The stars aligned and circumstances converged recently in a way that allowed a small group of Gorge practitioners to enjoy a six-day retreat at Birken Forest Monastery, while at the same time taking Ajahn Sudanto and Tan Suhajjo up to Birken’s Kathina (alms-giving celebration similar to our Pah Bah) and a brief retreat of their own.
Seven lay participants made the journey. It was the first retreat for four of them. As with all retreats, this inward journey is quite different for each individual, but Birken provides a safe and quiet environment for whatever joy or struggles or anything in between that one experiences. If questions or troubles arise, one can schedule time to talk with Ajahn Sona (Abbot of Birken) or discuss things at tea time with the group and a monastic. As your time there lengthens, you increasingly feel the support of others as simply fellow humans with worries, happiness, sadness, expectations, joy and even noisy stomachs of their own!
Ajahn Sudanto said that one reason he takes groups to Birken is so that people can feel more comfortable going for a retreat on their own. Retreat opportunities fill up rapidly, and you may not be able to attend with a group, but you can contact Birken to arrange a time to visit on your own or with a friend.
Many thanks to Anna Siebenborn for planning and coordinating the trip. She planned the route, arranged the stops and meals on the way, and coordinated with the Birken stewards. Thank you Anna!
If you’re interested in a retreat, but are a bit timid, grab someone who has made that trek up into the Canadian foothills and ask them about it!