Monday, October 21, 2013

My Weekend with Buddha

This weekend I was fortunate enough to get away for a three day meditation retreat. I spent Friday evening, all day Saturday and Sunday through lunch at the Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado.  (

My meditation practice began somewhere around two years ago.  While struggling with post partum depression, I got involved with a research study at the University of Colorado.  They were studying the effects of mindfulness and meditation practice on post partum depression symptoms.  I had heard of meditation but had never looked into it as it seemed "new agey".  My experiences were positive through this study, six months in length, but since then has become very hit and miss.
Last December, I set some pretty audacious goals for 2013. One was to become more present in my life.  I don't want to "wake up" 15 years from now and realize I missed all the good stuff because I was so concentrated on all of the small details.  I have found meditation to help me be more present in the everyday.   Because of the variability of my practice, I sought out a retreat to help me with this goal.  
I really didn't do much research into what I was getting myself into.  Nor did I set many expectations for what I was to experience because I didn't want to be disappointed.  I was not disappointed. 

This picture was taken during my morning run on Saturday. The sunrise was FANTASTIC and will go down in history as of those all time favorite moments in life.

The property sits on 600 acres in the mountains an hour west of Fort Collins.  I did expect to see fall colors all around but instead was greeted by several inches of snow.  It was a beautiful mix of autumn and winter in our dual personality state of Colorado.

The retreat center is a Buddhist place, very much in a Tibetan fashion.  It was kind of like visiting a foreign country.  They have built an incredible Stupa to honor the founder of the property Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche.  It was very interesting learning about the tradition and culture around this place. The previous picture is the view down onto the property from the stupa and the next is the path leading too the Great Stupa.  This proved to be my favorite place on the property. A small path through a stand of trees with a beautiful stream. So serene.  

I spent quite a bit of time in silence and listening to the deafening quiet.  Such a stark contrast from my everyday life.
The course was taught by one of the great teachers at the center.  He taught us about form, technique and the different kinds of meditation in the Tibetan tradition.  It was an amazing time to meet myself, and get to know me on a deeper level. There was no distractions.
I read, multiple times a day, for an hour, in the quiet!  I had a whole meal, sitting down, that I didn't prepare, and got to drink my tea hot!  I got to carry on conversations with incredibly interesting women about adult topics without being interrupted or distracted.  I got to go to bed, when I wanted, and slept like a "baby" for 8 hours straight. It was a pleasure to then get up at 6 and go for my morning run.  If nothing else, those experiences were worth the cost of the whole trip.
I didn't have any great meditation experiences until the last day.  It was difficult for me to completely let go. I kept getting in my own way and having thoughts from previous conversations that kept me from releasing and relaxing. I spoke to the instructor towards the end of our session on Saturday and asked when I would know that I was, for lack of a better term, a good meditator.  When would I know that I had a good practice?  He stated, in a very Yoda kind of way that I would know when I knew.  Thanks!
They gave us a book as part of this course written by the son of the founder for the SMC.  "Turning the Mind into an Ally" by Sakyong Mipham.  I am part way through it and love how he describes meditation.  He says that a lot of us begin our meditation practice like a beginning gardener.  We throw some seeds on some rocks and expect for them to sprout.  When they don't we get frustrated and give up.  But through meditation we are like great gardener's who pick the weeds, till the soil and create a great top layer.  Through meditation, we continue to prepare our soil, then our lives and our everyday activities, if mindfully practiced, plant seeds in that great soil.  With this process beautiful things can bloom.  This is a great way to describe how my practice was prior to this retreat. I just kept throwing seeds onto rocks, and a couple of heartyer seeds had kind of, sort of bloomed, which had kept me interested. This past weekend I put on my boots, and my gloves and really dug in. My soil is now well tilled and with continued practice I hope to see some beautiful flowers start to bloom.