I've just came back from an individual retreat at the magnificent Tibetan monastery Samye Ling.
This is a gift I offered to myself, as I've just turned 43, and also because it made a while I wanted to make a solitary retreat. It was a beautiful opportunity to come back to what is essential (in my life), and to switch off from my doctoral research, which demands so much from my mind.
The Samye Ling monastery is the oldest Tibetan monastery in Europe, and probably one of the biggest as well. Located in the South of Scotland, isolated in the middle of nature, this famous place has been visited by quite a few celebrities, such as David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, and of course, the Dalai Lama (if celeb' is a convenient attribute). Several monks and an Abbot live there, as well as some other residents who are all volunteers, taking care of the place, and welcoming thousands of visitors per year.
This mixture of Tibetan and Scottish cultures is quite fascinating, so much the monastery has been built in respect of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions. I've particularly enjoyed the beautiful stupa, surrounded by the famous prayer wheels. But nothing has pleased me as much as the gorgeous sculpture of Nagarjuna,
One of the reasons I wanted to make a retreat, was of course to dedicate more time to meditation. There is a regular program of spiritual practices and activities running daily, within which anyone is invited to take part. Among these, are the silent meditations happening twice a day, lasting one hour each. Silent sitting, whether you call it Zazen, or Vipassana, is the most simple, yet most challenging meditation that exists. It is also the most powerful (to my taste), and the one that can bring relatively rapidly positive changes (in terms of mind and body health). These were held in the temple:
I haven't missed one. Sitting in silence is as precious as necessary, but when it is done in the presence of others, it enhances so greatly the experience, deepening the silence in which we dive in. And of course, to meditate in such a wonderful and inspiring place certainly helps with the process. There was a group of 'meditation for beginners' happening at the same time, and the group leader wisely suggested the participants not to attend these silent meditations, knowing perfectly well what it implies... Indeed, one needs to have some experience of meditation before daring to face...the void. It can be delightful, but also painful at times, depending on how we feel and what is happening in our lives. The very fact to sit down in silence was sufficient for me to remember how much I enjoy it, and how much I need it in my daily life.
|The green Tara, goddess of compassion.|
The goal of this personal retreat, was to dedicate some time to what is essential in my life, and I'm really thankful I have been able to do so at the Samye Ling monastery. It remains a religious place though, with all its rituals and dogmatic teachings. For that reason, I couldn't resonate with it entirely, since I (sort of) belong to the Advaita philosophy. Regarding the experiences I've been through in my spiritual life, it is impossible for me anyway to fit in any religions, as I consider them to be too... limited to address the Unlimited. But it does not matter. These three days allowed me to go back to the silence of the heart, and be fully and consciously connected to the Divine again.
Once again, the Grace was present.
OM SHANTI SHANTI OM
Thanks to a beautiful being, I've just discovered an article written by Christopher Wallis, on the difference between spiritual growth and enlightenment.
I find it so clear and so accurate, that I want to share it here with you:
'Why Spiritual Growth Does Not Lead to Enlightenment.'
It makes a long time I haven't read such a clear explanation on the process of awakening, and integration of the awakening. I write here down a few sentences that caught my attention:
- 'Waking up is actually the easy part compared to integration.'
- '[...] you have to grow up enough to get out of your own way and make room for the awakening process to unfold.'
- '[...] you cannot heal the ‘broken self’ as long as you believe that you are it. Or you can, but it’s ridiculously difficult.'
- '[...] integration is the real spiritual growth, but it has nothing to do with trying to recondition oneself to conform more closely to an ideal found in books on spirituality or in the mouth of a teacher.'
- '[..] some people can be ‘enlightened’ but unintegrated.'
- 'There’s a difference between having access to the Light of Awareness [...] and doing the work of seeing what does and doesn’t reflect that light in its fullness.'
In the Love of Silence
In the Silence of Love
"The growth of understanding follows an ascending spiral rather than a straight line." (Joanna Field)
"The path isn't a straight line; it’s a spiral. You continually come back to things you thought you understood and see deeper truths.” (Barry H. Gillespie)
Image source:Hubble data: NASA, ESA, and A. Zezas