Quiet for a Week, Retreat with Shambhala

Photo: Karme Choling Retreat Center in Barnet VT

This is the first in a series of three newsletter/blog posts about seven-day “weekthuns” and other meditative retreats. We will cover upcoming retreats, discuss why we go on retreat, and review some retreat centers in the Shambhala mandala. by Larry Steele

Life gets pretty busy sometimes. Have you visited your family? Is your shopping done? Are you getting enough exercise? Are you ready for the future?

Wouldn’t it be nice to take a deep breath and find some quiet in all this motion?

Retreats provide a meditative environment where we allow our minds to settle quietly into a natural way of being. By stepping back from the demands of daily life we can recall what is essential in the long run and take some time to simply be. We can also experience how our mind works from a different viewpoint, often seeing patterns that weren’t clear with life’s distractions. A retreat can be transformative.

Fortunately, Shambhala offers a jewel-box full of opportunities for meditation retreats. (A partial list of upcoming winter retreats is at the end of this posting.)

Weekthun retreats can happen in a center, out in nature, or at home in our own shrine rooms. We can retreat solo or in a supportive group. This ancient tradition helps us reconnect with reality by taking us out of the daily hustle to calm our minds for a longer period of time.

MOST COMMON SHAMBHALA RETREAT FORMATS

Where you stay:
1. Residential – A retreat where you stay onsite at a retreat center. Shambhala calls the retreat centers ‘land centers’. Our land centers are located in Colorado, Vermont, upstate New York, Nova Scotia, Mexico, and France. In this case, the food and sleeping accommodations are included to some degree (varies by location). The schedule is set by the teachers.
2. Non-residential or City/Urban – These retreats are held at a center and participants typically go home each night. Out of town guests will often stay at the center (either on the shrine room floor or in a tent), with sangha members, or at a hotel. Meals are provided. Here too the schedule is set by the teachers.
3. Solo Options – A meditator will find a cabin, such as the cabins at Windhorse Retreat on Whidbey Island or a vacation spot, bring their own food and keep their own schedule.

How long you stay:
Shambhala retreats are often correlated with the lunar month. They can last up to 3 years, however, the most common retreat lengths are:
1. Dathun – 1 month
2. Half-Dathun – 2 weeks
3. Weekthun – 1 week, by far the most popular length because it’s easier to fit into our schedules.

Why do so many experienced meditators include weekthuns, or even dathuns (month-long retreats) as part of their practice? There are lots of answers to that question because every meditator’s experience is uniquely their own. The best answer may be, “Why not?”

Shastri Ben Hines goes on retreat “a minimum of 4 weeks each year…sometimes 5 or 6 when I’m asked to lead the program.”

Tom Gaylord has done solo retreats in a friend’s cabin in Twisp because he is drawn to the “environment of remarkable wildlife.”

Why go on retreat?

Mia Barbera said, “One week of retreat changes the quality of my entire year.”

Marcia Oberg’s answer is crystal clear: “It makes me a better person.”

The practice of retreat is traditionally associated with winter, notes Robert Reichner. “We see that the natural world recedes in winter. Water freezes. Growth slows. Then spring comes. It is an endless regenerative process.”  When we come home from retreat and offer our best selves to the world, that is like spring, he said.

The Seattle center has our weekthun in the summer months, perfect for camping in the yard, however, there are also weekthuns offered by nearby centers in the winter as well.

In December’s newsletter/blog we will tell you more about our Sangha members’ retreat experiences.

Have you been on retreat with Shambhala? Tell us about your own retreat experience in the comment section, in a few uplifting, frustrating, funny, courageous, and generous words.

UPCOMING RETREAT OPPORTUNITIES

The Shambhala mandala includes wonderful retreat centers in inspiring venues, and a schedule of frequent programs. Here are a few happening soon (click the orange hyperlinks for more information and registration):

Nearby for winter 2017/2018:

Dec. 26 – Jan. 2, Relaxed Body, Open Mind – Weekthun at Bellingham Shambhala
Shastri Trinley Busby and Michael Busby offer a meditation retreat featuring the ancient Daoist body and energy practice of Qigong.

Dec. 27—Jan. 2, Cultivating a Culture of Kindness – Weekthun at Victoria Shambhala
Shastri Jason Ruvelson will help participants cultivate friendliness towards themselves and compassion for others through the practice of mindful meditation.

Shambhala Mountain Center in Colorado:

Dec. 16 – Jan. 14, Winter Weekthuns and Winter Dathun
Surrounded by the pure, silent snow of the Shambhala Mountain Center you can retreat in the protective warmth of the lodges and shrine rooms for one week, several weeks, or for a month-long dathun.

Seasonal or Holiday Retreats at Shambhala Mountain Center
The seasonal retreats are scheduled for the busy holiday season and are not full weekthuns. They will be enriched by social warmth, celebratory meals, authentic relationships, aspirations, and renewal.
Nov. 23-26, Thanksgiving Retreat and Renewal
Dec. 22-26, Holiday Meditation Retreat
Dec. 29-Jan. 1, Leap into 2018

Karme Choling, Barnet, VT

November 16 – 24, Weekthun: A Week of Meditation, with Shastri Bill Brauer
Open to everyone! Learn to understand your mind and emotions with this in-depth introduction to mindfulness-awareness meditation and Shambhala Meditation.

January 6 – February 5, 2018, Dathun: A Month of Meditation, with Acharya Richard John
Open to beginners! Deepen your meditation practice in this intensive month-long retreat. This dathün fulfills the group practice requirements for the Shambhala Buddhist path.
— Weekthün (Dathün: Week 1)
— Half-Dathün (Dathün: Weeks 1-2)
— Half-Dathün (Dathün: Weeks 3-4)

Casa Werma, Michoacan, Mexico

Illuminating Basic Goodness, with Acharya Holly Gayley and Rick Merrill
Half-Dathun, December 15 – 30, 2017
Weekthun, December 15 – 23, 2017

Illuminating Basic Goodness explores the connection between personal, social, and environmental transformation, based on Shambhala and Buddhist teachings.

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