After more than a week of unseasonably warm weather, the temperature in the western region of the UK is beginning to drop again, with rain and wind, and even flakes of snow falling right now! Meanwhile, the landscape is showing the full signs of spring, with bright yellow daffodils and dark blue hyacinths scattering their colour – fabulous! It’s like a yearly miracle!
Today is the first day of the retreat and this is often a more complex day to lead, as people arrive very tired and full of details from their normal activity, so it’s a transition phase and it needs to be handled well. We’re still waiting for a couple of women to arrive as their journeys had to be abandoned last night due to a major road accident forcing the roads to be closed.
I’m watching the snow and thinking about what I’m going to say at 11am. It will be a short presentation on my history and connection with Tonglen followed by an overview of the practice. In particular I’ve been thinking about a long period of study I did a few years ago on Ksongkhapa’s work ‘The Three Chief Paths’ or ‘The Three Principal Aspects of the Path’. This was a text translated many years ago by Sangharakshita for the Dalai Lama, and it describes the Path of Renunciation, Bodhicitta, and Wisdom. Reading this text was like a ‘coming home’ for me, laying out my whole life’s context and purpose.
At 4pm, we’ll start the Dedication Ritual: closing the mandala so that the workings of the retreat can be kept as intense and pure as possible. As a ritual offering, this retreat needs to be a ‘power-house’ of meditation practice, and that intensity needs to be ritually sealed. This will be a collective ritual, but within that space each individual will name three aspects of their personal mandala: an aspect of transformation; a commitment and a blessing.
I’m a bit nervous about how the day is going to be, and looking forward to the evening when I can just sit back and simply participate in a puja!
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