As we all know, modern life can be overwhelming, especially as we move into very troubled times. It’s an issue that comes up often when I’m teaching, and I’ve found myself responding by coming up with a number of ways of working with it from a Buddhist point of view. Now I’ve put them together in a new article: 20 Suggestions for Dealing with Overwhelm.
I hope you find some of them useful.
A central principle of mindfulness and meditation is staying in the present and not letting mind speed off into the future. However, being a meditation teacher involves quite a bit of future planning, in my case up to two years ahead. So for those of you who also need to organise your lives well in advance, here is my teaching programme until the end of 2019. I’ve also added in details of a couple of smaller events for this year.
As Vijayamala doesn’t have her own website, I’ve included her teaching schedule as well.
As usual, most of these events are for members of the Triratna Buddhist Order. I do this with regret, as it means that many people who could benefit aren’t able to attend. However, by and large, Order members have the experience to really benefit from them, and to pass on what they learn. Often I’m able to make recordings of the retreats available more widely, so at least others have access to the material. You’ll find a good collection on freebuddhistaudio.
Some of the retreat centres where these events will be held haven’t published their programmes yet, and may not be open for bookings. But you can at least put the dates in your diary…
I look forward to seeing you on an event somewhere.
I’ve recently added a couple of weekend events at Buddhist centres to my teaching programme for next year. Most of my teaching is done within the Triratna Order, so I try to highlight opportunities for mitras and others within Triratna to come along and practise with me.
Also Vijayamala doesn’t have her own website, so I include all her teaching engagements on my site. It’s handy to have them all in one place for reference. I’ve now put up her 2018 events.
You can find all this in my teaching programme .
Back in the summer I led another retreat for Order members on Spiritual Receptivity. The retreat focused on formless meditation/just sitting, exploring it from different angles.
The recordings are now all available here.
Many thanks to Padmakumara, Akasajoti and the folks at freebuddhistaudio for making this possible.
At the end of September, I led a retreat about insight practice, for 90 Order members, at Adhisthana. Most of the sessions were recorded, and they have now been made available on Free Buddhist Audio. (You don’t have to be an Order member to listen to them.) So if you’d like to eavesdrop on my teaching on that retreat you can follow the link here.
Very best wishes,
I’ve just heard that there have been some cancellations for the retreat for Order members that I’m doing at Rivendell from the 17 – 24 June. The theme is The Four Immeasurables — so lots about the open heart and positive emotion, as well as exploring how this can lead into insight territory. It would be very good to have a full house. If you’re interested, then please contact Rivendell:
Tel: 01825 733 764 (Monday to Friday, 1.30 pm – 5.30 pm.)
Rivendell Buddhist Retreat Centre,
Here are details about the retreat from the Rivendell website:
Immeasurables – Order Retreat
June 17 – 24 | £340/310
Immeasurable love emerged as a theme in the Order retreat Vessantara led at Rivendell in 2015. In this retreat we’ll take things further, exploring all four of the Immeasurables (less commonly known in the Pali Canon as the Brahma Viharas): love, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity. We’ll look at what holds us back from fully experiencing them, how to set up conditions so that they come more naturally, and how much effort we need to develop them or whether we can simply open our hearts and relax into them. We’ll also look towards the horizon of our practice, to see what’s possible for us in fully experiencing them and living a life based on them. An opportunity, with the support of Rivendell with its beautiful gardens and special atmosphere, to open our hearts as wide as the sky.
I recently gave 4 talks on sangha nights at the Cambridge Buddhist Centre. They were on Aspects of Going for Refuge, and you can find short descriptions of them and the audio recordings on the Free Buddhist Audio site. It’s been a while since I’ve given more formal talks like these, and although I missed being able to speak completely spontaneously, I enjoyed crafting them a little, including the stories and imagery about the Pacific Ocean that linked together the Dharma points.
I hope you find them helpful.
In February I led the fourth of a series of retreats for Order members at Adhisthana on our System of Spiritual Practice. This theme of this one was Integration, and we focused on deepening motivation and inspiration for practice, and I used meditation on the breath as a golden thread running through the week, using different meditation methods all of which include awareness of the breathing. The retreat was well-attended, with 67 of us. In the natural order of things, you would start a series on the system of spiritual practice with integration, rather than doing it fourth. So it felt a bit like putting in solid foundations after we had already built the house! Still, it worked well, and people got a lot from it.
Most of the sessions were recorded, with the exception of my introduction to the Parinirvana Day celebration, and some of the last day. It is all up on Free Buddhist Audio, although it isn’t immediately obvious how to follow the recordings through the week. The best thing is to go here.. That will give you a listing of the recordings, and then you can just follow the numberings of the days and sessions.
I hope you find them useful!
I’ve just finalised details of a series of talks in Cambridge. They’ll be from the 23 Feb – 15 Mar. They will be part of the Tuesday sangha night programme at the Cambridge Buddhist Centre. Each evening will start at 7.30 with a short meditation, and then my talk.
The context for these talks is that one of the strong emphases of Triratna is on the centrality of going for refuge to the Three Jewels (the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha). However, going for refuge is just one vital aspect of a whole number of ways in which spiritual experience unfolds as you follow the Buddhist path. These talks will explore different dimensions of that unfolding. The titles are:
Dimensions of Going for Refuge
23 Feb: Wayfinding – How Spiritual Experience Unfolds.
01 Mar: The Empty Boat – the Insight Dimension.
08 Mar: Ferrying Across – the Altruistic Dimension.
15 Mar: Steering to the Deep – the Awareness Dimension.
I have just done a short video appeal on behalf of the Abhayaratna Trust. The trust was established to help members of the Triratna Buddhist Order who are in need of financial help. In some cases they may be in very serious financial hardship; in others they may be ‘getting by’ but unable to participate fully in the Order because they don’t have the resources to go on retreat, or attend Order gatherings.
In the video I say a little about the work and current position of the Trust, as well as remembering back 40 years to one of the talks I heard that was crucial in forming my view of the Order and the spirit that underlies it.
The appeal is directed primarily to other members of the Order, as we have the primary responsibility to care for one another. Naturally though, he Trust will be more than happy to receive a donation from anyone who is moved to help.
You can watch the video on Youtube here, and if you’d like to make a donation then you can do that using this link.
I’ve recently completed a very intensive period of teaching, and can now turn my mind to planning for next year. I’ve already signed up to do two more retreats for Order members at Adhisthana in 2016, to complete the series of five retreats on The Mandala of Spiritual Practice. You will find details on my Teaching page. In addition, there will be one or two public retreats that I’ll publicise once they’re confirmed.
The issue that I keep reflecting on is: what contexts can I teach in that will bring the most long-term benefit? Over the last few years, since coming back from long retreat, I’ve focused mainly on leading retreats for Order members, with a few others for experienced practitioners, plus some weekends and other events at our public centres. All that has been very good, and the responses I’ve had have been very appreciative. However, my teaching time is running out. I just turned 65, and even if I’m fortunate to stay in reasonably good health, I probably only have at most another 10 years or so of active teaching. Do I keep doing what I’m doing, or for example do I focus on a small group of experienced people and work with them intensively, to pass on a lot of what I’ve learned to them before I die?
So I’m mulling over different ways of operating, which may have an impact on what else I do in 2016. Watch this space…
In late January I led a retreat for Order members at Adhisthana, Triratna’s new(ish) central place in the UK. It was part of a series of 5 retreats that I’m doing there, in which I’m exploring all the aspects of our mandala of spiritual practice. This latest one was on Positive Emotion. In it I explored positive emotion from several angles, including how to connect more deeply with loving-kindness and compassion, the practice of tonglen, and how positive emotion practices can be used to enable us to experience life without the usual tendency to experience everything in terms of a subject/object split.
There were over 90 people on the retreat, and virtually everything was recorded, including the presentations, the guided meditations and the pujas and rituals. You don’t have to be an Order member to listen to the recordings. So if you fancy spending a week on retreat with me, admittedly at one remove, and you’d like a glimpse into how things are when Order members come together to practise meditation and positive emotion, then you can find the recordings here on freebuddhistaudio.
With many thanks to Hattie Johnson for the editing work, and the guys at freebuddhistaudio for making it available. (Do consider giving them a donation, so they can continue to make all this material available.)
I’ve just written an article for Shabda looking at how we as an Order respond to unusual meditative experiences, and to people whose main ways of experiencing are non-rational: in terms of imagination, intuition, energy or mysticism. These kinds of people don’t always receive appropriate help and guidance when they present their experiences to Order members. I’ve written the article partly in the form of a quiz. Read it here and see how you do…
At the recent European Order Convention at Wymondham I did a short appeal for the Abhayaratna Trust. The Trust is set up to help members of the Triratna Buddhist Order who are in need. Some Order members struggle to meet their basic living costs, while others don’t have enough to enable them to pursue their Dharma practice or to play an active part in the life of the Order.
You can watch the video of what I said on Youtube here.
I think Abhayaratna is a really valuable cause, helping people who in many cases have given their lives to help establish Buddhism in the West. If you’d like to know more then you could visit the Trust’s website.
It’s taken a few months, but at last the recordings are available from the retreat on Spiritual Receptivity that I led for Order members at Adhisthana in February. It was a really good retreat with over 50 people. A lot of my retreats are either for Order members or fully-booked. So here’s your chance to eavesdrop on virtually all the sessions I led on the retreat, over 12 hours of material.
The theme is spiritual receptivity, which is at the heart of the Order’s mandala of spiritual practice. There were lots of aspects I could have focused on, such as spiritual friendship, but as it was a meditation retreat I concentrated on Just Sitting, which is the meditation (if you can call Just Sitting a meditation practice) that is particularly used to allow our receptivity to unfold.
You’ll find the recordings on FreeBuddhistAudio here.
Greetings from Sweden, where I’m about to lead a retreat for 30 Order members from the Nordic countries.
Last week I calculated that I was entering a period in which i would only have ten weeks of programmed events in the next twelve. Basically it is one good thing after another, with the occasional two or three days to draw a breath, do some washing, repack and reorganise and then dive into the next event. So if I don’t reply to your email, etc. then please bear with me.
This period started with a week at our place in Cambridge on Emotional Intelligence in Practice, which I enjoyed. Vijayamala and I don’t do much for mitras, so it was particularly good to have Jon and Sarah from the Peterborough group come and join us for a week. The morning that retreat finished we were off to Adhisthana to attend a weekend discussing new development sin the area of insight practice in Triratna, ably facilitated by Achara and Viveka. I found it a very friendly, tiring, creative and frustrating meeting. I loved being with a lot of very old friends in the Order, and struggled with not sleeping much and being in meetings that were pretty much non-stop all day. I appreciated the creativity of Achara’s and Viveka’s facilitation and the way everyone engaged with the theme, and I felt some frustration at how long it takes for new developments to be discussed and decided on in a large international sangha like Triratna.
On Thursday I leave for a trip to Germany with Vijayamala, to co-lead the first weekend of the Easter retreat at Vimaladhatu retreat centre, to make my annual visit to see Dagyab Rinpoche, and to go to Berlin to lead a retreat for Order members.
Welcome. This site reflects different aspects of my Buddhist life. You’ll find articles on meditation and Buddhism, as well as details of all my books, plus my teaching programme and various other things. Just browse the headings and see what you find. And below you’ll find my latest posts.
Wherever in the world you’re from, very best wishes to you,
During the recent retreat that I led at Adhisthana on Spiritual Receptivity, I discussed how little Sangharakshita has said about Just Sitting (formless meditation) over the years. In the recent compilation of his discussions of meditation, which runs to over 700 pages, there is only a tiny handful of references to it. By and large, he has preferred to leave it as a non-practice, a non-conceptual ice wall without any handholds or footholds for the intellect.
However, he has spelt out in very clear terms what true Just Sitting is about. In a discussion during the seminar on Rechungpa’s Repentance from the Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa, he gives a clear description of the state of ‘existential relaxation’ that is involved.
I shared the passage with the retreatants and several people said they found it helpful, so I’ve put it up here.
I had a very full time over the last few weeks. Over Xmas/New Year, I led a 2-week retreat for men at Padmaloka retreat centre in Norfolk, on the theme of the Mandala of the Five Buddhas. That went very well. It was very good to lead a retreat at Padmaloka again, where I lived for six years in the 1980s, when I was secretary to Sangharakshita. The Padmaloka team create a very good atmosphere, and the shrine room with its large image of Shakyamuni is a great space for practice. I had Ratnaprabha and Jinapalita supporting me. Ratnaprabha and I gave 11 talks altogether, which will appear in due course on FreeBuddhistAudio. On New Year’s Eve, as part of our ritual Jinapalita unleashed the pyromaniac within, and we had the most fantastic bonfire. There were a great bunch of people on the retreat, including a lot of Order members.
After that I went to Taraloka Retreat Centre in Wales to attend the Triratna European Chairs’ Assembly meeting. I don’t have that kind of organisational responsibility these days, but I’d been invited to do a day on insight practice and to lead their shrineroom activities. I enjoyed the chance to explore Taraloka, the canal walks and the haunting area of bog nearby; and the Chairs made me very welcome. On the way back from that event, I crossed paths in Birmingham with Vijayamala, and we led a day at the Birmingham Buddhist Centre on prapancha – mental proliferation – which is a major issue in meditation, particularly for newer people. When you look deeply into what causes it, you come right to the roots of self-clinging, which is what makes our lives a misery.
Now I’m home in Cambridge for a little while, in semi-retreat: spending more time meditating, but also gradually munching my way through the backlog of work and correspondence that has built up while I’ve been away.
Wishing you all a very healthy, creative and fulfilling year of Dharma practice!
[For earlier news, see the News Archive.]