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PRACTICE OF HOME HERMITAGE

Brush Doodling
Just playing
not doing
anything special -
the drawn traces
of an ink-soaked brush
—Rengetsu


Abundance is the sense underwriting home hermitage: time out of time, extra time, if you will. Like the traditions of Sabbath and Sesshin, Home Hermitage is to stop being busy and begin just being. The best attitude to bring to it is that this is a gift of time, and therefore a time of joy. Prepare for it, honor it, and it will open space and time within you.

Hermitage days are different when they are solo and when they are done with family. Let's look at solo hermitages.

During a solitary home hermitage, it is important to do things that are different from what you might do with a simple day off. Set up a very gentle schedule, using only practices that speak to you, that engage your attention and help quiet your mind, and then be willing to flow with the day. Build in plenty of rest time. Also stay open to what you are called to do with the gift of a fully "extra day." Protect the time as sanctuary by not answering the phone, unplugging from the tv and computer, and being sure to take care ahead of time of any contacts or obligations that otherwise would intrude on the hours.

(Some find it helpful to consider these four elements, listed in The Heart of Stillness by David Cooper as the differentiation between simple relaxation and spiritual practice. Though the languaging is somewhat different than what I might choose, the implications are important to consider:  "1) purification, which involves 'separating' from the mundane world; 2) concentration, which helps to focus and clarify the mind; 3) effort, which is the outward expression of willpower; and 4) mastery, which is the discipline needed to 'succeed.'"

I recommend when possible starting a Hermitage with twilight of one evening and ending at twilight the next. This gives a roundness to the time, and allows a settling in that can be very deep. It is always a struggle to invite this time to happen, yet when we do, the Hermitage actually resets our priorities. Many find that post-Hermitage they "suddenly" are able to find time for contemplation, reflection in daily life. Hermitage is a practice of intensity sans crisis, which teaches body and mind to attend to its natural priorities.

Prepare for simple meals by shopping ahead. Hermitage Heart students who have received wooden student bowls should use them throughout their home hermitage, letting each meal thus be simplified to what can be received in one bowl. Prior to beginning your hermitage, spend an hour or two cleaning your house, remaking your bed, bathing, setting up your kitchen, sitting space and altar. And plan a transition into the time, and out of the time. For instance:

Around twilight on the evening you will begin, when you are ready 
1) Light a candle on your altar. (During certain times, we will be doing Home Hermitages at scheduled times, and will establish a place on-line for all the participating hermits to light a candle virtually, and be able to see/ be supported by one another's commitment.) 

Fill your water mala bowl and replace it in the window where you keep it, remembering for a moment the others in your mala, and your commitment to water. 

2) Offer your intention for the hours ahead. Acknowledge what supports you, what you are grateful for, and what you vow for the the hermitage. Remember that these hours are not an intensive zazenkai, but a commitment to "extra time," to being itself. It is probably best to begin with quiet sitting, in order to transition mind and body into this quieter, liminal state, and then if you have not already eaten your evening meal, to make and receive it in silence and gratitude. If it is possible for you to notice the night sky, it is helpful to encounter for awhile the simple vastness of space. Sleep in accord with the needs of your body, but try to be in bed prior to midnight. 

3) During the day you may find that you are sitting, making a loose schedule, but the practice is primarily to stay in a state of listening wakefully to your environment and body. Given a sense of spaciousness and no pressure of time, what is most appropriate?

4) At 5PM, or twilight, as you are ready to conclude: 
  Light a candle. Express your reflection or gratitude for the experience of hermitage, and intention to now enter into activity refreshed and on behalf of all beings. 
  If you are practicing with others, acknowledge their support lovingly; if others in your environment enabled you to engage home hermitage, be sure to express appreciation. It is kind to also write a note on the Hermitage Heart Facebook page, expressing your experience and gratitude: this encourages others.

3) Flow forth, as they say…

Further Notes and Reflections:

Alone, yet in community
the eaves of the hermitage
sheltering all life


The practice of hermitage is a claiming of time, of knowing time in a clearer, deeper way. To enter this quality of being with full appropriation of its possibility, its helpful to respect that this is a powerful practice, similar in many ways to formal group retreat or sesshin, though also quite distinct.

Be conscious of the days of preparation. Take care of getting yourself and your space as ready as possible for the hours when you will be in hermitage practice. If you cannot do a 24 hour Hermitage, commit to whatever period you can, and prepare and exit it with the same practices and consciousness. Even if this means 6 hours, the practice can still be very powerful.

This basically just involves what preparing to go on any retreat involves: getting ready to leave ordinary concerns for a little while in order to give attention in another way. On the practical side, it may mean 
1) Taking care of communicating with anyone you'll be out of touch with for the 24 hours, so that you can "unplug" from phone and internet and turn inward. If you are somewhat addicted, as many are, to your computer, you may want to make it less accessible: unplug the cord and put it on a closet shelf—just make it not as easy to "fall into" turning it on without thinking. Do your best to set up the time so that you do not need to shop, go anywhere, or do any work during your Hermitage: you are on retreat. 
2) If you are Hermitage with others, it is important to review what agreements you'd like to make regarding how you might like to flow together during the hours: whether there will be quiet conversation at any times, full silence, joint liturgies, etc., 
3) If you are at home with others not doing hermitage at all, it is very important to create as much understanding as possible for what you are trying to do, and clearly communicate what you would support you. 
4) Preparing your home for the hermitage: be sure you have thought ahead about you will prepare for your one-bowl meals (try to keep this very simple) and have purchased what you need, clean up somewhat so that your home feels freshened and welcoming, and just prior to the time when you will light incense, offer water and begin, take a shower or bath so that you also feel refreshed, as if you are going on an important date with yourself… 

> Practice of the Water Mala Bowl
> Practice of Meditation
> Practice of Home Hermitage
> Practice of Meeting with the Teacher
> Practice of the 7 Daily Services
> Practice of Liturgy and Precepts

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