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Just before starting the New Year’s Weekthun (a week-long urban meditation retreat) at the Shambhala Meditation Centre of Toronto lead by Gaylon Ferguson of Shambhala International, I had come to two conclusions:
- My heart friend is not a friend to me. It’s a one-way street. I’m his friend. He is not mine. How he manifests towards me does not align with my core values, namely, basic human friendliness, concern and support — some of the attributes that are the hallmark of (relative) basic goodness; and
- While I honour whatever his own truth is at any given time, and understand from where he is coming, it does not mean that I choose to live with the situation.
So on Day One of the New Year’s Weekthun, I enter the shrineroom in a state of profound sadness. Like James Bond’s martinis, I am shaken, not stirred. Being stirred comes during the weekthun itself.
This sadness, as it turns out, is a perfect starting point for me where Peaceful Abiding and care for others can be practiced.We have two programmes at the centre running simultaneously: a New Year’s Weekthun; and a Winter Intensive where those who cannot come to the weekthun can practice from 10h00 – 12h-00 and/or from 19h00 – 21h00;
Components of the weekthun fall into three categories: listening, contemplating and meditating:
- Basic meditation practice — mindfulness\awareness;
- Teachings: — Mindfulness of Body, Feeling and Life (source: The Heart of the Buddha by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche; and Natural Wakefulness by Gaylon Ferguson); and
- Contemplation exercise: the first of the Four Limitless Ones (aka The Four Immeasurables) (May all beings be free of suffering and the root of suffering);
- Loving kindness practice — please click here for sample practices based on The Four Limitless Ones; and Loving-Kindness Meditation Practice;
- Listen to Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s talk on Shambhala Meditation, given on May 2012 at Karme-Choling in Vermont.
At the end of the last day of the New Year’s Weekthun we sat in a circle to have our last supper together. The Assistant Director of the programme, Louis Allen of Juniper Hill, asks the participants three questions:
(1) What did we learn? Three beliefs were reinforced for me:
- the importance of senior students — I was the only participating senior student other than staff members — re-visiting, on a regular basis, basic teachings like the ones Gaylon presented to us;
- No matter what state of mind you are in at any given moment, you can touch in with your inherent peacefulness — a peacefulness that is not conditioned by particular events in your life; and
- I believe that we are unconditionally happy. But there are so many layers that obscure this basic happiness that we can have a hard time believing that.
(2) What surprised us? I experienced an identity crisis that started with a dream on February 03, 2012. I realized that one of the factors that brought on this crisis was that I had become numb. The dream signalled that I had to get back in touch with my feelings. Without touching in with and acknowledging your feelings, you cannot genuinely care for others.
(3) What comes next? I have to continue to assess what I have learned from the crisis I mentioned in #2 above so that, ten years down the road, I don’t find myself in the same position.
Added January 17, 2013: A sangha friend, who is in India on her annual pilgramage now, just wrote to say:
So Maggie in what state were you when you completed the weekthun?Sorry you had to go through the painful “awareness” . … Tell me more…
I started the weekthun shaken. I ended up (happily) stirred, as in shinjang, “thoroughly processed.” (Click here for fuller explanation of term shinjang, and scroll down to the section entitled “The Third Noble Truth: the Cessation of Suffering.”)
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