Big Sur Camping Meditation Weekend

Big Sur Camping Meditation Weekend (May 20-22, 2016)

                                                                                            by Mike Williamson

Somehow, I’d managed to live in the Bay Area for over 15 years, and had never been to Big Sur.  Mendocino, Tahoe, LA, Yosemite, and all along San Mateo and Marin parks.  But never to Big Sur.  And my good friend, Mann, was planning to attend, too.


So it was already destined to be a great weekend.

I am not a Buddhist, and I would definitely place myself in the camp of “novice meditator.”  However, I certainly appreciate both the life balance that meditation provides, and the moment where I can pretend that there aren’t a million things I need to keep track of, and a to-do list that is growing faster than my ability to check things off the list.  I have visited Dharma Drum Mountain several times, and have always appreciated the warm welcome that everyone has extended, especially Warren, whom I’ve interacted with the most.  He, and the others, will gently carry me through some of the helpful hints of meditation.  I knew I’d have a chance to appreciate everyone at Dharma Drum Mountain better, while also allowing more time for meditation to sink in.

We arrived Friday evening, a bit later than we’d expected, since I took this time away as a chance to enjoy highway 1 for the whole distance.  Despite arriving late enough that others had already made dinner and we were unable to contribute for that meal, everyone welcomed us warmly.  We had a great time sharing others’ meals.  Afterwards, we all talked, relaxed, and stared into the campfire.  Sometime before bed, we had our first group meditation, which seemed so much easier, surrounded by the damp, soft quiet of a redwood forest.

The next morning, we’d awoken in no great hurry, but went to work trying to make up for the meal duty we’d shirked the evening before.  Mann made some excellent soup for us to share with everyone, nice and spicy.  We then trekked to McWay Waterfall Trail and Ewoldsen Trail, for a nice hike starting at sea level, and carrying us high enough into the hill to afford some gorgeous views.  We were supposed to hike at a nice, slow “hiking meditation” pace.  This afforded me the time to pause and stare at the creek, the giant redwood trees, and the tiny spiders living on the underside of the ferns.  The relaxed nature of the hike, and of the weekend so far, made it seem like even the time that was not meditation was certainly relaxing, and helped to get my body back into a normal gear.  Of course, there were also magnificent vistas as we broke through the trees in certain parts of the latter trail.


Interspersed with all of the hiking, meditation, cooking, and setting of the camp were conversations with the others in our group.  Our leaders had a great mix of attention to detail, meditation experience, and warm personalities.  It was also great to connect with the other relatively new campers.  I feel like we had deeper conversations, or at least a quicker connection, than a typical talk between acquaintances.

My favorite part of the whole weekend, however, was our hike on Sunday morning / mid-day.  We headed out towards a park along the coast.  It had beautiful views of the cliffs, and we had an opportunity for some standing meditation while looking out over the cliffs.  Better still, afterwards our final meditation was near the tide pools.  Something about the cyclic, gentle crashing of waves upon the rocks, and seeing crabs and other little “alien” creatures around us made it so easy to slip into a meditative mode, I felt like this was by far the most effective meditation that I’d had.  Upon returning home, my wife almost immediately commented upon how much more relaxed I had seemed.

I have tried to keep up with the meditation, and I have certainly been doing it more than I did before the camping trip.  But I can already tell that some of that relaxed, special moment is fading.  Thanks to all of the group at Dharma Drum Mountain for all of their hard work!