No Meat, Conversation Or Liquor — Will I Survive?

Padmasambhava, a picture I, John Hill, took in...
Padmasambhava...Image via Wikipedia

Well, my dears. Off today on a 10-day silent, vegetarian, Buddhist retreat about a 30-minute drive north of my home.

The idea was the sweetie’s, this year’s birthday present.

He’s been a devout Buddhist practicing Dzogchen since he spent six terrifying weeks in 1995 in Bosnia at Christmas, shooting photos for The New York Times.

His mini-altar in the hallway has a small Buddha wrapped in a prayer scarf. A laminated card tucked on the driver side of our ancient Subaru is that of Padmasambhava.

When we started dating, in March 2000, the difference in our faiths — I attend an Episcopal church, albeit not every week — seemed like a potential stumbling block as he is so much  more devout. But it’s not a competition.

And he’s always been really supportive of me, attending my church for more than a decade.

I’ve met and enjoy his lama, Surya Das, author of several books, with a new one out, “Buddha Standard Time.”

He and I even went to see “Mamma Mia” together a few years ago. Namaste on Broadway!

The retreat offers three teachings a day, the only time we’ll be allowed to speak. The food will be vegetarian. There will be no cocktail hour, or wine at dinner, both something we usually enjoy daily at home.

Steak? TV? Three daily newspapers? No, no, no. Ah, the things I cling to.

We’re taking my softball glove and ball, and my bike. I’m taking my camera and watercolors, and plan to write a speech due August 10 in Minneapolis.

I’ll sit in the teachings and meditations and chanting as much as feels comfortable. He and I will share a room, and plan to write notes back and forth. It will be very odd — and difficult — not to talk to him. We typically talk several hours a day and I really enjoy it.

So it’s already a powerful meditation on the loss of that comfort. We may whisper to one another in our room. We’ll see.

I’ve been the butt of jokes for weeks now. “Buddhist,vegetarian, silent — I can’t think of three words less likely to describe you,” said one friend.

If I can get access to the Internet, as yet unknown, I’ll blog during that week. If I can’t, hang tight! I’ll be back here on my regular schedule, posting every other day, starting again on July 31.

Wish me luck!

15 thoughts on “No Meat, Conversation Or Liquor — Will I Survive?

  1. Lisa (Woman Wielding Words)

    Best of Luck! I look forward to reading about the experience. I’m sure it is going to be both challenging and rewarding on many levels.

  2. jacquelincangro

    Sounds like this retreat will be inspiring. It can be so invigorating to step out of one’s comfort zone and try something new. Even if it doesn’t become a way of life, it’s a new way of looking at the world. Looking forward to hearing about your experience when you return.

  3. Thanks…One of the issues his has brought up for me (before I even get there) is my total mistrust/distaste for: schedules, organizations, group activities and institutional anything.

    They could be handing out ice cream and $100 bills, but too many lousy experiences with authority has left me as wary of that sort of (necessary and sensible) structure as a horse at a jump.

  4. the home tome

    Bravo! And good luck! I took a vow of silence for a week leading up to my 26th birthday – it was a very powerful experience. As intended, it really put me in touch with the so-called “life of the mind”. But I have been chatting pretty-much non-stop ever since…:)

  5. I have to say it doesn’t sound like my idea of a happy holiday, but each to his own. Have fun. I like coffee shops and people watching. Beaches and mountains. And certainly meat on the menu.


  6. Jim, it would never have been my choice, that’s for sure. But it’s not really a holiday in the “have fun” sense….literally a retreat from…normal life. It’s only my first day (clearly we have wi-fi) and I am really liking the silence.

    There is also plenty of people-watching — there are 69 other people here to observe for the next seven days.

  7. I just spent a weekend with people who (though I love) never shut up. J. and I got home and I insisted on a human sensory deprivation for quite a while. Namaste!

    1. To you too!

      The sweetie and I have been whispering in our room and far away from others. But not a lot. It’s very relaxing not to listen to anything or anyone (as intended) but the teachings. Surya, (the lama) is funny and down to earth, so they are enjoyable as well as wise.

  8. Cheryl

    Of course, I wish you luck, but from the sounds of this post, ‘luck’ has very little to do with this undertaking; this journey to s-t-r-e-t-c-h your spiritual self. I am sooooooo looking forward to your posts and pics when you return, whoever you may be by then.

  9. The first post is up…

    I have to say that it is not a HUGE stretch as my sweetie has been such a devout Buddhist for the whole time I have known him (11 years) so I have learned a fair bit about it from listening to him. I’m really enjoying the teachings. They make a lot of sense!

    I also have to be cautious about posting while here as one of the staffers freaked out when I mentioned I had brought my laptop. I am not supposed to do ANY work at all. Not writing, for me, is like not breathing…

  10. Pingback: Six days of silence | Broadside

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