I am in India this week for year four of a six or seven year training in Mahamudra meditation. The teachings are from Tai Situpa Rinpoche, the latest in a lineage of teachers that can be traced back to the historical Buddha Shakyamuni. The teachings were systematised 500 years ago, based on teachings brought to Tibet from India 1000 years ago. I feel extraordinarily fortunate to be here and am enjoying and benefitting from the teachings.
I am here with others from the MA: my fellow Director Choden, Alan from MAHQ, tutors Kathy, Lorraine and Vin, and also Anna who runs our courses in Poland.
A distinctive aspect of the MA is our connection with Samye Ling and this ancient and authentic Kagyu lineage and the depth of meditation practice and understanding that comes with that.
The mindfulness, compassion and insight courses we offer are not Buddhist courses. They are derived from Buddhism, psychology and neuroscience and are experiential and so open to people from all religions or none!
As usual I am travelling and sharing a room with my dear friend Kathy. We chat, giggle, practice and drink tea in between teaching times.
There are over 700 of us here to receive the teachings, from all over the world. Many friends are here from Samye Ling, Samye Dzong in London and from associated centres in Italy, Spain, Iceland, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
We have been coming together now for four years, for 8 days each year. Then each year we take the teachings and practices home and as best we can fulfil our practice commitment. It begins to feel like the coming together of a global family.
And what is our purpose? Situ Rinpoche is very clear about this at the start of each year. To become enlightened, ie. to become free of all of our suffering and delusion, for one purpose: to be able to help everyone else to do the same.
At the start of my practice each day, at the start of my office work and at the start of each teaching session I lead I bring to mind my intention and motivation. My motivation is to relieve all the self-created, needless suffering we create with our habitual patterns of thinking.
Coming to India, I have let go of my work, I have taken time to rest, to have a massage and to exercise daily. I feel relaxed and at ease and ready to receive these teachings. I feel open and spacious, compared with the tired and contracted me that got on the plane. I am amazed at how quickly this change has happened.
It helps that we are staying in the familiar Leela hotel, which feels like a second home. But what really helps is my years of practice and that I continued my practice through the tired and contracted time.
Although I can still be rocked to the core by certain difficulties, I can find my perspective and some equanimity more and more quickly each time. I can come to be curious and welcome the difficulty as an opportunity for growth.
Our new book ‘From Mindfulness to Insight’ was published this week. Choden and I celebrated this during breakfast yesterday, with Alan and Kathy. I feel supremely fortunate.
In the teachings this morning Situ Rinpoche was teaching about how our perception of this life is an illusion. He said that we were very fortunate to be living such a wonderful illusion. I fully agree!
But in the moment my body was aching from all the sitting. Then on the way back to our room I was complaining to a friend about how cold the air conditioning was! Talk about five star problems!
We are so accomplished at making all the slight inconveniences of life into a problem and the more we think about it the bigger the problems get. I caught myself in the complaining and we laughed. Recognising again what a wonderful illusion we are living.
My illusion gets better and better with the more practice I do and this is no coincidence. My habit of thinking myself into self-created suffering is diminishing and I see through the delusion of the thinking more quickly.
This is the aim of our insight book. Written with the motivation to help those who read it to see through and so alleviate their self-created suffering. Rob Nairn, developed the insight training with this clear motivation and it has really helped me.
So if you fancy living a happier illusion, why not give the book or the insight course a go. If you are already a meditation practitioner you can access the insight course by doing a foundation retreat.