On the last day of the retreat, after lifting the silence, I was standing on the patio. I was on my way back to the zendo but not getting far. Participant after participant stopped me, and with hands on my shoulders, or hands holding mine, eyes looking deeply into mine, sweet voices said, “Thank you for making this happen. This week changed my life.” What more could I ask for? When do we do it again?
So that’s what I’m talking about when I say that the third Artmonk Retreat, and the first one in northern California, was a success on every level. I have always loved the Artmonk Retreat, but the point was really driven home for me this year. If it wasn’t crystal clear to me before now it is: organizing and facilitating this retreat, doing whatever I can in my life to deliver this combination of teachings, is the most important and most satisfying thing I have ever done with my time. There is something in the Artmonk Retreat that is the nugget of why I have dedicated my every dollar and nearly every hour to the Project since 2007.
I can only clasp my heart and hang my head in gratitude and humility to the others who have made it possible: Nathan Rosquist, who came up with the original idea, along with Joel and Michelle Levey, such clear, loving, and downright adorable channels for the dharma.
When Nathan, the Leveys, and I were choosing the dates for the retreat and had just settled on February 10 to 18, Michelle’s voice bleeped through Skype: “That’s over Joel’s birthday!” Concerned that this undid our newly made decision I asked Joel if that would be okay. The tone of Joel’s voice dropped into that register that people use unconsciously when they are saying something deeply, intimately true for them. Joel said, “I love teaching on my birthday.” My hands instinctively clasped over my heart. The sweetness and beauty of working with Joel and Michelle just continues to blossom and blossom.
This year we occupied Briarcombe, a beautifully built house that seems to spring organically from the embarrassingly beautiful natural surroundings. This is one of those works of architecture and interior design in which anywhere your eye might alight, you’ll find some loving detail. We highly recommend this place if you are looking to rent something really special for an event or weekend getaway. Tell Kevin the Artmonks sent you!
One artmonk says, “The Levey’s take jewels from all the traditions, put them in a big melting pot of love, served with generosity, compassion and joy. The Art Monastery explores and celebrates creative passions through a monastic spiritual heart, giving voice to all artistic expression. Together these two streams weave a brilliant tapestry of the inner and outer life.”
Another artmonk says, “The retreat was so full of magic and peace. The loving kindness meditation transformed me midweek into a person whose heart WANTS to meditate now. At the end, we were part of a concert the likes of which can hardly be heard and felt anywhere. It was beyond beautiful.”
Yet another artmonk says, “The Artmonk Retreat is a beautiful combination of personal meditation practice and deep connection to our creative selves in a mindful collaboration of presence. I only stayed for the weekend but even in that time, my soul was rejuvenated with the heartfelt teachings of the Leveys and the incredible landscape within the hills of Bolinas. Nathan, Betsy, and all of those who made this event happen are truly passionate and compassionate about the community they create and that makes for a sincere and inspiring experience.”
But really, just a big thank you to everyone who made it possible, especially those retreatants who made the time to attend and really gave it their all. You really inspire me.