Some people choose to spend time in a Zen monastery for a few days to refresh themselves. They get up at 4AM, drink green tea, practice Za Zen for two hours, have oatmeal, go back to Za Zen for another few hours, take a walk in the garden, have vegetarian food, more practice (by that time the knees really hurt), go to bed around 8PM to do the same the next day and the day after that. Well, I treated myself to a self-made seven-day retreat in my own home. What exactly is a retreat? It is a mental withdrawal from oneâ€™s self, especially from far-reaching preoccupations of any sort, a â€˜be here and nowâ€™ exercise, usually performed in a quiet atmosphere with semi-ascetic choices such as drinking water â€“ flavored OK and not eating much. As my friend Doc Martin (not a medical doctor merely an unemployed PhD) always says, one must think very hard but not too much!
The first day of the retreat was spent in a cleansing mode using mantra repetition to tame the thought processes. The following day was easier- suddenly most creative blocks were removed and I found that I was able to pick up forgotten sketches and make something out of them, once the daily business was out of the way.
During my mental retreat, as I limited my TV watching to a minimum, I was somehow more aware of some shockingly incorrect television commercials, such as the one advertising â€œfine wine, fine art, fine womenâ€ (sic) or the one where the African American conga player is outperformed by some dude in a grape costume while barely nubile girls dance around in their underwear. On the news, a political shift is in the making â€“ a mere 32% polled support current policies now, mostly because of rising gas prices and interest rates. A comforting thought.