How to Plan Your Personal Retreat, Part Two
In Part Two of “How to Plan Your Personal Retreat,” recorded on December 10, 2020, Drupla Sonam Tsering, who has completed three three-year retreats, continues his discussion of advice on how to conduct a successful personal retreat. He begins by referring to the previously mentioned traditional advice to bring sufficient food and medicine, as well as a means of self-defense.
Traditionally, it is said to be vital to have in the retreat representations of body, speech, and mind, that is, a consecrated statue, a volume of scripture, and a small stupa, which each establish auspicious connections to the Buddha. These are the most basic elements of a retreat. There are strict or relaxed retreats, which we can describe as best, medium, and least. A strict retreat would be only contact with your root guru, a retreat master, personal assistants, and possibly a physician. We ensure the retreat’s protection through establishing retreat boundaries outwardly and inwardly, so Drupla Sonam discusses the different kinds of protection circles.
He also discusses the nine different shamatha meditation practice stages so as not to be distracted by ordinary thoughts. Noticing distraction is actually very good, as it means you’re recognizing how your mind is acting. Investigate for yourself, check your mind and what you’re experiencing. Prostrations are directly reducing the ego, for instance, so be aware of that.
Developing your practice means developing your mind and its stability, Drupla reminds us. Essentially, in retreat you can hone in on your meditation, a process of closing in on your object of meditation. He discusses how to maintain retreat enthusiasm through the pacification of suffering, freeing ourselves from suffering and all obscurations or afflictive emotions.
Drupla discusses retreat obstacles and how to overcome them as well as some aspects of retreat meditation in a Dzogchen context. A retreat is usually concluded with a fire puja or, if that isn’t possible, with recitation of the One Hundred Syllable mantra. Finally, Drupla offers some encouraging words about how to deal with the pandemic.