Sunday, August 8, 2010

Cows, Friends, and New Beginnings

The Lamrim retreat is over, and boy was I beat when I got home.  Seven days in intensive meditation and instruction on the essence of the Buddha's teaching on the path to Enlightenment.  It was an incredible, life changing experience.  We had 3 inspiring sessions of teaching and meditation followed by a Q&A Dharma Talk with Geshe Phende-la, the questions ranging from basic Buddhist practice to complex philosophical debates.

The teachings were absolutely the best.  It was the perfect introduction to the entire aspects of the practice of Tibetan Buddhism, covering Guru Yoga, Renunciation, Bodhicitta, and Wisdom in our sessions.  We became completely familiar with Lama Je Tsongkhapa's life and teachings on the Lamrim.  It was such a difference-making event for me.  As a very inexperienced practitioner, I developed a more complete understanding of what "practice" means, giving me an outline for progress and preparing me for further studies and practices.  It expanded and deepened my understanding of compassion for all sentient beings as well as bodhicitta.  We had a wonderful session on emptiness and the meditation work associated with the topic was simply mind blowing.
The surroundings were inspirational, a beautiful location -- the Center for New Beginnings in Dahlonega, GA -- complete with cows, bears, bugs and beautiful Georgia foliage. Georgia in August, hot and humid every day,with 30 minute evening thunderstorms added lots of excitement.
Our bodies were fed as well as our minds. Meals were wonderfully engineered by Chef Sean Moran and Carol Beck, with wonderful desserts provided by Kris Lorenz to satisfy our sweet tooths.

The opportunity to really get to know the sangha members was priceless.  We developed closer friendship and the more experienced practitioners generously provided guidance; examples for those of us not quite as familiar with the ritual and practice.   The opportunity to spend so much time simply being surrounded by practitioners provided an osmosis affect that enriched everyone's practice and understanding.