Carrie and I spent a fine spring day on retreat at the Insight Meditation Center of Newburyport yesterday. Technically in West Newbury, IMCN is located in some beautiful countryside, although it’s only about an hour’s drive from Lowell.
In fact, we almost had a private retreat, as we were joined for each of the morning and afternoon sessions by only one other yogi. IMCN is situated in an old, rambling farmhouse, so it felt a bit like being on retreat in someone’s home (which it is, in part) — comfortable, but without all the distractions of actually being at home.
The guiding teacher, Matthew Daniell, has an extensive background in meditation, in both the Japanese Zen and Thai traditions. A student of Larry Rosenberg at CIMC, Matthew is currently furthering his teacher training under the mentorship of Jack Kornfield.
As with most retreats, the morning was spent alternating periods of sitting and walking meditation. Matthew is also a trained yoga instructor, and so he usually includes some period of yoga or body work, however a recent injury precluded that yesterday.
The afternoon program was much the same, albeit with a slight change in instruction. Whereas in the morning we had been encouraged to really focus on paying attention to the breath, in the afternoon we were encouraged to practice with a more “open awareness.” (We also had a brief period of standing/reclining meditation after lunch, just to keep the body/mind fresh!)
Matthew actually gave his dharma talk/Q&A period in the middle of the afternoon session. Being Earth Day weekend, his talk was about the relationship between “outer global warming” and the “inner global warming” of greed, hatred, and ignorance (traditionally known at the Three Fires, I might add). Good stuff, again bringing home the point that even individual practice has much larger ramifications.
There was another Q&A period after the retreat officially ended, and Matthew was very helpful in clarifying a point of confusion for me. We then had a chance to chat informally over a cup of tea before we had to hit the road.
Small world story: Matthew is originally from New Hampshire, and his mother actually knows and sits with Doreen Schweizer up at Valley Insight!
Anyhow, Carrie and I are of the consensus that IMCN is a wonderful place to take a day-long retreat. This would be a great opportunity for anyone thinking about going on a longer retreat (e.g., at IMS or Spirit Rock), but either unable to because of time or money, or interested in testing the waters first. At $50 for the day, it’s a pretty good deal.
IMCN offers weekend day-long retreats about twice a month, and half-day retreats on Tuesday mornings. (One can also attend only the morning session of the a weekend day-long.) Carrie and I thought we’d see if there is enough interest to have a bunch of us carpool up there some weekend. In particular, Chas DiCapua (teacher-in-residence at IMS) will lead a day-long retreat on Saturday, May 31, on “the six sense doors”:
The six-sense doors include the five senses: hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, and the mind (through which we perceive and filter experience). Learning to pay close attention in the present moment as to how we actually experience life through the senses can help us to live from a place of greater awareness, responsiveness, and ease. Traditional Buddhist teachings, as well as Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book “Coming to Our Senses”, will be supports for our inquiry. Some meditation experience preferred.
IMCN is not a huge place, so Matthew would probably appreciate some advanced warning if a good number of us plan on showing up. I’ll say more about this in this week’s e-mail….