ENTERING THE MANDALA: MINDFULNESS AND IMAGINATION

A home retreat with Vidyamala and Vishvapani
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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.

🧘🏽‍♀️ 🧘🏽‍♂️ Seven days of meditation, creativity and ritual in a spirit of mindfulness and inquiry.

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

🎧 Listen to a podcast episode about the retreat theme

📖 Download a practice diary to use during the retreat

Imagine an enormous subterranean chamber all lit up from within. We are living in a tiny chamber next to – indeed, part of – the larger one. We can see nothing at all of what’s going on in the large chamber. In fact, we have no idea that the large chamber is even there.

Sangharakshita

Awareness, or mindfulness, is an essential foundation for all spiritual growth. Through knowing experience directly we can transform difficulties and become happier, calmer and more fulfilled.

But awareness offers much more: it also provides a doorway to other dimensions in the large chamber of our experience. Awareness of the body, heart and mind can blossom into awareness of boundlessness, love and mystery, as Buddhist teachers have taught down the millennia.

Imagination is a key to this opening. When our minds are clear and we’re alive to what’s within us and around us, our imaginations wake up to new possibilities.

Vidyamala and Vishvapani invite you to join an exploration of mindfulness and imagination through talks, meditation, creative activities, discussion and shared ritual, particularly focused on the richly evocative symbol of the mandala.

This Home Retreat is an opportunity to live for a week with mindfulness, kindness, poetry and creativity, even in the midst of our daily lives.

“If the doors of perception were cleansed, we would see the world as it really is – infinite.”

William Blake

Vidyamala was ordained into the Triratna Buddhist Order in 1995 and is co-founder of Breathworks, a leading mindfulness organisation and she focuses particularly on using awareness and kindness training to work with pain and illness. This draws on her own experience of managing spinal pain and disability. She is an award-winning author of three books and was awarded an OBE in 2022 for her services to pain management and well-being. She regularly leads retreats and workshops, and speaks at international summits, events and webinars.

Vidyamala has long had an interest in the creative mind and heart and how to access this through myth, ritual and non-conceptual approaches and looks forward to deepening this even more on this online retreat.

Vishvapani has practised meditation and Buddhism for over 40 years. He’s a writer, best known for Gautama Buddha: the Life and Teachings of the Awakened One and as the Buddhist contributor to Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4. He’s a prominent figure in the UK’s mindfulness world and has taught over 150 mindfulness courses.

He loves to explore poetry, myth and imagination, along with Buddhism, in his writing, teaching and practice.

 


INTRODUCTION

On this retreat we’re opening portals to awareness and the wonders that can arise when we really start to pay attention to everything that’s going on in the world around us. What would it be like to experience yourself without restrictive concepts? What dimensions might open up in your life as you engage with myths and symbols? Awareness, or mindfulness, is an essential foundation for all spiritual growth. And through knowing experience directly we can transform difficulties and become happier, calmer and more fulfilled. But awareness offers much more: it also provides a doorway to other dimensions in the large chamber of our being. Awareness of the body, heart and mind can blossom into awareness of boundlessness, love and mystery, as Buddhist teachers have taught down the millennia.

Imagination is a key to this opening. When our minds are clear and we’re alive to what’s within us and around us, our imaginations wake up to new possibilities. Kusaladevi joins Vidyamala and Vishvapani in a conversation exploring the theme of their Home Retreat.

Download podcast episode

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

Join us in our home retreat journey as we begin with Vidyamala’s insights on optimizing the ‘home retreat’ experience. Discover how taking breaks, moving, and stepping away from screens can ground you in the moment. Creating space and simplifying your surroundings can enhance your retreat sessions. Our technical team shares essential updates, and then Vishvapani takes the stage. Delve into the profound interplay between mindfulness and imagination as he uncovers the depth of our theme. As WB Yeats aptly puts it, “The mind liberated from the pressure of the will is unfolded in symbols.” Stay till the end for a stimulating Q&A session between Vishvapani and Vidyamala. They delve deeper into the insights shared and illuminate the paths opened by mindfulness and imagination. Embark on this retreat with us – a journey of mindfulness and creativity.

Join us for an immersive experience in session two as we explore the enchanting world of mandalas. These timeless symbols have resonated across history and cultures. Vidyamala takes the stage to present the captivating “Five Buddha Mandala,” a profound Buddhist mandala from the Vajrayana tradition. Discover the intricacies of each figure within the mandala as Vidyamala delves into the unique qualities of the enlightened mind. But that’s not all – we’ll also journey through the protective rings of fire, the symbolism of vajras, and the grace of lotus flowers that encircle this intricate and meaningful image. We finish the session with a period of meditation and visualisation practice.

The session starts with Vishvapani reciting ‘The Panther’, by Rainer Maria Rilke, contacting the imagination through words, through poetry. Vidyamala encourages you to engage with the imagination on this home retreat by reading some poetry. She talks about the ritual and how to relate to it: “In ritual is the inner world actualised”. She talks about how rituals can help us engage differently with life, not just in a utilitarian way and she encourage to take on a ritual for this retreat, like having a slow walk, looking at the sky, and several other ideas.

She then leads a ritual in which each participant selects a symbol and then ritually place it in the area they have chosen as their mythic space this week. The session ends with mantra chanting and a meditation practice.

retreat resources


Day 2

watch the Live PRACTICE sessions

Join us for an Day 2 as we begin with a grounding meditation guided by Vidyamala, grounding us in our bodies and resting into the earth. Following this, Vishvapani leads an indepth presentation on Akshobhya, the Buddha of the Eastern realm.

We find some of the qualities of Akshobhya originating in the life of the Buddha-to-be Siddharta Gautama, with his encounter with mara on the cusp of his enlightenment. It’s here we first encounter the earth touching mudra. Later, we meet the female Buddha of the East, Locana, sparking a thought-provoking discussion on gender within Buddhist iconography.

As the session concludes, join Vishvapani in a series of movement exercises inspired by the image of the tree.

The session starts with Vidyamala leading a grounding meditation. Vishvapani introduces a special place exercise, where we will contact with that space with some prompts that seek to relate with the environment and our senses and mark any images that strike you. Then we have some breakout groups to discuss our experience.

The session starts with a short grounding exercise with Vishvapani. He then starts exploring the imperturbable nature of Akshobhya by interviewing Vidyamala about her experience with dealing with pain and illness by using mindfulness and imagination.

Then, Vidyamala closes today’s session by guiding us on a body scan practice.

retreat resources


Day 3


watch the Live PRACTICE sessions

We begin Day 3 with Vishvapani guiding us through a meditation inspired by Keats’ poem, “Ode to Autumn.” By unraveling the beauty and depth of the emotions it evokes, we are encouraged to sit with whatever arises from these words. Continuing our journey through the mandala, we step into the Southern realm and encounter Ratnasambhava and Mamaki. Vidyamala discusses the idea of releasing the ‘hoarding heart’ and highlights how generosity often leads to our own needs being fulfilled. Following this, we take a moment for self-reflection on our personal practice of generosity. The day concludes with another meditation led by Vishvapani, delving into the mudra of giving.

Vidyamala leads us in an exploration of vedana, which refers to the feelings and sensations that arise from our experiences, using the practice of awareness. She specifically emphasized the importance of understanding the hedonic tone, which relates to the pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral qualities of our sensations. This exploration extended to our responses to various stimuli, including sound and music. Where we listening to some music together.

The session starts with Vishvapani reminding us about the story of the Buddha touching the earth and then the story of the Monkey King form the Jataka tale as a previous life of the Buddha. The session continues with Ratnasambhava mantra chanting, followed by poem reading and a meditation led by Vishvapani.

retreat resources


Day 4


watch the Live PRACTICE sessions

Today, we enter the western realm, where we encounter the Buddhas Amitabha and Pandaravasini, encompassed by the love and warmth akin to the setting sun. Vidyamala graces us with another insightful presentation, delving into the symbolism associated with these two figures. Which encompasses elements like lotus flowers, the colour deep red, and the peacock.

Later on, Vishvapani reads a poignant poem by Sangharakshita, titled “The Lotus of Compassion.” We take time to immerse ourselves in the imagery conjured by the verses, allowing its essence to resonate within.

To bring our session to a close, Vidyamala guides us through a five-stage Metta Bhavana meditation, cultivating loving-kindness and compassion towards ourselves and others.

Vidyamala begins the session by introducing Amitajyoti. She then leads us through a series of mindful drawing exercises, emphasizing the connection with ourselves and the materials we use. Throughout the session, she showcases artworks from artists who utilize techniques similar to the ones she demonstrates.

Vishvapani initiates the session by discussing poetry and delving into “Tintern Abbey.” He proceeds to read poems including “For I have learned” and “Therefore am I still.” Afterward, he offers insights on how we can engage with poetry making them our own. Following the poem discussions, he conducts a brief meditation practice.

Post-breakout sessions, Vidyamala continues, guiding an open sit followed by the chanting of the Amitābha mantra. She encourages participants to either present offerings to their shrine, if they have one, in a spirit of love and gratitude, or to step outside and gaze at the sky, embracing it with awe and gratitude.

retreat resources


Day 5


watch the Live PRACTICE sessions

As we step into the realm of the Buddha Amoghasiddhi, we are enveloped in the deep green hues of the mandala. Vishvapani begins by describing how advertising and marketing employ the very same language of images, even utilizing archetypal images like the ones we’ve been exploring in this retreat. However, these images are used with vastly different intentions. They often harness this potent imagery to persuade us into believing that acquiring certain products is necessary for our well-being and happiness. This raises questions about the nature of images and prompts us to ponder how our approach diverges from that of advertising agencies.

Later, we delve deeper into the intricate symbolism surrounding the green Buddha Amoghasiddhi. We also touch briefly on the female Bodhisattva often associated with him, Green Tara. Amoghasiddhi’s right hand is poised in the Abhaya mudra, symbolizing the fearlessness of the enlightened mind. To comprehend fearlessness, it’s essential to first gain a clearer understanding of the concept of fear itself.

Our session concludes with a 40-minute meditation practice, commencing by vividly embodying the Vishvavajra in our imaginations. The Vishvavajra represents total integration in all its dimensions, encompassing both the peaks and depths of existence.

The session begins with Vidyamala leading a mindful movement exercise, fostering a deeper connection with our bodily sensations.

Vishvapani delves into the topics of the vishvavajra and mandalas. He guides us on a creative and reflective exploration of the mandala representing the five Buddhas. We engage with their qualities of love, generosity, fearlessness, and strength, contemplating how these attributes manifest in our lives, recognizing where they currently exist, and envisioning where we would like them to be more prominent.

The session starts with Vishvapani reciting a poem about Kubla Khan and then leading us into a meditation.

Then, Vidyamala interviews Vishvapani around the theme of integration and how he has experienced it in his spiritual life.

Afterwards, Vidyamala continues, guiding an open sit and chanting the Amoghasiddhi mantra.


Day 6


watch the Live PRACTICE sessions

We’ve completed our journey around the mandala, and now we find ourselves at its heart, where we encounter the Buddha Vairocana and Akashadhatvishvari, embodiments of the clear white light of reality. Vairocana gestures with is hands the teaching mudra, also known as the Dharmachakrapravasana mudra.

In this session, Vidyamala provides another comprehensive overview of the profound symbolism associated with these Buddhas. She also delves into the various Buddhist schools that hold a particular reverence for Vairocana.

Following this, Vishvapani invites us to contemplate a series of images that radiate with a strong presence of light. This culminates in a thorough exploration of a short prose passage by Rilke, titled “Archaic Torso of Apollo,” which has proven to be a true highlight of the retreat thus far. The session concludes with a period of open practice.

In this session, Vidyamala introduces the concept of “Flow” and how we might approach our experiences with an attitude or softness. She also makes the argument that water might actually be stronger than earth. This naturally leads us into a guided meditation where we attend to the flow of our experiences, encompassing thoughts, sensations, and emotions. All of these elements arise and pass away in a continuous state of flow. The remainder of the session is dedicated to an open period of practice.

The session starts with Vishvapani talking about a sense of contacting the imagination with a Buddha or Bodhisattva. He then reads a poem ‘Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour’ by Wallace Stevens, and then he leads on an open sit.

Then, Vishvapani suggests we take some time to continue meditating or take a time outside. Afterwards, Vidyamala continues, guiding an open sit and chanting the Vairocana mantra.

retreat resources


Day 7


watch the Live PRACTICE sessions

As we enter the final day of the retreat, we also transition into a much quieter and more reflective phase. During this session, we dedicate almost all of our time to meditation practice. Vidyamala initiates the session by guiding us through a meditation in which we bring to mind, one by one, all the Buddhas of the mandala. By doing so, we reawaken their qualities and immerse ourselves in the potency of what we have collectively created. Following this, Vishvapani leads us through a complete Metta Bhavana meditation, inviting us to carry with us the qualities evoked in the mandala. Lastly, we engage in a third meditation session, led by Vidyamala, which is unguided and spacious.

The day starts with breakout groups for retreatants to share their experience on the retreat, and then we have a plenary session for some people to share with everyone how the retreat was for them.

Later on, Amitajyoti shares some thoughts coming from Vessantara on the five female Buddhas, and then Vidyamala and Vishvapani end the session by answering some questions from the audience.

The final session of the retreat begins with Viveka leading a brief arrival practice. Afterwards, there is time for participants to express gratitude towards each other, rejoicing in their merits for their experience at the retreat. The session concludes with a closing ritual that includes chanting the Vajrasattva mantra and transferring merit, as well as a joyful celebration with three loud “sadhus” to mark the end of the retreat.

Everything we offer is by donation – give today and help us keep it free for everyone!


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!

If you can, donate and help us reach more people like you.

Make a regular gift and you’ll be supporting Home Retreats through the years ahead.

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 Vidyamala, Vishvapani, 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 Jr Korpa
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