From Mindfulness to Buddhism
13th – 18th October 2020
Many mindfulness practitioners ask what the next step is after training in mindfulness. For many people Buddhism comes to mind since we all know that mindfulness comes from Buddhism. They often ask how they might connect to Buddhism and what the first steps would be. They also wonder how Buddhism might enrich and deepen their practice.
This retreat is designed for people like this. The aim of the retreat is not to formally introduce people to the path of the Buddha Dharma. That requires a particular commitment to teacher, path and lineage. The aim here is to offer a broader context for mindfulness practice by offering methods, teachings and practices drawn from Buddhism that can deepen our practice and give it more meaning and vitality. Some people might then choose to formally become Buddhists while others may not, and that is fine.
A key focus of this retreat will be to introduce the Buddhist view, or orientation of mind. View is very important because it gives direction to the practice of meditation. The Buddhist view is based on interdependence – how we are inextricably linked to others and the environment we live in. Understanding this serves to correct a fundamental mistake in perception – called ignorance – in which see ourselves as separate, discrete entities set apart from others and from life. We see how so many of our ideas and beliefs are rooted in ignorance and ‘empty’ of the reality we attribute to them.
We will also look at how the findings of modern neuroscience accord with the ancient Buddhist view of Sunyata or emptiness, and how neuroscience can enrich this view.
Choden will introduce some key Buddhist reflections that turn our mind towards this view – so instead of just fixating on the things of this world, we reflect on the rarity of his human life, its fragility and impermanence, how our actions have consequences and how suffering is part and parcel of being alive. This gives a sense of urgency and purpose to go deeper with our practice.
We will then look at the notion of Buddha Nature (the heart of the view) and see how each one of us is endowed with a quality of being that is unlimited, free and full of many qualities – despite our normal perception of ourselves as being flawed, limited and small. So our practice now has a sense of direction – uncovering this nature within ourselves. But what is important too is not just to make this a selfish endeavour but to engender the motivation to wake up so we can help others wake up too. This is called Bodhicitta and gives big heart and big vision to what we do and how we practice.
We will then look at how this emerging view changes our relationship to both calm abiding (often called mindfulness) and insight meditation. When we settle our minds it is like the water in pond which becomes calm and clear so that we can looker deeper within. We start to see that our issues, pre-occupations and concerns are not such a big deal – they are not as solid as they feel, they do not last, and they are quite ephemeral once we face them squarely. This has the potential release our mind from the bondage of self-fixation and to free up our energies for practice of Bodhicitta.
In the evenings we will do the practice of Chenrezig which is a living symbol of Bodhicitta. This is a profound and rich practice that involves chanting, visualisation and mantra and is the most widely practiced compassion practice in Tibetan Buddhism.
The retreat will take the form of presentations, guided practices and inquiry as well as periods of silence and silent sitting. It is open to anyone, but some experience of mindfulness meditation is desirable.