Thursday, August 11, 2011

Zen Monastery

In July I stayed at Green Gulch Farm, a working, organic farm and Zen monastery in Marin, CA. I was a Guest Practice Retreatant, which means I worked three hours a day in the kitchen for a discount on room and board. For $50 day, I got a private room and three organic meals.

I wanted to stay longer than four days. Next time I'd like to go as a Guest Student, where I'd work six hours a day, share a room and pay $20 a day for room and board. I am definitely planning on future retreats both there at the peaceful Green Gulch and at other monasteries around the world.

The garden and farm

Green Gulch is tucked in a valley, that runs down to muir beach, just a half hour walk. Other than the motorcycles zipping and the occasional road construction on the local highway, it was super quiet.

Families of quail ran free, making funny sounds, deer felt safe to graze and linger around. There are eucalyptus forests and huge, gnarly looking trees.

The meal bell which is struck with a hammer to let us know grubs up.

After observing 10 minutes of silence at the beginning of each meal, I got to know the folks who stayed at the Gulch. I met some really wonderful people. :-)

This schedule fit nicely with my natural rhythm, because I am such a morning person:

5:00a Zazen (seated meditation in the Zendo)
5:40 Kinhin (walking meditation)
5:50 Zazen
6:30 Service (chanting and bowing)
7:00 Soji (temple cleaning)
7:15 Breakfast (silent first ten minutes)
8:20 Work Meeting
8:30 Work (in the kitchen)
12:15p Lunch (silent first ten minutes)
5:15 Zazen (optional)
5:50 Service (optional)
6:00 Dinner
7:30 (or 7:50) Zazen (optional)

From what I understand, all except for the work in the kitchen, everything else is optional. Not all of the guests got up before dawn to go meditate.

Videos of my private room and guest house lodge. The Japanese wood work made for a relaxing place to stay. The building is an octagon which has a square central lobby, with the rooms circling the common room. The centralized wood burning store heated the entire building. It felt like home, so simple and utilitarian.

I could easily say so much more about this incredible place. It was such a hospitable place to stay. I have never felt so relaxed, both physically and mentally. And I was only there for three nights.

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