Can Zen Sesshins Be My New Desert Road Trips?

I wrote yesterday about meeting my dragon, Chaos, and my psychological resistance in my most recent sesshin. Today I want to address the question of whether my Zen sesshins can become my transition retreats as my long trips to the Chihuahuan Desert of Big Bend, Texas, area used to be? Since I can do the sesshins from home now on Zoom, can they replace my historic desert road trips (to borrow from the movie, Animal House)?

The desert road trips were a way of stepping back and taking a hard look at my life, evaluating where I was in it, and where I wanted to go from where I was. They also had adventure and wildness, both of which I am drawn to. Above all the desert road trips were spiritual retreats promoting spiritual and personal growth. My life has changed significantly since those trips, the latest being in 2019.

Early on I had children then teens still at home. I was enmeshed in family, church, professional, and personal life streams. I just needed to step away from these for a while to get my perspective back.

Now, there is just me, an old me at that, and my two dogs. Now that I’ve terminated my boys school, equine-assisted psychotherapy as well as my other counseling services, I no longer have these pulling on me.

At this stage in my life, my focus is on gardening, self-sufficiency, simplicity, spiritual deepening, and living eco-responsibly. My solitude and hermitic life-style nurture these. Pretty much I have substituted bicycling for driving my truck, part of my effort to do my part to mitigate climate change. Back to my title question. Can Zen sesshins replace my desert spiritual road trips?

Zen sesshins far outdo desert road trips for both spiritual and personal growth. My spiritual work these days is focused on going deeper. I am knocking on my Shadow’s door, so to speak, and cultivating that great inner-peace that only such work can provide. Per yesterday’s post on Chaos the Dragon, it is not so much that I am knocking on Shadow’s door as pulling the tail of the dragon, waking her up and trying to get her to “dance” with me so that I can get into my Shadow Cave and work on the unconscious issues hidden within.

I’m pretty sure three of the issues locked in there are Anger, Shame, and Loneliness, issues I’ve tried to keep shoved down all my life. At least I was aware of these, just not always how they played out in my life in unconscious ways.

Sesshins lack the adventure and wildness components that also call to me. At this age, however, my stamina and ability to deal with these is much more limited, as is my current pocketbook. Zen sesshins are a hell of a lot less expensive, especially now that I can do them via Zoom from home. So, right now in my life, I’m going to try out substituting the sesshins for my road trips. As far as adventure and wildness, Mother Nature is all around and I live in a place where it is easy to get out an experience her, e.g., state parks, the Appalacian Trail, the Foot Hills Trail, just a few miles away. And, just riding to the store and around here can be pretty much an adventure all in itself. Wish me well. We’ll see how it goes.

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