Reflections on the Mahamudra Seminar at SCOL
Have you ever been on a week-long retreat? I just completed my first. It was the Mahamudra training at SCOL. I had some reservations about my ability to complete the retreat but clung to part of a sentence of the program description….”aspirants have found the support and structure of this course a powerful means for launching them into and deepening their daily practice”.
I live on ten acres outside of Goldendale and love the beauty of my land. But the retreat center is spectacular! The retreat land comprises 240 scenic acres of high desert forest near Goldendale WA. There are multiple hiking trails to stretch your legs between sessions and covered verandas with chairs to relax in while on breaks. We had several sharings of animal sightings! Elk, coyotes, blue birds, the sound of frogs… The stars at night were an endless, luminous expanse. On the ground, the support staff, Vicki and Sarah along with Yuton took good care of us. Yuton cooked our lunches and dinners. Electronic devices were not visible. This all helped set the stage for a special place to practice.
Lama Eric led all our daily meditation sessions along with evening Chenrezi practice. Lama Kathleen cooked our breakfasts and attended the rest of the sessions. It was beneficial to have input from each of them during Q&A time. Going from my usual practice of meditating once a day to many times a day, I quickly noticed a deeper calming and more focus. I felt more grounded and alert. Nice surprise!
Each session was a mix of teachings, Q&A and short meditation sessions where we practiced various techniques to train our minds. Stretch breaks were offered frequently as some of us were not used to this amount of sitting. Still, I was always ready for the next one!
This training did indeed deepen my practice. I did choose to set a goal at the end of the training to work toward year two. Here’s to Mahamudra Training 2024 at SCOL. Hope you can attend.
At the conclusion of this year’s presentation of the Bokar Mahamudra Program there was a feeling of joy and happiness at having accomplished an eight day retreat and also a feeling of sadness that it was ending. We began our first session on Friday evening and ended the following Saturday, with our last session at 6:30 am. At this final meditation Lama Eric explained that we always begin our retreats in the evening because that is the time of day when the Buddha sat down under the bodhi tree, intent on gaining realization. We end our retreats in the morning because that is when the Buddha attained enlightenment.
Over the course of the week, we received instruction on shamatha meditation (calm abiding). Each day we contemplated one of the four thoughts that turn the mind, to turn our minds away from involvement in samsara and toward the practice of dharma. We were introduced to the uncommon preliminaries and learned about the importance of repeatedly taking refuge in the three jewels of the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha and rousing the wish to attain awakening for the benefit of others. Then, we either recited or sang the Short Vajradhara Prayer.
Lama Eric led us through tonglen practice and cultivating bodhichitta. Each evening we practiced the Chenrezi sadhana, alternating between English and Tibetan. The weather was a bit unpredictable and started out hot and summer-like, with temperatures in the mid 80s and by the end of retreat it was in the 60s with lows in the 40s at night. Of course, the land was spectacular with the ever changing sky reminding us of impermanence by displaying the beautiful color of the autumn sky at dawn, an expanse with wispy clouds one day, and darker storm clouds on another. We all left with a clear idea of how to create a daily practice and integrate meditation into our busy lives. We were asked to make a commitment, be it big or small, to cultivate our practice in order to benefit ourselves and therefore all beings.
For more information on the Mahamudra program offered yearly at SCOL please visit its page on our website.