When Alana Siegel moves into a retreat center in the Santa Cruz mountains of California next month, she will be pursuing a monastic dream that she has been thinking about since she was in college.
Siegel, 30, was first drawn to the idea of going on a three-year retreat while she was still at Bard College, inspired by the experiences of one of her professors and his wife. She decided, however, that she needed to see more of the world and get a job before pursuing a retreat.
“The same intensity that was geared toward going on retreat—all that energy was put into the intensity of being a poet, which is its own strange form of retreat,” Siegel said. “I’ve had to have this whole patchwork of jobs—[I’ve been a] substitute teacher, I sit for art classes, I’ve been a hostess— trying to do whatever I can to get by.”
Since moving to the Bay Area five years ago, Siegel has sat on 10-day and shorter retreats and focused her efforts on connecting with the Nyingma lineage and tradition.
So far, Siegel has raised more than $4,000 of the $40,000 she needs for room and board for the next three years. She is building a pool of monthly sponsors and has also applied for two grants that she hopes will help with the costs.
“The monastic impulse has always been really strong in me, the choice of isolation,” Siegel said. “And hopefully, I can live a long life and carry on what I cultivate in retreat.”
Siegel is accepting donations on her Indiegogo page. For a $100 pledge, Siegel promises to write you a 100-word prayer on any subject that you choose, and you’ll receive a copy of her book, Archipelago. Siegel is also writing briefer poems and prayers, as well as giving away packages of her personal library for smaller donations.
“People in academia get sabbaticals, but people in other jobs don’t get what could be equivalent to a sabbatical, and I wish people could . . . I feel that it would strengthen relationships to work,” Siegel said.
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