Dharma the Next Generation
The Orchard is a dharma centre in Wales, established in 1985 and run by myself, Sonia Moriceau, and my partner, Ad Brugman. The changes that have shaped the Orchard over the past 25 years are intertwined with our own depth of practice and understanding. An important shift happened in 2001 when I spent a one-year retreat at the Dharma Centre of Canada under the guidance of Venerable Namgyal Rinpoche. Since then, students at The Orchard have made greater commitment to the teaching and practice. For instance, those who previously attended a five day course began to come on personal retreat for one to six months. I attribute this shift to the fact that students felt inspired by my commitment and found the courage to emulate what their teacher did. As for me, I felt more confident and had much more depth and clarity to guide students on long retreats. This trend is now well established. It creates a settled atmosphere where any student, no matter what their length of stay, finds it easy to settle, and is plunged without delay into the rhythm of the practice of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. Nowadays there are always a few students on retreat at the same time.
This provides an environment that supports their determination to cultivate non-clinging awareness and compassion. The other shift has been in presentation of the teaching. Due to the more pressurized life that people now live, I find that I need to introduce ‘short’ practices that they can do back home; short practices many times a day! Students are grateful for this. They appreciate these condensed forms that can be applied to their everyday life and which go directly to the heart of the teaching.
In the past four years, I have been placing a different emphasis on the practice. I invite students to manifest the teaching out of a state of being rather than a state of you ‘have’ to do. I see it as exploring the art of practice in non-practice. This is more challenging for both teacher and the students as we move away from a set form to a more fluid, spontaneous expression arising from a direct experience.
This art of practice in non-practice arose out of the need to bridge the gap between retreat times and everyday life. Given the interconnectedness of all life forms and how as human beings our existence depends on the many acts of kindness of countless beings, it is vital to apply the teaching in our everyday interaction with all life forms. Indeed what is the relevance of a practice that does not extend to others? It is in living life with all its challenges that we come to the perfection of the paramis leading to realization.
This is what we are moving into now at the Orchard: living as a community with new and experienced practitioners; seeing how our intentions and actions have an immediate impact on others; looking deeply at our choosing and avoiding so that we can put an end to suffering for all beings. With such a faithful mirror, living in community is challenging and rewarding. I feel strongly this is where the actualization of the teaching can take place.
When our choosing and avoiding have calmed down, we are at ease, the breathing is relaxed. Only then the mind can rest in its natural state, luminous, awake and free from clingings. In 2002, Venerable Namgyal Rinpoche placed a lot of emphasis on the teaching of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, and in 2003 on the transmission of Dzogchen.
This to me is a strong indication of the route to follow: first establishing mindfulness as a preparation to reveal the True Nature of Mind. This style of teaching rooted in everyday living seems very relevant to the here and now in the U.K. It attracts a wide spectrum of people from all ages and background – the majority being women. In the past year I have also witnessed the return of students who first came to the Orchard ten or fifteen years ago!
I offer my deep gratitude to my teachers Roshi John Garrie and Namgyal Rinpoche for introducing the True Nature of Mind and for their many blessings.