SnowFlower member Lisa Glueck reflects upon the recently held 2016 SnowFlower’s annual fall retreat, and discusses the value of retreats and what over the years has made SnowFlower’s fall retreat so special. From a perspective of a first-time retreatant, please read Zach Smith’s reflections.

Walking in Nature, Healing with Others on the Path

In their practice of Noble Silence, retreatants do not need words to share the beauty of being present.

In their practice of Noble Silence, retreatants do not need words to share the beauty of being present.

Why spend a weekend on retreat when our to-do lists clamor for attention? Isn’t it enough to keep up a daily practice, read dharma books, and attend Sangha?

On retreat, rather than practicing amid the clamor of daily pressures, we can make mindfulness our focus. What a luxury, watching layer after layer of preoccupation drop away, until we glimpse our True Nature. Who’d have guessed we were so lovely?

Held in the rural hillside outside of Dodgeville at the Bethel Horizons Retreat Center, SnowFlower’s Fall Retreat allows us to deepen connections: with other SnowFlowers, with the larger regional Sangha, and with nature. Our practice of Noble Silence is communal as we support each other in mindful sitting, walking and eating. Discussion groups allow us to share deeply. As if these weren’t enough, we’ve also been blessed with teachings from our beloved Cheri Maples, as well as from Jack Lawlor, our regional teacher from the Chicago-area Lakeside Sangha who emanates wisdom, warmth and humor. Both are ordained teachers in the Thich Nhat Hanh tradition. While Cheri’s recent horrific accident prevented her from joining us this fall, we hope her recovery permits her to again teach next year.

At the Bethel Horizon Retreat Center, visitors can witness the fog burn away to greater clarity, an outcome that can occur within and around us.

At the Bethel Horizon Retreat Center, visitors can witness the fog burn away to greater clarity, an outcome that can occur within and around us.

A retreat, Thich Nhat Hanh has said, “is a place where we can act,”¹ where we can transform ourselves, and in doing so help to “transform the suffering of our Dharma brothers and sisters.”² And at retreat our own transformation and healing is, in turn, a co-product of the “collective energy” of the sangha, a sangha that embraces us “like a mother holding a baby.”³ It is that collective energy that is always strongly present at the SnowFlower Fall Retreat.

For those of you who missed the 2016 Fall Retreat, we hope you can join us in 2017.

¹ Thich Nhat Hanh, The Path of Emancipation at p. 166 (Parallax Press, 2000).
² Id.
³ Thich Nhat Hanh, The Path of Emancipation at p. 34 (Parallax Press, 2000).