Street Retreats of the Peacemaker's Community
"Street retreats confront us quite directly with life. In principle the same is true of other retreats, but according to my experience not in such an intensive way. On the street we experience activities such as meals, peeing, shitting, and sleeping completely naked and elementarily. Another important experience during such retreats is that of rejection. After only one day on the street you will be rejected, and denied by other people that you exist at all. In restaurants you will be not any longer served or even prevented from entering. If you ask to be allowed to use the toilet, this will be rejected. Other people will keep away from you, because your smell and appearance do not please them. If you have actually seen that once wholly consciously, you will never again avoid people who live on the street, because these people are you yourself."
Bernie Glassman Roshi
We will spend four days on the street. We will beg, will meditate and talk about our experiences. Street retreats of the Peacemaker Community are described by Bernie Glassman in the book "Zeugnis ablegen - Buddhismus als engagiertes Leben" ('Bear witness - Buddhism as engaged life'), which was published by the Theseus Publishing House, and from which the above excerpt is taken.
The street retreat does not begin on 23 June in Nürnberg: It begins already weeks before. All the retreat participants have to fulfil a condition before: They have to beg. With begging they will begin before the retreat - by collecting a Mala.
A Mala is a kind of pearl string which consists of eighteen small, and one large wood bead. Each bead represents a person who supports the participant. The small beads represent a person of whom 18 Euros, the large one a person of whom 108 Euros have been got by begging. Hence the participants have to motivate 19 people - members of their family, friends, or business partners - to support their participation in the street retreat financially. Only if they succeed in that, they can participate in the street retreat. The money collected in such a way will flow into projects in Nürnberg, which contact homeless people, as well as into projects of the Peacemaker Community Germany.
Heinz Jürgen Metzger took part in street retreats with Bernie Glassman Roshi in New York, Zurich, Cologne, and Düsseldorf. In the last years he carried out street retreats in different cities of Germany. He leads the Zen Center in Solingen and coordinates the work of the Peacemaker Community Germany.
"If we are able to get free from our stereotyped thought pattern, we will find on the street everything that we need. If we look for a sleep place, and think thereby only of a warm, cosy bed, we will naturally find none. But if we look out for things by the help of which we can prepare to some extent a comfortable sleep place, we will discover cardboards, plastic materials, careless thrown away covers and coats, and sometimes even an old fur jacket. Or we find out that stuffing the shoes with newspapers is a good protection against cold weather. If we are on the street it will become very soon clear to us, how fast and completely we can free ourselves from our conceptions and our knowledge."
Bernie Glassman Roshi
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