Greetings to you from snowy Colorado! I hope you are well wherever you are.
A couple months ago I put out an idea I had to offer a retreat in the southwestern desert this March. The purpose of this email is to follow up on that offer and see if anyone wants to take me up on it.
Below you will find information about the retreat. I'll include the original email I sent presenting the idea, plus a response I sent to someone who wanted to know (among other things) whether or not we would be comfortable down there that time of year, or if the retreat would be a sort of Zen test of endurance and determination in the cold (short answer--we would be comfortable).
If you would like to participate, let me know. Please include the dates you would be available. Once I hear back from folks I'll decide whether or not the retreat is a go, and if so when. If it is a go I will then work out all the details so that folks will know where to meet, what airport to fly into if needed, what gear is needed, and so on.
Here is the basic information:
The dates I will be down in Arizona/New Mexico have changed slightly. There is a three-week window for the retreat, from Friday, March 9 to Sunday, April 1. Once I have heard back from people in regards to their availability I will pick the week during that range that works for the most people. It is not necessary to attend for the entire week, and it would be possible to stay for longer, but I will set that entire week aside to focus on the retreat. It is still an option for folks to camp with me in a less formal way outside of the official retreat time, but you should be aware that I will be working (writing and talking to people) when the official retreat is not in session and so will be less available then.
The Original Announcement
This email is going out to all those who I talk with on a regular basis. I also plan to put this out in a more general way to those I interact with less intensively. I’ve had an idea that I’d like to pass on to you. Here it is:
I’ve been planning for some time to spend a few weeks camping in the desert this winter on a sort of solo retreat. I adore the American southwest, and I know I’ll be eager to exchange the cold of Colorado for the warm sun, the cactus, and the profound desert silence of Arizona and New Mexico when the time comes. After the busyness of this summer I want to spend a chunk of time devoted to meditation, long silent walks, and quiet evenings under the stars.
More recently I’ve realized that it would be more fun to have company than to do this by myself, and so of course I thought of you. Wouldn’t it be great, I’ve been thinking, to set up a retreat for anyone who, like me, would enjoy unplugging from their lives for a while and spend some days in practice? And so that’s what I’ve decided to do. I’m heading down there in late February, and if you would like to join me you would be most welcome.
I’ll give you some details so that you can see if you’re interested.
The ideal would be to gather everyone who wants to participate together at the same time. The more people we can get together the more fun we will have. Alternatively, it could be that people come and go as they are able during those three weeks. Once I know who would like to do it and when they are available I can make a plan that best suits everyone.
The way I see it right now, we would spend the days doing practice together. We would meditate together, practice yoga, go on hikes and other adventures, and so on, all with a shared meditative focus. We could have group discussions in beautiful spots during the day and over a campfire at night. I could have one-one-one conversations with people on a daily basis. We could make yummy, healthy food together. Part of the day would be in silence, and part available for meaningful conversation if folks would like that. It would be something like a vacation, only better, in that we would support each other in practicing awareness and self-love.
You would be required to provide your own camping gear (I can help you to know what to bring) and your own transportation. Otherwise there would be no cost (though of course donations are always appreciated). I would choose a safe, beautiful place to be, and a time to meet there. For those flying in I would recommend an airport to use, and I might be able to arrange for a shuttle, depending upon the resources we have available. Most likely we would move camp every few days to keep things interesting.
I imagine people coming for four days to a week. A week would be ideal, but I know it can be difficult to arrange for that much time away from regular life. Less or more could be okay, too—we can talk about it as things become more firm over time.
What do you think? If you think you might be interested, let me know along with the dates you would have available.
Thank you for taking the time to consider my idea. Thank you as well for the work you are doing and your generous support of my efforts. I love you all, and I feel so very grateful to have you in my life. Thank you for being who you are and for all you offer to the world.
Take good care of yourself, as always. In peace,
Response to a Concern About Comfort, etc.
This is not at all about putting people in difficult circumstances so they get a good look at their conditioning. This is about people having an expansive, transformative experience in a beautiful place. I want people to be comfortable. We will be outside and there will be a number of things beyond our control, and so it's likely people will be challenged in various ways (which of course is a good thing), but the intent is that they enjoy themselves.
I'm modelling the retreat on a retreat I led at the monastery up in the sierras. It was a one of a kind, and was fabulous--easily one of my favorite experiences during my time at the monastery. We would stay in a campground for sure, where we would have water and bathroom facilities. We may not have a shower, but we could easily make a private shower people could use on our own. I would find a spot that would afford us some privacy as well. We would rent as many campsites as we needed to accommodate the numbers of people and vehicles we have, all together, so that we have our own little compound. If it were really big we could rent a designated group campsite. I'm thinking particularly of national forest campgrounds here. They tend to be a bit rustic, but comfortable, which I think would be perfect.
There are many places in the deep southwest that would be a good setting for the retreat. We won't be on stark BLM land. We'll be in an oasis or in a mountain range, possibly with water and trees. Often these places will have both simple campgrounds and a variety of hiking trails.
We will be warm. The average temperatures in Tuscon in March are mid-seventies during the day and mid-forties at night. That's perfect camping weather in my book. It rains very little down there, so I would expect us to be mostly dry as well. I can adjust the location for the weather--going up in latitude or elevation if it's going to be hot, or down if it's going to be cold. I'll go down to the area in advance to set all this up.
In terms of gear, I can provide a lot of it: all the cooking gear for sure, and other things as well. There are a number of used gear stores in the area where I live, so I can pick up extra tents, sleeping pads, sleeping bags, and so on if people need it. I have some extra things already that others can use. I'm imagining that if folks who are flying pack an extra duffle that should accommodate everything they will need.
I'm not opposed to an rv. I wouldn't want there to be a large disparity in people's ability to be comfortable--some in luxury and some without what they need--but otherwise I don't see a problem with it. In peace,
Thank you everyone for considering this opportunity. Take care of yourselves, each of you, and be well.