I'm going on retreat!
19.03.2012 - 04.03.2013
So by now you've noticed that my blogging output has seriously declined lately. Living with a family without Internet and with a two-year-old has been taking its toll. But I will catch up!
The biggest thing that has been occupying our minds lately has been going on break. As lovely as our families may be, we'll be leaving them this coming weekend and don't start classes again until next Wednesday. So what to do? Of the sixteen of us:
- Eight are flying to Kerala, far to the South, to cruise on houseboats, experience a very different region of India, and probably sweat a lot. Two separate groups are going, and one of the guys is bringing his group to visit some of his family friends who live around there
- Three are heading to Rajasthan, a desert region to southwest of here which is noted for its brightly colored clothing and buildings, a history of resistance to Mughal and British rule, and its camels. When I asked my roommate at Sarah where in India he'd like to go but hasn't yet, he said Rajasthan--to ride a camel.
- Two are flying to Kathmandu. Nepal!
- One is joining one of our TA's and heading a little bit North of here to go skiing/snowboarding. IN THE HIMALAYAS. I must admit to being more than a little jealous.
- One is travelling with her mother and another relative who are coming to visit.
As various groups were forming, I tried to put together a group to visit two major pilgrimage sites about 12 hours to the East of here by train--Bodh Gaya (where the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment) and Varanasi (the biggest Hindu pilgrimage city, located on the Ganges). But, unlike most years, nobody else signed on to this trip--and I wasn't willing to travel across India alone. Then someone happened to mention a program at the Tushita Meditation Center, located within walking distance up the mountain from here. I looked up their programs and decided to go for it!
I've never been on retreat before, but I'd definitely heard of Tushita before--they're probably the best-known and most highly-regarded retreat center for (primarily, I think) non-Tibetans looking to practice Tibetan Buddhism. The main retreat I'm going on is residential, meaning I'll be living there while studying and meditating on this:
But, since the times work out, I'll be gearing up for this with a two-day non-residential retreat on Shamatha (calm abiding) meditation, a foundational practice common to all Buddhist schools. So here's my schedule:
Sat-Sun, 3/24-25: Shamatha retreat
Mon-Tue, 3/26-27: Time off in McCleod
Wed-Wed, 3/28-4/4: Residential retreat
Thu, 4/5: Start classes (one day late; thank you Tara-la, Geshe-la et al. for letting me stay!)
So during that two-day period when I have nothing to do, I'm planning to catch up on the blogging I haven't been doing.
I'm still kind of amazed this all worked out. I was getting kind of worried and stressed about what to do when this opportunity just landed right in front of me. It's a chance to practice in a way I never have before and should be a fantastic time.