The Importance of Retreat

I am just back home from Holy Isle after a wonderful week retreat with Lama Yeshe Rinpoche on meditation.

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It got off to a very good start. The night before the retreat I was packing up my camping gear as I was too late booking to get a single room. I was looking mournfully at the weather forecast which was for rain and high wind and trying to figure out if I could fit my camping gear and my meditation cushions into baggage that I would be able to carry on the train. Then my mobile phone rang and it was Holy Isle; there had been a cancellation and a single room had become available. So I very joyfully repacked for my trip the following morning.

I love being on Holy Isle. The food is delicious and they cater for vegans, always an important consideration. The volunteers are so friendly and helpful. The landscape and seascape is stunning and there are wild sheep and goats and horses with foals. The energy on Holy Isle is very tranquil and supportive of meditation practice. And of course we had daily talks from Lama Yeshe Rinpoche on meditation and compassion and Ani Lhamo gave two excellent talks on the importance of women in Buddhism. There was lots of opportunity for meditation practice with Lama Yeshe Rinpoche, who is a meditation master after 12 years of solitary meditation retreat. So I find meditating with him is quite a powerful experience and very supportive of my practice.

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Before the retreat I was noticing how busy my mind had been getting, but as the retreat started my mind began to settle and I was able to see clearly the habitual patterns of thinking and about how just about any kind of thinking can cause suffering. When on retreat, as we sit a lot, often there is physical pain in the knees or the back and I recognised how in any moment the pain was fine, but it was thinking about the pain and the pain continuing that caused me to suffer the pain. I noticed that any time I started to judge something, especially something I wasn’t so keen on, I would start telling myself a whole story about it and start to get irritated about it. Then I could realise that the story was generally made up and based on lots of unfounded assumptions and let it go. Again, the thinking about it, caused me to suffer it.

This week I am back to work with my energy and joy levels topped up, which gives me a sense of increased resilience in the face of life’s challenges. As always after a retreat, I come home with an increased trust and confidence in my practice and in the benefits of my practice. I feel motivated to practice more having a greater sense of how being in the moment with kindness and curiosity is the only way to reduce my own suffering and the suffering of those around me. There is also a strengthening of my intention of this is how I want to live my life – mindfully and joyfully.

So, if you have an opportunity I would recommend all Mindfulness practitioners to go on retreat, as often as they can and at least once a year. At the Mindfulness Association, we feel passionately about the importance of retreat, which is why we have decided to repackage our courses to include more retreats. Look out for this in the 2017 Samye Ling Compassion and Insight trainings and in the Mindfulness for Life training. An annual retreat is also a requirement for Mindfulness teachers and so the repackaged courses will hopefully help with this too.

I’m already looking in to booking my next retreat!

Kind Wishes

Heather

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