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Step into Dharma Drum Mountain’s Chan meditation center in Fremont on any given day and one feels a sense of calm and unity of spirit that is not easy to put into words but that is always present.  If you have visited the Center before, you’re welcomed back like family; and if you’re new, well, you’re also welcomed like family and provided a place to learn, meditate, and relax where your worries, at least for a time, can be left at the door. 

Put differently and a little less “spiritual,” everything becomes a little more real, as if, after a few years, you finally clean your glasses, ears, nose and mouth. Life and all its sensations suddenly becomes more intense as your focus shifts away from words and enters new worlds.

It was a challenge to cope with all this under a 9-hour jetlag - as Guo Gu said, "A retreat is a vacation. Vacation from past, future, body and environment."  It was a fight "Do you want to let go of your old ways or to become more comfortable in your old ways?"

Although I began meditating more than 5 years ago, I am not very experienced.  Over the last few years, my lack of attention to formal practice and study sent me into a sort of tailspin.  

Gilbert rekindles faith that each of us can awaken to the silent awareness that contains and is witness to all experience and he does so in the most humble way.  He inspires through his own example and illumines with humor and enjoyable story telling.  

I joined two of Gilbert’s one day retreats this year, one on the essential fundamentals and the other one on silent illumination. These weren’t my first time attending Gilbert’s retreat, but every time at his retreat, I always felt deeply inspired and peaceful.