In mid-November I led a 12-day retreat on sadhana – Buddhist visualization practice – at Vajraloka, a retreat centre in North Wales. I lived at Vajraloka in 1980-81. This retreat marked a bit of a landmark, as I had not been on retreat there since I left. So, after 25 years I was rather overdue to go back!
While welcoming the retreat participants I found myself going into ‘old codger’ mode, reminiscing about what the place was like in 1980. When I moved there, we had no running water, and had to go along the track to the stream to fetch water in buckets. It was also very cold. During the winter we would put on our pathetic collection of heaters in the shrine room, 30 minutes before we began our morning meditation. After we had been meditating for a couple of hours we would begin to hear the sound of the melting ice falling off the inside of the windows onto the floor… But we were a young, enthusiastic bunch of meditators in those days, and we took these things almost in our stride.
Being a not so young (but still very enthusiastic) meditator, I was glad to see that the facilities had been upgraded considerably over the intervening years. Not only was there running water, there was central heating. It was blissful.
There were 24 of us on the retreat, focusing on the practice of Buddhist visualization. I had set up the programme so that people who visualized different buddhas and bodhisattvas could all practice together.We spent hours in silent meditation, and each morning I spoke about a different aspect of visualization practice, such as the blue sky of emptiness, the appearance of the figure, and so on.
The weather was consistently Welsh. (Mm, apologies to those from Red Dragon Country, consistently wet.) But that didn’t dampen the proceedings. There was a strong atmosphere in the shrine room, and I was moved and impressed by the commitment of people to going deeply into their practice. It was also a pleasure to be able to lead small groups or individuals through different practices.
It is always good doing meditation retreats with Order members, and this was no exception. Many thanks to all those who attended, and particular thanks to the Vajraloka community for helping the event ot run so well. I shall be back next summer to co-lead a retreat for experienced meditation teachers with Tejananda. I’m already looking forward to it.