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Humans have gone to the desert since time immemorial for spiritual contemplation. Coasts and islands, as meeting places between the two great forces of the ocean and the land, can be particularly powerful places to practice. Kayaking in particular can be a wonderful metaphor for skillful means and working with the mind.
This trip will be a (mostly) silent, meditation retreat. The dharma talks will be “peer-led” discussions and participants are encouraged to bring readings to share. This trip will be a week of quiet practice and stillness and appreciation of the natural beauty of Baja.
The above is Andrew’s vision for the trip. The envelope that holds this vision is a 6-day, self-supported kayak camping trip takes place in the Loreto National Marine Park, on Carmen and Danzante Islands. Our own beloved guide Maria will work with Andrew Hughes, who is an Alaska sea kayak guide himself.
To keep this trip as simple and financially accessible as possible, it will not be accompanied by a motorboat, so we will packing and carrying all our camping supplies in our kayaks, expedition-style. All food will be provided; however, attendees will need to take turns helping prep meals and clean dishes.
We call the trip “mostly” silent because each day will include an hour or so of sharing and dharma discussion in the evening, and there is a certain amount of logistical communication that will be required throughout the day. Speaking for safety is, of course, always allowed! However, the experience of silence is an important part of this retreat, and participants should be willing and able to leave behind social talk for the week.
Why silence? And why nature?
We rely on speaking so much for stimulation and connection. Our continual stream of thoughts fill our minds without a rest. Breaking this habit is difficult. It is work, and not always fun. But if we let this chatter subside, we find that space opens up. We are introduced to other ways of connecting and a greater clarity of experience.
Silence in nature is particularly powerful because nature speaks—although not with words—and when we quiet our conceptual minds, we can open ourselves up to the lessons of nature: time and space and our place in it. Nature is also stunningly beautiful and powerful. It inspires awe and humility. It reminds us of the preciousness and fragility of our lives. It shows us very clearly our attachments and aversions. More practically, being outdoors in a group of people provides ample opportunities to practice the six perfections (generosity, ethical discipline, patience, joyful perseverance, concentration, and wisdom).
A bit about who I am and my place in this. I have had a personal practice for fifteen years or so. I was exposed to wilderness dharma as a formal practice while in Boulder, Colorado, attending and assisting vipassana wilderness experiences led by Johann Robbins. In 2015, I attended a 10-day silent canoe retreat through the canyons of Utah. This experience was the inspiration for me to provide something similar for other people as part of my desire for service.
Last year I decided to devote myself to my practice in a new way and moved from Alaska to Portland, Oregon, to attend Maitripa College. Maitripa College is a Mahayana Tibetan Buddhist school that benefits from a traditional Tibetan Buddhist lineage and the spirit of inquiry that arises from its Western roots. The three core values of Maitripa are scholarship, meditation, and service, values that resonate deeply with me.
On this retreat I will be acting as a guide and facilitator. To facilitate the peer-led aspect of this trip, please bring readings that you find meaningful and are excited to share with the group. Please also come ready to listen and open your hearts to each other. I will also come well-armed with readings and will put together a suggested thematic structure for the retreat, but this will serve only as a tool for the experience. I’m excited to practice in beautiful Baja with you and share our path for a week!
Come be quiet in nature and let it fill you. Carry Baja home with you, as peace and inspiration for life.