The Joys of Solitary Retreat at Wonderwell
Here at Wonderwell, where the wind and trees dance together, the wild turkeys and their chicks run to the blueberry bushes heavy with fruit, and the ridge-line kisses the floating clouds, I sit in retreat. The “outer” solitude of this beautiful hermitage inspires, enhances, and deepens the inner solitude, that is intimate with itself and all things.
A poem of Lama Shabkar, written from his meditation cave is coming to mind.
Behind me, the rock walls,
Beautiful and massive.
In front, snow on the peaks
Of the majestic range.
In the four directions, the mist rises,
And rainbows appear.
Somehow, here, hundreds of years after Shabkar gazed out over the Himalayan range, I feel a kinship with him, in his joy.
To have the rare opportunity to dive deeply into practice, dharma study, communing with the natural world, and having the time and silence in which to listen to the subtleties of one’s own heart, is utterly precious. Somehow, here, the mind’s open and luminous nature becomes more apparent, like when the new moon comes out of hiding and once again floats in the night sky.
While Wonderwell remains closed to group retreats, there has opened up a secret treasure: Solitary retreat in a self- contained space, comfortable and simple, facing the mountains and the forest, the gardens and meadows.
One night I stepped out after dark. The sky was sharp and clear, a deep midnight blue, and a thin slice of crescent moon floated above, alternately revealed and hidden by scudding clouds. A few fireflies winked on and off in the grasses. The last birdsong had faded into the dark. An ownerless gratitude arose, out of nowhere, filling space.
Written while on solo retreat at Wonderwell in July 2020