Skilful Means Programme 2013
with Sonia Moriceau
This year's programme has been well attended, the format of the four three days retreat has been popular and requests to continue with this format has been repeated by many students.
We have been focusing on attachment and on the letting go of attachment. Indeed our source of suffering could be greatly reduced if we did not cling to our sense of identity, to what we consider to be ours, let it be a thing or an opinion.
When one comes to the Orchard either as a retreatant or a student on a course, it is understood that you come to such a place because you want to wake up, to have the opportunity to practice all the good qualities you know you are capable of.
It is not surprising therefore if you find that there is no place to hide from your habitual tendencies and that you are looking into the mirror at the reflections of who you are.
You may even feel cornered, I think in a positive way, by your habitual patterns.
The idealized notion is that somehow you're coming to this place where everything is smooth for you, where everybody does things the way you think they should. And now you have to face the fact that it is not like that.
Living in a meditation centre should be at times a challenge to your fixed views of the world. It is actually not so very different from every day life, except you are asked to reflect and question your responses and to come to more equanimity in what you do and how you do it. This is the point of such a place to remind you that you can wake up and that the practice and study is ever present.
So we come back to attachment, attachment to the way we want things and people to be. One way to lessen our attachment is through the practice of generosity.
Generosity, Dăna is an attitude and an action.This attitude of generosity is an opening of the heart to all living beings without any condition or expectation attached to it.
Do you wake up in the morning with the thought of how can I be of benefit to beings?
What would increase their well being? How can my life be of benefit to others?
If we were to put others and their well-being first, if we felt as much a concern for them than with our best friend then surely our self cherishing will lessen .
Dăna as an action can come in different shapes from sharing the teaching to cooking , gardening, cleaning to money, time and involvement.
In the west Dăna is not well understood and yet we are being given freely constantly whether we know it or not. In our interdependence with the world even our most basic biological functions involve giving. We see giving in action when we receive nutrients, oxygen, life and we process it in some form to pass it on.
We should not forget that without others we would not be able to exist or survive.
For some years now we have introduced the practice of dăna in the form of sharing activities around the Orchard and Maitreya House during retreats and outside the retreat time.
This is a practice we are committed to, as the late Namgyal Rinpoche said "it is for loosening our grip on self cherishing and on the belief that we are separate and fixed".
I like to quote here something that says it very well.
"When you are practicing generosity, you should feel a little pinch when you give something away. That pinch is your stinginess protesting. If you give away your old, worn-out coat that you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing, that is not generosity. There is no pinch. You are doing nothing to overcome your stinginess; you’re just cleaning out your closet and calling it something else. Giving away your coat might keep someone warm, but it does not address the problem we face as spiritual practitioners: to free ourselves from self-cherishing and self-grasping." (Gelek Rinpoche)
"When we give, we need to do so with the awareness that our gift will be both appropriate and helpful. It is not an act of generosity, for example, to give money to a wealthy person or alcohol to a child. We also give what we can afford; we don’t jeopardize our own health or well-being. At the same time, we can give what is precious to us, what is difficult to give, because of our attachment to it.” (Dzochen Polong Rinpoche)
The Orchard is a place to practice all aspects of the path ,a place where there is no where to hide from yourself, where we are committed to be there for you and to make our time, energy and guidance available to you for your benefit.
We hope to see you in the New Year, in the meantime be well and happy. Sonia and Ad