Saturday, December 23, 2006

News Flash: Extra Retreat

We have just planned in an extra Going for Refuge retreat for the summer holidays. The dates are 18-26 August, the team is Candraprabha, Vidyalila, Vajrasakhi and Vajradarshini, and the theme is yet to be decided. Watch this space or better still go to the Tiratanaloka website and sign up to receive our news by email.

Our Community Days

Three times a year we plan in a week of what we call community days. During this time we often get someone from outside the team to do some ‘training’ with us. Over the years we’ve studied with Subhuti, meditated with Kamalashila, had Achara doing our Myers Briggs and Bridget doing an NVC weekend. The rest of the time is divided between personally exploring how life is for each of us and then having a few days of business meetings. It is often the only time that we are all here together.

So that is what we have been doing the past week or so. For the first three days Abhaya joined us and we studied “Self Liberation Through Seeing With Naked Awareness” a Padmasambhava text and explored Formless meditation, which the text is about. It was very enjoyable, I think it is good for us, given that we are so often up front and leading things, just to sit back and be led in dharma study. One of the things that I found really helpful was Abhaya’s perspective on the dharma and the connections he made between this text, which is a Dzogchen text, and the Yogacara and Zen traditions.

When Abhaya left we had some time to each talk in depth. Mostly we talked about our lives at Tiratanaloka and some of the conflicts and pulls we feel to other lifestyles, to other people. Someone said it was as if we’d bought in all our dreams and fantasies, then we were all there more fully. I guess, speaking personally, I’m aware that in choosing to live this way I am choosing not to live in other ways and some of those other ways hold a lot of attraction! It’s left me feeling that everyone on the team is here because they really want to be, even though there are other lives they could imagine living.

Then we were on to business. We planned in a couple of extra retreats with bookings looking good for next year. Did some more planning for the coming year’s retreats. Tried to anticipate any long-term expenditure we might have coming up. Had a discussion on men coming to Tiratanaloka, we are not entirely closed, but with no plans to be open…that is a whole other story! We reviewed the way we work together and finished with a fascinating, emotive, discussion on decision-making!

The whole meeting seemed to be characterised by honest and open communication with nothing that couldn’t be said, including being able to talk about various dynamics that happen between us!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Path of Abundance (or some things about money)

As the year draws to a close, I thought I might write a bit about money - perhaps prompted by looking at our end of year accounts! If you've received a copy of our 2007 programme, or looked at the booking section of the website, you might have noticed that for our 2007 retreats we've introduced a 3-level price structure - even more complicated than before, you might think! The reason for our change is that previously we had just two rates for each retreat - the standard rate, and a concessionary rate for students and those on a low income or unemployed. Our retreat costs have remained largely unchanged over the last couple of years, although financially we are not making a profit. What we have done for 2007 is to keep the standard and concessionary rates almost the same as for 2006, but add in a higher rate for those who feel able to pay more. Some retreat costs can seem a lot to pay up-front, but we do want to continue offering 2-week retreats as this gives us a chance to really explore themes in detail, while maintaining an spacious atmosphere.

Still on the subject of money, we've been thinking quite a lot about the bursary fund recently and you might have received a flier about this with the 2007 programme. The background to this fund is that it was originally set up to help a woman in Estonia, who was practising in fairly isolated circumstances, come to Tiratanaloka to prepare for ordination. After a time, we were able to start using the funds to help other women who would not otherwise have any way of coming here. The bursary is entirely funded by voluntary donations, mostly from women who have come here on retreat and, because have been running at a loss, we're unfortunately unable to fund retreat places from our own profits. When people ask for financial help to come on retreat, we sometimes explore options other than the bursary with them first, such as paying for the retreat in instalments or fundraising in their local sangha. This is simply because the amount of money in the bursary is limited, and may only pay for a handful of retreat places each year. But we really do want women to be able to come here on retreat, so please keep donating to the bursary if you can and asking for money from it if you need to!

(p.s. those are chocolate coins in the photo... I ate them afterwards)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Bhante's Visit by Vidyalila

The college of Public preceptors have just been to Tiratanaloka for one of their annual gatherings and Vajradarshini and I have been cooking for them. It was fun working together, with Candraprabha’s help before she flew off to the sunny Canaries. I have enjoyed the familiarity of our banter in the kitchen and the little quirky things that we tease each other about. Then quiet times just getting on with the task, asking each others opinions on important things like, “do you think that there are enough apples cooked for that apple betty pudding we are making”!

As part of the college meetings Bhante came to stay at Tiratanaloka. He decided to eat his meals with us in the community and spent an evening with us by the fire talking. He was only coming for one night but decided to stay two. It was such a pleasure to have Bhante visit us and when I said it was good to have him here, he said it was good to have a change and it was like being on holiday. We told him he had an open invitation to come and visit anytime and he said he might come in the spring.

Talking to Vajradarshini this morning we agreed that having Bhante visit Tiratanaloka was deeply significant and had had an effect that neither of us could quite say why or in what way. After all without Bhante there would be no Tiratanaloka. Its like he's in the fabric of the place. He is so fundamental to what we are doing here. In pujas, study, meditation, the refuge tree, and especially ordination, he is integral to those taking effect. He represents something so vital that has influenced my life, but also to so many of the women who come here. Many women comment that without Bhante they may well not have come across the Dharma and if they had, whether or not they would have made any sense of it for themselves without Bhante’s translation for our western minds.

One of the highlights for me about Bhante’s visit was the ordinariness of things like having him eat with us, seeing him strolling up and down the driveway, and taking him a cup of tea in the afternoon in one of my great aunts china tea cups. He is like a wise great uncle who comes to stay who has traveled the world, pioneered great changes, seen everything there is to see and in the latter part of his life quietly imparts wisdom from the armchair.

I took a few photos, which you can see here, a rather Russian flavour with the hat. He seemed very well and talked about his new book out next year about his teachers and others.