Furnace Mountain In February

Furnace Mountain is a Zen Buddhist Retreat Center in Powell County, Kentucky, in the heart of Appalachia.
The surrounding area is not exactly a hotbed of Zen Buddhism, yet despite that fact Furnace Mountain has existed and thrived for over 25 years.

I attend retreats as often as I can. I just returned yesterday from spending five gorgeous days there.

The Mountain

The Mountain

I’m keeping two hives of bees there this season.

Apiary Beginnings!

Apiary Beginnings!

I have a lot of work to do before bee season!!

Furnace Mountain Revisited

I just returned from spending four perfect days at Furnace Mountain Zen Retreat Center in Clay City, Kentucky.  It was marvelously restorative and much needed.

The Dog Days of August had taken their toll on me.  My garden is brown and dry in spots, and the hot weather didn’t break until this weekend. It was hard for me to remember the energy and enthusiasm that carried me through most of the Spring and Summer.

It only took four days for it all to come back to me!  It was easy to drop into deep meditation and forget the petty annoyances of everyday life.  It is my little miracle.

I hope you enjoy this virtual visit to Furnace Mountain, and that some of its magic reaches you!

The Mountain

Zen Stone Arch

The Tea House


Sam’s House

On The Path To The Temple

The Temple

The Lotus Pond

View From The Temple

Bane Weeding

Clouds Of Wonder

There are two (at least!) great things about meditation retreats.

The obvious is the sense of peace and contentment that accompanies the process of meditation itself. I’ve often wondered whether I’m really that spiritual or just so lazy I like not thinking.

A little of both, probably.

But the less obvious is even better.

After the retreat, I get to discover what I’ve “downloaded”  during my hours of meditation – those hours when I wasn’t busy thinking/worrying about stuff that ultimately doesn’t matter.

On my drive home, I discovered that my writer’s block had disappeared.

Then my petty grudges.

Who knows what I’m going to discover today?

I’m sure it will be awesome!

The Lotus Pond

One of the most beautiful features at Furnace Mountain is the Lotus Pond.

With all the heat, it is in full bloom now. It usually doesn’t flower until August.


Furnace Mountain

Furnace Mountain

No, I’m not referring to the heat wave that’s affecting much of the US. Although, come to think of it, I am.

I must explain. I spent this weekend at one of my favorite places on earth, Furnace Mountain Zen Retreat Center in Clay City, Kentucky.

I’ve been practicing Zen meditation for more than twelve years now. During all that time, I’ve been making periodic visits to Furnace Mountain.

I say “periodic” rather than “regular” because I go when I really need to go. Sometimes that’s every month. But there’ve been years between my visits.

Two things are always the same, no matter how long I stay away.

They always make room for me,

And it’s always exactly what I need to reconnect with what really matters.

The Center is located on Furnace Mountain in the Red River Gorge region of eastern Kentucky. It is rugged and stunning.

The Temple

It is headed up by the patient and long-suffering Zen Master Dae Gak who has practiced Zen for over forty years.

Zen Master Dae Gak

He is sensitive and wise and he likes my jokes.

This weekend was especially challenging because of the staggering heat. Within the Temple, the temperature at its highest was 102° F. Outside, the thermometer broke.

The Temple

Zen Master Dae Gak told us of the Buddhist monks who traditionally sat in meditation during periods of extreme heat and extreme cold. During the spring and fall, they would travel the countryside and engage in scholarly pursuits.

He encouraged us all to use the conditions to our benefit. Most significantly for me, he reminded us that enlightenment is always possible, just a second away.

It was a hard and sweaty weekend. I perspired in places I didn’t know humans perspired. I explored some painful places and came out the better for it.

I’m going to help them set up an apiary there!

Tonight I am at peace about my life and my bees and my future. It has cooled down, and there is a storm brewing.

I’ll be going back to Furnace Mountain in September.