By Fred and Petra Hardtke
Last April, we attended the retreat with Sister Jina Van Hengel. It was our first meditation retreat and we were unsure about what the weekend held in store for us. With a mixture of apprehension and curiosity, we packed our old station wagon and headed off for Heathcote.
We were surprised at the number and diversity of the other people who attended and were excited about meeting them and learning about their backgrounds (when we were permitted to speak!). After the introduction and a sitting meditation, it was bed time. Being married and not having much experience with retreats, we had packed our things all together in one bag. We both were pretty surprised when we found out that there were segregated dorms. We also learned that there was silence until breakfast. It felt to us as if we were in prison.
The next day, we were woken by the bell at 6:00 a.m. and went to the morning meditation. Before noon we had walking meditation in the surrounding bushland where one really becomes aware of the trees, the sun, and the sounds and smells of the environment. During the communal lunch, we experienced awareness of taste and appreciation of food, and also contemplated how there are many people who do not have enough to eat
Soon we began to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere. We met many interesting people and felt totally comfortable in this environment. The most enjoyable event was the tea meditation. We felt like were at a party where everybody contributed something personal. We were sad when the retreat ended. We got so used to the routine that we could have carried on for weeks like that. On our way home, everything felt strange. Cars were moving so fast and people seemed to be running. We felt like we were watching a movie on fast forward.
The retreat weekend opened up a new world for us and we learned to care and enjoy the simple things in life and be happy with them. We are very glad that we joined this retreat and will take opportunities to go to others.
Fred is an engineer and Petra is a secretary on the east coast of Australia.