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Buddhadharma : Spring 2011
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly spring 2 0 11 52 buddhadharMa: Or dramatic or romantic. ElizabEth Mattis-NaMgyEl: In fact, it’s a very practical thing to do. buddhadharMa: Yet there is not a lot of encouragement in Western culture to do this sort of thing. It’s seen as exotic and impractical. Do you have any advice about how to carve out time or come up with the money to go on retreat? ElizabEth Mattis-NaMgyEl: It depends on what your focus is. If your intention is to wake up, then you do have time to do it. If that’s not your intention, then you won’t. guy arMstroNg: Motivation is the central question, and that gEoffrEy shugEN arNold: Stravinsky said that within discipline we find spaciousness, liberty, and freedom. But that discipline must be held in a way that’s based in wisdom. guy arMstroNg: Retreat places us in a position to work with the painful parts as well as the sublime parts, and working with the painful parts is really what opens the door to com- passion. You see the full impact of negative states on yourself and you look around and realize everybody is going through the same thing. Compassion emerges naturally. gEoffrEy shugEN arNold: At a certain point, the realization may also dawn that although you leave so-called regular life and enter a seemingly artificial environment, you are doing nothing more than living. It’s in a slightly more concentrated way, and there’s more emphasis on zazen, but it’s actually teaching us how to live our normal lives. It becomes not just about trans- ferring into our daily lives what we discover during retreat, but about actually living retreat as just another day of life. ElizabEth Mattis-NaMgyEl: Very much so. I feel fully engaged in retreat, just as I am fully engaged in life. The challenges turn out to be the same. Seeing this helps us to be more ordinary about our retreat and more ordinary about daily life buddhadharMa: You live and you breathe. gEoffrEy shugEN arNold: It’s not all that complicated. It’s important for the evolution of dharma in the West that we continue to make retreat opportunities available because it seems that’s where the deepest understandings of the Buddha tend to get realized. —Guy Armstrong Photo corey kohn