The retreat taught me to be more mindful about my mind and body.

Thinudi Wickramage

 There are several things I learned from my first retreat. Waking up very early was surprisingly not difficult for me and we washed up. Everyone got their own candle, which we brought to the shrine room and meditated on loving kindness and our loving parents. I also remember Bhante saying how the candles were a metaphor for the light of Dhamma dispelling the darkness of delusion. 

Once we went to breakfast, I found it slightly difficult to keep my mind focused on my thoughts. It got progressively easier over the days, though. Then we had a Sutta discussion with Bhante Wajirabodhi thero, analyzing the Mangala, Ratana, and Karaniya Metta Suttas. The Mangala Sutta was about loving-kindness and blessings, and the Ratana Sutta is a protection chant. Although there were English translations, Bhante said the actual Pali words were more deep and meaningful than that. 

After another Buddha Puja, we had lunch. While I was eating, I tried not to savor or attach to the taste of the food but instead concentrated on nourishing my body and thinking about the people who made or brought the food for us. 

After lunch, we had a work period, which I enjoyed because I felt helpful cleaning. During the working period, I helped clean the kitchen, dishes, bathrooms, and outside. I noticed that everyone else who was working all took on different responsibilities to work faster. 

Then, we had an art session with Bhante Piyananda thero. The first day, my group and I chose a Jataka story and drew different scenes of the story, The Monkey King and the Crocodile. We never did anything with it, and that confused me a bit, but the session was calming. The second day in art we designed rocks for our parents, and the third day we drew a still life image of a flower vase and microphone. 

We had a break since the art session was two hours, and then we had a walking meditation with Bhante Deepanakaro thero. Before we walked, he spoke about the impermanence of everything, that one day everything we know will not be here. Then during the walking meditation, I felt how the different terrains felt. For example, the parking lot’s pavement was kind of coarse and rough and became very hot when the sun shone on it. 

Then we went inside for a Dhamma discussion, where Bhante Deepanakaro thero spoke about impermanence and mindfulness, among other topics. It was difficult to sit there and listen for so long without doing anything else, but I tried to and it was quite rewarding.

We had another break, and some of us prepared to go to another Buddhist temple. On the first day, we went to a large Cambodian temple with a big shrine room with several paintings of major events in the Buddha’s life. They also had a Laughing Buddha statue. The second day, we visited a Laos temple with a bell, but no one was there. Both temples had very detailed carvings and statues. It was interesting seeing how other cultures and types of Buddhism perceive the same religion. 

When we came back to our temple, we had the Atavisi Puja in the evening and prepared to sleep. At the beginning, I had trouble sleeping because we were on the concrete in the shrine room. I tried not to move because I didn’t want to wake anyone up, so I stayed awake for a few hours. Eventually, I fell asleep though.

The retreat taught me to be more mindful about my mind and body. I hope to apply these to my daily life, and I will definitely be there next year! I thank all the adults and parents for preparing and bringing food for us. My gratitude also goes to the Bhantes for taking time to organize this and teach us. 

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