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WHY RETREAT?

MAY I BE THE MEDICINE AND THE PHYSICIAN FOR THE SICK,
MAY I BE THEIR NURSE UNTIL THEIR ILLNESS NEVER RECURS.
WITH SHOWERS OF FOOD AND DRINK, MAY I OVERCOME THE AFFLICTIONS OF HUNGER AND THIRST.
MAY I BECOME FOOD AND DRINK IN TIMES OF FAMINE.
MAY I BE A PROTECTOR TO THOSE WITHOUT PROTECTION,
A GUIDE FOR TRAVELLERS
AND A BOAT, A BRIDGE, A PASSAGE
FOR THOSE DESIRING THE FURTHER SHORE.
MAY I BE A LAMP FOR THOSE WHO SEEK LIGHT,
A BED FOR THOSE WHO SEEK REST,
AND MAY I BE A SERVANT FOR ALL SENTIENT BEINGS WHO DESIRE A SERVANT.

FOR AS LONG AS SPACE ENDURES,
AND FOR AS LONG AS LIVING BEINGS REMAIN,
UNTIL THEN MAY I TOO ABIDE,
TO DISPEL THE MISERY OF THE WORLD.


 

- Shantideva

ASPIRATION

The above verses embody the yearning to help others that is the most authentic motivation for entering and sustaining strict retreat: bodhicitta, or the aspiration to become enlightened in order to free all beings of suffering and its causes, which can be understood as profoundly cultivating and healing your own mind in order to understand and eradicate the causes of suffering. This will enable you to guide each individual to the same state of wellbeing,  according to their individual needs and capacities.

Whether I´ll become enlightened in this life, I don´t know, but I do have complete confidence that devoting it to cultivate the greatest possible depth of emotional balance and clarity can only be a source of benefit  for myself and others.

In terms of the current global situation, I believe the exploration of human consciousness and the realization of its greatest potential are key to help us find a way out of the chaos in which we find ourselves (especially when innovatively approached from a partnership between contemplative inquiry and scientific research).


“But when we hear the Tibetan word for “to meditate” – gom – it translates as “to familiarize”, it really throws us. So, what is meditation? What do we need to familiarize ourselves with? The Buddha’s answer is twofold: we need to utterly familiarize our minds with, bring our minds into sync with, virtue and reality.
And why would we need to do that? Because right now, according to the Buddhist take on the world, our minds are more familiar with the opposite: attachment, anger, jealousy and the other neuroses – just look at the suffering all around us: in our own selves, in our relationships, in the world. It is these unhappy states of mind that cause us to be out of sync with reality and goodness, which, in turn, cause us to harm others.”

- Ven. Robina Courtin


ACTION
"Although we all want happiness,
We ignorantly destroy it, like an enemy.
Although we want no misery,
We rush to create its cause."

-Shantideva
 

We all wish to be happy, well and safe, but in a society dominated by widespread materialistic views, we try to fulfil  this innermost longing by searching for sources of happiness externally, in all the wrong places.
Consumerism and the pursue of hedonic pleasure (the acquisition of wealth, possessions, power and  fame), are presented as sources of happiness, but they only  lead to anxiety, dissatisfaction, violence, greed and other harmful states of mind... And eventually to our own destruction through that of our planet.

With all our sophisticated technological advances, we  are still unaware of the authentic, sustainable sources of happiness (so we destroy it, like an enemy). This implies that we´re also unaware of the true causes of our suffering, and therefore  unable to neither imagine, nor develop, realistic, efficient and sustainable solutions for it.

Because of our ignorance of such crucial points, we can´t serve our true needs,  and  our potential for living with greater harmony and meaning remains undiscovered.  

Our attention is not only wrongly placed, but is in itself untrained, deficient and scattered (one of the results of our chronic absorption with media and entertainment), which contributes to  increased absent-mindedness and disconnection from our hearts and minds.

To find the skilful, efficient ways required to address these issues, we might need to look at the timeless wisdom of the ancient contemplative and mystic traditions: central to them is the concept  that the mind is the source of our negativity and suffering,  that the chaotic world that we experience is an expression of  our inner chaos, turmoil and imbalance.

Buddhist contemplatives have developed sophisticated methods  by which to know the mind and the nature of consciousness, by which to train it, purify, balance and heal it.

"In such spiritual traditions, only true inner peace within the hearts of people can bring about true outer peace in the world, because if individuals are plagued by inner conflicts, doubts, fears, and insecurities, they will tend to project them outwardly onto others, blaming others for their problems, without even realizing what they are doing.

It is thus necessary for all of us as individuals to 'wake up' and become increasingly conscious of our own thoughts and feelings, and how these are creating certain results or consequences in the world, so that we may each become increasingly responsible for the type of world that we are creating--including whether this world is a peaceful one or not."
- Linda Grof & Paul Smoker
(Spirituality, religion, culture and peace: exploring the foundations for inner-outer peace in the 21st century).
                                                      

In  the same way that medical students prepare themselves for years before being able to help patients, aspiring yogis retreat for years before being able to visibly and outwardly help others, moved by compassion.

Knowing that positive change in the outer world can only occur through the radical transformation of one´s mind, the yogis take the deep responsibility and  commitment of attaining this themselves, of embodying the change they wish to see and catalyse in the world, so that they can inspire and support others in the same quest in the future.

​In order to do that, they must step out of ordinary life and retreat in silence, solitude and simplicity, away from the influences and distractions  of modern, materialistic life,  offering their full dedication.

  • Through the methodical, rigorous use of contemplative practices tested for millennia, they examine to what extent it´s possible to cultivate and sustain specific qualities of the mind, starting with highly focused and refined attention and serenity.

  • With a foundation in ethical conduct, they investigate to what degree wholesome emotions and attitudes, like patience, generosity, kindness, compassion and equanimity,  can be developed and sustained. They investigate the conditions and methods that lead to the arising and maintenance of virtuous mental states and virtuous actions of body, speech and mind, and to what measure we can free ourselves of mental afflictions and the suffering they cause to ourselves and others through specific meditative practices.

  • Through their  lifestyle, they explore the benefits of living a life of material simplicity for one’s wellbeing and for the environment.


Their insights might enable them to critically examine unquestioned assumptions and dogma about issues essential to our wellbeing, such as  human nature and the nature of consciousness; the nature of sustainable, genuine happiness; the causes of our suffering and how to overcome them...  They might inform the development of innovative and authentic methods to cultivate much needed wisdom, harmony and peace, and the re-envisioning of our society and lifestyle obviously required for the flourishing of the planet.

"This is not  a path of escapism but of immersion to a more authentic way of being and acting in the world so that we may be come agents of healing.
We are not retreating from outer service, we are engaging in very deep inner service".

- B. Alan Wallace

"You can spend an eternity looking elsewhere for truth and love, intelligence and goodwill, imploring God and man -- all in vain. You must begin in yourself, with yourself -- this is the inexorable law. You cannot change the image without changing the face. First realise that your world is only a reflection of yourself and stop finding fault with the reflection. Attend to yourself, set yourself right -- mentally and emotionally. The physical will follow automatically. You talk so much of reforms: economic, social, political. Leave alone the reforms and mind the reformer. What kind of world can a man create who is stupid, greedy, heartless?"
- Nisargadatta Maharaj