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Refreshing and fun
This 6-day, self-supported kayak camping trip takes place in the Loreto National Marine Park, camping on Carmen and Danzante Islands. One of our beloved Sea Kayak Baja Mexico guides will work with Andrew Hughes, an Alaska sea kayak guide himself, who will also be organizing the meditation content of the experience. Here is his vision for the trip:
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. It is intended to be a week of quiet practice and stillness and appreciation of the natural beauty of Baja. 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.
I say “mostly” silent because we will have 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 silence of experience is an important part of it, and participants should be willing and able to leave behind social talk for the week.
Why silence? And why nature? We rely on speaking for so much stimulation and connection. Our continual stream of thoughts fill space in our mind constantly. Breaking this habit is hard. It is work, and not always fun. But if we let this chatter subside, sometimes we find that this space opens up; we may find other ways of connecting and a greater clarity of experience.
Silence in nature can be particularly powerful because nature speaks – but not with words – and when we quiet our conceptual mind, 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. More practically, being outdoors in a group of people provides ample opportunities to practice the six perfections.
The six perfections are: generosity, ethical discipline, patience, joyful perseverance, concentration and wisdom. I am imagining that these will be the undercurrent or theme of the week. Sometimes we focus so much on meditation that we forget that most of the spiritual practice occurs “off the cushion.” I can think of few situations that give us a chance to practice generosity, patience, discipline, and joyful perseverance than sea kayaking and camping for a week with a small group of new friends. Nature is also, quite naturally (haha), an amazing instructor in wisdom and concentration.
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 more formal practice while in Boulder, Colorado, attending and assisting vipassana wilderness experiences led by Johann Robbins. I went on a 10-day silent canoe retreat through the canyons of Utah that was a truly beautiful spiritual experience. 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 is a Mahayana Tibetan Buddhist school that benefits from a traditional Tibetan Buddhist lineage and the openness that comes from a more Western placement. The three core values of Maitripa are scholarship, service, and meditation, values that resonate deeply with me.
On this retreat I will be acting as a guide and facilitator, not a dharma teacher. As stated, this trip is intended to be peer-led. This means that we should all bring readings that we find meaningful and are excited to share with the group. We should also come ready to listen and open our hearts to each other. I will come well-armed with readings from my school over the last year, and will put together a suggested thematic structure for the retreat, but this will be a tool only for the experience. I’m excited to practice in beautiful Baja with you and share our path for a week!
Also, as a final note. We have chosen to keep this trip as simple as possible in hopes that it makes it accessible to more people. All food will be provided; however, attendees will need to take turns helping prep meals and clean dishes. We will also not have a supporting panga (motorboat), so we will be using a “poop bag” for the inevitable necessities.
Come be quiet in nature and let it fill you. Carry Baja home with you, as peace and inspiration for life.