Memorial Day Weekend Retreat

The USA Shaolin Temple’s second bi-annual Warrior Monk Retreat unfolded once again at St. Josaphat’s Monastery in Glen Cove Long Island with a full house of excited participants and amazing weather. Retreatants began arriving at the Monastery from countries such as Vienna, London, the Netherlands, and also from states as far away as Washington State. After checking in and getting settled down, a light dinner was available in the Retreat House kitchen, which would come to serve as the community’s hub over the next couple of days and evenings.

A bonfire by the waters of the Long Island Sound invited the retreatants and students and disciples of the Temple to introduce themselves, swap some stories, and begin the preparations for the intense weekend ahead. Martial Arts of many styles were represented by the Retreatants, and many members of the extended Shaolin family came to celebrate with their USA Shaolin Temple cousins, two students from our Vienna branch were in attendance as well as two students from the UK Temples, and also a member of the Chicago Shaolin Temple came to train at the Retreat. The Retreat house was full of martial artists of all skill levels and many beginners, people from all over the world, and all over the United States.

Dawn broke over the Monastery as Chef Chang, who once again came out to cook for us from Thong Pang Chang Restaurant in Blue Point L.I., Hengyi, and Hengfa began preparations for the first breakfast of the Retreat, the Buddha Invitation ceremony, and to begin filling the gigantic cauldron Chang required for the all important lunch of beef noodle soup. A morning run was followed by breakfast Chinese style, featuring cold chopped chicken, congee, tea eggs, scrambled eggs, hot soy milk, fruit and coffee or tea, and of course bowls of chillies and Shaolin Ketchup. A special coffee was donated to the Warrior Monk Retreat by Coffee, prepared in a French Press lots of people became fans of good quality coffee, and won several committed fans of Ethiopian beans.

Breakfast and lunch were served monastery style, meaning that everyone waited until their fellow retreatants had food, sutras were recited and blessings bestowed, and then it was time to begin the meal. Shifu explained that in the temple, in general, everyone would be seated and food would be brought out and served. You could eat as much as you wanted, you gave the signal with your chop sticks to set the level of food in your bowl. Shifu further explained that meals only lasted a certain amount of time, and when that time was up, so was the meal, even if you hadn’t finished or gotten food, and only two meals were served in the temple.

Once breakfast was completed, the Retreatants gathered in the main hall of the Retreat house, which was to serve as our main Buddha hall. The Buddha was invited into the hall, more sutras were recited and bows were performed. From that moment forward Retreatants took responsibility to ensure the candles and incense were always lit for the duration of the time spent at St. Josaphats. It was then time for the practice of Yi Jing Jing, followed by Taiji. The morning training session lasted for 2 hours, and then we gathered again in the main hall to wait for the call for lunch.

After multiple bowls of beef noodle soup were served, sutras recited, and bowls emptied and filled again, everyone had some personal time while the main training field was cleared and more wood was gathered for the bonfire that night.

The late afternoon was spent in traditional Shaolin basics, stretching, and forms training. Retreatants began learning the first part of Da Hong Quan. At the USA Shaolin Temple we specifically use the phrase Shaolin Martial Arts or Ch’an Buddhism to describe our training, and the Ch’an lessons carried us from Da Hong Quan into Shaolin history and tradition until it was time to get ready for dinner.

Chef Chang laid out a spread of authentic Thai and Chinese dishes, various noodles, fried rice, curries, and papaya salad. Everyone ate mightily to replenish the body from the day’s activities. Soon it was time for the bonfire, and everyone began gathering at the beach, marshmallows, hot dogs, and some students brought out some musical instruments to play. Before we knew it, morning was quickly approaching, yet the fire was so inviting that sleeping in the open under the trees and stars proved more than appealing, as evidenced by who was met at the beach on the morning jog.

After the joggers returned to the retreat house Chef Chang served up another traditional breakfast, and further progress was made in the study and practice of Yi Jing Jing and Taiji. Many people do not realize that Shaolin and Chen Village are very close together, and there were many exchanges between Chen family and Shaolin temple monks. Shaolin Taiji is also influenced by Rou Quan and Pao Tui.

Round II of beef noodle soup was quickly demolished in the eating hall, to the amazement of Chef Chang, not much was left and so short work was made of lunch. Followed by some personal time, everyone began preparing for the afternoon training in gong fu or Ch’an Buddhism. San da basics were added to the drills, and further progress was made in the study of Da Hong Quan. Together with Xiao Hong Chuan, these two forms are referred to as the “Mother Father Fist” forms of Shaolin, having many forms descend from their branches. After review, Shifu invited all the participants to receive a certificate of attendance, after which we took a group picture and many people couldn’t wait to test their chi in the waters of the Long Island Sound. After some watermelon and drying off, more time was spent going over Shaolin Temple’s history and traditions, a talk which was picked up after dinner as Heng De concluded what has become known as “The Story,” Damo’s arrival in China, his arrival at Shaolin, and Hui Ke’s enlightenment. You can read about the story here on our site, under the Ch’an section.

The next Warrior Monk Retreat is being scheduled for October, and plans are in place for a week long intensive to take place in Negril, Jamaica.

All USA Shaolin Temple retreats and seminars benefit the USA Shaolin Temple Capital Campaign, participants in our last retreat will have their names engraved on a new Bell for the upstate Temple.

Please visit our photo galleries on Facebook, Myspace and on our website here.