"Furnace Mountain Retreat Center" Clay City by Bacat
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I have been interested in meditation since I was a teenager in Olympia, Washington, and I often spent time sitting in solitude near Capitol Lake. It was here that I was first deeply touched by death, when a seagull that I was feeding choked and died on a piece of bread. The other seagulls then spontaneously included me in their funeral procession which consisted of screeching and flying in circles high above their lost friend.
As the years wore on I have drifted into and out of zen meditation practice. I was first introduced to formal zen (group meditation practice) in Olympia, Washington at Olympia Zen Center.
From this point on my interest in zen began to crystallize. I became fascinated with koans, the famous zen riddles. A classic example is "What is the sound of one hand clapping?"
This particular koan is often misunderstood because popular culture has taken ahold of it, but if one really tries to answer this question with sincerity it can be quite powerful.
I read "Two Arrows Meeting in Mid-Air" by John Daido Loori, and was thoroughly hooked on the idea of koan as a way to penetrate into the difficult mysteries of life.
I also learned from Eido-san, the abbot at Olympia Zen Center, that enlightenment is not manfiested any differently than delusion. She never spoke to me of this, but showed it to me through her example. I am intensely grateful for her resolute practice. She is a dragon!
As I moved to Panama City Beach, Florida, I explored other kinds of practice, but lost sight of zazen for many months. Sensing that I had lost a kind of guide in my life I chose to deepen my practice with a trip across the United States alone in a car.
I began with a 5 day personal retreat at Olympia Zen Center, which was followed by a visit to the Hearts Relics Tour, which is a traveling museum of priceless artifacts. The Hearts Relics Tour benefits the Maitreya Project.
I then drove down to Green Gulch Farm in Sausalito, California, where I was a guest resident for 7 days.
Afterwards, I skinny dipped in the Pacific Ocean at Muir Beach.
I continued driving and spent a lot of time in solitude as I crossed the United States to return to Panama City Beach, Florida. But something fundamental had shifted.
I moved to Galveston, Texas and began sitting with a small group organized by John Willke. After several months Dr. Cara Geary moved to Galveston and brought with her an opportunity.
She had been studying with Zen Master Dae Gak and Cincinnati Zen Center and offered to arrange for him to visit Galveston for a weekend retreat. We agreed and held our first retreat in October of 2003. Since then, our group has become Zen Island Fellowship and has hosted a weekend retreat with Dae Gak every six months.
In February of 2004, Cara helped me participate in a one month retreat at Furnace Mountain, near Clay City, Kentucky. The silent retreat was led by Zen Masters Bo Mun and Dae Gak, and consisted of 9 hours of sitting meditation daily for the month.
This retreat was a life changing experience. As my own struggle to understand genjokoan (the riddle of your entire life) became fierce, purple crocuses were unfolding for Spring. It was a beautiful and intense time to be on the Mountain, and one which I am deeply grateful for. I recommend visiting Furnace Mountain to anyone who is serious about approaching the difficult questions of life.
I have found some zen centers to be flashy, attractive zen. At Furnace Mountain I found something raw and tender, something which a person normally would not be attracted to. But I believe if a human being enters honestly into what it means to be human, that something beyond compare is found there. This is what some would call enlightenment, but it is really just realizing who you are at the core.
If anyone would like more information about Furnace Mountain, I am glad to be of help. I'm sorry I don't have more to say about Clay City. :)
- Pros:In the winter, the ice can make driving impossible. :)
- Cons:In the winter, the ice can make driving impossible.
- In a nutshell:Furnace Mountain- just up the hill from Clay City.
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