The Sea to Sky Retreat Center, just north of campus on Daisy Lake, may be the most relaxing place to spend a block break. Surrounded by Garibaldi Provincial Park, the SSRC, or “Buddhist Center,” as it’s known among Quest students, provides the perfect atmosphere for some reflection, meditation, and connection after a busy or stressful block. This past October block break, I was one of the lucky ten students who got to go on one of the twice-annual “work as practice” weekend trips to the center.
The SSRC usually hosts individuals or groups participating in paid organized programs, trainings, or religious gatherings, but on work as practice weekends, Quest students and other individuals from around BC get to visit at no cost. In exchange for spending a few hours a day doing maintenance and groundskeeping work around the center, we were provided with three delicious meals per day and a warm place to sleep.
Most of the time we spent at the center was scheduled for us, but because of the slow and relaxed pace of work, meals, and everything else, there seemed to be a very natural progression from one activity to the next. Each morning began with a gong at 7 AM to wake us up where we slept in the retreat house. Although 7 AM is probably quite a bit earlier than most Quest students would choose to get out of bed on their precious block breaks, it was made a lot easier with the knowledge that everyone else was getting up at the same time, about to all do the same thing. At 7:30, we met in the meditation pavilion, just a few minutes walk from the retreat house, for a brief meditation and dedication of merit before breakfast. The center is described as “non-sectarian,” but in the words of Ron, one of the managers and founders of the SSRC, “it’s not exactly like the ‘anything goes’ kind of ‘non-sectarian’ we think of today, it’s just the way the word is translated.” It was explained to me when I was there that there is an effort to make the environment at the center approachable for people who follow a variety of religions and mindfulness practices. In this same light, meditations and prayers were focused on mindfulness, gratitude, and responsibility, and left a lot of room for individual interpretation.
Throughout the day, we worked carrying (or sometimes tossing) wood, raking leaves, and chopping kindling to help the center prepare for another winter. The work could seem rather slow and repetitive, but we all agreed that it provided a much-needed mental break from the fast-paced lives we usually lead back at school.
Each day at the center ended with a delicious vegetarian meal prepared by other volunteers, a brief meditation, and an optional yin yoga class (led by Melanie, our Dean of students!). Needless to say, after a weekend of this kind of relaxation everyone came back to Quest well rested, mentally rejuvenated, and ready to start another block.