Back in the Saddle…

Well, after having to cancel the events I was going to do in June because of ill health, it was all the more delightful to get back in the saddle (or on the cushion) a couple of weeks ago. I was due to lead a 10-day retreat at Adhisthana at the end of July, and as the start date approached I could feel I was really looking forward to it — a sign that my health and energy were back to their normal levels.

I was particularly looking forward to the retreat as it was the first time for over 18 months that I was going to see some 3-D retreatants. Although during the pandemic lockdowns Zoom retreats have been a very good substitute  for meeting in-person, still it was great to have some living breathing people sitting in front  of me.

It was also the first time I’ve led a hybrid retreat, with 21 of us in person and 30 more online. The small numbers made everything very spacious. The Adhisthana Community put a lot into giving the online participants a good retreat experience. They had also really thought through how to make the online element as unobtrusive as possible for those attending physically. There were just a couple of small microphones and what looked like a CCTV camera attached to the ceiling at the back of the room.  We were the only event happening at Adhisthana, so we had the run of the very beautiful gardens and the whole event felt very spacious.  

The retreat itself went very well. We were exploring a sadhana of Avalokiteshvara (an embodiment of compassion and wisdom), that came into our Order via Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche. It was a privilege to unpack its riches for people on the retreat.

I’m devoting more time to writing and editing over the next few months, so I probably won’t be leading anything now until I go back to Adhisthana at the end of October to lead a retreat for Order members  on The Shepherd’s Search for Mind, an episode from the Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa which gives essential instructions on Mahamudra and the nature of mind. You’ll find details of the retreat on the Adhisthana website. Again it will be a ‘dual’ retreat, so you can participate by Zoom or, if possible, come to Adhisthana and have the full experience. Whichever, I look forward to seeing some of you there.

All good wishes,

Vessantara

The Bodhicitta Practice Retreat – and Future Plans

Last week I led a 6-day online retreat for members of the Triratna Order, exploring a practice we use for developing bodhicitta. Bodhicitta is the heart of Buddhism, the combination of profound wisdom and great love and compassion that motivates someone to follow the bodhisattva path of gaining Awakening in order to be able to help others become free from suffering.

There were 135 of us on the retreat, scattered over many different time zones from San Francisco, to Europe, India, and Australia and New Zealand. Scheduling teaching sessions was a tricky business! Inevitably some people outside Europe were asleep during some of them, and had to catch up with the video recordings. Nonetheless, it did feel as if all of us in our different bedrooms, living rooms and meditation rooms around the globe were very definitely participating in one shared practice, one meditation on wisdom and compassion.

The retreat was hosted by Adhisthana, the centre a few minutes’ drive from where I live. So I was able to travel back and forth between sessions. Adhisthana is a very large retreat centre and inevitably it has been very badly affected financially by the effects of the Covid epidemic. They are set to lose a 6-figure sum this year. So I was delighted that, due to the open-hearted generosity of the participants, we were able to raise over £10k in donations from our retreat.

Many thanks again to all those at Adhisthana who were involved in making the retreat happen, at a very demanding time for them.  And thanks and all good wishes to all those of you who participated. I’ve really appreciated all the stimulating questions you asked during the retreat and the messages of appreciation since!

Although the retreat was for Order members, anyone can watch the recordings. If you’d like to do so, you’ll find links to nearly all the sessions here, along with various materials that I shared with the retreatants.

I enjoyed leading the retreat very much, and was pleasantly surprised at how easy and effective it was to do online. So at the end I announced that I planned to lead another 6-day online retreat for Order members from the 7th – 12th November.  It will be at Adhisthana again, and I hope to announce the theme here by this weekend at the latest. For now, please put the dates in your diary.

Wishing you good health and ever-deepening wisdom and compassion,

Vessantara.