By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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And starting Sunday, this place known as Murre Cottage will be the home of a Rohatsu Sesshin, a meditation retreat hosted by Bill Larson and his wife, Kristen Larson, a Zen Buddhist master.
Yes, the Larsons open their home to anybody who wishes to sit in meditation during the sesshin — Japanese for “collecting the heart-mind” — each morning, afternoon and evening this Sunday through next Saturday, March 1.
During next week's retreat and on Saturday mornings year-round, there is no cost to meditate at Murre Cottage, nor to walk the labyrinth that is the Larsons' compact front yard.
But what if you don't know how to meditate?
The best way to learn, Kristen believes, is to sit down on the cushion — or on a chair, if that suits your body better — and let the questions arise.
Zen meditation is about self-exploration, and in the community that comes together at Murre Cottage, “there's a lot of support,” Kristen added.
She estimates that the NO (North Olympic) Sangha, a local Buddhist group, has about 20 members who sit regularly here.
The forthcoming sesshin is one way people can look into meditation practice, since the schedule offers four periods through the day and night when Murre Cottage's sitting rooms are open.
From Sunday through next Friday, Feb. 28, opening chants will begin at 6 a.m., to be followed by sitting and walking meditation till 6:30 a.m.
Another period will be open from 11:30 a.m. till 12:30 p.m., the third session will start at 4:30 p.m., and the fourth will come at 7:30 p.m.
Kristen will give an educational talk at 5 p.m. daily.
On March 1, the last day, opening chants will start at 8 a.m., with sitting and walking meditation till 9:30 a.m.
A silent coffee break comes at 9:30, while a silent lunch break of vegetarian soup and bread is set for 11:30 a.m.
Meditation begins again at 12:30 p.m. Kristen offers an informative talk at 1 p.m., and more meditation and labyrinth walking will go from 1:30 p.m. till 2:45 p.m.
The Larsons, married 32 years and living in Murre Cottage for 17, also welcome people wishing to meditate any Saturday between 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.
Friendships have flourished here, said Bill, adding, “When they're here, they're talking a blue streak.”
“When it's time to talk,” put in Kristen.
Those who come during the meditation periods can count on quiet in the sitting room, with its traditional Buddhist altar and Japanese garden outside the sliding glass doors.
Kristen has been a serious student of meditation since 1989. Her teacher was the late Pat Hawk, a Roman Catholic priest and a Zen master.
The couple have four Zen retreats at their home, “and they're always an adventure,” Kristen said. “They're always very different and very individual.”
Finding Murre Cottage isn't simple, however. It's off of Pine Street a few minutes' drive from downtown, but the Larsons encourage visitors to phone or email first for directions and meditation times: 360-452-5534 or NOSangha@aol.com.
There's no such thing as a stranger here, added Bill, who is a retired Army colonel and the former skipper of the tall ship Lady Washington, the official ship of the state of Washington.
He and his wife aren't worried that their place will get too crowded. They have plenty of cushions, stools and chairs, and “we accommodate whatever comes up,” Kristen said.
“It always seems to work out.”
Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.