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There are about 45 Triratna Buddhist Centres around the world – from Adelaide in Australia to Moscow in Russia, Seattle in the USA to Glasgow in Scotland – running the Urban Retreat this year. They will all start with a day retreat that sets the scene on Saturday 21st November and end on Saturday 28th November. The day retreats give the participants the opportunity to clarify what they want to get out of the week and set their aims. Buddhist Centres might also host special supportive practice events during the week of the Retreat.
However, many people do not live near a Triratna Centre and this Online Urban Retreat is designed to give you all the support you need to have a transformative and effective week of practice at home.
I suggest you need to factor in three things to make this week a success:
1) Prepare: you need some time on the Saturday 21st November to listen to the introductory talk. Perhaps read the chapter on ‘The Greater Mandala. Take some time to reflect on what you want to get out of the retreat, and make a note of that in your practice diary.
2) Set Up The Conditions For Practice: Ideally, this week works best if you do it alongside a friend! Experience has shown that one of the most effective ways to instil better habits and change in our life is to have the support of a friend with whom we can share our joys as well as our trials. Ideally, the two of you would agree to speak every day over the course of this week for a few minutes, just to tell each other how it’s going: are you doing what you planned to do? If not, how can you set up more supportive conditions? If yes, how does it feel, and what is the effect on your life?
3) Dedicate Your Efforts at the end: take some time on November 28th and reflect how the week went. What worked? What was difficult? Are they practices you want to continue? Are there changes to your life you wish to make?
Here is some more detail on these three steps…
The aim of an Urban Retreat is to helps us deepen our practice of the Dharma in everyday life, and to gain confidence that we can sustain this practice and really change our lives. It is way to feel in touch with many other people who also wish to practice, which can be very heartening!
On the first day, Saturday 21st November, there are three aspects to setting up for the week:
1) Find out about the the theme of ‘The Greater Mandala’ and get some ideas on how this is relevant to our lives. To help you do this, there will be an introductory talk by Parami. and there is a free download of the chapter on which the title of this retreat is based, from Wisdom Beyond Words, a book by Sangharakshita. It contains his commentaries on two texts, the Diamond Sutra and the Ratnaguna-Samcayyagatha.
Buy in print | Buy the eBook | Listen to the community audiobook
2) Take some time to reflect and choose what you want to cultivate and practice over the course of this week. What would help you to get there? What might prove to be an obstacle? The main thing here is that you make you own practice commitments – ones that you are likely to follow through – rather than take up someone else’s suggestions that don’t fit into your everyday life and which you may end up unable to do.
Download the Practice Diary to use each day of the week: take the time to really think through what you want to do as part of the retreat.
3) Create a supportive structure. One good way is to share your resolves with a friend - your “Dharma-buddy”. You can download our ”Resolve - Remember - Review” framework to use for this. Keep checking in on how things are going together through the week.
We can also strengthen our aspiration through ritual and mantra chanting. Open up to the help of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas! Each day there will be a mantra for you to learn and chant, as well as other rituals on some days. If you are not used to doing this, give it a try! Opening up to a higher dimension – and entrusting yourself to a perspective bigger than yourself – can be the most supportive practice of all for some.
Download the Dedication Ceremony and read it aloud at the start of the week to dedicate your practice for the benefit of the whole world.
Take part in the Metta Wave: on the 21st – at or around 4pm local time – all Triratna Centres taking part will practice the Metta Bhavana (the development of loving kindness) meditation. If you are not familiar with it you can see how to do the practice beforehand here, and we will also post guided introductions as part of the retreat. It’s good to be aware that on this day many people all around the globe are involved in a wish to practice and transform both themselves and the world around them! May all beings be happy…
During the week
The aim is to undertake any practices you’ve committed to on the first day. This might be anything from a mindful walk to work every day, to 10 minutes sitting on the sofa doing nothing, to not watching the telly or checking facebook while you are eating your dinner, to spending some time in an art gallery, reading poetry, or any of the many suggestions you will hear over the course of the week.
You may want to set up a ‘shrine’ in your home - a place of beauty with things that matter to you - to remind you of your resolve. You can also share pictures of it with everyone here! It’s always lovely to see the spaces people create… Once you have joined the space (click + follow above) just choose + pictures from the posting bar. If you add the tag ‘metta wave’ (without the quotes) we’ll automatically include it in the metta wave section.
In addition, aim to fill in the practice diary every day, stay in contact with your “Dharma-buddies”, chant the mantras, protect your inspiration in any way you find helpful! There will be short talks posted every day, and daily led meditations, as well as other resources.
Stay in touch
Feel free to post your comments and questions, your stories of breakthroughs and struggles, and things you’ve learned along the way! Please do especially post up any questions about the material, your practice, and any knotty Dharma issues that may arise for you. Through the week there will be a team of people online who will be on the look-out for any queries or comments, and who will be happy to respond.
At the end of the week
Take some time to reflect on what you’ve learned about setting up good conditions and bringing your practice into everyday life. What do you want to continue to do in the future? What will help you to sustain your aspirations?
Dedicate your efforts to the happiness and wellbeing of all others in the world: you may wish to recite this Transference of Merits verse.