If you’ve seen the invite to our event this coming Thursday, Handing on the Baton, you may well be wondering what on earth is this president thing?

Well traditionally each Triratna Centre has a president – someone who is a senior Order Member from outwith the local situation. It’s someone who can hold an objective and long-term perspective, skills which may be very helpful to the Trustees who can become engrossed in the everyday running of the Centre.

We’ve been very fortunate to have Parami as our President for some years now, but as she is very busy in her role of International Order Convener (that’s another one for you to look up!), it’s time for her to step down, and we’re delighted that Suryavamsa from Glasgow is taking on the role.

If you’d like to read more about how Triratna works, have a look at this booklet online.

On Retreat

I recently returned from being “on retreat”. Some of you will be (very) familiar with what that means, but this is more for the curious onlooker – people thinking it either sounds like a defensive military manoeuvre or heavenly bliss.

What is a retreat?

It’s anything from a couple of days to, in some cases, many months during which you change the routine of your normal day-to-day life with all its preoccupations and interruptions, and focus on other things.

Usually this means going somewhere away from home, somewhere quiet and supportive of your intentions. In my case I went to Dhanakosa for a week  – a retreat centre in the Trossachs. Here’s a short timelapse from Dhanakosa earlier in the year:

Who goes on retreat?

Absolutely anyone! On my retreat there were 11 men and 9 women, aged from twenty- to sixty-something. Some buddhist, some not, and from all walks of life.  (Here are the faces of all the wonderful people on retreat with me last Spring.) What we had in common was a desire to simplify our lives for a while, quieten our minds, and see what might bubble up as a result.

What do you do on retreat?

Every retreat has its own priorities, which depend on the experience of those attending and sometimes the specialties of the leaders. But there are common ingredients: group meditation, talks and presentations, extended periods of silence, and plenty of time simply to do your own thing.

I did a lot of reading and a lot of walking. In fact, I walked in a way that I haven’t for many years – with no particular direction or goal. I just wandered out the gate and along the road beside Loch Voil, occasionally stopping for a while just to take it all in, or turning onto forest paths on impulse. The last time I roamed like that was when I was a child.

For me, the time and distance a retreat provides helps me see the bigger picture of my life, see more clearly what matters and what doesn’t. And if I feel the need to make some changes or decisions there’s a better chance I’ll be wise when I do!

A weekend practising the Anapanasati sutta

Discussing the Anapanasati sutta
Discussing the Anapanasati sutta

The Highland Sangha enjoyed a weekend of meditation and discussion on the Anapanasati sutta led by Dhammarati.

“Just” breathing in and breathing out…this is a practice about which the Buddha said: “I am content at heart with this practice…Mindfulness of in and out breathing, when developed and pursued, is of great fruit, of great benefit.”

Invitation to the Autumn Retreat

Retreat is a time of intensive practice, either with others or alone. In ancient India the Buddha’s followers spent the three months of the rainy season in one place, meditating and discussing the Dharma.

In the North, the period between the Autumn equinox and the Winter solstice is a natural time to draw inwards, and we can experience the equivalent of the “rainy season retreat.”

So this Autumn we have four events which can provide support for our own period of intensified practice:

October 12/13 Anapanasati sutta – meditation weekend

November 9 – 15 International Urban Retreat

November 16/17 Spiritual Receptivity and Simply Being – meditation weekend

November 22 – 24 Practice weekend at Dhanakosa with the Edinburgh, Stirling and Fife Sanghas