The Unstone Grange retreat held from 3rd-7th August this summer felt like a very special event, like the moment a fledgling succeeds in taking flight for the first time. Dancing Mountains Sangha felt to me like it was spreading its wings, eager to take form, emerging for at least the days we spent together on the retreat in a variety of wonderful ways. And the forms practised on the retreat were a very unique blend of high ritual with bowing, prostrations, and chanting and incense on the one hand (creating a strong container for intimacy) and, on the other hand, talking in between zazen periods in the morning and evening. We celebrated tea break in the morning with "dharma tea" - an opportunity to ask questions, discuss issues and concerns in a less formal setting than the zendo, and on one occasion Devin invited Dancing Mountain members to report back on what was happening in sanghas in different parts of the country. There was a sense of celebrating unity and diversity - the motto of Unstone Grange. I felt that it was a strong demonstration of dependent co-arising, with each person playing a unique and vital role. Although I was a little surprised to find that we would not be in silence throughout the retreat, I soon felt that it was a good practice, with everyone given the opportunity to get to know one another and feel part of it all. Having a social opportunity also felt that the division between the retreat and "real life" became less extreme and I was given an inkling of how the one might become interwoven with the other. The beginners were incredibly well supported by those who knew the forms and chants and those who had had their rakasu for a while were equally appreciative of the demonstration of beginner's mind of those on their first retreat. In evening dharma talks, Ingen shared some stimulating thoughts about his own journey to becoming a Zen priest and some "enlightenment poetry" from Leonard Cohen as well as meditations on where yesterday went. After the retreat Chris Hannah (Myo Ji) had this to say: "a wondrous retreat endlessly unfolding in the moments of today, yesterday is truly in-between today, with great gratitude to all". I think we all felt a huge sense of appreciation for what had been achieved. Perhaps the kitchen managers (Wendy, Bev and Frances) carried the major brunt of responsibility in planning, preparing and cooking wonderful food for everyone, but Ingen proved to be a masterful choreographer of our movements or "crowd control" as he put it. I appreciated his quiet and atttuned style of leadership and felt warmed by his thoughts and attentiveness. On the last night there was a bonfire. Someone blew bubbles. Karen brought her teddy. It was not sacrificed on the bonfire. It was fun.
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