Last weekend I taught my second residential writing retreat for my home students here in WI. It was a lovely time - the weather was impeccable (still pretty much is!), the number of students smaller than last April, and I was calmer than the first time, both because of my confidence level calming down and also because of having the "first retreat in that location" down from earlier this year. My life leading up to the retreat was less hectic, too.
I'd love to teach more retreats. I plan to keep as many classes during the week as I currently have, but the retreats, especially now that a core of my students attend them and also do a great job of holding space for the newer students - are a real bonding space for all of us, and a real chance to take the practices deeper. I have a few retreats in mind - I want to do four a year, three in the Arena WI location we've been doing it (a lovely old farmhouse with 200 acres of hiking land and goats and horses and great views) and in the winter, one at the Shambhala retreat center near Plymouth, WI. Then, I have in the pipes a few other ideas - non-residential retreats (like what I taught in Florida) - in particular, one the weekend before New Year's Eve for folks to process the year and visualize what they want out of the New Year - and yoga and writing combined retreats with one of my students, who is a yoga teacher in town and has expressed really similar teaching philosophies to mine.
All of this is spurred on too, not just by time and adjustment, but the support from the group of teachers at Marquette, where I will begin teaching in the spring. Little did I know when I rejected my acceptance to the Contemplative Education Masters at Naropa in order to have more time to teach that I would be able to find a community, be paid to be a part of one, nonetheless!, in which I could do a lot of the same research, discussion, exploration and be supported by similar approaches to the Naropa program. This month's reading focuses on how to balance intuition and intellect in teaching, how to leave room for space and koans and also get the grading done. We have our first big monthly meeting today, this afternoon in Milwaukee, and I am actually *excited* about it - excited to continue working in this ecumenical group, excited to follow up the retreat from last spring which surprised me with the diversity and acceptance (various breeds of Catholics alongside various breeds of Buddhists and other even atheists) - something I didn't expect to find in academia. Certainly, perhaps because of my parents' extreme academic mentalities and intellectualism, I never expected to find the kind of teaching I do - very intuitive, non-graded, well thought out for certain but non-standardized for even more certain - not only validated but encouraged in a well-reputed academic university. Let's hope this is just the beginning!
Off to go hear the Venerable Khandro Rinpoche speak in Milwaukee as well this weekend. For years I have wanted "a teacher" and just recently, ironically right before this 40-something young and perky teacher's visit, I have settled into realizing that I have many teachers and I am likely more a many teacher person than one teacher person. She fits the bill -challenging and young, favored by the feminist queer set, reputed to be edgier than Pema Chodron (also related to the Shambhala Lineage) and it may still work out - we'll see, I'm not decided yet. But training for Shambhala Arts is starting up in Minneapolis next month and I am most likely to continue on the track I am on - learning through teaching, and workshops related to that and the arts, than to go and study with one particular teacher. It might just be resistance, too, so we'll see. Regardless of outcome I am exceptionally grateful at the moment for the potential for growth that continues in my life and the myriad manifestations of the work I've done so far and that others have done for me. Hallelujah!