December 27th, 2015 – January 3rd, 2016 – Retreat at the RIPA International Center

Total Immersion!

Centered on meditation, the winter retreat is so intense, powerful and deep, that it is a real shock for all, new and old. Again, Gyetrul Jigme Rinpoche managed to surprise us and open up new horizons.

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Breathe, feel your body, meditate, breathe again …

This is the second retreat that we follow in complete silence and once again we can confirm its benefits. In this favorable atmosphere, Rinpoche will make us plunge into that which we had never known until now. Every day for hours, we meditate, guided, scanned – step by step – by Rinpoche. First step, verify the sitting position, which takes time because it is not only to check the position of our knees, our back, our head. We must feel, recognize, realize. Just as in the following step when we engage in the exploration of outer and inner body … our skin, muscles, bones, organs. It is up to us to choose how we approach the exploration, from toe-to-head, or from head-to-toe … And it is stupefying. Next we come to the breath. Again we do not attempt only to feel it but – if one could say so – “to become the breath,” in order to be fully in the famous “mindfulness.” Then we turn to the meditation on loving kindness and Rinpoche explains: “This is what allows us to go deep into our heart, reaching deep peace … This is what opens the door of wisdom that resides deep in our heart.” The final step will lead us to reflect upon our emotions. And even there a new adventure opens from which we can safely say that we are far from finished!

Our long sessions of meditation … Preceded by explanations from Rinpoche … and followed by short breaks during which we relax a little … The silence is total, therefore information is communicated in writing on a blackboard …

A retreat open to all, including a good number of new students

This time, we are nearly a hundred of which there are about twenty newcomers from various European countries: Spain, France, Switzerland and even … Argentina. For us longtime students, it is a joy to discover all these curious faces, open, and visibly “fallen into the soup.” Specifically and for the first time in a winter retreat, the program offers several simultaneous activities in the morning and evening. At 6:30 am: Ngöndro for Ripa students, or Yogom for newcomers with François, and for those who have completed ‘The Preliminaries’ – the Tsa Lung group – Gesar Lhasang practice. In the evening at 6:oo pm, there is practice with Lama Tenzin for Ripa students, or discovering Buddhism with Genevieve for newcomers, and individual practice for those who have a daily accumulation practice to do. The day ended with a session of ‘question and answer,’ between 8:00 pm and 9:00 pm with Lama Tenzin, the questions being submitted in writing in order to respect the silence. At the end of retreat, when we officially are able to speak again, the new express their satisfaction and the shock of discovery. It suffices to look at their delighted expressions, eyes bright and smiling, which confirm it. They also speak of the good atmosphere they felt upon their arrival, the friendliness of the welcome and the attention extended towards them. So it seems that we, the elders, have made some good progress in opening up to others. Courage, we are on the way … We just have to continue!

The end of practice in the morning before the dawn offers us magnificent spectacles of nature and the village wakes up … Rinpoche attentive to all and filled with benevolence … François, our master of Yogom … Lama Tenzin during his evening sessions  … All wonderfully recorded by Eric and Laurent … Sarah assisted with the testing … At the close of retreat, Nina and Sarah offer us beautiful wishes.

And to conclude … The celebration!

It is therefore with a unanimously shared joy, and in the festive atmosphere of the end of retreat that we engage in a return to “samsaric” life. The party is our decompression chamber, a part of ourselves is still immersed in the retreat and meditation while the other is already carried away by daily life and its share of worries. These parties, which we know well and which we appreciate, seem to be a “RIPA” specialty, part of our DNA somehow. In the West and in Asia, we always end with these beautiful celebrations that affect us and allow us to feel that we are part of something greater than ourselves. This is “our” spiritual family and “our” lineage. This time, the festival offers us beautiful stories, subtle and funny improvisations, songs and various shows. The evening will be continued well after midnight with a delicious buffet, good wine, everything in good music and dances which everyone joins. Rinpoche spends a long time with us. The demanding meditation master turned into a relaxed spiritual friend – talking and laughing with the group. A real party at all levels.

Aude singing …, the Rossini cats duo Rita and Nathalie … The subtle and humorous lament of Viola, the sole Ripa student alone in Austria… Pascal now our international renowned clown … And the highlight of the show, a show of balance made by our two youngest participants Nina and Sarah, led by Carlo and Ursula. A spontaneous number, offered with sincerity and from the heart. A fitting image of our party !

Photo Album: Offerings of flowers and lights

Rinpoche suggested daily offerings of flowers for the altar, which was quickly found to be submerged by sublime bouquets. Two offerings of lamps were also organized. During the first, suggested by Annie, we prayed for peace in the world. The second lamp offering took place with Rinpoche for all the people who passed away in 2015. An overview of these intense moments.