Over Christmas, I once again attended Dathun, the winter retreat with Dharma Ocean down in Crestone, CO (about four hours south of Boulder). Last year was so intense that I didn't imagine being down there again but I was called. It's just such a beautiful space. I was so busy (and still am) with my new job plus the rush of finishing papers / exams for grad school, I needed to pull the "emergency brake" on my life.
The week is relatively demanding - 6:30am meditation with breaks for lunch and dinner, ending at 9pm. So I wasn't necessarily rested, but I was re-connected. Major markers in my memory for this dathun will be the stellar meditation benches (aka bench on a single post) Shaya and I bought (everyone was abuzz - "what are those?!"), and the morning where we woke to no water for 12 hours (hence toilets didn't work nor could you wash your hands!). The restroom for #1 was in the woods, and I won't even tell you the process for #2. Luckily I'm better than average on holding it. It really rode me to the edge of my cleanliness issues. The kitchen brought in water from a neighbor, bucket by bucket, to continue feeding everyone. They had drinking water, but all around me I could see nothing but hands touching everything. Germs! Bugs! Bacteria. I was kind of a wreck.
Speaking of meals (maybe not the best topic to follow the visual of germy hands), they were delicious, nutritious and served oryoke style. It's a well-orchestrated serving system, with charts, diagrams and process flows. Each person on the serving team has a role, and is given the go signal from an elaborate system of hand gestures by the oryoke head server! It's like a ballet, but made me giggle constantly by the serious endeavor.
I feel so blessed to be part of a women's seasonal ritual circle led by one of my longest Coloradan friends, Jen, who is also an ordained minister. Over the years she has taught me to pay attentions to the seasons, and also to be more aware of my own inner shifts happening which follow these cycles. She hosts the circles in her "Womb Room" which is a sacred space draped in red fabrics, alters and other sacred objects (my favorite is the owl's wing). There is something so incredible and magical as I descend the stairs into the basement and pull aside the curtain to enter the room. Every circle she spends time creating the circle altar, raising her own creative bar time and again. This past Saturday was the mid-winter festival known as Candlemas. We are coming back to the light! The ritual was centered around the "feast of the fire" as a reminder of the light to come... feeling the rumbles of Spring, and yet not ready to burst forth. We filled a piece of fabric with elements of wind, earth, fire and water, then whispered our vow for one year and a day (a common practice during Candlemas). And let the Spring cleaning begin! This is the to cleanse or bless your house, to seek inspiration, and to purify yourself of limiting thoughts and negative attitudes.
Another big part of this winter is the Maid of Honor tasks that go with helping my sister plan her wedding. Yes, they're already married, but they're still having a wedding and reception. I'm very excited about all of it - and count on it being a most beautiful, elegant and sumptuous feast for the eyes. Patricia is SO incredibly aesthetically talented. Her creative is way beyond the bounds of my own imagination... for example she has been dying 100's of coffee filters so she can achieve the right tints for her color palette. When she first revealed her 15 page slide deck to show me the look and feel, my jaw was on the floor. Instead of saying the color theme is purple... hers contains about 10 variations of multiple colors, along with "mixed metals" and very detailed kinds of fabric. I'm beyond wow'd and know she'll do something professionally with her creativity someday.