|PRACTICE OF HOME HERMITAGE
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
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:
3) Flow forth, as they say…
Alone, yet in community
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