Written By Rachel and Elsie
Hello! For our last week here in Arizona, we headed to the Dharma Treasure Meditation Retreat for a peaceful, reflective end to an amazing trip. Your captains of the week, Rachel and Elsie, are here to share our experience.
11/30 After a sad goodbye to our temporary home at Hacienda Corona, we drove into Tucson for a COVID-19 test. This time, we got a glimpse of the city’s downtown and briefly explored cafes and shops before hitting the road. Upon arrival at Dharma Treasure, we oohed and ahed at the beautiful mountains surrounding the property and met the retreat director, Cindy, who gave us a tour of the spaces. Our accommodations include a yurt, three shift “moon” pods (silver insulated tents resembling space capsules), and a spacious kitchen/living room space. After dinner, we bundled up and joined some community members for a full moon hike. Before heading out, we watched the moon rise over the mountain and did a brief mindfulness exercise. During the walk, we remained silent in order to be fully present and took turns leading the group; it was amazing to be able to use only the moon’s light to guide us. At the end of the trail, we sat together and howled at the moon, which was a tradition of theirs, and held hands with one another in a moment of gratitude and peace. We ended the night with a traditional Colombian tribal song dedicated to the moon, led by a indigenous Colombian neighbor.
12/1 Today was filled with lots of introduction to meditation and mindfulness. Our meditation instructor, Robin, welcomed us to the retreat by explaining the how, why and what we will be doing, explaining that the main goal is to live in the present and bring that into our everyday life. Our first meditation of the week was just dipping our feet in and we paired up with a partner to do a walking meditation involving an “enjoyer” and a “co-enjoyer”. We were encouraged to follow our impulses and be observant of our surroundings. Petar and Jacob made their way up a mountain while Sophie and Kerri preferred finding one place to stay and soak up the sun. Lily and Elsie made some rock formations and Mari spent time watching the chickens. In the afternoon, we did our first day of Seva, or volunteer work. Half of the group collected rocks to line a trail at the retreat and the other half dug trenches to put a fence up around the garden area. Later in the afternoon, we did our first seated meditation, called Love and Kindness Meditation. The day ended with our entrance into noble silence, a period of time spent silent to focus on the present and self reflection.
12/2 Today was our full day of noble silence. Breakfast was cereal so that we did not have to try and cook without speaking. It was weird to all be eating in the same room in silence. Our first meditation of the day was a solo walking meditation on the trails around the retreat. The only instructions were to stay on trail and be back by lunch. Mari and Leila got a close up view to a family of deer, and Eli enjoyed making rock piles along the trail. We did not have seva today because it would be too hard to work while not speaking, so the afternoon was full of meditation and rest. Leila and Rachel both took naps while Eli played solitaire, and Elsie, Lily, Freya and Rachel did a long stretch and ab workout. Dinner was cooked for us by a local community chef, and in silence the group enjoyed eggplant and curd, basmati rice and dhal. We were told to participate in mindful eating and really focus on the process of eating, the flavors of the food, and gratitude towards the chef and all those involved in bringing the meal to our plates. The night ended early after the girls sat and made friendship bracelets.
12/3 As the silence continued, the group had another quiet breakfast accompanied by tea. Our first activity of the day was a quick body scan meditation followed by a mindful speaking exercise with a partner to break the silence. The group reflected on the past 36 hours and shared our experiences; many of us expressed that our interactions with others, though few, seemed more significant and that it was difficult to share meals together without talking. We then were able to Zoom in with James, our program director, for a group meditation. He shared his previous experience and story with meditation, which was inspiring. Afterwards, we had couscous for lunch followed by Mari’s delicious ice cream pie; it was nice to be able to verbalize our enjoyment of the food. Then we continued our Seva work, this time putting up metal fencing in the garden area and lining trails with the rocks we collected earlier. Following our work, we had a session led by Adam concerning the end of the trip and entering ‘reality’ again. We practiced elevator speeches about our trip and talked about our feelings about our time here ending.
12/4 Today was a packed day full of driving and more meditation. We started the day with a morning meditation led by Robin. After that, we all packed into the van and traveled to Tucson once again for Covid tests. By coincidence, our trek leader, Trevon, was getting tested at the same time! The group was thrilled and it definitely turned something not-so-fun into something awesome. On the way back to the retreat we sang in the van, enjoying some of the last moments of the trip. When we returned, Robin was ready for us and planned a dance meditation because she knew we had been sitting all day. Eli killed it with his dance moves and Petar and Sophie watched, as that brought them more joy in the moment. Dance meditation was followed by some walking meditation that we learned this week. Freya ended the night by baking delicious chocolate cookies.
12/5 Today some of us started the morning bright and early with a Greeting of the Sun ritual with Margarita, a sacred ritual passed down to her by a Native American woman named Allegra who lived on the property before passing. She emphasized appreciating our bodies and the earth as we welcomed the sun as it rose over the mountaintop and came into view. After breakfast, we all joined Robin for our last meditation of the trip. We did another meta practice, again focusing on spreading kindness and compassion to others, and said a big thank you to Robin for all of her amazing teachings. After a lunch of tofu teriyaki, we finished up our Seva work; it was satisfying to finish up the fence and lining the trails with rocks. Then we met a community member named Karen, who talked to us about the history of the Cochise Stronghold, where this retreat is located. The name comes from a legendary Apache chief named Cochise who was falsely accused of kidnapping by the American army, escaped captivity, and was able to hide in the valley until he passed away. She showed us to her Hogan, an eight sided adobe building filled with beautiful Apache artifacts, instruments and art pieces, and then to their sweat lodge. She explained the rituals and spiritual experience of the ‘sweat’ and a few of the community members sang and played drums to traditional Apache and Lakota songs. We were given rattles to join in, and it was powerful and fun to be a part of this experience. Afterwards, the community wanted to hear from us about our experience thus far, and they gave us encouraging words about our futures. We had breakfast for dinner: pancakes made by Lily and Freya, and then soaked in our last bits of time together for the rest of the night.
As the trip comes to a close, we reflect back on the past two months we’ve shared together and all of the powerful, transformative experiences we’ve been a part of. This week at Dharma Treasure Retreat was a peaceful, beautiful end to an amazing trip. We’re so thankful for everyone who helped make this all possible and to all of our family and friends who have been following along!