Our Annual Fall Retreat is designed to not only be about martial arts training in Ba Gua Zhang, with extensive hours in meditation, breathing, Qigong (Chi Kung), and Kung Fu, but also a return to where the martial arts style we practice came from: nature.
The ancients did not live anything like we do today in our fast-paced, never-enough society. They took care of the basic necessities – shelter, water, fire, and food – taking maybe two hours per day to do so, and then what? There wasn’t much else to distract them from being fully engaged in the natural world around them.
This is how some of our oldest most cherished philosophical teachings were created.
As the world became more “civilized” and villages formed, some of the most observant became known as “sages”. These individuals were able to see a bit more than the rest, and communicated what they saw and felt to help others also raise their consciousness and essentially live better lives – more in balance and at peace within as well as with each other.
Eventually, these things were written down, and well-known Eastern philosophical classics such as the Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching – “Classic on the Virtuous Way”), and the Yi Jing (I Ching – “Book of Changes” – specifically where the Ba Gua, or “Eight Diagrams” – representing the “Principle of Change” – originated) continue to be read and studied after thousands of years to help us re-connect to the natural world and order of things, still in an effort to live better lives.
What can be better in our modern times than to taste for ourselves, if only for a short time, what it was those ancients were able to experience, by removing ourselves from our usual daily grind and to actually live it?
I like to call this “Practical Daoism”, as a first-hand experience goes far beyond any book. Stop and sit for a moment as some of our students share their experiences about what our Fall Retreat was like for them…
From Tracy Lanzilotti:
“Ever wonder why after a vacation you feel like you need a vacation? To me, it just seems like more of the same chaos and time tables that you think you are leaving behind as you physically put miles between your day-to-day routine and your new “tropical oasis” – a chance to “unwind” and “get away” from the hum-drum of monotony. But really? Do we really “get away”? Or is it merely jet-lagged and does it eventually catch up to us?
What’s the difference between vacation and a retreat? And why, after a retreat, do we feel rejuvenated, revitalized? What is it that makes us come alive? Unlike a vacation, a retreat is never the same because with a retreat you don’t just unplug from the chaos and that’s it. Like a switchboard operator you unplug from the chaos in order to plug in to the stillness, plug in to the silence that, usually, we try to fill with meaningless clatter. Pure, unadulterated, unrelenting silence.
Put your hand on a tree, on a rock – feel its warmth, its coolness. Listen to the wind – absorb it with every pore. To breathe in the woods is to breathe with your whole being – not just with the lungs. This is why it is so rejuvenating.
A retreat can be spiritual if you let it. It can restore your sense and enhance your vitality. It can show you your weaknesses just as it can show you your strengths and what you may consider one to be in the “real world” may turn out to be its counterpart in the woods. No retreat is ever the same but every retreat can teach you something new. A retreat can show you how little you actually know if you allow yourself to leave your comfort zone.
When the wind blows you can feel it with your whole self – being absorbed by your skin and into your soul. And maybe, just for a moment, you become the wind – flowing and free, combing through the leaves. How could this not make you come alive?
A retreat is an experience that calls upon the involvement of your whole self. Some have a near-death experience, why not have a near-life experience? Wake up and allow yourself to come alive!”
From Theresa Finnelli:
“This has been my second year at the Ba Gua Retreat, and it certainly did not disappoint. Ever since I went to my first retreat last September, I’ve been itching to go again this year. It’s an experience like no other that breaks you away from the stresses of everyday life and puts you into a world where time slows down.
If you don’t already, you learn to appreciate your surroundings – the clean crisp mountain air, the beautiful subtle changes of the leaves on the trees as they transition into their fall coats, the experience of animals in their natural habitat, etc. All this in conjunction with training, makes for a wonderful experience like no other. I wish these retreats were longer than 2 ½ days because just as your settling into the environment, it seems in a day you’re out of it again.
It would be wonderful to have a longer experience. But regardless, in that short time, you still are subjected to so much. The 6AM morning chi kung out in the mountain air is the most refreshing I’ve ever felt at that time in the morning. It revitalizes you and gives you great energy to take on the rest of the day. I’ve done morning chi kung many times before, even out in a park, but being out in that fresh mountain air adds a new level to it.
While you’re training, you’re still taking in all of your surroundings, and it adds a new dimension to your training. I wish we could train outside all the time! It gives a sense of freedom and openness that you share with yourself and your other classmates. I really enjoy the fact that even though we are surrounded by our Ba Gua brothers and sisters, we are focused on our internal training, reflecting on our experiences, feelings, and attitudes. It gives a further insight to ourselves that we may overlook during our normal, hectic everyday lives.
This retreat is like a rejuvenation, a revitalizing of the spirit, to hopefully take away and integrate into our everyday lives. I continue to look forward to these retreats and encourage anyone to give this experience a try, because it is not one you will soon forget.”
From Ray Noe:
“Blue Dragon’s Fall Retreat I can honestly say is something that should be experienced by everyone. Each moment, from start to finish, is an experience in itself. There is the excitement of going. The anticipation of the challenges you will face. The nervousness of trying something new. The first breath of clean fresh mountain air you feel in your lungs. Opening your eyes wide and realizing you are completely surrounded by nature and its beauty.
Your first step into the woods…
We all have our lives, duties, chores, responsibilities in life. If you make the effort and the commitment to come, you will leave with experiences that you will be grateful for and carry with you forever.
This is the place to come to really feel what it’s like to be in the moment. You leave the everyday life behind you and come here to reconnect with nature. Simple sounding yes, but the power of the experience cannot be described. You must experience it for yourself. The retreat experience will help you understand what it means to “Make Ba Gua your own” and may very well motivate you to do so.
It is the perfect opportunity to open your eyes to see nature as it exists, not just a glimpse here and there you might catch in your everyday life. You might see how a tree can change in just one day.
From your sit spot, you can watch the environment around you go to sleep. As the trees quiet down as the wind settles, to the birds making their final chirps “Goodnight”, and even the mosquitoes calling it quits can all be appreciated.
The world waking up is even more incredible. You might learn which animals are the early risers and the ones which “sleep in”; you may detect HOW the day brightens – I’d tell you, but you wouldn’t believe me unless you’ve experienced it for yourself. You may even discover the reason you chose the sit spot you did.
There are the experiences you have with your partners – all of them different, all of them a lesson in our motto: Wisdom, Benevolence, Sincerity, and Bravery. You experience an appreciation for working on something new with them, they working with you, and the effort being put forth. From “stepping it up a few notches” working with senior partners, to practicing benevolence with junior partners, everyone here works together. You will learn something new about everyone here, especially yourself, which makes you appreciate the experience even more.
You will leave not wanting to leave, and most importantly, you’ll have a feeling of gratitude for all the experiences you have had in the 48 hours you were on the retreat. We are so fortunate we have a Shifu who puts so much time and thought into this retreat, what he teaches us, and a taste of the why, and Mrs. Fries who puts so much of her time in as well to ensure things flow smoothly.
If you want to raise your awareness to a new level, this is an experience not to be missed.”
From Bruce Gelotte:
“The Fall Retreat
To be up before the sun rises and be at your sit spot, silently waiting in the dark for the day to wake up. Up above the stars shining bright.
Slowly they begin to fade as the first signs of daylight appear.
To see the forest begin to come to life while a couple of deer make their way past you not knowing you are there watching. You begin to realize that you are not just “in” nature observing but you are a part of it.
As daylight appears you walk down to the lake with the rest of the group to practice Qi Gong. The sun is just now rising above the mountain to the east sending its golden rays of light through the trees making amazing patterns of light and shadow on the on the meadow of bright green grass where we practice.
The mountain to the north with it’s leaves just beginning to turn to it’s orange and reds of autumn is lit up by the rising sun. The air is fresh and brisk as you take a couple of deep breaths and begin to practice.
It just doesn’t get any better than that.
From Charlene Brewer:
This morning when I got to my sit spot, There was a strong gush of wind and a lot of leaves fell. I felt like I was being welcomed back.
My spot is a fallen tree that I straddle. There is a small tree at my left side, one little branch is across my back and another branch comes down over the front of my shoulder as if to cuddle me without leaning into it.
My right toe is against a little tree that is keeping my foot from sliding down. I completely let go. Relaxed The sun is shinning through the trees and there is shady spots. It’s not hot or cold. A little breeze is blowing.
I smell the scent of nature’s greens and wood. I hear many sounds. Peace. I thank the little trees for their support and I thank God, for the incredibly beautiful world that I am so blessed to be a part of.”
So there you have it. Join us next September so you can have your own version to share…”