Fall 2015 Stage of Generation, Shamatha, Vipashyana and Mahamudra

00 Welcome and Introduction to the Text

30 Jul 2015 Transcript available

Welcome to podcast listeners joining the eight-week retreat. Alan explains the lineage of these teachings and the text, A Spacious Path to Freedom by Karma Chagme, which all retreaters are encouraged…

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01 Motivation to Power the Retreat

31 Jul 2015 Transcript available

Recalling that our lives could end any moment and the importance of ensuring the continuity of our practice into the next lifetime, take refuge and generate bodhicitta. The meditation explores the…

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02 Short Version of the Eight Week Retreat

31 Jul 2015

Alan starts with a question - is the traffic noise a fortunate or unfortunate circumstance? Ultimately for the Vidyadhara, whatever appearances arise are displays of pristine awareness. Meditation…

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03 Mindfulness of Breathing

01 Aug 2015

Alan begins by quoting Shantideva (Chapter 8 on meditation): “Those whose minds are distracted live within the fangs of mental afflictions.” He further comments that if we are ever to overcome the th…

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04 The Revolution of Preliminary Practices - Precious Human Rebirth

01 Aug 2015

Alan starts by commenting on Asanga’s teachings on Mindfulness of Breathing, comparing them with the Theravada approach. He adds that a major theme throughout all the Buddhist teachings is relaxation…

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05 A further emphasis in the practice of Mindfulness of Breathing.

03 Aug 2015 Transcript available

While maintaining relaxation with clarity in our practice of mindfulness of breathing, Alan encouraged us to cultivate a further emphasis of enhancing stability without losing one’s sense of ease. T…

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06 The Uncommon Revolution of Preliminary Practices, Point 2 - Seizing our Bounty of Opportunities

03 Aug 2015

Alan began by reminding us that during the practice of Mindfulness of Breathing to just note sensations arising by surrendering all identification with them rather than identifying or claiming them.…

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07 Focusing on Sensations of Breath at the Nostrils

04 Aug 2015

A classic approach to mindfulness of breathing. Alan expands on the frequency of breathing when the body settles into the second phase... Attending to the breath I breathe in and out short. He…

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08 Riding the Wild Steed of Spiritual Sloth

04 Aug 2015

The five obscurations (like fixation on hedonic pleasure etc.) obscure what? Substrate Consciousness. A single pointed mind is a natural remedy for all of the obscurations. Just breathing in an o…

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09 The Awareness of Stillness and Movement

05 Aug 2015

Alan begins with the concept of intuition, a type of knowing which is difficult to define. It is unlike empirical knowledge with is based on observations and inferences from these observations. Alan…

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10 Part 1 of the First Uncommon Preliminary Practice: Guru Yoga

05 Aug 2015

Before the meditation Alan provides guidance on the mindfulness of breathing based on its natural rhythm. The central purpose of many of the advanced tantric practices is to bring the subtle energies…

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11 Guru yoga and morning meditation on releasing the sense of self.

06 Aug 2015

Prior to meditation Alan continued on the topic of Guru Yoga and addressed the question ‘Why regard the person who is the Guru as a Buddha?’ The purpose of this is to help us realise that we are also…

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12 Belief, Perspectives and the Second and Third Uncommon Preliminaries

06 Aug 2015

Alan starts by addressing belief. It seems we might need a lot of belief before we can practise. He explains there are two approaches: 1. by way of the view 2. by way of mediation. We can therefore g…

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13 Visualizing the Possibilities

07 Aug 2015

Discussion of the two aspects of visualization; the way it appears and the way it is apprehended. The appearance relates to how good your visualization is. It is apprehended by the sense of the act…

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14 Which vehicle, causal or fruition?

07 Aug 2015

The session starts with guided meditation on breathing. Begin with full body awareness, then awareness of the rise and fall of the breath at the abdomen and then move to the sensations at the nostri…

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15 Tong-len Meditation

08 Aug 2015

Alan begins by commenting on the common theme of all sentient beings in Buddhism. In Buddhism, we hear about all sentient beings, not only the humankind. The concept is so vast, that it may become va…

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16 Epistemology, or how do we know where we were born?

09 Aug 2015

Alan begins by commenting that Sunday is a time for our personal solitary retreat within the context of this community. He encourages us to strike a balance between structure and flexibility for the…

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17 Settling the Mind in its Natural State

10 Aug 2015

Alan wants our meditation practice this week to move on to settling the mind in its natural state. Alan cleverly quotes a famous intellectual (not revealed in these notes and hence no need for a spoi…

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18 Practicing Settling the Mind with a New Challenge. Plus - Alan's Polemic on Why Scientific Materialism is Stupid.

10 Aug 2015

For this silent meditation session, Alan asks us to initially practice mindfulness of breathing that cultivates ease and stillness, and then shift to settling the mind in its natural state and observ…

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19 Divine Pride

11 Aug 2015

Alan explains the purpose of cultivating divine pride and merging our awareness with the mind of the guru. Divine pride is a fabrication, but a better one than we currently have. Low self esteem or…

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20 Different Doors to Dharma

11 Aug 2015

Alan started with some comments about sadhana practice and how NOT to see the deity. He then invited everyone to let go of their preconceptions and approach it as play, and see what happens. He expla…

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21 The Mind and Dharmadatu

12 Aug 2015

Alan introduces the meditation with a reminder of the benefits of the preliminary practices, namely building a sense of trust, the development of bodhicitta and enabling us to draw closer to the Dhar…

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22 The Pure Vision Perspective

12 Aug 2015

The session begins with the meditation on the Avalokitesvara sadhana, taken from pp.52-53 of the text. Alan starts on the theme that visualisation meditation is mostly a right brain practice but t…

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23 Bringing the strands of practice together

13 Aug 2015

The practices so far may seem separate but they are all inter-related. When settling the mind in its natural state we observe the space of the mind and what comes up within it in real time, trying no…

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24 Sacred Place of refuge, Buddha’s Blessings and Gurus.

13 Aug 2015

Before finishing the chapter Alan discusses the importance of building a sacred place of refuge which is not part of the external world. We take for real what we are attending to which, therefore, be…

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25 Qualities of the Space of the Mind

14 Aug 2015

We have been focusing on the mental events that arise in the mind, now is the time to focus on the space of the mind. Take a special interest in the space between mental events. Alan discusses the…

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26 Which is Primary, Mind or Matter?

14 Aug 2015

We take a brief break from shamatha with two vipashyana practices taught by Padmasambhava via Dudjom Lingpa in the Sharp Vajra of Consciousness Awareness. Probe into the body, speech and mind and det…

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27 Taking the Mind as the Path & How Not to Get Stuck in Wet Cement

15 Aug 2015

Alan begins by addressing the differences between a complex negation and a simple negation. He also makes further comments on the qualities of the space of the mind, inviting us to look into our own…

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28 Come to your senses! Who is the winning bull?

15 Aug 2015

Alan starts with a brief recap of the Buddha’s meditation advice for Bahiya. Alan invites us to come out of our imaginary realm that we call reality and to come to our senses in order to see what is…

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29 Meditation on Objectless Openness of Self-illuminating Awareness

17 Aug 2015

Alan begins with a brief summary to round off the last two weeks, highlighting the two pithy instructions in Dudjom Lingpa’s “The Sharp Vajra of Conscious Awareness Tantra” (excerpt in the Retreat No…

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30 Alan Leading the Toreadors Against the Bull of Reification

17 Aug 2015

Before the meditation, Alan comments that shamatha practice includes going into “unexplored territory” resulting in eruptions in one’s environment, body and mind. To manage this, both Karma Chagme an…

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31 Motivation for Shamatha practice

18 Aug 2015

Alan stresses how pure motivation is particularly important, as developing attention skills in itself is not Dharma. Motivation will determine whether the practice will lead to liberation. He quotes…

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32 The Time is Now

18 Aug 2015

Alan draws an intriguing parallel between the timing of the treasure trove of Buddhist teachings becoming available outside of Tibet in the latter part of the 20th century and the receptivity of a E…

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33 Taking on Divine Clothes

19 Aug 2015

Meditation is on loving-kindness. After the meditation, Alan reminds us of the importance of viewing the preliminary practices as foundational to all our practice. They are not finished when the m…

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34 Shamatha and the Dhyānas

19 Aug 2015

Before the meditation, Alan explains that the reason for teaching many different meditation techniques is to cater for individual preferences. The key test is whether the method results in ease, stab…

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35 Meditation on Loving Kindness

20 Aug 2015

Alan begins the day relating something on BBC news which amused him and everyone else when he recalled it. The meditation was again on loving kindness. Alan explained that we use our imagination t…

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36 Awareness of Awareness, Paranormal Abilities and Posture

20 Aug 2015

Alan begins the session with a guided meditation on Awareness of Awareness. Following this he comments further on the passage by Tsuglak Trengwa on p.67. It is possible to gain sufficient single…

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37 Cultivation of Great Loving Kindness

21 Aug 2015

Skillful means divorced from wisdom is bondage and wisdom divorced from skillful means is bondage. Skillful means is the cultivation of relative Bodhicitta. For Bodhicitta to be meaningful it must be…

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38 Range of Shamatha Techniques

21 Aug 2015

The symptom of an unbalanced mind is to feel ill at ease - dissatisfaction when there is no outside stimulus. Shamatha helps you balance the mind so that when you are sitting quietly your mind is ok…

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39 Cultivation of Compassion

22 Aug 2015

Alan begins by commenting that in Buddhism there is no phrase for self-compassion. In our modern world, where low self-esteem is rampant, cultivating compassion starting with oneself is crucial. Alan…

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40 Stage of Generation of Avalokiteshvara & Samsara’s Game

22 Aug 2015

Alan starts by emphasising that in the stage of generation, knowing the emptiness of self and of phenomena is indispensable, and yet there have been many stories where simple tibetans, with hardly an…

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41 Continuing Our Practice of Meditation on Compassion

24 Aug 2015

Alan discusses the approach in the meditation chapter of Santideva’s A Guide to The Bodhisattva Way of Life which develops shamatha by boddhicitta. Meditating on the equality of self with others deve…

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42 The Nine Steps to Attentional Balance

24 Aug 2015

Alan humorously begins by suggesting that for the contemplative observatory we should develop a Star Trek style virtual reality game of combatting alien abductors and test it scientifically as a meta…

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43 No Guilt, No Forgiving

25 Aug 2015

Cultivating compassion through meditation is not the only way. Alan introduces a way to remove the obstacles and simply unveil the well spring of compassion within, allowing it to manifest. He point…

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44 Achieving Shamatha

25 Aug 2015

Alan begins with a guided meditation which is a variation of Awareness of Awareness beginning with a visualization of Amitabha. Alan started reading from page 82 of the text elaborating on 'ideati…

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45 Great Compassion - from Aspiration to Intention

26 Aug 2015

Alan begins by explaining that great compassion is a unique feature of the Mahayana path. Great compassion is cultivated by transforming the aspiration for bodhicitta, through the four immeasurables,…

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46 Introduction to Vipashyana

26 Aug 2015

In introducing vipashyana, Alan speaks about the importance of overcoming reification to gain insight into reality. The key point is that reification of self, others and objects is not homogenous but…

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47 The Cultivation of Empathetic Joy

27 Aug 2015

Alan introduces the third of the three immeasurables, great empathetic joy. This is essentially gladness or delight. Empathetic joy is something that is cultivated, the aim of which is to bring about…

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48 Outward and Inward Meditation on the Self and a Historical Look at Matter vs Mind

27 Aug 2015

Alan begins by referring again to the two methods of Shamatha meditation whereby the attention can focus on an external object or inwardly on the mind. He explains a method used in the Theravada trad…

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49 Cultivating Empathetic Joy Toward All

28 Aug 2015

Alan starts the session with humorous comments regarding the emptiness of the names for groups of kangaroos. The meditation is on cultivating empathetic joy and gratitude by remembering the kindne…

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50 Searching for the Middle Way

28 Aug 2015

Shamatha is enormously important yet profoundly inadequate. You must cross the continental divide from shamatha to vipashyana to enter a path, with shamatha alone you will eventually fall back.…

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51 The Power of Devotions & Great Empathetic Joy

29 Aug 2015

Alan begins by giving an explanation of the Refuge and Bodhicitta practices that we do in the morning sessions. The classic visualisation for taking refuge involves imagining Buddha Shakyamuni in fro…

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52 Vipashyana focused on the body

29 Aug 2015

Alan starts by commenting that wherever the Buddhadharma has flourished (e.g. China, Japan, South-Est Asia, etc.), it has always been contemporary, in dialogue with what people believe to be true. No…

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53 You Are Me, I Am You: Cultivating Equanimity

31 Aug 2015

Alan stresses that cultivating or unveiling the immeasurable of Equanimity is indispensable from the beginning for our shamatha practice. The development of meditative equipoise is applied to practic…

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54 Strategies for the Path; Vipashyana on the Nature of Mind

31 Aug 2015

Alan comments that as we now enter vipashyana practice, we are in new territory. Vipashyana in the context of Mahamudra is oriented towards liberation. This is the irreversible result of one’s path o…

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55 No Borders

01 Sep 2015

Alan returned to the cultivation and discovery of equanimity, as a practice that can be launched from settling the mind in its natural state. Appearances of people arise in our minds. Everything we k…

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56 Routes for the Sharp and the Dull

01 Sep 2015

Alan referred back to the two routes to enlightenment outlined by Kagyu master Dakpo Tashi Namgyal, who recommended meditation first, then the view for those with dull minds. For those with sharp f…

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57 Great Equanimity

02 Sep 2015

Alan introduces the meditation with a quote from “Self and Non Self in Early Buddhism” by Pérez-Remón. This highlights Buddha’s teaching on becoming and non-becoming which are seen as the extremes of…

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58 The Expedition into the Mind

02 Sep 2015

The meditation is an investigation into the nature of the mind which Alan introduces as the prime strategy for fathoming the depths of our mind. To be effective this precise investigation should be…

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59 Where Do We Go From Here?

03 Sep 2015

Prior to meditation Alan reviews the progression of the teachings. We begin by opening the door to Dharma by creating authentic motivation, which, he points out, is not necessarily Buddhist. We move…

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60 Soft Spot of the Death Star

03 Sep 2015

At the beginning of this session Alan returns to reviewing the progression of the meditations so far. Starting with Shamatha and the space of the mind, the meditations have been gradually built up, f…

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61 Bodhicitta Day

04 Sep 2015

Now that we have made a pledge, a promise to sentient beings to lead them to enlightenment, we need to come up with a plan for how to do so. It really is not practical until you are a Buddha. You m…

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62 Understanding Your Mind

04 Sep 2015

For Mahamudra and Dzogchen, the one important thing is to understand the nature of your mind. We have been following the yogic approach to understanding your mind. To be fully qualified, to gain be…

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63 Returning to the Vision Quest & Empowerment Announcement!

05 Sep 2015

Alan begins by mentioning that the teachings offered here are given within the context of Vajrayana, and specifically of Mahamudra and Dzogchen. To get the greatest possible benefit from them, it is…

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64 The Exorcist of the Mind

05 Sep 2015

Alan begins by commenting that we may need an exorcist to protect us, since our mind is a bad neighbourhood. He then quoted a citation from a text by Dudjom Rinpoche: "For other dharmas, the main pra…

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65 On Caring: Dharma Complements and Extends Biology

07 Sep 2015

Alan says for this morning’s meditation practice we will return to the cultivation or unveiling of the immeasurable of Loving Kindness. He indicates that Loving Kindness derives from the more basic d…

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07 Sep 2015

Alan says this evening we will continue this morning’s meditation practice on caring in Loving Kindness by going further than the connate and affective biological constraints to now cognitively and a…

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67 Envisioning Heaven

08 Sep 2015

Alan returned to the meditation on loving kindness with a second question: what would we like to have in the best of all possible worlds? He painted a picture of a place where everyone is young and…

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68 ‘Non-Meditation’

08 Sep 2015

Having crossed from Shamatha to Vipashyana, Alan takes us out of the gravitational field to the non-meditation of Dzogchen - which entails not doing anything at all! As long as we activate the mind o…

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69 Arousing Compassion through the Power of Imagination

09 Sep 2015

Alan introduces the meditation on compassion by describing how the close application of mindfulness of our body and mind gives rise to a natural sense of caring and empathy. Through our imagination w…

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70 Reflections in the Mirror

09 Sep 2015

Alan provides a transmission of Padmasambhava’s pointing out instruction on the nature of the mind which is the meditation for this session. After the meditation, Alan highlights two ways of cutti…

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71 Cultivation of Compassion and the Forthcoming Empowerment

10 Sep 2015

This morning Alan provides the context of the empowerment due to be given on Sunday. He emphasises the importance of unveiling compassion, which is the root of all dharma and refers to the current si…

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72 Dzogchen Meditation and The Information-Consciousness Relationship (Fasten your Seat Belts)

10 Sep 2015

Alan first continues with the text (p.111-115). The practice is not easy but its not complicated. The text repeatedly emphasises that rigpa transcends the intellect. It is ‘thatness’, not labelled an…

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73 Taking Joy in the Past, Present and Future (Mudita)

11 Sep 2015

That which has ceased, exists as a causally effective entity; the past continues to produce effects. Likewise the future is also causally effective; possibilities can affect the present. We can chan…

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74 Dzogchen Meditation, the Five Facets of Primordial Consciousness and How Does the Stream of Consciousness carry information (karmic seeds)

11 Sep 2015

Alan starts with a discussion of the present moment. The word present means nothing without something before and after. As you are descending into the substrate you are in the present moment. Invert…

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75 The Power of Equanimity

12 Sep 2015

We now return to the fourth immeasurable, equanimity. This is the grand finale of the first three. It subsumes all of them, bringing them to the full flowering. The whole Dharma practice is to restor…

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76 Dharma is like food

12 Sep 2015

Here we are running a fast-food café, and today we have a fresh dish: Balancing Earth & Space. When Padmasambhava says to observe your mind, you are doing something. The other approach is not doing a…

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77 Becoming Bodhisattvas: “I Will Liberate You”

14 Sep 2015

Alan returns to the theme of equanimity indicating that we do experience equanimity everyday but that it is contingent, short-lived and can develop complacency. Development of Shamatha practice is a…

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78 The Displays of Rigpa

14 Sep 2015

Alan says the text’s next chapter 6 “Practice” may be over our heads as it assumes we have broken through to Rigpa. Our practices to date should have ‘softened up’ our experience of mind and the prev…

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79 Beware the Black Hole

15 Sep 2015

Alan starts by describing a vision he had from what he calls his ‘fantasy channel’ of the tar pit in Los Angeles where thousands of animals have died over millennia. He compares it to the black hole…

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80 A Fantastic Foray to Shambhala

15 Sep 2015

After a brief musical interlude, Alan comes back to the Pali tradition, introducing us to Ajahn Po, an 82 year old Thai forest monk whose detailed explanation of the view naturally arising from his o…

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81 Empathetic Joy and Dream Yoga

16 Sep 2015

Before introducing the meditation, Alan highlights two important points for us to note regarding the previous day’s teachings. The first point is that a degree of discretion is required when disclosi…

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82 No Going Back

16 Sep 2015

Alan begins by saying that this will be a mellow session! Before the meditation on balancing wind and space, he extends briefly on the morning’s theme on how our conceptual frameworks determine what…

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83 Monk on a Motorcycle and Great Equanimity

17 Sep 2015

Alan begins this morning’s session by referring to self-emergent beings who experience spontaneous realisations due to having been highly realised in previous lives. Dudjom Lingpa, to whom he has mad…

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84 Balancing Sky and Space and Doing Nothing

17 Sep 2015

Alan returns to the topic of rangjung, or self-emerging realisation. This seems to be a universal phenomenon, with no ownership of a particular religion. Alan points out that Wolff had no context wit…

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85 Envisioning your unique path

18 Sep 2015

Alan starts by talking about renunciation. Without the experience of suffering and mental afflictions, we wouldn’t develop renunciation or Bodhicitta. Stemming from the four greats, Bodhicitta is th…

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86 Signs of successful practice

18 Sep 2015

We start immediately with meditation. The meditation is mindfulness of breathing while viewing the body as a field of energy and breathing as fluctuations in the field. It ends with a brief period…

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87 Relative & Ultimate Bodhicitta

19 Sep 2015

Alan begins by making some comments on divine pride. Dissolve all ordinary appearances (of one’s own ordinary sense of self, and of everything) into emptiness and out of emptiness arise with pure vis…

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88 The Kind Revolution of Contemplative Science

19 Sep 2015

We go directly into the meditation: Balancing Earth & Wind, culminating in non-meditation. Afterwards, Alan resumes the oral transmission and commentary of the Mahamudra chapter from p.156. In the c…

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89 Do Not Look Outside Oneself for the Buddha

21 Sep 2015

Alan begins this morning’s meditation by asking us to initially imbue our practice with taking refuge, of Bodhichitta and our guru devotion, and permeate it with pristine awareness. Then release all…

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90 The Map of Moving Waters of Shamatha

21 Sep 2015

We go directly into the meditation on resting awareness with single pointed attention on the space of the mind. Alan resumes the oral transmission and commentary of the Mahamudra chapter from pages…

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91 Back to the Beginning!

22 Sep 2015

Alan starts with a metaphor from the Pali Canon describing how, in the last month of the hot season when the dust is swirling, a great rain cloud comes and settles the dust just as the peaceful and s…

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92 Shamatha and the Four Yogas

22 Sep 2015

The meditation is a combination of earth, wind and space. Meditation starts straight away. After the meditation, Alan explains that when we see this chapter is called Mahamudra, we may think there…

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93 Dedication of Merit – Our Motivation and View

23 Sep 2015

The focus of the meditation is the dedication of our merits. This is relevant as we return to “ordinary” life at the conclusion of this retreat. Alan explains that from the Mahamudra and Dzogchen per…

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94 Amitabha’s Gift and a Parable from Padmasambhava

23 Sep 2015

Prior to the meditation, Alan’s final teaching on the text is commentary on pages 198 to 202 of the Dedication chapter. This includes the promise of Buddha Amitabha to take us to the pure realm of Su…

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95 End of Retreat Celebration

23 Sep 2015

End of retreat celebration :)

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