Writing Retreat July 6th–9th

I know I told you all about this retreat earlier. I just wanted to post about it once more and include a little flyer. If you know anyone who might be interested, I’d very much appreciate you passing this along.

Thanks very much!

Here is the direct link to the retreat info page:
https://499words.org/retreat/

Early registration discount through June 7th!

JTRC_Flyer

I’m Leading a Writing Retreat in July!

shelves of used notebooks tied in bundles

Hi everyone.

I’ve decided to offer a writing retreat this summer.

Thursday July 6th (late afternoon) through midday Sunday, July 9th

at Joshua Tree Retreat Center
Joshua Tree, California
(about 45 minutes from the Palm Springs airport)

What we’ll do
Our focus will be on spontaneous writing a la Natalie Goldberg (or Peter Elbow) with several different writing prompts for short timed writings. We’ll write together and read our work out loud, letting the alchemy happen. We’ll do some sitting practice, too. Afternoons will be in silence. And I’ll bring in a few tidbits about the craft of writing, as well. People will be encouraged to take care of themselves and bow out of any activity they may not feel comfortable with. But we’ll create a supportive and expansive space for each of us to try our wings as desired.

Costs for early registration
I will post registration details ASAP, but I’m eager and excited (and a little afraid!) and wanted to tell you all right away. Tentative cost for early registration is $400 for the retreat program, three nights shared lodging and three vegan meals per day (possibly with some eggs and dairy available on the side—not sure yet).

More details and to register
I’ll post a copy of the flyer as soon as it’s available. In the meantime, if you’d like more details or would like to register at this early registration price, please call me at home weekdays (Pacific Daylight Time): 760-327-9759.

Thank you for reading this! And if you know anyone else who may be interested I would so love for you to pass this on (and perhaps the flyer when it’s ready, too). Oh, and if you happen to know of any writing sites or retreat sites or someplace you think I might advertise this (for free or at low cost), that would be really helpful, too. Thanks again.

Holding the dream of magic here!

Riba

Everywhere, Spring (54)

two black lines of a dove

Three weeks ago the mockingbirds began to sing. When I’m lucky I hear one singing nearby in the middle of the night. I’m hoping he comes closer. Last Wednesday when I walked out of my class at the Annenberg Center the air smelled like heaven. I stopped, eyes closed, taking in deep breaths of it. The scent was so familiar, but I couldn’t recognize it. I opened my eyes to the lemon blossoms in the tree above me. Every year I forget how strong the fragrance is, how it finds you everywhere, even when you can’t spot a tree. The sun’s been moving north at a steady pace, all stealth until now when you see it’s almost halfway through its journey. It sinks behind the mountains as I write, facing me straight on now. I’m sitting inside with the swamp cooler on and the sliding glass door wide open to the courtyard. My neighbor’s tree, the one who hosted goldfinches like ornaments all winter, has budded into leaf. I think: don’t tell me we don’t have seasons here. I think: don’t let it bend you out of shape, Riba, annoyed now at all those imaginary people who like to claim we don’t. I’m doing my sitting practice facing the mountains, and my mind is crazy busy. Yesterday, too. I wonder what’s going on. I’ve been looking into rooms, wanting to begin to teach a writing class, give a workshop, lead a writing circle. I’m even fantasizing about offering a retreat, too, maybe in Joshua Tree. This is where my mind zooms today again and again while I’m supposed to be meditating. Could we get a cluster of their studio cabins all together? Could people bring their own food, plan for a pot luck or two? Can I keep it affordable? Do I charge a fee for my efforts or let people offer dana? Do I teach craft or just guide us in entering in? I am gone so long during the meditation that when I wake up and come back I feel the urge to be angry at myself. My laugh surprises me instead. But I do wonder what’s going on, wonder if I should be worried. I sit for the last minutes with my eyes open, taking in the laden bougainvillea branches arching across the wooden fence and the mountains behind them. I hear a mourning dove calling from the roof of my trailer, the first call of the year. I cherish the longing and the full, rich sweetness of his voice. Maybe, I think, I don’t need to worry about my busy mind. Maybe I’m just ready to spring forth with the season. Maybe now I get to burst into bloom.

Offerings (10)

I got home from my retreat yesterday afternoon, exhausted from a week of too little sleep. The inner work we did took great effort, too, and gave us great rewards. I can’t count the number of times I looked around the zendo, awed and grateful—all these brave people who had come to do this hard work together. On the last day we sat in our circle and focused on each person one at a time. We offered words or phrases that emerged for us, images of what we remembered or who we saw them to be. The one who was the center of attention just sat soaking it in, all these wonderful and sometimes funny things people believed or remembered about them. I was afraid when it was my turn no one would have anything to say. Or, maybe even worse, people would say a few things, and then there’d be silence until the rest of my time ran out, and the quiet bell rang. Instead when it came around to me, the words were steady, plentiful. I only wish I could remember more of them so I could hold them to me now and then for comfort, reassurance, hope. I remember things said about my big heart and sitting there receiving each one as it came. At the end someone said, “Devoted.” The last word spoken was Susan’s. “Impeccable,” she said, and met my eyes. I think I raised an eyebrow at that. Me? I was grinning through my tears while they showered me with shining things they saw in me. They drifted into me as they fell, warm, delicate, like sacraments, like blessings.

Salud (9)

I didn’t plan it. It just turned out this way, a surprising convergence of energies as if in preparation for my Vipassana retreat. I leave tomorrow, seven days in the high desert, silence, insight dialog, lots of sitting practice. I finished the semester’s grading late last night. On Monday I met my vow this year to get my home together inside and out before the heat of summer when (I finally understand) you have to just hunker down, get through the brutal heat, expect yourself to do only what is required. I wiped down books and boxed them, stacked things in the bathroom in the in between time. It was a lot like moving only not being forced into the work of it. And for nine days now I’ve been only eating watermelon and salads of cucumber, radish and tomatoes. (I’d been eating badly and too much. I needed this, my own odd twist of a fruit and vegetable fast.) But I didn’t plan to do it as preparation for my retreat. Like I didn’t plan to become newly freed from the awful weight of my messy, filthy trailer just before I left, or to be able to wrap up my semester, say goodbye to my students, post the final grades. But here I am, poised to go on my first retreat longer than one day. And thanks to the kindness of the universe, my house is in order, both literally and figuratively. I feel freed up, ready, eager, a little afraid. And oh so grateful I am arriving clean. Here’s to what’s to come.

The Ugly American (6)

I was thinking yesterday about Cinco de Mayo and how our country managed to use this relatively unimportant date in Mexican history to celebrate Mexican culture instead of choosing to honor a date that holds deeper meaning in Mexico, like el 16 de septiembre. It makes me sad, and it makes me embarrassed to be an estadounidense (someone from the United States). I have long been embarrassed by our reputation traveling abroad, for being demanding, arrogant, condescending, for expecting all our whims to be met and met instantly, for believing people in other countries should put aside their local traditions and customs in order to cater to and accommodate us. I was mortified when we elected Bush—twice!—and appalled when he refused to even pause when millions of people all over the world took to the streets to protest attacking Iraq. There may not be an adjective for what I feel now knowing Trump is the presumptive Republican candidate for president. When this started we were all so sure he’d be disregarded, dismissed. How could anyone take him seriously?

Now I am baffled and angry to see so many people voting for him. How can people ignore the malice and racism he’s so steeped in? I’m hideously ashamed of our country in the eyes the world, our dark, decaying underbelly exposed, maggots everywhere. I cling to one comfort that has come to me in recent times. I may be ashamed to be an estadounidense, but I am glad to be a Californian. I’m proud of the way our state has separated itself from the anti-immigrant stance. I’m not saying we don’t have more work to do, but at least we’re moving in the right direction, granting driver’s licenses, minimizing police cooperation with federal deportation officials, changing Medi-Cal laws to provide healthcare for the children of undocumented immigrants, raising the minimum wage. So, today I reach for solace in this gift, that I belong to a state who is trying to change things for the better. And I pray Trump will be defeated by an overwhelming and embarrassing margin. I pray come election day we’ll see evidence the true majority of people in this country understand what he espouses is wrong-hearted and vindictive, that at the end of this messy, ugly, humiliating spectacle the people of this country will do the right thing.

[Editor’s note: I don’t mean to imply here the United States doesn’t have much more egregious sins than these when it comes to our participation in the world or at home. This known catalog is endless and disturbing to say the least.]

Yes (47)

Saturday morning it comes to me that all unknowing I have begun an endeavor that involves a considerable amount of intellectual or conceptual effort. What the Buddha laid out all those centuries ago is intricate and many layered. And I have not committed myself to studying it. In fact, I think part of me resists it. This morning I have a bad moment. What if I keep going and find myself caught up in a structure that constricts me? I flash on being stuck inside the Buddha’s system, unable to free myself from the sticky strands of that web. What if I am unable to have a thought without naming it, categorizing it? Ah, this self-conscious feeling, this is clinging in the category of self. Or, oh, the sun has gone behind the mountain, and I am cold. Is that aversion in the category of sensual pleasures? Sunday night there is socializing after the meditation and teaching. I nibble on the millet raisin cookies I made and try to talk to people. I am awkward and not very present. I am so uncomfortable, I leave early without saying goodbye to anyone. My mind races as I walk home in the rain. I am judging myself, my discomfort, my rambling speech. I realize this is the biggest learning curve I have been in since I began to teach for the first time. But I have forgotten to be kind to myself. Notice, yes. Pay attention. But gently. Lovingly. I remind myself of that surprising bit of rainbow I woke up to, curled on my side, the bands of color tucked into the curve of the mountain before me. And the next morning before dawn, the waning moon and Mars in the clerestory window when I roll over in bed. Gifts from the universe, reassurance. And the small quiet gang of wintering white-crowned sparrows that gather in the courtyard just before dark, tiny beloved aliens who call in a language I don’t know. Something eases within me. Yes. And again, yes. I choose this.