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Bright Dawn Center of Oneness Buddhism


Universal teachings for everyday living.

Spiritual Retreat Instructions

Turn any moment, day, event, activity, trip, or formal retreat into a meaningful spiritual experience. By using capping phrases and/or haiku poetry, you can maximize turning your moments of insight into lasting self transformations. “Name it and claim it” is a way of using language to give yourself a “handle” to make your experience accessible and available for further elaboration and growth.


I. Is Your Switch On? Prime the Pump.


First, you have to “prime” yourself by having a mental set that there are teachings all around you waiting to be discovered. Turn on an inner switch that puts you into a retreat-mode attitude. This retreat mode is an attitude of being open and receptive, rather than assertive and manipulative. Do not actively assert your own agenda or expectations upon your surroundings. Instead, be gently mindful of what you’re doing and quietly observant of what is happening around you. Accept the moment for what it brings you, rather than judging the moment. Welcome surprises!



II. Cultivate Mindful Awareness


Through your heightened sense of awareness, something interesting will catch your attention. Allow yourself to be drawn into it so that you notice more and more about it. Like a prospector panning for gold, look carefully for the sparkle of insight hidden in the sand of your mundane observations.


Pay particular attention to when you have “negative” feelings; such as, dislike, boredom, frustration, or even a flash of anger or despair. Such moments offer special opportunities for personal growth. Through honest introspection, negative feelings can be the source of transformative experiences. Like the saying goes, “A diamond is a lump of coal that made good under pressure.” My personal favorite is, “BM is fertilizer too!”


III. Write It Down. Keep a Journal.


Have the mental set that you will discover (at least) one hidden gem within a given activity, or during a particular day, or for the whole retreat itself. Crystallize your experience by describing it with one word or phrase, or write a haiku poem about your experience. Doing this will solidify your experience and provide a “hook” upon which additional relevant associations and insights can be hung. The result will be a meaningful personal teaching or perhaps even your own philosophy of life.



IV. Examples


A. Hidden Stones


A retreat participant was planting flowers around what used to be an old farm house. As she worked in the soil, she dug up a fist-sized stone, then another, and another-- all in a row! She realized that these stones had once formed a border for a garden around the house. She felt a warm closeness and continuity with whoever had originally placed these stones. As she related her experience to me, I suggested “Hidden Stones” as a kind of label, handle, personal code phrase, or “capping phrase” which would always remind her of that particular experience. I further suggested that she could use the phrase “Hidden Stones” as a spiritual tool or teaching by applying it as a means of finding hidden gems of insight while doing her own mental digging (introspections).

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