Join Reizan Bob Penny and the Wilderness Program for a 9-day wilderness-based experience.
Mt. Adams is known to the Yakima tribe as Pahto. Although less visited than nearby Mt. Rainier it is, at over 12,000’, the second highest mountain in Washington State. Our approximately 35 mile circumambulation of Pahto is another in our series of circumambulations of Cascade peaks, establishing a Northwest group of “Neri” (Tibetan for “most sacred”) mountain circuits in the Asian Buddhist tradition of mountain pilgrimages. This journey will be conducted as a week-long group meditation backpacking retreat, taking us sun-wise around the mountain and culminating in a high pass crossing at over 8000 feet.
On this retreat we will consider Buddha nature, true nature, and our original nature as one, viewing the core wisdom of this natural world and the core wisdom of our lives as the same. Daily meditation practice, Buddhist inspired rituals, and silent hiking will form the structure of our days. As we hike through a pristine mountain landscape we will place special emphasis upon leaving behind our lives in the world of humanity and entering into wild nature – as Henry David Thoreau has said, into “absolute freedom and wildness”.
Wildness can be seen as intimacy, affinity, flow of interconnection, or love. Somehow the wild world knows how to take care of itself, grow, heal, become beautiful, and find balance. This is the inner wisdom that guides us and all beings. When we truly allow ourselves to listen, what lessons, what inspirations, does this world of nature and our place on this planet, our home, offer us? How can our life find its true purpose and direction when we open ourselves to the rhythms and flow of nature? What extent does the veneer of our human-centered environment, our human culture, and our deeply seated and protective self-conception play in constraining a vision of our path forward through life? We will keep these questions alive while journeying in ritual circumambulation around a great mountain, coming back ultimately, as we always do, to where we have begun.
Outline of the week
The retreat will begin and end with a night at each end of the journey spent at a remote Zen monastery, bed and breakfast, and organic farm in sight of the mountain. Our accommodations will be in a beautifully appointed group dormitory bunk-bed room with private bath. At the Zen center we will have meals prepared for us by the center’s Tenzo (cook) with vegetables sourced from the center’s extensive gardens. We will begin our journey to the mountain by moving our group from the Zen center to a night spent at a car campground at the trailhead. The first half of our circuit around Pahto will hug the 6000’ contour of the mountain, passing through a subalpine realm of meadows, lakes, and ancient lava flows. The second half of the journey will mount up to the alpine zone of rock, ice, and mountain goats. This will require following a difficult and exposed high route across snowfields with several large glacial stream crossings. The use of hiking poles or a walking stick will be required during this part of the trip. The final night of the backpack will be at Sunrise Climbers Camp at an elevation of 8300’, far above timberline. Then we will return to the Zen center for our final night to finish our retreat.
A rotating set of chores will employ everyone in the daily functions of the ritual and practical life of our expedition group. Our days will begin and end with group meditation practice and chanting rituals. Breakfasts and lunches will be conducted ritually with chants offered at beginning and end. After breakfast each day we will break silence to take down our camp and get ready for the trail. Our hiking will be performed in silence, sometimes in group “one body” style, where we stay somewhat together, and at other times in a “solo” style, allowing for deep personal emersion in the landscape. Upon finishing each hiking day we will break silence to set up camp and have a social, informal dinner before resuming silence for evening meditation.
Throughout the retreat we will utilize daily journal writing as a means to access the flow of communication happening in our connection to the natural world. Special journaling techniques will be offered and daily opportunities will be set aside for writing and other experiential activities.
Participants for this retreat should be in good health, be able to hike six to eight miles per day in mountainous terrain with a fully loaded pack, have adequate backpacking experience, and ideally have a somewhat established meditation practice. It is not required that the participant’s meditation experience be in the Soto Zen tradition, but for the sake of group cohesiveness it is requested that everyone make a commitment to practice in this modified backcountry style of Soto Zen for this retreat. Between backpacking experience and meditation experience the more critical requirement is backpacking experience. Additionally, it is essential that participants should be very comfortable working in an intensely group-oriented expedition environment, requiring close communication and living for the entire week. Each prospective participant will have a telephone interview with the group leader prior to finalizing their registration to determine if this retreat is a good fit for you.
Registration required, please click the "Register" button on the left to being the process.
There will be an opportunity during registration to make a dana offering if you choose (details on Dana Paramita here) and you may also make a dana offering at any time on the Dana page. Unlike our "indoor" retreats dana is not generally collected during the event.
Contact Wilderness Programs Coordinator Bob Penny at email@example.com or 360-927-5702 with questions and see our Wilderness Programs webpage for an overview of this program.