This is my first full day back from the trip. I had a wonderful time up there. We were up at 5:15 in the morning to meditate, and breakfast and lunch were the only 2 meals of the day, but it worked out much nicer than it sounds. It was hard to stay as paleo as possible up there, as the monastery is run entirely by donations and so we just had to eat what was made available by the kitchen volunteers, but they had nuts and ghee and flax out each morning so I got something hearty every day, even though they could have had some more meat and less fruit and cereal for breakfast.
During tea time the retreat visitors got were able to ask questions of the Ajahn there (it means teacher in Pali I think), and he would offer philosophy on loving-kindness, equanimity, compassion, the four noble truths and the eightfold path. We also got into a lot of cosmology about reincarnation, the different realms of beings, as well as some historical stuff related to distinctions between the Theravadan school and Mahayana school Buddhism (the monastery was a Theravadan one).
In addition to our regular practice, we also got to do some guided meditations and breathing techniques on our own in our rooms and such with some new friends we made. I taught some of the Eiriu Eolas techniques to a friend of mine who couldn't make it to the Vancouver EE event with, and some others joined in too for the guided audio pipe-breathing and bioenergetic breathing exercises. I think it stuck; some of them asked me to send them a link to the video of the program, which I said was online.
I learned a lot about Buddhism, and also a lot about what it is not, if that makes any sense. Or rather I learned about some of the differences in doctrine and etc that kind of turned me off from it. I mean sure I like the amount of meditation techniques and such, but fwiw I've already kind of mapped my interior out independently of those standards, being more oriented to fourth way, the teachings of some shamans, and some of my own independent discoveries and experimentation I managed to corroborate with those mentioned earlier.
Another things is, I just don't get the Buddhist emphases on doing good deeds in exchange for dama (or merrit) to relieve karma issues. It just smacks of internal considering, not at all like the ideals of Christ Consciousness in giving that we as westerners are so often engrained with. What's funny is that I also find that same type of Christian approach to giving in the Taoist books I read at the monastery, which is interesting considered how often Taoism and Buddhism are conflated in China, and yet in the Buddhist tradition that type of giving is quite absent. Maybe some erudite Buddhist philosopher could point out that deep down there there is something like that, but that's not going to validate and justify the complicity of the monastics in spreading that type of misunderstanding. I'm almost tempted to dismiss the emphases on dama for "brownie points" as a folk corruption, similar to those Asian peasants who whisper "Arahant" (one who has achieved nirvana) into the ears of those dying, or those who pray to Jesus for forgiveness on their death bed after a life of sin so they get into heaven, in hopes of somehow circumventing, you know, the whole system of morality. Maybe this belongs in the "religion" subforum though.
My friends and I often talked about this on our own in our rooms, which was a refreshing break from being immersed in the strictly Buddhist ways of approaching a topic. It helped us gain some perspective, outside of the informational homogeneity. Aside from that, we had loads of long walks in the mountains, where the weather could change from showers to sunlight in 20 minutes or less! Also, wild strawberries were EVERYWHERE. And so were the mosquitoes, and free range cows.