Wisdom and Loving-Kindness
New Year message from Ad, December 2016
Dear Dharma friends,
A Three Months retreat at the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, MA mirrors the 3 months of the rainy season during which since the Buddha’s time, monks and nuns stop wandering and stay at one place for intensive practice.
The retreat at IMS was such a time of practice of sitting and walking meditation, maintaining silence throughout with a daily one hour Dharma talk in the evening.
One day a week focused on the practice of Metta - Loving-Kindness and each day finished with the chanting of the Metta Sutta.
It is said that a formal retreat covers only half of the actual retreat period with the second part of an equal length for integration. So, I have still 3 months to go. It is indeed difficult at this early stage to fully realise what changes have been set into motion and what is still waiting to unfold.
It was an intensive and rich time, inspiring, educative, with its highs and lows and its challenges. The job at hand was to meet whatever arose with open spacious awareness and experience its true nature of un-satisfactoriness, impermanence and uncontrollability. It was a beautiful time of being immersed in the simplicity and power of mindfulness and silence, shared with about 100 others. There were many moments where I felt this is the only thing I truly wish to do, for it to last forever. It was such a natural and sane thing to be doing compared with what we generally keep ourselves busy with.
Apart from my personal integration I am also having the privilege of putting together a programme of retreats at The Orchard for the coming year with Wisdom and Loving-Kindness as the chosen theme.
Let me start with expressing my deepest wish: the benefits of a long retreat are precious and immeasurable and I would like to provide such an opportunity here at The Orchard. No, not a three months retreat, but a couple of two-week retreats, one in May and one in September.
I am fully aware that it will not possible for many to attend for such lengths of time and you could therefore also participate for just the first 3 or 5 days instead.
As is the tradition at The Orchard, our practice will be grounded in the way of mindfulness as taught by the Buddha in the Satipatthana Sutta.
I also wish to continue with the monthly practice weekends, offering an integrated whole of mindfulness and the Brahma Viharas at its core.
It is natural and common to stay with our practice within our comfort zone and for it to become another habit pattern of going through the motions without the energy and curiosity necessary for the progress on the path.
I benefited greatly from the practical meditation instructions given during the retreat at IMS. They brought to light where my practice had become somewhat stale, lazy and without sufficient clarity of mind. It helped sharpen my mind and energize my practice. It also made clear the need for support in my practice, for being stretched, extending the boundaries of my comfort zone and receive teaching on a regular basis; such is the nature of being human.
It is my aim to provide a similar structure at The Orchard and give you all the support I can for your practice to blossom and find more ease and happiness and that despite all the ups and downs we will experience in our practice, our trust and confidence in it will only grow.
Equally I want to put more emphasis on the insight/wisdom aspect within the practice of mindfulness and to deepen our powers of concentration, wisdom and loving kindness. Ultimately, these are the only reliable refuges.
I will continue with the weekly t’ai-ji classes and give a 5-day t’ai-ji seminar in August.
Details of the programme for 2017 will come to you in the beginning of the new year.
Jane and John have offered to continue with their support for the coming year. I am very grateful for what they have given us all over the last few years and am looking forward to working with them for another year to come.
While they will continue with offering classes in mindfulness and t’ai-ji at The Orchard, I am happy with the fact that they are finding other ways of sharing their expertise outside the boundaries of The Orchard and I am wishing them success and happiness with that.
For now, I wish you all well and happy and may you be free from suffering and fear.
May 2017 become a year where you will be the receiver and giver of loving kindness, where you will find refuge in wisdom and compassion and experience joy and happiness.
With loving kindness, Ad