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Face-to-Face with Ourselves

The big event in the life of the Centre this month is the Sangha weekend retreat. This event is held at the Vajrasana Retreat Centre near Walsham-le-willows in Suffolk. The Retreat Centre is owned and run by the London Buddhist Centre (LBC) and is run, primarily so that their Sangha can have the opportunity to get out of the city and experience Buddhist practice in a beautiful and natural setting. We are very fortunate to have such a beautiful and well designed retreat venue on our doorstep and that we occasionally get the opportunity to spend a weekend there. This may not always be the case as the LBC has a growing sangha and can fill the retreat Centre with their own retreats. So whilst we can, we will take the opportunity and enjoy its many charms. The retreat starts on Friday 7th June, more details and how to book are on our website.

Retreats have been a fundamental part of Buddhist practice from the very beginning. In our modern world the idea of a retreat has come to mean more of a holiday, maybe time spent being pampered in some luxury spa or doing some hatha yoga in the countryside. Like many originally Buddhist ideas they have become part of the world of ‘spiritual materialism’. Where people see opportunities to make money, sometimes quite a lot of money by offering something which sounds like it might do you some good. There are places in Suffolk that offer such tempting weekend ‘retreats’, for an eye watering £300 or more.

Luckily we can offer something that will really have a positive and lasting effect on your life for far less. A Buddhist retreat is a very different way to very fruitfully spend ones time, an experience that we rarely get a chance to sample in this modern world. I suppose the word ‘retreat’ can give a false impression as we are not really retreating but facing up to what is really going on for us. Giving ourselves time to think and maybe take stock of what we are doing in our lives. We are withdrawing from the usual distractions that we have placed around and about us. Often we have subconsciously filled our world up with a superficial busyness, whether that be work, social media, entertaining ourselves and others, the list is endless. We do seem to be very good at coming up with new distractions. Of course, as Buddhists there is one thing we are not retreating from and that is ourselves. In fact we are doing the opposite, we are giving ourselves the opportunity to come face-to-face with who we are. So taking time-out from all of that which we erroneously see as very important and actually focus on that which is really important to us, this is the real work. Sometimes this can be hard, but luckily with supportive conditions and good friends around us we can begin to experience ourselves and allow the magic of being on a Buddhist retreat work on us.

There are many types of Retreat, such as study retreats, solitary retreats and recently ordination retreats. All have their place in helping us to spiritually grow and come to understand ourselves more.
The retreat in June is a Sangha retreat, where the Ipswich Sangha comes together for Buddhist practice and spiritual friendship. We usually have a theme to the retreat, this time it is the Metta Practice as a force for good in the world: “Love in Action in a Time of War”. We will explore the theme with meditation, talks, friendly discussion and importantly quiet time to reflect.

The Buddha also went on retreat every year, so even fully Enlightened people go on retreat. During the monsoon time in India, when the heavy rains made travel difficult, the Buddha would stay in one place for several months. This came to be know as ‘vassa’ or the rainy season retreat. The Buddha would spend some of this time on his own, so a solitary retreat and some time with a few disciples forming a small retreat sangha. In a similar way, on our retreat we form a small retreat sangha of those who share a common purpose and goal. So do think about coming along and being part of this special retreat sangha.

If you cannot make the retreat there is still plenty going on at the Buddhist Centre. From a joyous and packed Mitra ceremony to a few friends meeting to discuss their kula group we are a vibrant Buddhist community in the heart of Ipswich.
I am sure I will see you soon.