As 2015 reaches an end and 2016 comes upon us, I thought I would take a moment to share with you some of my reflections from the past 12 months and thoughts about the time ahead.
It has been a very busy year for all of us at AOM, with the setting up of our retreat centre in the Pyrenees and much work in the background to improve the quality of what we offer through our online presence and courses. When I think that it was only on New Years day 2015 that I first set foot at Dharma Vihara, it is quite extraordinary how far we have come in 12 months. As well as a three month retreat ran over the early part of the year we have run a wonderful Heart Essence retreat, an Internal Alchemy retreat and a number of detox programs, all of which were well attended and successful. And on top of that we have had a steady stream of people coming out to do their own retreat or just take a break from the pace of daily life in the deeply healing environment at Dharma Vihara.
This year also saw the launch of the one year Living Dharma online course, which has been a deep and inspiring journey into the very heart of the Dharma and an investigation of how the Buddha’s teachings of 25 centuries ago relate to us in our modern world. I do really enjoy the feeling of working with a specific group of people over sustained periods. There is always something special about the shared journey. It got me almost nostalgic for the good old days when we were just starting out, and with the Bodhisattva Warrior Program a group of us would meet regularly to share our experiences upon the path. I feel this is the very essence of what community and Sangha is all about.
Of course, any of you who have practiced with me for a while will know that behind the teachings of meditation and Dharma my main aspiration is to help empower you as individuals to find your own ways to be or service and share your energy and light with others in your brief time upon this earth. This year I have started to put forward the notion of ‘the Give Back Generation’, the idea being that all of us alive right now at this time in human history have in our hands the potential to become the generation that starts the process of giving back what we have taken from our precious planet, as a sign of our deep gratitude for the gifts and blessings it provides us with daily. Our hope is that we might in time come to bequeath an even more beautiful planet to the generations to come. For those of you who didn’t see the brief video I put out on the idea of the Give Back Generation earlier in the year, I have included the link to it in this letter. Please add your own ideas and comments either on youtube or send them in to me so we can share them amongst ourselves.
With regards to the teachings I have shared since I started, I have in recent years made an effort to tailor the Dharma I teach to those seeking conscious and responsible ways to live in our material world and flourish within it. I remember when I first came back from Asia feeling strongly that I had to teach people the path out of suffering in the way that the Buddha did, but as time went by and as I learned what my students were actually looking for I have tempered those teachings in the hope of providing pragmatic guidance on how to live considerately and as a contributor to the greater wellbeing of others around us.
Well next year I turn 50. Most likely I am now closer to the end of my life than the beginning and I feel it is time to offer up the final stage of the teachings I have to share. It is my belief that over the past 15 years or so we have provided a thorough framework of guidance and teachings for those of you seeking to flourish within the material world in which you live, without being a burden to others and without bringing suffering to yourselves. To succeed in this is a tremendous achievement and as many of you will be starting to understand, to live a life free from suffering and to not bring suffering to others takes tremendous humility, generosity of spirit, patience and love.
But as the cost of our being here becomes ever greater, I feel there are a growing number of people whose hearts are turning towards the life of spirit and are seeking a connection that is deeper. In effect we are looking for a way home, or at least back to a simpler more sustainable way of life while here. At the end of the BWP and our longer courses, I always end by giving teachings on how we might develop our personal connection to the sacred in life. For me this is the single most important aspect of all spiritual practice. It was many years ago that I grew tired of the pursuit of personal progress and status in the material world, and in truth the only reason I am still engaged at this level is for the purposes of sharing Dharma with others. But I feel the time has come for me to return to the higher practices that freed me from worldly concerns all those years ago, and start to share with others what we might call “The Journey Home.”
To this end, I am going to start to run two new programs this coming year. The first will be called “Connecting to Source” and the second “ Return to Source” these will effectively be an extension of of the teachings I have given in the past on the Heart Essence retreats. I will also be running a year long course called “ The Give Back Generation” which will be a synthesis of the old Bodhisattva Warrior program and the Living Dharma Course. Details of these new courses will be sent out early in the new year.
Finally, a little about community. I believe that if we are to find solutions to the challenges that we face as humanity in a world that is struggling to bear our weight, we will all have to learn to share our energy, love and resource with those around us as we seek ways to simplify our lives and come to a place where we genuinely are able to become part of the Give Back Generation. Establishing a space in France where we can explore the idea of community I feel is just a first step in that direction, and I sincerely hope that in the months and years ahead, we will as a group find new and creative ways of living joyfully and giving back not just as individual but as groups through shared energy and endeavour.
Anyway, my assistants are always reminding me that people rarely read lengthy correspondences these days, and so at the risk of losing you, I will sign off here. I will end by sharing with you ( incase you haven’t heard it already!) a new track I have made with the amazing guitarist Estas Tonne and a new video. Let it be my Christmas present to you all.
Do keep in touch, and I hope to see many of you in the not to distant future.
With seasonal blessings and boundless love