I am just on the ferry to the mainland from Holy Isle off the Isle of Arran on the way back from the Year 1 year end retreat of the MSc: Studies in Mindfulness. It is a collaboration between the Mindfulness Association and the University of Aberdeen and this is the end of our 8th year and the retreats just get better and better.
At the retreat we delivered two days of teaching skills training and many of the students had their first go at guiding mindfulness practice and leading mindful enquiry. They did brilliantly and many are coming back from the retreat to begin sharing short sessions of mindfulness in their workplaces, spreading the benefit of mindfulness further!
At the retreat we also completed our compassion module with a final full group sharing of our experience of it. This sharing was so honest and open, with all describing significant transformation. Themes that emerged were being kinder to themselves, being supported by the practice while going through significant life challenges, feeling more connected with others and being able to pay attention to the joyful moments in life.
Quite a few tears were shed – some of them mine – tears of empathy and joy that we are on this path together and finding more freedom in our lives.
Then we had an afternoon off walking in the glorious sunshine on this unspoiled island, wandering amongst wild sheep, goats and ponies. There was even a foal! And I heard a cuckoo.
Then we began the insight teaching in preparation for the Insight Module of the MSc, with an experiential exploration of the observer and undercurrent model and the practice of resting in the midst of our experience. The practices were profound with many students experiencing a deep tranquility in their practice. Although we made it clear not to try and grasp at this experience to try to get it again. Any experience – tranquil or chaotic – is fine in our mindfulness practice.
Overall we were joyful and connected, with lots of laughter and mutual support.
The icing on the cake was Lama Yeshe Rinpoche’s visit to the island. He gave a talk to the students, who were able to ask questions about their practice of compassion and mindfulness.
There are beautiful gardens at the retreat centre on Holy Isle and there is a sign that says ‘Joyfully Effortlessly’. Although I was teaching, I felt so joyful from the practice and from being on Holy Isle that the teaching felt effortless. A good lesson for my working life back home. I asked Lama Rinpoche about the phrase and he said that joy was a fruition of our practice of loving kindness and that when we are joyful and working with the motivation to help others our work is effortless. Good advice.
Here is a link to a loving kindness practice – why not have a go with it to see if any joy results.
Heather’s mindful moment from Holy Isle
Stillness reveals the secrets of eternity”