Sunday, October 3, 2010

Yoga Campout at Manchester State Park

Manchester State Park Beach toward Point Arena
A few weeks ago when I was hiking at Calaveras Big Trees State Park, I was chatting with the organizer of the Sacramento True Yoga meetup group, Del Marie Samson, about wanting to put together a meditation retreat for the Bodhisattva Path meetup group.  Del Marie suggested we organize a yoga and meditation retreat for both groups.  A few days later after a lot of searching for a good place to hold a retreat, we reserved a group campsite at Manchester State Park in Mendocino County a bit south of Point Arena.  We were a bit concerned about the weather, but it turned out to be fine on Friday, overcast but ok on Saturday, and warmer Sunday morning.

On Friday evening, Promila, one of the Sac True Yoga teachers, led a wonderful yoga asana session at the campground close to the ocean.  She had a wonderful way of incorporating awareness of the environment into the practice by expanding the field of awareness to include the earth, sky, and ocean as we practiced. This was like the yoga asana version of Chan practice of Silent Illumination, which begins with an awareness of the body just sitting and naturally expands to encompass the environment.

We had a pasta toss of stir-fried vegies, pasta and a choice of marinara or Alfredo sauce with lots of side dishes everyone brought.

Saturday morning, Del Marie led a yoga session and we then began the ritual of boiling soy milk and water for oatmeal and tea.  After breakfast, we hiked a trail that eventually brought us out to the beach where we posed for a group shot and participated in various partner yoga poses and other antics including jumping rope with kelp stems.

Manchester State Park has five miles of beach.  I wandered up the beach and found a nice spot to meditate and then practice direct contemplation, a wonderful chan practice in which you focus fully on an object, in this case ocean waves, without entertaining any associations or internal discursive commentary.  It's a very innocent, focused, bare attention that displaces all notion of subject or self with complete awareness of the object.

Direct contemplation like taking a vacation from your self and just enjoying the object of perception as it really is.  This can lead to a pivot of awareness from being self or observer-centric to being fully absorbed in the object without reference to any subject, going beyond unity of subject and object to just pure awareness of the environment.  In that mode of perception, everything is perfectly functioning and infinitely correlated.  Waves impacting waves, giving rise to sea mist saturating the air with minute droplets of water, moistening wave-created sand, nurturing plants -- causes and conditions rising and falling with each wave from time immemorial with intrinsic balance and harmony. Yet no such thought arises, just a holistic flux of effortless perfection.

I led a short Vinyasa Krama asanda session and then a guided Silent Illumination meditation session on Sunday morning before we ate breakfast, packed up and left.  Had a wonderful talk on the way back to Sacramento that encompassed everything from Ghandi and the Bhadavad Gita, to Chan meditation, to wide ranging art topics.  So great to meet others with similar interests and truly interesting perspectives and insights on topics I thought I had long since made up my mind about.  This was a great weekend from start to finish.  I'm already planning another campout retreat for the Riverside, Santa Clara, and Sacramento Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Association in Sequoia next July and hope to do another yoga retreat in the spring!

For more pictures, see the Yoga Campout Retreat - October 1 - 3 album on Picasa.

Yoga Campout Retreat - October 1 - 3