Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Learning how to be, Aussie style

The most laid-back retreat on the Rigpa calendar is taking place this week at Myall Lakes in Australia.

The 10-day retreat with Sogyal Rinpoche is now in its 21st year, and for a first-time visitor, it is easy to see why the Aussie sangha have never sought out an alternative venue.

Around 500 people are staying here in tents and cabins, and they have been enjoying a double treat: crystal-clear teachings on meditation and the nature of mind, and pretty much the perfect environment.

The campsite sits on a narrow strip of land in northern New South Wales. On one side is a wild beach where swimmers fear to dip their toes, and on the other the vast, tranquil Wallis Lake.

The view from the teaching tent beside the lake is spectacular, and crickets and birds provide the backing vocals for any teaching or practice session. Between sessions, the prospect of a surprise encounter with a goanna, snake or spider is a constant aid to mindfulness.

The title of the retreat is Gaining Confidence in our Innate Wisdom Through the Teaching of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection. After leaving behind the snow in London, Rinpoche began teaching on the 17th, and he has already given several profound, experiential teachings.

The main point is learning how to be," he has repeated again and again. "Meditation is a process of coming to know the nature of your mind. It is the art of learning how to be with your mind.

Rinpoche has also been sharing teachings from his own masters, including rare video footage of Dudjom Rinpoche teaching on meditation in 1979, when he spent a month at the centre of Dzogchen Orgyen Chöling in north-west London, which was later to become Rigpa.

The retreat ends on the 26th, Australia Day, and Rinpoche will continue his teaching tour of Australia when he leads a retreat at Tuncurry from 26 February-1 March. He will also give a teaching weekend in Sydney in March, and lead the annual Practical Wisdom retreat for business leaders.

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