Back in March, before I was ill, I went on a seminar in Birmingham with Lama Lhundrup, a German lama whose main work is guiding people in long retreats at Dhagpo Kundreul Ling, a Karma Kagyu Tibetan centre in the Auvergne. I have always wanted to do a long retreat with someone mentoring me, but that possibility has never existed in the FWBO, which is my main practice context. The seminar with him fired me up, and I began thinking of doing such a retreat, starting in 2009. However, when my health was bad earlier in the year and I had to cancel my teaching commitments, I decided that if I could not be of much use to the Dharma in an outward way then I might as well get on with some intensive personal practice. So I started planning to do a long retreat at Lama Lhundrup’s centre in France starting next summer.
When I told Vijayamala that I wanted to do a long retreat, she was prepared to lose me for a few years but said she would really like to do that kind of retreat as well. So in July we went to France to check out the facilities at Lama Lhundrup’s centre. I had imagined that we might do solitary retreats, or join single-sex groups, but neither of those were very realistic options. (I am not trying to become a Kagyu lama, and I want to spend my time deepening the meditation practices I currently do, not taking on a whole new set of practices.) After discussing the options with Lama Lhundrup, we agreed that the two of us would do a two-month trial retreat at a place owned by a German couple who also want to do a long retreat. They have a very peaceful and undisturbed place, which has room for more retreatants, so if things work out there may be a small group of us starting a long retreat together next summer. Although you are part of a group, on their retreats people spend up to twelve hours a day in solitary meditation.
If our trial retreat from January to March goes well, then we will start a long retreat, of indeterminate length, but maybe 3 or 4 years, in June or early July.