The Vajraloka team have been discussing how to proceed with the retreats we have planned from after the last currently advertised online retreat (Entering the Mandala of Awakening, in June) onwards. As far as we can tell, currently, from the government announcements in Wales and England, in principle we should be able to open to residential retreats here again from July. Of course, there is no certainty about this at present. However, we have decided provisionally to assume that Vajraloka will be able to open for people coming here on retreat from July 2nd.

We are going to be discussing this further and intend to come to a firm decision by the beginning of May. We will only then open these retreats for booking – either as online or residential, depending on how it then stands with the regulations. But to give you an idea of what we hope to offer, we’re sharing the programme of retreats, as it stands, below.

Please take this as provisional – some of these retreats may still be online, especially if there are more lockdowns later in the year. Online retreats start a day later and finish a day earlier than residential ones, and it is possible that some will be shortened further. However, we’ll make all this clear in our announcement at the beginning of May.

 

PROVISIONAL PROGRAMME JULY – DECEMBER

Please note this is currently for information only – these retreats are not yet bookable

 

The Elixir of Life
Led by Rijumitra, Jinapalita and Sahajatara

2 – 9 July

£315/287

For people with at least three years of regular meditation practice

Only through coming into our bodies, firmly grounded, can we open up to the qualities of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and hear what they have to tell us. This is what ‘the elixir of life’ evokes – the truth of the Dharma beyond words. It points to the ‘suchness’ or ‘thusness’ of this moment, when all of our conceptual projections drop away and there is ‘just this’.

Within the elemental beauty of Vajraloka and its natural surroundings we will explore the richness that comes from establishing a heartfelt seat in meditation. Through meditation, ritual, and engagement with the landscape we will be opening up to suchness and to the blessings of the Buddhas – which are not two different things.

 

Everyday Liberations: renew and deepen

Led by Prajnapriya, with members of the Vajraloka team

16 – 23 July

£315/287

For people with some experience of Triratna meditation or of mindfulness approaches

All Buddhist practices are concerned with liberation. On this retreat, we’ll focus on liberations which, though perhaps small, are reachable – especially if you are concerned with rediscovering your inspiration, renewing and deepening your meditation practice.

If your practice seems to have become stuck, or isn’t quite what it was, the Vajraloka team can offer inspiration and helpful practical advice which can enable you to free yourself from those constraints. If your practice is going well, but you feel it could be going further or deeper, we can offer ways to cut through unconscious views and assumptions that may be holding you back. This can in turn lead to liberations from negative emotions and afflictions, here and now.

And in these moments of freedom, something wonderful could well emerge – love, compassion and deeper confidence in your potential to awaken fully.

 

Uncontrived Mindfulness

Led by Vajradevi, with Tejananda

30 July – 10 August

£495/451

For people with at least three years of regular meditation practice

Sangharakshita has said that we should be aware of our minds at all times – but how can we do this? And what are the benefits to our practice? How can we be aware in a way that doesn’t feel contrived and ‘added on’?

During this retreat, we’ll be using the Buddha’s profound words from the Satipatthana Sutta to inform and enliven our own practice of mindfulness as a path to clear seeing. Based on instructions for working with awareness and right view, we’ll focus on how we can use mindfulness as a support to wisdom and the end of suffering.

We will explore the role of receptivity in practice, and the ‘wise’ or ‘unwise’ attention we bring to every aspect of our experience. We will be looking at how continuity of mindfulness can transform our experience through simple presence and intelligent awareness, developing both steadiness of mind and heart and insight into the nature of all things.

 

Satipatthana: the Buddha’s teaching on mindfulness

Led by Tejananda and Bodhananda

20 – 29 August

£405/369

For people with at least three years of regular meditation practice

Also open to trainee and qualified teachers of secular mindfulness

One of the most influential of the Buddha’s discourses, the Satipatthana Sutta, shows how insightful attention to body, feelings and mind can enable us to wake up to our true nature. This radically transformative teaching is described as the ‘direct path’ to the cessation of suffering. Offering proven approaches that address the alienation and disembodiment which characterise life today, it can restore a deep integrity of body, heart, mind and being.

In this retreat, we’ll explore a number of practice approaches inspired by the original mindfulness teachings attributed to the Buddha that take awareness, insight and compassion ever deeper. As such, it will be helpful for all those wishing to deepen their mindfulness practice as well as for those qualified or training as teachers of mindfulness–based approaches such as MBSR, MBCT and Breathworks.

 

Meditation on Prajnaparamita, the Mother of all the Buddhas

Led by Prajnapriya

10 – 19 September

£405/369

For people with at least three years of regular meditation practice

According to tradition, all the distinct Perfection of Wisdom sutras are revelations of wisdom and compassion of the same timeless Prajnaparamita Sutra. Just as these teachings do not spring from the conceptual mind, but come from sources much deeper, so on this retreat we will not be attempting to understand these teachings with the intellect. We will ‘aimlessly aim’ at recognising and experiencing their essence in those very sources within ourselves, while keeping in mind the impossibility of an imaginary separate self, receiving these insubstantial ungraspable teachings.

Basing ourselves in the approaches we’ve developed at Vajraloka over many years, to help people go deeper in meditation, we will be drawing inspiration from the Great Mother Prajnaparamita. Just like the Buddhas are born from that Great Mother who is none other than the unborn, undying loving awareness of Prajnaparamita, so too we can awaken and be liberated through her unfailing grace, the very essence of our simple beingness.

 

The Radical Embrace

Led by Singhashri and Balajit

24 September – 1 October

£315/287

For people with at least three years of regular meditation practice

How can we learn to embrace ourselves, others and the world more deeply and radically, with awareness and compassion?

Together we will meet ourselves where we are, with appreciation and curiosity, inviting all our disparate selves into a space of acceptance and presence. We will draw on resources like grounding, nature, simple mindful movements, neuroscience and creative ritual.

We’ll explore our capacity to discover and dwell in more expansive qualities of absorption and deepen our confidence to turn towards those places within us that are stuck, restricted and painful.

Doing this, we’ll learn to liberate restricted energies, break the spell of false views, and allow them to transform in the clear light of awareness. What emerges is a more authentic experience of our innate ability to connect more deeply with ourselves and others.

 

The Other Side of Insight

Led by Paramananda

6 – 17 October

£495/451

For people with at least three years of regular meditation practice

Insight is often approached through various methods oriented to deconstructing our deep–rooted conceptions that support the idea of a fixed self. However, this approach may sometimes seem to neglect the importance of compassion, love and beauty in preparing the ground for insight to take root.

On this meditation retreat, which will be conducted largely in silence, we will emphasise the role of emotion and collective practice as a way of opening the heart and expanding the feeling of self to include others and the world.

Paramananda has been leading retreats for over thirty years and has a distinctive style that stresses body and heart as keys to opening to the nature of reality.

 

Illuminating Sadhana (Order retreat)

Led by Rijumitra, Jinapalita and Sahajatara

22 – 31 October

£315/287

Open to all Order members

Sadhana is the main expression of the principle of spiritual rebirth in the Order. During this retreat we will contemplate the evolution of sadhana as an Order practice and explore the stages through which sadhana plays out. As well as being redolent with rich images from the sambhogakaya, sadhana also requires presence, inviting the accomplishment of both tranquillity and insight, shamatha and vipashyana.

We will explore how these qualities relate to the dynamic or unfolding of sadhana, suggesting practical ways of evoking the samayasattva, the imaginal sense of the Buddha or Bodhisattva which we conjure up. And we’ll explore the relationship between this and the jnanasattva – the direct, undivided knowing that emerges as the ‘illuminated image’.
The retreat will provide an excellent context to engage, or re–engage, with sadhana including plenty of support and inspiration, pujas devoted to various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, silence and one–to–one practice reviews.

 

Compassion and Emptiness

Led by Tejananda

6 – 13 November

£315/287

For people with at least three years of regular meditation practice

The Buddha taught the divine abodes – unconditional love, compassion, joy and equanimity – not just as states of calm, but as ways to liberate the mind. The Brahmavihara practices enable us to cultivate these qualities and to engage with our afflictive emotions – craving, hatred and ‘ignoring’ – in relation to them. In doing so, we’re already engaging with insightful perspectives. Sooner or later, we’re likely to start glimpsing the uncultivated, unlimited, unconditional nature of these qualities, free from afflictions. We’ll explore these possibilities in the first part of the retreat from a perspective of deep, embodied awareness and in a spirit of openness and curiosity.

This will provide us with an excellent basis for our contemplations of emptiness. Based on the ‘Shorter Discourse on Emptiness’, an early Buddhist text, this approach to emptiness is less analytical and more experiential than many of those developed in later Mahayana schools. Starting with our everyday experience, it enables us to ‘experience’ emptiness progressively in relation to some subtle states of formless meditation and the liberation of ‘signlessness’. It doesn’t matter how far through this progression we manage to get – emptiness is emptiness and discovering it in relation to our ordinary experience now can be quite profound enough!

 

The Ocean of True Meaning (Order retreat)

Led by Vessantara

19 – 28 November

£405/369

For Order members                    

‘The Ocean of True Meaning’ is one of the great classic Buddhist meditation texts. This Tibetan practice manual written by Wangchug Dorje, the Ninth Karmapa, in the sixteenth century, goes deeply into the practicalities of the whole path to Awakening.

Following on from the successful retreats on this text here in previous years, Vessantara will continue and deepen his exploration of the shamatha and vipashyana sections, unpacking their riches and how they can enhance the main Order practices, through teaching and guided meditations. This retreat is suitable both for those who have attended in previous years and those who have not.

Vessantara worked with the essence of this material during a three–year retreat in France in 2008–2011 and has continued to study and practise it in the years since.

 

The Awakening Heart and the Divine Abodes

Led by Rijumitra and Tejananda

11 – 19 December

£360/328

For people with at least three years of regular meditation practice

Bodhicitta – the awakening heart – is both the heart–response of wisdom to the suffering of living beings everywhere and the urge to realise full awakening for the benefit of all. This retreat will focus on love, compassion, joy and equanimity – the four ‘divine abodes’ or brahmaviharasin the context of cultivating bodhicitta. To support this, we’ll also introduce tonglen, the ‘giving and receiving’ practice which opens the heart to universal compassion.

The divine abodes are also known as the ‘boundless states’,­ because they are inclusive of all living beings without exception. The practices that we’ll explore together on this retreat are all ways of opening our hearts and responding to the joys and sufferings of living beings – opening to the inseparable wisdom and compassion of the awakening heart itself.

 

Practice Retreats for men

Led by Vajraloka team members

24 – 31 December

31 December – 7 January

£315/287  per week

For men with at least three years of regular meditation practice

The main feature of these popular men’s retreats is that they allow retreatants to follow the themes and rhythms emerging in their own meditation practice. In some ways they can be compared to going on solitary retreat while offering the support and structure that practising in the company of others can bring.

While the practice retreats have no formal teaching input, the daily programme can be tailored to meet the needs of the individual, with support from Vajraloka team members. The simple programme has periods of morning and afternoon meditation with chanting and ritual in the evening. Daily meditation reviews with team members are also available on request.