Recently, KMC SC hosted a weekend meditation retreat at Santee State Park in Santee, South Carolina. The state park, which is located on Lake Marion, provided a tranquil, peaceful environment for our retreat on Buddha’s wisdom teachings.
What Happens at a Meditation Retreat?
At our weekend meditation retreats, our Resident Teacher Gen Nyema gives an introduction on Friday night, leads four meditation sessions on Saturday, followed by two more meditation sessions on Sunday morning. By early Sunday afternoon, the retreat ends and everyone heads home feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
This particular meditation retreat was called “Living Lightly” and focused on the wisdom realizing emptiness. What is the “wisdom realizing emptiness”? As Buddha said in the King of Concentration Sutra:
A magician creates various things,
Such as horses, elephants, and so forth;
His creations do not actually exist,
You should know all things in the same way.
Gen Nyema spent the weekend giving commentary to this famous verse, explaining what Buddha meant when he said that all phenomena are like a magician’s illusions. This understanding helps us to stop our self-grasping, which in turn reduces anxiety, anger, and unhappiness.
Meditation Session Format
Each meditation session included a teaching, followed by a guided meditation on the wisdom realizing emptiness. The one exception was the Saturday night session, which focused on Q&A. Each of the sessions lasted from 1.5 to 2 hours, and the length of time that participants spent meditating lengthened as the retreat went on.
What People Got from the Retreat
Everyone went away from the retreat with a slightly different experience. Fer Fraser, for example, who is KMC SC’s Administrative Director, said “I enjoyed breaking from my busy daily life to take time to reconnect with some peace and calm. It was also wonderful having cheerful, meaningful conversations with friends from the Buddhist Center.”
Frances McLeod, who traveled from Charleston to attend the retreat on Saturday, agreed that spending time with spiritual friends was an important part of her retreat experience. “My most memorable moments were contemplating and discussing the teachings with other spiritual friends,” she said.
Other students, like Mark Gould, felt inspired by the potential for inner freedom offered by Buddha’s wisdom teachings.
“It is amazing to think about how we don’t have to continue playing ‘whack-a-mole’ with our problems for the rest of our life,” he said, referring to an analogy Gen Nyema used during the weekend. “We can be completely free of negativity through systematic and sustained practice.”