On Retreat at Glenbarr

I spent the weekend (16-18th April 2021) on a meditation retreat held at a beautiful old homestead in Strathalbyn, about an hour’s drive from Adelaide. I’ve done several retreats over the last ten years or so, including a ten day Vipassana retreat in Battambang, Cambodia, and various 2-5 day retreats in South Australia. This one was run by Anna Markey, of Coast and City Sangha, at Glenbarr homestead. I met Anna before Covid when she and Ken Golding ran a climate change themed retreat in Victor Harbor. I liked her approach and sporadically attended her sessions in Adelaide until Covid forced a halt. Her approach is unlike others I’ve experienced, in that she does not recommend trying to avoid or ignore your thoughts during meditation — rather, she espouses recollective awareness, whereby you allow your thoughts to occur, and briefly journal them at the end of the meditation. In this way, over time, you become aware of your predominant patterns of thinking. The weekend was mostly spent in silence (apart from dharma related discussions), and without any electronic distractions. There were multiple meditations each day, mostly forty-five minutes long plus a short journaling session after each meditation.

I haven’t been writing much since the start of Covid, so this period of quiet isolation was an opportunity to get back to poetry of some kind, however basic. As part of my post meditation journaling I wrote a haiku-like (not all strictly haiku format) poem related to either the meditation or the discussion.

Glenbarr Homestead was built in 1842. It has a huge personality of its own, and is home to a range of very active wildlife. On the first evening, for instance, a bat came into the meditation hall and swooped over our heads for several minutes before being enticed outside by turning all the lights off except for an external lamp. A huge flock of correllas made regular flights over the property, and there were numerous unidentified animals to be heard running around and over the roof.




Meditation One:

what is the sound

of one bat flapping?


The Heritage Wall:

Its sounds are impervious

to our passing thoughts


Meditation Three:

The roof is alive

to the sound of footsteps


Even your own mug

can teach you a life lesson

about attachment


A meat-eater’s tee-shirt:

how can a vegan respond

in a skilful way?


Need a more Buddhist

response to the barking dog

than “Shut the Fuck Up”


Scott Morrison’s path

is less of The Middle Way

more The Muddle Way 


Sounds of the Sangha

Throat clearing, yawns and snoring

test my compassion


He was too far out

all his life, not sleeping

but meditating


The discussion group

wanders off the eightfold path,

falls over a cliff


St. Leonard Cohen

let me burn the fuel

of my agitation


May I witness the

causes and conditions

of my grumpiness


Each chattering thought

is like a corella’s squawk

saying “Look at me”


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Copyright Mike Hopkins 2021

What You Missed That Day You Were Absent From Meditation Class (PiatoP#2)

 

I’ve started, with a group of friends, writing a poem a week during these strange Covid-19 days. I’ll share mine here, regardless of quality. The second is a response to, or inspired by, or in parallel to the poem “What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade” by Brad Aaron Modlin here.

What You Missed That Day You Were Absent From Meditation Class

after Brad Aaron Modlin

Rinpoché explained how to breathe, to notice the space between inbreath and outbreath,

and how to locate the part of the mind that sends a shiver down your spine when listening

 

to Sibelius. He spoke of the wisdom of doing nothing and about waking in a panic at four

every morning. He suggested you think about who you were before you were somebody.

 

The morning dharma talk was about how combing your hair can be a meditation on loss

or even on grief. After a long sit in silence, he gave instruction on how to study a picture

 

of yourself as a child – to focus on the area around your eyes and forehead where you may see

your life compressed. There was a question and answer session on how to manage self-esteem

 

when ‘self’ and ‘esteem’ are delusions, and how to reorganise your mental filing cabinet

(hint: not alphabetically). This prompted him to draw a rough schematic of Shakespeare’s mind

 

at the time he was writing sonnets. The group discussed how not to scream when sending

loving kindness to world leaders and could the Buddha have been wrong about rage

 

being impermanent? Before sounding the gong, Rinpoché set the task for the coming week:

to find a good home for the people living rent-free in your head.

 


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2020 except image which is from here