Refugees dominate the news recently. My heart breaks for all the people called to risk their lives journeying to unkown shores. The situation is bleak, and makes me wonder. What is the difference between a refugee and a pilgrim?
Aren’t we are all refugees?
To become officially “Buddhist” we commit by “taking refuge.” It’s not that we are taking refuge in anything particular, but rather we acknowledge that there is no other choice than to accept the fact that there is no solid ground to call home forever. Impermanence reigns and until we accept this, we will suffer. The illusion of stability lulls us into believing we have solid ground under our feet. But we all know things can change in an instant. So a Buddhist is essentially a permanent refugee, or if you prefer, a pilgrim. A pilgrim is someone who embraces this inconvenient truth and uses it to fuel a spiritual path.
A refugee travels to seek a home in a new place. A pilgrim travels to seek a new home inside.
I feel the pain of all who are homeless and cold and hungry. I was also “homeless” for many years while I was working in South Asia. I never had to worry about food or shelter, but I didn’t really have a permanent place to call home. I had a series of temporary assignments, and stayed in a variety of lodgings that ranged from dilapidated shacks to luxury hotel suites. There were times when I felt acutely the fact that when my contract was up I had no idea where I was going next. Sometimes I went on retreat just because I had no idea where to go. And things always worked out.
This is my point: when the situation falls apart, the only reliable refuge is inside.
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In March of this year, I went to Sarnath, India, where Shakyamuni Buddha gave teachings for the very first time. While I was there I had the incredible good fortune to have a private meeting with His Holiness the 17th Karmapa. My meeting was limited to 3 minutes, so I had time for one question and one photo. In answer to my question, he essentially reminded me that the best way to use this precious human birth is to practice taming the mind through meditation, and to use that training to develop compassion for all sentient beings.
Just finished our 3rd annual Contemplative Practice and Wellness Retreat in Phuket, and the incomparable Amanpuri Resort. We hosted a small group of graduate level psychology students in a training designed to share mindfulness practice for practical application in the clinical setting.
It was a fabulous reminder that being a pilgrim, learning to train the mind and body to be present does NOT have to mean self-denial through ascetic practices.
Though we did practice yoga and meditation each day, and discussed ways to inspire compassion to arise in our hearts, we also ate fantastic Thai food, discovered the beautiful beaches Thailand is famous for.
We will repeat this program again in October 2014, so if you are interested to join send me a message in the form below, or click here for more information.
One thing I love about Cambodia is its incredibly rich spiritual heritage. It’s one of the few places where you can get a felt sense of how the Hindu and Buddhist traditions mixed, merged and eventually diverged. Outside of Nepal, I have not come across another culture that has such a vast treasure of the intertwining of these rich heritages.
I spent a day recently at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, enjoying the cultural offerings.
Nepal Yoga Retreat and Pilgrimage, March 2015
Practice or learn yoga and meditation while visiting sacred sites throughought the Kathmandu Valley with masters of yoga and meditation.
Join us for a magical 10 days of practice and pilgrimage through the Kathmandu Valley. We will visit sacred Buddhist sites throughout the Kathmandu Valley and practice daily yoga asana, meditation and teachings from Tibetan Buddhist masters. This is an incredible and rare opportunity to study both yoga and Buddhist philosophy and go deeply into both practices with teacher experienced in both traditions while immersed in the culture that spawned the Buddha.
Click here for more information and a detailed itinerary.
Send me a message if you are interested to learn more about this amazing retreat. There are very few spaces available. This is an incredible opportunity to experience the sacred sites of this mysterious land with experienced guides. If you have ever wanted to visit Nepal but didn’t know how or where to start, this is your chance! Don’t miss this unique opportunity! Write to me if you have questions.
Blessed to be with a great being in this sacred place where the Buddha first taught the Dharma.
May all beings benefit