Sailing the seasonal winds
Bodhilila reflects on the value of retreat time during the Christmas period and shares plans this year’s City Retreat at WLBC
As we approach the end of the year it’s hard to escape the approach of Christmas and all the expectations that brings. Whether or not it is a festival that has any religious or personal significance to us, we are surrounded by Christmas displays encouraging us to spend our money on presents or seasonal treats. Wherever we go we can’t escape hearing the same old Christmas songs piped through sound systems. It is seen as a special, festive time to spend with family and friends and a time to go out and have a good time.
For some of us that may be the case, but it can also be a very stressful and lonely time. I know that when I used to spend Christmas with family the dynamics were always very difficult so I used to dread going. And when you are on a limited budget, the expectation to buy presents or go to Christmas parties can add a lot of stress, especially if these things are not possible for you, or not something you wish to do.
Since I became a practising Buddhist there have been many times when I chose to go away on retreat over the Christmas period to get away from it all. I found that I really appreciated the opportunity to end the year in a more reflective space and to start the New Year in touch with my deepest values. It is a time I want to be practising with sangha while having the opportunity explore my personal path. If you feel the same, then I encourage you to come along to our City Retreat which will be taking place daily from Christmas Day until New Year’s Day.
When I first came to the West London Buddhist Centre one of things I particularly loved was the City Retreat – a non-residential retreat over Christmas and the New Year which Yashobodhi and Kamalashila ran each year. It was exactly what I needed and I was amazed at the depth of practice and connection, even though, unlike on a residential retreat, people were coming and going throughout. (Yashobodhi is leaving the Centre team at the end of the year and going on a three month meditation retreat – if you are free this Saturday, 22 December, you might want to come along to the special farewell lunch at 1pm, or to her last Buddhism in the City class for the time being).
I have now been on the team for a number of our City Retreats, and each year we have adapted the format. This year we have a bigger team than usual (Paramananda, Sudurjaya, Dharmavadana, Hanka and me) and we are running a full retreat programme every day and evening. Come for a session, come for a day, come for the whole retreat! It’s fine to drop in and out; however, every afternoon we will offer teaching on the theme, ‘Sailing the Worldly Winds’, so if you want to explore this I encourage you to come to as many of these sessions as you can. That said, the daily teaching will also inform the meditation sessions in the morning and the evening sessions, which will also include chanting and ritual. We will have a special evening, Remembering Jinananda, on 28 December (the anniversary of his death) and a late night session to see in the New Year. I’ll be on the City Retreat all week and it would be lovely to see you there.
If you don’t make it then do consider coming to our next Open Day on Saturday 5 January. This is a great opportunity to try out the range of activities we offer at the Centre with free tasters every hour in the yoga studio and both shrine rooms. Bring your family and friends or come along and volunteer. And check out the new courses and events starting next year…..