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A Chan Retreat – Jez Yushin Lovekin

One of Roshi’s recent talks where he asked us to talk about our difficulties with zazen reminded me of a retreat I did with the Chan group in mid-Wales. This was about 2 years ago and was one of the final retreats before Maenllwyd closed for good.

As always, we began in the old farmhouse,15 or so anxious retreatants, sitting around the old woodburner and introducing ourselves. Names, background and our practice. It was a mixed bag with several beginners and several older hands each with their differing approach to practice.
Silent illumination, Koan work, various breathing techniques and bodywork. They all sounded so accomplished, one woman even claimed Eckhart Tolle had stopped her mind for over an hour. Wow! What had I walked into?

Finally, it came round to my turn and in spite of such salubrious company I decided to be honest. “My practice is daydreaming,” I said. Followed by a collective silence. “Over the years I have become very good at it.” And a few of the old hands laughed.

As we prepared to move into the Chan hall (zendo), Juliet Hackney, a GP and former Zennie who had been to Crosby and the Lakes several times, came over and ordered me to stand up. I, confused, and thinking I was in trouble, hesitated and the order was repeated, ”Stand up!” So I did and she then threw her arms around me and said, ” How lovely to see you. And please, remember me to all the guys in Liverpool.”