By Howard Evans Five days at Omega-an amazing experience for 800 retreatants, including 50 children. The intense joy was sometimes palpable. At one point, as the children prepared to sing for the Sangha, Thay asked them to wait while he came down to sit in front and see their happy faces as they sang. In his Dharma talks, Thay spoke of our habit energies that bring suffering, and developing mindfulness so we might notice and transform these habits, slowing or stopping their effect. He spoke about the seeds in store consciousness that manifest in mind consciousness, and skillful ways of being with them. Which seeds are we watering in ourselves and others? Which are we giving life to in our thinking, speech, actions, consumption, and consciousness? He also suggested we contract with a stairway or a path we walk every day to walk there in mindfulness.
Dharma discussion groups served as human anchors in the sea of people we didn't know. We gathered every afternoon to talk about the Dharma, discuss questions, sing, and sip tea. Our group lacked tea pitchers one day, so, almost searnlessly, we enjoyed cookie meditation, letting circumstances change the form. The tea was exceptional that day.
One afternoon, affinity groups met to discuss topics such as the Green Mountain Dharma Center and Mindfulness Practice Centers, death and dying, practice in couples and families, and practice as lesbians, gays, and bisexuals. I was fortunate to meet with 70 health care practitioners who bring mindfulness and insight to others in a variety of ways. It emphasized for me the incredible importance of building and sustaining mindfulness, and of a Sangha. By our energy and example, we can bring deeper healing to our patients and clients, supervisors and co-workers. Everyone left feeling supported and ready to serve through their work. The only problem was that we wanted to meet more and the end of the retreat was near.
Omega's supportive staff and excellent food aid any retreat. In a way one could gauge the depth of the retreat by watching the staff. As our practice deepened, so did they, stopping easily in the dining room for the bells and mindfully caring for this large group. Staff and retreatants grew to count on the other's practice for their own well-being and joy.
Friday morning, 350 heads bowed to receive the Five Mindfulness Trainings. It never fails to touch me, seeing another group of aspirants, ready to commit to a life imbued with mindfulness and careful, deep looking.
Howard Evans, True Insight, practices with the Morgan Bay Zendo in Surry, Maine.