This has been an amazing and life changing experience, which I haven’t been close to another place.
This Zen retreat is one of the few, where foreigners are accepted and allows long-term stay. You also become a part of the place and are expected to participate actively in the temple life.
Our basic daily schedule looked like this:
My alarm went of at 5:00 – yes together with the chickens 😉
5:30 the monk start chanting and this half our is the best time of the day for me.
7:00 Tea time and private time (bath time etc.)
9:00 Work started (all from domestic work, preparing rooms for new arrivals, chopping wood, weeding, collection vegetables from the garden, projects like building shelters that are “typhoon” safe, gathering bamboo from the forest)
11:00 Cooking, lunch and dishes
13:00 Private time – but most of the time we went on excursions, napped, had activities at the temple, did private stuff etc..
17:00 cooking, dinner and dishes
19:00 2 hours of social/private time – and also the time where treatments were done
21:00 Quiet time – most of the time we went to sleep if we wasn’t sleeping already.
2-3 times a week we went to the local onsen (hot spring) at 16:00.
1-3 times a week we went on longer excursions so we skip yoga and start working early and leave early to f.ex. Yufuin, Usuki or Beppu.
Oita was where we go to do our shopping which couldn’t be done in the local area and to get massages when the body is to beaten up. They have amazing shops.
I stayed 45 days and now I miss sleeping on futons, sitting on the floor and having access to squat toilets 😀 funny how fast habits can change or rather how fast my body realized that this was really good for me.
During my stay I learned a lot both about nutrition according to body constitutions, different types of meditation, which types of exercise that suits my body constitution, posture and mental training over to the more basics like chopping bamboo in the forest, caring for a duck, cooking Japanese food, Zen gardening, Wabi sabi (seeing the perfection in the imperfect), healthy lifestyle, Japanese lifestyle and mentality (no wonder they can be tough cookies but also is amazingly helpful and caring), unity in society etc.
All this has made me look at a lot of things in different ways and I’ve already made changes or rather major changes in my life that I are going to stick to. When I get my own place I’ll have futon’s instead of beds if possible, use the practice of sitting on the floor etc. (I saw people in their 90’s squatting with the heals in the ground – guys we so limit our bodies and lives big time by the way we live).
Right now I’m sitting in the common area on the hostel on a chair with cross legged because it strengthen my core, is more healthy and I actually prefer to do this now by reflex 😀
The best part has been seeing the wabi sabi practiced in the home, garden, lifestyle yes a lot of places. Things doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful which a lot of Western people has been taught by society.
At the same time I got 45 days where I could relax and I had people that cared about me and I had a network which was so nurturing for my heart and soul to experience. I’ve got in contact with some amazing people and I’ve got some new friends and a network to take with me and I so appreciate that.
I hope I can return sometime or in time maybe work on a retreat like this.