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Well done! You’ve almost completed the urban retreat. On this last day there’s an opportunity for you to review how it went, what we learnt, and what you’d like to carry through into the future.
Hopefully you’ve discovered that although you can’t avoid the worldly winds, you can learn from them, and see them as opportunities rather than obstacles. As William Blake wrote:
Man was made for Joy & Woe;
And when this we rightly know
Thro’ the world we safely go.
Joy & Woe are woven fine,
A Clothing for the soul Divine;
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.
When we know that both pleasure and pain - gain and loss - praise and blame - all the Worldly Winds - are part of the fabric of life, part of its warp and weft, we can weave something from them. Then they can be ‘soul-making’ (to use poetic rather than traditional Buddhist language). They can teach us about the texture of life. They can reveal its heights and depths. They can show us to ourselves at our noblest and at our most petty. They can draw from us new qualities and dimensions of being.
To return to the metaphor of the wind, with awareness and skilfulness we can learn to sail the worldly winds, to ride the storms of life more safely. Though the worldly winds may howl and rage around us, we are more able to remain centred and calm. We retain perspective. We have a quiet confidence that whatever happens, we will know what to do, and things will be well. We keep hold of the ‘silken twine’ that weaves its way through the rush and roar of the worldly winds.
This is of incalculable benefit to us, and it also helps others. Panic is contagious. If we get into a flap in a difficult situation, those around us are more likely to feel anxious and fearful. Other negative emotions like blaming or resentment likewise tend to poison the atmosphere, and other people have to breathe them in. But it works both ways. If we are more calm and confident, it will help others be so too. If we’ve got a perspective on what’s going on, other people will pick up on that, at least to some extent.
Reflection: How did it go?
We’re trying to transform ourselves, so we can better weather the worldly winds – for the benefit of ourselves and others. But it is a gradual process, a learning process. It takes time and we need to allow for that.
Now take some time to reflect on the following questions, perhaps with pen and paper, jotting down thoughts and observations as you go… We’d also encourage you to post your final reflections and what you’ve learned from the week’s work here on the Urban Retreat space, or over on Facebook or Twitter. It’d be great to hear from you all.
1) Did you manage to keep your resolutions? If not, then what hindered you?
2) What were the effects of doing the resolutions you managed to keep?
3) What were the effects of “resolve remind – review”, including the different elements of “remind” (i.e. slogans, rituals and routines etc.)?
4) Did you notice how your mental states changed during the week?
5) What did you learn?
Suggested Daily Practice:
Now also think about anything you might like to keep up after the retreat. It is a good idea to write this down in the form of precepts. Write on some nice attractive paper, or in your journal. Maybe you could place the new precepts on your shrine. (The danger is that if we just write it on any old piece of paper we will lose it and forget all about it quite quickly!)
Suggested Final Ritual:
Please feel free to devise your own ritual, but here is a suggestion…
1) Do a short metta practice, bringing to mind everyone practising around the world.
2) Chant the Padmasambhava mantra and offer to the shrine the precept you have formulated and written down.
3) Recite the “Rejoicing in Merit” and “Transference of Merit and Self-Surrender” from the Sevenfold Puja – i.e. rejoicing in what you’ve done and dedicating it to the Enlightenment of all! The traditional text is copied below -
Sitting in front of your shrine, or wherever you normally meditate, recite aloud the following verses, giving yourself time after each phrase to absorb the meaning of the words.
Rejoicing in Merit
I rejoice with delight
In the good done by all beings,
Through which they obtain rest
With the end of suffering.
May those who have suffered be happy!
I rejoice in the release of beings
From the sufferings of the rounds of existence;
And I rejoice in the nature of the Bodhisattva
And the Buddha,
Who are Protectors.
I rejoice in the arising of the Will to Enlightenment,
And the Teaching;
Those Oceans which bring happiness to all beings,
And are the abode of welfare of all beings.
Transference of Merit and Self-Surrender
May the merit gained
In my acting thus
Go to the alleviation of the suffering of all beings.
My personality throughout my existences,
And my merit in all three ways,
I give up without regard to myself,
For the benefit of all beings.
Just as the earth and other elements
Are serviceable in many ways
To the infinite number of beings
Inhabiting limitless space;
So may I become
That which maintains all beings
Situated throughout space,
So long as all have not attained
Good luck with your on-going practice of the Buddha’s teachings, and with coursing a more skilful way through the worldly winds! If you want lots more teachings and inspiration on sailing the worldly winds, then my book, Sailing the Worldly Winds, is available from Windhorse Publications. These posts here on thebuddhistcentre will all stay online too, so you can come back here any time and work through the material again.
It’s been a pleasure being on retreat with you.
Vajragupta, 14 October 2011