By Barbara Juniper
In January, my cohort of dharma brothers and sisters celebrated the completion of a six-year commitment of training in the foundational practices of the traditional Vajrayana three-year retreat. Starting with the two-year Bodhi training and moving on to the four-year Shangpa training was, for me, a one-day-at-a-time process involving all the ups and downs of deep practice. It was also a time when profound bonds of the heart formed between the members of our group. As the years went by, each time we met in our three- to four-day retreats, the sharing got more authentic, more vulnerable and more heartfelt. The safety, trust and love that grew between us was palpable.
Fast forward to last Saturday, July 20, six months after our “graduation.” For the first time since January, those of us from the group who could make it gathered at my home to reconnect, catch up and be together again as a group. The most apparent feeling in the air as folks walked through the door was one of joy and love: lots of hugs, smiles and genuine warmth. As the afternoon progressed we all had time to share how we had experienced the last six months of integration. Some common themes that arose were the following:
- The sense of a very powerful, supportive foundation of being that had grown through the years of practice.
- The experience of a qualitative sense of ease in situations that would have previously been very activating. A kind of resiliency, I would call it.
- For many of us, there was a lessening or actual disappearance of a strong sense of seeking that had been significantly at play at the beginning of the training. It seems that this has so much to do with getting in touch with our own innate sufficiency, our Buddha Nature.
- One member even stated that her inner critic had disappeared a few years back! Emaho!
- And definitely we all experienced an up-leveling of our own sense of confidence in our ability to meet whatever life is presenting with love, compassion and awareness.
Looking back, many of us were aware that yes, indeed, we were in retreat for six years, even though we maintained our daily lives. We knew it while we were in it, but it is even more apparent being on the other side. With that structure gone now, this has been a time of deep integration and each one of us has been moved by our awareness of the preciousness of the opportunity that we were given and have shared together. Our hearts are filled with gratitude and appreciation.