training and study retreat across the year transition - reflections

From December 27th until January 6th the Zaltho Foundation hosted the 2023-2024 10-day Year-Transition-Retreat at the Magnolia Zen Center. This annual retreat is for those who want to deepen their daily practice and those who are continuing their Zen training and study under Claude AnShin Thomas.

Here are some short reflections from some of the participants!

“During the retreat I found it difficult in community with other retreatants with the invitation to step up in providing more direction to those newer to the practice. At one point I raised my voice in a way that was unusual for me but also necessary to communicate my wishes and offer correction. Not so comfortable for me to stand out in that way but also a good practice to be and act in ways that are not comfortable.  
I valued the time and attention to the practice that others gave which encouraged me to go further with my own practice. I found the bell nerved me some, but eventually I relaxed into the position of ‘bell-master’.”

"I am thankful for the inspiration and support that I received from everyone in the retreat.
It was difficult for me to realize that my fear of being punished for making mistakes can invite others to punish me." 

"It was difficult to maintain a steady mind and not get lost in discursive thinking. That got much easier after day 7."

"The year-transition retreat supported me in slowing down and noticing more about how my thinking, shaped by my conditioning, tends to run my life, causing suffering for me and those around me. In the silence I had many opportunities to see and refrain from my usual habits of thought, speech, and action. Sitting still, breathing consciously, slowing down in all my activities, and paying full attention to detail, while in community for more than ten days, had a wondrous impact on me. I emerged with an even deeper trust and faith in Zen practice. 
What was most challenging for me on this retreat was to refrain from my habits of monitoring, correcting, and controlling my family members. I needed a lot of support with that."

"The coping with so many (mostly unknown) people in a foreign language at an unfamiliar place was for me the hardest challenge. Especially because I felt so raw and vulnerable during that transition retreat, and I have Issues with trusting people. Interestingly these interactions during the retreat are also one of the things, that I am deeply grateful for. By getting to know strangers that intimately through their actions and during deep listening, I just opened my heart and accepted whatever feelings, thoughts and insights were coming up. These interactions, that I was so afraid of, helped me to get to know myself more intimately, and I am very thankful for all the gifts, that were presented to me during that process in that very special sanctuary. It made the term ‘interconnectedness’ visible for me."