a certain subject, and then let them go.

    Does this make sense? Do you agree?

    So anyway,I feel that now when I'm really getting lost inside a dilemma and it's getting out of hand, I should remember that I'm not really looking for an answer, rather it's the process of questioning that's important. And that in this moment, there's the other kind of practice I could do ie. letting thoughts come and letting them go and focusing on the job in hand.

    That was a long post and I'm not sure it made sense. But suffice to say, retreats are good

  2. #2

    Re: Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey and My Retreat

    So glad you enjoyed it and obviously got a lot out of it

    _/_ Kev

  3. #3

    Re: Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey and My Retreat

    Quote Originally Posted by undeceivable
    Talking with one of the monks was really helpful. I asked him if it was necessary to question ourselves in addition to do Zazen. (Sometimes I feel that questioning myself really just goes round in circles, so I wasn't sure if it was necessary.)


    That was a long post and I'm not sure it made sense. But suffice to say, retreats are good
    Gassho,

    I think it made sense, but of course I can only know what I think you said.

    You mentioned going around in circles, maybe this happens more because you are trying to analytically come up with an answer instead of letting the question sit until an answer appears? But of course, "delusions are inexhaustible, we vow to end them all". But also, maybe if you go around in circles, there is something important to be seen in the center of that circle.

    gassho,
    rowan

  4. #4

    Re: Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey and My Retreat

    Quote Originally Posted by ros
    Quote Originally Posted by undeceivable
    Talking with one of the monks was really helpful. I asked him if it was necessary to question ourselves in addition to do Zazen. (Sometimes I feel that questioning myself really just goes round in circles, so I wasn't sure if it was necessary.)


    That was a long post and I'm not sure it made sense. But suffice to say, retreats are good
    Gassho,

    I think it made sense, but of course I can only know what I think you said.

    You mentioned going around in circles, maybe this happens more because you are trying to analytically come up with an answer instead of letting the question sit until an answer appears? But of course, "delusions are inexhaustible, we vow to end them all". But also, maybe if you go around in circles, there is something important to be seen in the center of that circle.

    gassho,
    rowan
    Yeah, thanks Rowan, that was what I meant...and I think you're right, there is something at the center of my thinking. Something bugging me...
    But also, after talking with that monk I got the impression that thinking analytically has its value too - not just for practical decisions, but also as a way of going straight to the heart of the question. What do you think? Like brainstorming moral dilemas, reasons for certain reactions etc. We can either sit with the question and not actively try to answer it, or actively try to answer it with logic and analysis. Are there two approaches to getting to the heart of dilemas?

    PA

  5. #5

    Re: Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey and My Retreat

    Silly example, but...

    It's kinda of like my daughter's rubix cube. Sometimes I pick it up and look at it trying to be logical about what moves I need to make to solve it. Sometimes I solve it a few moments later, most of the time I put it down frustrated.

    Other times after I have put it down for a while I'll just pick it up and look at it and the solution pops into my head on the spot.

  6. #6

    Re: Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey and My Retreat

    [/quote] Yeah, thanks Rowan, that was what I meant...and I think you're right, there is something at the center of my thinking. Something bugging me...
    But also, after talking with that monk I got the impression that thinking analytically has its value too - not just for practical decisions, but also as a way of going straight to the heart of the question. What do you think? Like brainstorming moral dilemas, reasons for certain reactions etc. We can either sit with the question and not actively try to answer it, or actively try to answer it with logic and analysis. Are there two approaches to getting to the heart of dilemas?

    PA[/quote]

    Hi,

    I certainly don't mean "not actively try to answer it" since what I do is quite active, but for me sometimes it is sort of like working on a painting, you just look at it until it comes to you what your next brush stroke should be. Perhaps it is more (for me) like scientific observation, trying to look closer and closer at what the situation is, and then usually a "solution" or understanding becomes clear to me. But it is definitely not a matter of doing nothing. Perhaps my "logic and analysis" is more often about what the "problem" is. But there is the logic and analysis about (once I have a clear picture of the problem) various possible actions/solutions. I think there might be two approaches, and one or the other might be most appropriate depending on the "problem".

    thank you for your time,
    rowan

  7. #7

    Re: Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey and My Retreat

    Thanks Jamie and Ros for the nice explanations and fine examples 8)

    PA

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