Following the White Deer: Answering the Mythic Call in Meditation

A home retreat led by Paramananda with Bodhilila
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Day 1    Day 2    Day 3    Day 4  

Day 5    Day 6    Day 7

What is a Home Retreat? (click to read)

Home Retreats can be tailored to your needs.

We provide:

  • Live Home Retreat events daily
  • Specially curated Dharma resources
  • A chance to catch up each day on the event sessions by video if you missed them – so you can do the retreat in your own time
  • Share your own inspiration and reflections on the private retreat Padlet space (shared by email)
  • A chance to connect with the retreat leader to ask questions about your practice

Whether you have the time to engage with a full-on, urban-retreat style week at home – or are super occupied already with kids or work and just want some useful structure to book-end your days with a little calm and inspiration: this is for you.

🦌 The White Deer is a mythic call: to go forth from limited, self-regarding perspectives towards better, kinder, wiser connections with others

You can access video recordings of all sessions below under each day’s resources. 

📖 Download a practice diary to use during the retreat

In many human cultures white deer hold a place of deep significance, being often met at the edges or boundaries of personal or communal land and experience. Sometimes they appear as messengers from the otherworld, as in Celtic mythology; in some North American traditions they represent ancestor spirits come to bestow good fortune on whoever beholds them in the woods.

Arthurian legend draws on the white deer’s elusive, fleeting, transient qualities to characterize its pursuit as representing a sacred quest. Its appearance marked a definitive change, signaling that the time to set out on some new spiritual adventure was at hand.

Many of us recognize or remember some sense of a summons or call to break free of the limitations of what you know, to set out on some as yet unknown path in our life. We can’t say where we are going – but we sense it might lead to a more profound experience of ourselves as someone alive and moving through the world. The White Deer of this retreat with Paramananda and Bodhilila is that call – to go forth from our own limited, self-regarding perspectives towards better, kinder, wiser connections with others.

If you are lucky with this life
one day
while walking through a stand of silver birch at dawn
when a golden light spills over the lip
of the world
or when crossing a swift shallow stream
on stepping stones
or just sitting still in your room
catching the song of a bird
woven into the din of your city
your body might reveal its self to you
as a home for the world
a glimpse that you
are entirely beyond yourself
like the white deer at the beginning of a fable
and if without hesitation you follow
you will find your self gloriously lost
in the rise and fall of your seasons


Home retreat leaders

Paramananda has been teaching meditation and leading retreats around the world for over 30 years and is also a poet and author of four books on meditation: Change Your Mind, A Deeper Beauty, The Body and The Myth of Meditation.

“Paramananda beautifully examines how spiritual practice is both a deeply intimate relationship with oneself, and inextricably connected to the world we live in. He brings far-reaching Buddhist teachings down to earth and encourages us to be curious, as we simply sit with the breathing body, or open to suffering – our own and others’ – in such a way that liberates the heart.

– Vajradevi, meditation teacher and author of

Bodhilila has been meditating and practising mindfulness for 27 years. She is a fully accredited Breathworks mindfulness trainer as well as a qualified counsellor, teacher and massage therapist. She worked for many years as a classical musician and more recently as a nursery manager. She is currently Chair of the West London Buddhist Centre, where she has been teaching meditation, mindfulness and Buddhism, as well as helping to run the Centre, since 2012. She regularly leads retreats for the WLBC and at Taraloka women’s retreat centre.

All our events are offered by donation. If you can, donate to allow others who can’t afford it to access these vital Dharma resources when they need them most. Thank you!

Suggested donation for the whole retreat:
£125 / $175 / €150 or £25 / $35 / €30 per day.

Donate and support Dharma classes online

Welcome to the retreat

Day 1

watch the Live PRACTICE sessions

In this session Paramananda introduces us to the symbolic significance of white animals in fairy tales and fables, particularly the white deer, as metaphors for guidance and transformation. Encouraging participants to reflect on their own inner journeys and the role of meditation in understanding and connecting with ourselves more deeply.
Bringing the body into relationship with the earth supports us from below, whilst the sky invites us from above. Paramananda explores posture as a gesture of unification between what’s below and what’s above, with both these dimensions meeting within the heart.
This session ends in a period and rest and relaxation, as Paramananda uses drumming and chanting to encourage a different mode of being.

In this meditation session, Paramananda guides participants through various exercises focusing on relaxation and mindfulness. He discusses the concept of rest, emphasising the need to ease the mind’s habitual planning and scheming. The session includes practical meditation techniques, such as focusing on the breath and the body, to help participants connect with their inner selves. Experiences shared by attendees highlight the benefits of visualization and the impact of drumming on deepening meditation. The session offers a straightforward approach to meditation, aimed at fostering self-awareness and present-moment focus.

The day’s final session ends with a dedication ceremony to dedicate this virtual space to deepening our practice and setting our intentions. Then, Bodhilila guides us into mantra chanting and a period of just sitting.

Day 2

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The session begins with a gentle reminder that meditation is not just a mental exercise but an embodied practice, akin to learning a musical instrument or a sport – it requires repetition and practice until it becomes a part of us.

Throughout the session, Paramananda challenges the common misconception that meditation is about controlling the mind. Instead, he emphasizes the importance of images in our practice and how meditation is best expressed through the symbolic gesture of our body posture – creating an image of meditation within ourselves. This unique approach to meditation is further enriched by a reading of Lorca’s “Ditty of First Desire,” setting a contemplative tone for the session.

In this meditation session, Paramamanda opened the floor for participants to share their experiences, leading to a discussion on the nuances of meditation practice. Key topics included the interplay between experiencing and appropriating during meditation, the challenge of distractions and the nature of sound in meditation, especially in non-traditional settings like home. The conversation also delved into understanding insights in meditation and the paradox of craving for insights. Additionally, there was a focus on the physical aspects of meditation, particularly the role of posture and the significance of the legs in grounding the practice. The session concluded with a guided heart-centered meditation, emphasizing breathing exercises and the use of one’s name as a tool for cultivating unconditional love and self-awareness.

Bodhilila starts the session by sharing some reflections on the themes discussed in the previous session. She emphasises the importance of awareness and kindness in meditation, particularly in working with the root poisons of craving and aversion. She discussed how responses to distractions, like sound, are often influenced by conditioning and personal views, sharing personal experiences to illustrate this. The session also touched on the teachings of Paramananda and links it to teachings from Padmasambhava, highlighting the embodiment of meditation practice and the natural arising of insight through relaxation of the body and mind.

She then guides us into a meditation practice, and then she guides us into a sevenfold puja followed by a period of just sitting.

Day 3

watch the Live PRACTICE sessions

Reflecting on Johnny Cash’s rendition of “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails and its significance in the context of the retreat’s third day, often marked by rising resistance in practice. We delve into the theme of working with resistance in meditation, emphasizing the value of embracing difficult moments as opportunities for growth. The session also explores the relationship with sound and music, and how these can be brought into one’s meditative experience.
Paramananda shares a poem by Robert Creeley, focusing on themes of animals, death, and our emotional connections to them, linking these to our deeper psyche and experiences of impermanence. This leads to a broader discussion about embracing the darker, often ignored aspects of ourselves in meditation, symbolized by the ‘black sun’ in alchemy and art, and how these aspects can be sources of creativity and deeper understanding.

In session two we focused on chanting the Green Tara Mantra, emphasizing the balance between active vocalization and receptive listening. Exploring the significance of the mantra, particularly its connection to the Earth goddess and its association with the color green, symbolizing life and healing.

Paramananda discusses the throat chakra’s role in expressing oneself in the world and how chanting can help alleviate energetic constrictions in this area. Encouraging participants to chant in a natural, relaxed manner, highlighting the importance of finding one’s voice as a means of self-expression and realization.

The session also delved into the symbolic meaning of the number 108 in chanting practices. The speaker shared insights on meditation as a poetic and craft practice, emphasizing the importance of language in shaping our understanding and experience of meditation.

In this last session, Bodhilila continues with the focus on embracing impermanence and overcoming resistance. She guided us to a Green Tara Mantra mantra chanting, emphasizing its role in cultivating compassion and responsive action in the face of challenges and fears, also bringing us close to Tara’s qualities of wisdom and compassion.

She then guides us into a meditation practice, and then she guides us into a sevenfold puja dedicated to Green Tara. She starts with a reading from Hakuin. This new puja has some excerpts from the midnight star puja dedicated to Green Tara, followed by a period of just sitting, deepening the connection to the themes of compassion and impermanence.

Day 4

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We begin the session with Tracy Brimhall’s poem “Our Bodies Break Light,” which Paramananda beautifully recites from memory, later describing it as an underworld poem with its use of bizarre and even slightly disruptive imagery.

The meditation explores the idea of aligning oneself with the world, both physically and imaginatively, to relax into the experience of the world manifesting within us. Paramananda then talks about alignment and what that actually means in terms of posture in meditation. We might think we need to impose alignment onto the body, but what if we could trust the body to find its own alignment through awareness of our weight on the earth and the space above our heads?

Paramananda encourages us to engage with images and allow them to play out during meditation, distinguishing this from normal conceptual thought. The session concludes with a focus on the energy of love, using the visualization of color to activate and fill the body with this emotion.

In this meditation retreat session, we engaged in deep discussions about the spiritual significance of animals, the impact of posture on meditation, and the role of grief and death in personal growth. The speaker explored the concept of the psyche as a non-material, largely unknown aspect of ourselves, emphasizing the interconnectedness of spirit and soul. Our guided meditation focused on aligning the body with the world, using the breath to weave together our instinctual, emotional, and intellectual aspects. This practice aimed to deepen our sense of inner richness and our connection to the outer world.

We gathered for another evening of practice, dedicating our time to the historical Buddha Shakyamuni. Reflecting on the Buddha’s journey and his profound decision to sit under the Bodhi tree until enlightenment, we explored the themes of embodiment, relaxation, and the middle way. Our session included a sevenfold Puja taken from the Dhammapada, focusing on the Buddha’s teachings and his transformative experience. We also engaged in a period of meditation, emphasizing the importance of being present in our senses and observing the natural flow of experiences. This was followed by a mindfulness exercise with singing bowls, inviting us to relax and simply experience the arising and passing of sounds, including the ambient noises around us. The session was an opportunity to connect with the Buddha’s legacy, embracing the spaciousness and the magical display of life’s experiences.

Day 5

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We begin with a poem by David Wagoner titled “Lost”. The poem, accompanied by drumming, conveyed the message of finding oneself by being still and letting the forest, or the world, find you. This theme was further explored through a discussion on Dogen Zenji’s teaching “studying the self is to forget the self, to forget the self is to be illumined by the myriad of things.

Paramananda encourages participants to relax into their experience and allow the world to come forth in their imagination. Highlighting the interconnectedness of our lives with the world, noting how our breath connects us to the environment and sustains us. The meditation aims to expand awareness beyond the immediate surroundings, encompassing the planet and its myriad forms of life.

Visit the dedicated website for the retreat. Find resources and past session recordings

In this session participants are invited to share their questions, comments, and reflections. One participant raises an interesting question about the balance between spirit and soul in Buddhism, expressing a personal struggle with the tension between these two aspects. Paramananda responds by acknowledging the diversity within Buddhism and its varying emphasis on transcendence and embodiment. He suggested that the heart could be seen as a meeting point between spirit and soul, emphasizing the importance of a balanced practice that includes both aspects.

Paramananda then guides us through a meditation focusing on the heart as the central organ of perception. Encouraging a sense of openness and relaxation, allowing the heart to be receptive to the energies and rhythms of the world. The session ends with another period of quiet rest

In this session of the meditation retreat, Bodhilila emphasised the importance of aligning with reality and embracing the present moment without judgment. Discussions centred around the heart as a pivotal point in our physical and psychic experiences, exploring our dualities and the relationship between vulnerability and compassion. The session challenged the pursuit of spiritual attainment, advocating for self-acceptance and being content with oneself. Bodhilila reads a poem by Rumi, followed by a period of just sitting. The evening concludes with a sevenfold puja.

Day 6

watch the Live PRACTICE sessions

Paramananda begins day six by sharing Seamus Heaney’s poem “The Guttural Muse,” which includes imagery of fish following the theme of animals on this retreat. He reflects on the poem’s themes of healing through wounds and the contrast between youth and age, as depicted in the poem. The session then transitions into meditation, focusing on the body’s connection to the world and the importance of sitting with what’s present in the moment.

We explore intimacy with our own life and the physical sensations that arise during meditation, suggesting that this approach allows for a deeper connection with ourselves and the world. Encouraging participants to be open to the body’s messages and to embrace the idea of meditation as a time to catch up with oneself, balancing the forward momentum of daily life. The session concludes with a reminder to enjoy the simple act of breathing and to find contentment in the present moment.
Visit the dedicated website for the retreat. Find resources and past session recordings


In this session, Paramananda engages again with a Q&A session with retreatants, addressing a range of personal and spiritual concerns. Participants share their experiences and challenges, including dealing with difficult emotions, changes in life circumstances, and struggles with meditation practice. Paramananda offers insights and guidance, emphasising the importance of being with one’s experiences in a physical and energetic sense rather than getting caught up in mental proliferation. He encourages embracing the Dharma in a personal and experiential manner, rather than relying solely on received wisdom. The session concludes with mantra chanting by Paramananda and Bodhilila, serving as a transition from the discursive period to a more meditative state.

In this evening’s meditation and devotional practice, we focus on the Buddhas Amitabha, Akshobhya, and Padmasambhava. Amitabha, the Buddha of meditation and compassion, represents the transformation of craving into a longing for truth and reality. His discriminating wisdom sees the uniqueness in everything, complementing Akshobhya’s wisdom of sameness. We explore how surrendering to these archetypal figures can activate unconscious energies and deepen our connection to the Dharma. The session includes invocations to Amitabha and Akshobhya, followed by mantra chanting and a period of silent meditation. We reflect on the symbolism of the lotus, representing growth and potential, and how challenging experiences can lead to profound personal growth. The evening is an opportunity to engage with these Buddhas, allowing their qualities to resonate within us and inspire our practice.

Day 7

watch the Live PRACTICE sessions

Paramananda looks at the theme of agency in meditation. He discusses the importance of feeling supported by the world and overcoming feelings of alienation, suggesting that meditation can help cultivate a sense of belonging and co-creation with the world.

The meditation explores the physical sensations of being in the world, the interdependence of life, and the importance of being present with our direct experience. Paramananda encourages a balance between felt sensations and conceptual thinking, encouraging us to rest in the feeling of being part of the world. The session concludes with a reminder of the simplicity and practicality of meditation, emphasizing the transformation of consciousness through embodiment and openness to the world.
Visit the dedicated website for the retreat.

In a heartfelt meditation session, Paramananda invites participants to share their experiences, leading to a rich exchange of personal stories and inquiries. Discussions range from the importance of meditation posture to profound personal transformations and the complexities of romantic relationships in a spiritual context. Paramananda responds with empathy and insight, suggesting practical approaches. The session culminates in a guided meditation, emphasising a deep connection with the body, heart, and inner world, encouraging participants to explore their physical sensations, emotions, and imaginations for a deeper understanding of themselves and their relationship with the world.

In this final session, we reflect on the retreat’s journey, emphasising the depth and connection achieved even in an online setting. The retreat, led by Paramananda with Bodhilila, is celebrated for its experiential depth, integrating inner and outer experiences and fostering openness of heart and mind. The focus on relaxation, awareness, and kindness in meditation is highlighted, along with the importance of being present in the body and embracing both joy and vulnerability. The session includes a period of just sitting meditation, embracing whatever arises with kindness, and concludes with the Maitri mantra, symbolising loving-kindness. A short break is followed by a sevenfold puja, offering a ceremonial end to the retreat.

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We hope you find the Home Retreat helpful.
 We are committed to providing excellent Dharma resources and spaces to connect with community online and go deeper in your practice. And to keeping this free to access for anyone who needs it!

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Thank you from our team and from the online community around the world!

May you be well!

Suggested donation for the whole retreat:
£125 / $175 / €150 or £25 / $35 / €30 per day.

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With deep thanks to Paramananda, Bodhilila, and the Dharmachakra team for their generosity in setting up the conditions for this retreat, as well as leading live events each day.

Event image by Rebecca Johnston
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