What is Wake Up Spirit? The intention to “wake up” beyond our usual notions of ourselves and our environment, to enter deeply into meditation and move out into the world, to celebrate and share our gifts with collective awareness, inclusion, and fun. It is a coming together of people of different ages to support the new generation in Dharma practice, and to apply mindfulness trainings to our intimate, daily lives with emphasis on personal transformation and collective action in the world.
In October 2012, four non-monastic and five monastic friends of Deer Park Monastery went on a sort of modern-day mission: we toured the Pacific Northwest offering workshops, retreats, and meditation flash mobs on college campuses and on city streets with mindfulness trainings, loving speech and deep listening, and fun! Washington State, the home of the Mountain Lamp Community, was our last stop. Three months later, three Wake Up Peer Facilitators––Maria, an OI aspirant and Wake Up Seattle member; David, an OI member from northern California; and me, an OI member from Boulder, Colorado––met with Dharma teacher and Mountain Lamp resident, Eileen Kiera, to discuss and organize a five-day Mountain Lamp Wake Up Retreat and Intergenerational Day of Mindfulness to be held at the end of June.
We three peer facilitators, along with Eileen and Jack, her husband who is a teacher in another tradition, wanted to organize a retreat based on peer-facilitated practices. We wanted to build upon the foundation offered to us from monastic-led retreats and mentoring. This was our gift back to our teachers and community.
We invited a group of young adults, ages 18-35, into the Mountain Lamp environment, a “Dharma family” that, for the past ten years, has practiced mindfulness and cultivated the land and themselves through daily meditation and loving work. Our aspirations were to explore present moment practice together and re-envision the stereotype that “kids these days” only know how to have fun, and to learn Wake Up practices within a mixed age community, where retreatants, residents, and we would essentially wake up together.
After six months of intense preparation, we greeted our first retreatants on June 26, 2013. In our opening circle, tears and laughter flowed with yearnings to heal and our need for physical and spiritual support to connect with what is vital and profoundly urgent to our own lives, and incidentally to the planet and society.
Each retreatant was offered the responsibility of inviting meal bells and reciting the Five Contemplations before we ate. Each was assigned a work duty during joyful working meditation, beginning with singing, dancing, and games. The bellmaster sounded the bell to remind us to breathe during work periods and to invite daily sitting and walking meditation. Retreatants shared that having Wake Up-aged practitioners guiding the retreat and being invited to facilitate parts of the retreat themselves, like inviting bells and guiding the Five Contemplations, made mindfulness practice real.
At least twice during the retreat we held formal meal ceremonies. The community gathered, recited meal verses, offered food, and ate in silence guided by sounds of the bell. In the times of noble silence throughout the retreat, we were able to suspend talking and dwell more fully with ourselves. During the Five Mindfulness Trainings transmission, the power of our chanting, touching the Earth, incense offering, and concentrated sitting practice offered a clear transmission of mindfulness to recipients of the trainings that day and to all of us.
If I were to describe the outcome of this retreat in a few words, I would say, “Each of us were as we were.” We shared activities such as Dharma art, daily Dharma sharing, canoeing, swimming, scooping goose poop, singing and dancing around a campfire, and open space discussion forums with “elders.” Mountain Lamp Wake Up proved that we of Wake Up age know how to have fun––AND that collectively with other ages, and individually, we can access a profound sense of how to live our lives awake, engaged, and resilient.
Brian Otto Kimmel, True Lotus Concentration, age thirty-three, ordained as a core member of the Order of Interbeing at Plum Village in 2006. He took part in the East Coast, West Coast, and Pacific Northwest Wake Up USA teaching tours. He lives in Colorado, where he helps facilitate Wake Up as well as Young OI International and North America Skype calls.