Retreat is not just for monks and nuns. All human beings can fulfill their potential by engaging in meditation retreat.
“…even if the message were already widespread that compassion and tolerance are greatly needed nowadays, for both individuals and the peace of the world, this alone would not be sufficient. One has to know how to develop such qualities. The solution is found by entering into Retreat, into a situation where it is possible to fulfill our basic human potential and develop all the positive qualities within ourselves. Retreat gives one the time and the space to allow for the growth of this basic human quality.”
-Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Why do I want to do Retreat?
“We don’t know why we’re born and die. Mainly we don’t know why we experience what we do in between. But most of us believe there’s something beyond our body simply arriving at birth and departing at death.”
“It’s not easy for me to seclude myself for three years. I’ll miss my children, Ali and Andrew. I think they’ll miss me too. I may miss significant life changes among my relatives – a death or birth, a marital breakup, financial success or difficulties, meeting a new life partner, and so on. It’s difficult to explain satisfactorily to friends and relatives why being in retreat, for what seems such a long time, is a good idea.”
“It’s incredibly rare in our world that this opportunity comes to anyone. For a few years between now and the time I move on from this body, I have the opportunity, and perhaps the obligation, to focus on seeking spiritual realization exclusively. My age says: make haste. I have the necessary good health.
“I pray that after three years of directed meditation I may have more knowledge, some realization, and perhaps some wisdom to share so all of us may live with more comfort, more joy, and in time, complete peace in our world.” – Keith Emmons, 48 Contractor.
“For me, there is nothing else that makes any sense at this time in my life. This life, as I know it, will indeed finish. At the time of my death, I want to be able to say, “I gave it my best shot. To the best of my ability, I used the ancient knowledge that was given to me. I did not waste this precious human life.”
“For 33 years, I have been a student of Tibetan Buddhism. I have attended many, many group teachings and retreats given by many, many of the most highly revered masters of our time. In the beginning of my Buddhist education, I never dreamed I would even do one month-long retreat. A weekend of practice seemed long. Even one day was a stretch.”
“Unfortunately, although I know intellectually and experientially how things exist, it is difficult to maintain a “pure view” in a non-retreat setting. I also know that to change my mind and have it abide in this understanding takes time and dedicated effort. Being 64 years old and retired from worldly work, I have reached a stage in my life where, even if I have the good fortune to live to a “ripe old age,” death is just around the corner. Therefore, I feel a sense of urgency. While I still have my mental faculties and my physical health, I want to use them to take the teachings to heart and practice as the Holy Ones have advised – “putting all my effort in and never leaving off the practice of the four times.”
-Elaine Jackson, 64 Retired
Stories from Retreat
“It happened on January 15, 2001, the first year in retreat and the birthday of the great bodhisattva Martin Luther King, Jr. As I was doing my prostrations…I suddenly flashed on my mother, who had passed away twenty years ago. I thought about my selfishness and lack of kindness to her, especially as a rebellious teenager. In that moment, I had an enormous realization of the depth and extent of my self-cherishing. And on top of that, I realized what the lamas have always said, and I had heard over and over again for years and thought I believed: that self-cherishing is the source of every moment of suffering that I've ever had in my entire life. It hit me like a ton of bricks!”
“For the next three days I just sat on my cushion crying almost non-stop. I spontaneously reviewed my entire life, and saw that every moment of suffering that I'd ever experienced, from a moment of slight irritation to the life-long difficult relationship with my father, was created by my self-cherishing; not to mention all the suffering that I'd created and caused other people to experience. And it was just relentless--my mind couldn't stop going through this process. At one point I was desperately looking for some exception to the rule that self-cherishing had caused every moment of suffering. There wasn't one exception! So I just cried and cried. It was so intense.”
“… In Liberation in the Palm of your Hand, Pabongka Rinpoche says on that point, when self-cherishing raises its ugly head, just bash it. I decided to take this teaching as my heart advice, and to live my life by it. I started applying it with fierce determination because I'd just seen this relationship between self-cherishing and my own and others' suffering… “
“…And I realized once again that what the lamas have always said is so true--that to overcome self-cherishing is the highest happiness; that what we've been used to thinking since beginningless time--that looking out for ourselves will give us happiness--is completely wrong. It's just the opposite. Only by overcoming self-cherishing completely can we have the highest happiness. And [this happiness] was just a thousand-fold stronger than any feeling of happiness or bliss that I'd ever had in my life.”
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