The meditation retreat I went on recently was held at the Wat Buddha Dhamma retreat centre in the middle of the Dharug National Park at Wisemans Ferry, a couple of hours drive from Sydney. The centre has an interesting history, which includes the purchase of the virgin bushland site before the area around it was declared a National Park. As a result, the centre has been built in beautiful bushland, and the owners not only operate along environmentally friendly lines but have also minimised the amount of clearing done in order to operate the centre.
While I was on retreat, and during the numerous 15 minute walking trips we took to and from the meditation hall (or Sala as the group call it) each day, I was struck by the beauty of the bush setting. Before the retreat started, and after it finished, I took lots of photos to remember just how beautiful it was. I snuck in a couple of pics during the retreat itself, which was not strictly in the spirit of retreat. I figured it wasn't breaking the rules too much though, as the type of retreat we were undertaking was a form of observational meditiation called Vipassana. I was observing, right?
Bushland colours. Bright orange funghi on dead wood, morning dew on a eucalypt sapling and crimson tones of a fallen gum leaf. Wat Buddha Dhamma retreat centre, Wisemans Ferry, New South Wales. April, 2005.
The 8 day retreat was conducted in total silence, with the exception of question time at the end of each day, and we were also asked to refrain from distractions such as reading or communicating in non-verbal ways. The point of this was to focus the mind on the matter at hand, and also by restricting the senses and minimising distractions to sharpen the attention and allow for greater focus. What I found interesting was the way that this, combined with long hours in meditation, heightened my other senses and I became fascinated with colours, textures, smells and sounds.
Mountain Devil (lambertia formosa). Wat Buddha Dhamma retreat centre, Wisemans Ferry, New South Wales. April, 2005.
Details of flowers, early morning dew on leaves and cobwebs, the many types and colours of funghi... all became a rich part of the daily experience. At night I spent time looking at the huge dark sky filled with an amazing quantity of bright stars and at the waxing moon.
Misty dawn. Wat Buddha Dhamma retreat centre, Wisemans Ferry, New South Wales. April, 2005.
Mornings were wonderful. Rising at 5.30 (that's not the wonderful part) we started the day with a walk through the bush in darkness to be at the meditation hall for the first session at 6.00 am. Around 7.00 we walked back through the bush in the early morning light for breakfast. Some mornings (like the one above and below) were cold and misty, making the bush look translucent.
Note the flower spike to the left of the photo above, and there are more in the picture below. These amazing native plants are called Gymea Lillies. Unfortunately the flowering season was over, so the huge flower heads were no longer bright red but instead were black and covered in large open seed pods. Despite this they were still amazing to look at. The flower on the left of the picture above was close to 30' tall (even though most sources say they only grow to about 20'), and the whole area was covered in them.
Silver, grey and green of a bush morning. Wat Buddha Dhamma retreat centre, Wisemans Ferry, New South Wales. April, 2005.
I'll write about the retreat in more detail, but I wanted to share some of the beauty of the setting with you guys in the meantime. It's because I care.