After saying goodbye to loved ones and being wished a lovely, relaxing time, there seemed to be a certain anxious energy. Each retreat I have been on is different and I was excited to see what may happen.
This retreat was based around Dependant Origination. How our present experience, past experience and future births are all dependant on the three root causes: ignorance, hatred/ill will and desire. Contemplating the image of the Tibetan Wheel of Life and its symbology really seemed to help us understand the meaning of Dependant Origination and its chain reactions. A subject which at first seemed far too complicated for a beginner to understand.
However something magical happens when we slow down, the mud settles and the chain reaction of Dependant Origination becomes more apparent.
I could see when my emotions became very strong that there was a grasping for things to be different. Tracing back from grasping, there had been a craving and prior to craving, a painful feeling. Recognising a deep sadness that had been suppressed wasn't pleasant! Realising that I had to sit right in the middle of unpleasant feeling with no way to fix it was incredibly hard. But at least a small move to loosen ignorance's grip. Hatred and ill will were strong and there was a desire to fix the situation- the three root causes right in the centre of the wheel of life. The middle layer of the wheel depicts the heavenly and hellish realms that we can be born into. Whether you believe in rebirth after death , I certainly felt a birthing into hellish realms in the present life. The hungry ghost realm -always wanting and never being satisfied, the warring devas- jealous of the gods, to name a few. The problem was that I was buying in to all these births and forgetting the never ending wheel of Samsara. The delusion that we can find true happiness inside of Samsara. In the top right of the picture the Buddha points to the moon- reminding us of the spiritual path and Nibbhana. So standing back from a myopic view point and opening up to a more spacious mind ( helped by the beautiful gardens and woodland walks), I stopped I -ing for a short time and the word "compassion", rose up out of no where. It sounds like a cliched self help affirmation, when little incites are recounted to others. But when you have delved into a personal hell and the word compassion comes out of no where, there is a power in it. I realised this was the medicine that I needed, that I could develop compassion.
Later we talked about Bodhichitta, the wish to realise enlightenment for the good of all beings and their relief from all suffering. A big wish and one which seemed far too large for an ordinary individual. But then, being quiet and mindful of feeling, without just being reactive to those feelings, was a mini enlightenment in itself. Development of mindfulness and compassion for myself surely can bring understanding and compassion for those who suffer too. Practicing being with my own suffering, not necessarily being able to fix it and not running away from it either, a willingness to meet discomfort and painful feelings may not sound like a nice relaxing time. However it offered things I will treasure more: a deep sense of relief, an acknowledgement of how it is and peace and tranquility, for a time at least .
May we be at ease and relieved of all suffering.
May we all have courage and patience on the spiritual path.
Visit to Minterne Junior School, Sittingbourne
Pam Warner worked with the Ladywood Interfaith and Education Project, teaching children Buddhism and meditation at the Dhammataloka Peace Pagoda in Birmingham.
Our Year 5 RE topic this term was Buddhism, so we transformed the classroom into a Tibetan style Buddhist temple and invited Pam in to talk to our pupils.
Pam was absolutely fantastic and engaged the children with her stories and questions and stimulating their interest of the ways of Buddhist teaching.
The children even learned how to meditate properly, a skill which we are still practicing with the children now.
We were very fortunate to have someone so experienced and so good with the children visit our school.