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Buddhadharma : Spring 2011
87 spring 2 01 1 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly There is a tension between trying to maintain the integrity of sesshin or retreat as a cloistered environment and yet acknowl- edging that most practitioners these days are lay practitioners. They have families and other obligations. We draw the line at phone calls and conducting business during the retreat, but for young parents we’ve begun to find ways of having them relate to their children without breaking the retreat. Sometimes that means bringing a child in once or twice during the week or allowing the mother to call every day to say hello. We’ve been experimenting because of the eagerness and enthusiasm of the parents. They want to do this and yet they have commitments and we don’t want them to renege on those commitments. We’re seeing what works, keeping in mind how easy it is to lose the baby with the bathwater. guy arMstroNg: Scholarships are also vitally important. There are segments of the population that find retreat costs really difficult. When I started, I was paying seven dollars a day, and now retreats are sixty to eighty dollars a day, and that is subsidized by donations. In a year at IMS and Spirit Rock, we typically grant about $90,000 in scholarships for long retreats. At the Forest Refuge, there’s a reducing rate struc- ture, depending on how long somebody stays. Once you get past three months at the Forest Refuge, the daily rate drops to thirty-three dollars. gEoffrEy shugEN arNold: We also have a scholarship program, and a work exchange program, because it’s absolutely neces- sary to meet the needs of many different kinds of people. ElizabEth Mattis-NaMgyEl: At Samten Ling, we try to work creatively and flexibly with people’s situations. Children actu- ally seem to respond well to their parents doing retreat. Com- munity support is also very important. There’s no reason that somebody should not be able to do retreat if they really want to. There’s always a way to work it out, and people do make it work, for themselves and their families. buddhadharMa: It sounds like if someone wants to do retreat all of you are willing to try to find a way to make it happen if their motivation is strong and they are ready. gEoffrEy shugEN arNold: I would like to add that although we have been emphasizing retreat, it doesn’t really work without dedicated daily practice. Sometimes we can think of retreat as a kind of rapid-acting magic. Also, it’s possible to diminish the importance of daily practice because one has experienced the depth of retreat. You need to take care of your daily business; that’s how retreat becomes integrated into life. ElizabEth Mattis-NaMgyEl: I agree, and I find it very touching to hear from Guy and Shugen how much interest they are seeing in retreat these days. I would say to anyone who is thinking about doing retreat: if you are ready, go ahead. There are challenges, but as we’ve said, it’s a lovely thing. I feel an incredible sense of contentment and well-being coming from the people who are practicing in our cabins, and I understand why. Retreat has been the heart of my life. ➤ continued from page 53 Master of Arts (MA) in Buddhist Studies Master of Divinity (MDiv) Extension Program (Open Admission) & Online Study Options scholarship. meditation. service 1119 SE Market Street | Portland, Oregon 97214 telephone: 503-235-2477 | email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.maitripa.org Graduate Studies at Maitripa College APPLY BY MARCH 1, 2011 FOR FALL DEGREE PROGRAM ENTRY