RETREATS: THE PIT STOPS OF LIFE
Maggie H is a Global Explorer and Wellness Guru from Hong Kong. Among many spiritual endeavors, Maggie practices and leads Qigong meditation to help people around the world find their inner balance. Find out more about this practice and join her weekly on ICBRKR's live Qigong Meditation stream every Wednesday.
About a decade ago, I indulged myself in a 10-day Spartan retreat in silence under the guidance of my Buddhist nun teacher, Ven. Hyun-Young.
Just like my other mentors, she also holds a special place in my life. At the tender age of 10, her journey began in a Buddhist temple, where she intended to become a nun. It took a further 6 years for her to be officially ordained, as her teachers wanted her to grow up more. Her father was a doctor of oriental medicine and a meditation practitioner in a small town; he knew that his newborn daughter would become a nun one day, so he gave her a name that could also be used as a Buddhist name. Her teachers were the apogee of Korean Jogye Order, including Ven. Grand-Master Seo-Am, the Supreme Patriarch of the Order.
The duration of my retreat camp equipped me with a piece of tremendous knowledge about the food of the old Zen Buddhism school, along with the practices she taught me. In retreat, life becomes very basic and simple with minimal variations. On top of that, sitting down in the same spot for 10 hours a day can be monotonous and boring. So it is very easy to fall asleep while seated and meal time becomes something to look forward to. Following a regular schedule with healthy food and a peaceful mind, however hard you try, your face inevitably blooms and glows likes a flower after just a few days of this detoxing period.
I know I've been blessed with amazing teachers and good food in this lifetime. My teacher instructed the temple cook to prepare traditional Zen temple food, which the monks would have during their own retreats. We had different kinds of rice porridge for breakfast, and vegan meals with seasonal mountain vegetables flown from Korea for lunch and dinner. Every time I thought of my teacher caring for me and the cook preparing such wonderful meals, I could not disappoint them, so whenever I felt sleepy, I would stand up and meditate instead.
While I was left completely alone in the temple, mind-to-mind communication still happened. One day, for example, I looked up and noticed that the orchids, which my teacher had hung on the wall, needed watering, but there was no way of telling anyone. Additionally, I was a notorious plant killer with a black thumb at the time. Lo-and-behold, in less than 20 minutes, my teacher walked into the room and took the orchids out to water them. Any time I needed her guidance, she was always there to help me; and after the instruction, I would bow down in front of her as a mark of gratitude.
There was a challenging moment, though. I forgot to pack my razor, so after a few days of staying au naturel, I felt like a cavewoman. I was dreaming of a razor every spare moment to feel clean. One morning, I went into her private bathroom, which she allowed me to use for a shower. There, I saw a brand new razor gently sitting on the sink counter as if it were the answer to my prayer. To take or not to take? It wasn't easy, but I chose to walk away.
At the 10AM morning ritual, I saw that I made the right call when my teacher walked in with a freshly shaved head! Later, I learned that Zen monks shave their heads only on the 1st and the 15th of every lunar month.
After the retreat, for the next two years until she left for India where she currently resides, I was able to spend almost every day learning and practicing Zen Buddhism under her guidance. A good retreat is like a joint of bamboo or an F1 pit stop. It may seem like a waste of time but the break makes the bamboo grow taller and the car run faster.
My wish is to inaugurate a small retreat centre one day, to offer a peaceful pit stop for people who are tired of running around the racetrack. It will be my humble way of giving back and sharing my blessings with the world.
See you soon, at the next ICBRKR Wellness: Eastern Philosophy stream, every Wednesday.
Maggie H is a Life Cartographer, Eastern philosopher, Qigong master, Buddhist and Taoist meditator, Feng Shui practitioner, and researcher of Buddhist scriptures. She lives in Hong Kong, and regularly travels to both India and South Korea to further her spiritual growth and development. Her lifelong motto is: "benefit to all humankind."
To find out more about Maggie's work, check out her website and join other ICBRKRs around the world in her live streams every Wednesday. Check the app, under Global Live Streams, for exact times in your location.
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