Just last week, I finished a one-month retreat at the Insight Meditation Society’s Forest Refuge in Barre, Massachusetts, led by Sayadaw U Vivekananda. What a relief it was, to temporarily put down some of the burdens I didn’t even know I was carrying, and to have such a powerful opportunity to “disentangle the tangle” (as the discourses say)!
The challenges and rewards of retreat practice
Being silent and unplugged for a whole month might sound easy – and perhaps for some people, it is – but for most of us it can be surprisingly challenging at times. As Andrew Holecek, a US teacher and student of Tibetan Buddhism, recently wrote:
Retreat is not for the faint of heart. It takes courage to stop and face one’s mind so directly. But if you want to be unconditionally happy, which is one way to talk about enlightenment, there is no other way. Sooner or later you have to relate to your mind instead of from it. Otherwise you will forever be held captive by the contents of your mind, shackling yourself to every shiny thought that pops up, a prisoner of your own making.
On Retreat, Block All Exits
Even though it’s not always easy to be on retreat, the rewards are immense. Towards the end of my time at the Forest Refuge the gratitude I felt for this opportunity became quite overwhelming. I realised that next year will be the 15th anniversary since sitting my first three-month retreat at IMS, and that every year since then (with one exception) I’ve been able to sit either a one, two or three-month retreat here. Continue reading “July 2017 full moon – Gratitude”
Just realised today is the second anniversary since I had to leave the US, which means I’ve been technically homeless and living out of this suitcase (the silver sub) for two years now! Sending much gratitude to all the people who have given me a roof over my head – thanks to all of you, I’ve been able to continue teaching and travelling and teaching … Continue reading 4 July 2014 – celebrating two years of “homelessness”
Greg Scharf and volunteer cook Donald Elniff enjoying cake dana at the Blue Mountains Insight Meditation Centre Right now, I’m assisting my friend Greg Scharf teach a two week retreat at the Blue Mountains Insight Meditation Centre in New South Wales, Australia. And right about now, the annual three-month retreat at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, has just got under way. So I’ve … Continue reading Generosity part 4: Giving and Receiving
External link to Generosity part 2 – Christmas
This TED talk by a musician, Amanda Palmer, on “The Art of Asking” really resonated with some of my own recent experiences of giving and receiving. It’s not a classical Buddhist “dana talk” – it even features some brief nudity – but her courage in being willing to connect with a diverse cross-section of people, to be vulnerable, and to give and receive without shame … Continue reading Generosity part 3: The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer
More on generosity – this time from the English monk Ajahn Sucitto. He asks some great questions in his latest blog: “So how well does the notion of the self-centred human, motivated by profit and personal gain, stand up in this light? What is noticeable is that when given a free choice, people incline towards voluntary service and towards taking on a challenge.” To me, … Continue reading Generosity part 2 – Christmas