I just got back from a weekend lojong retreat at my sangha's retreat center out in the countryside. I had been so busy over the past few months that I hadn't done a weekend retreat in a long time, and it felt great to be back in a Buddhist retreat. I'm pretty tired, but I'll write about a few things now.
This retreat didn't involve any very "high" practices which will impress anyone. We simply did shinay and lojong meditations; did Tara, Chenrezig, and Mahakala pujas; listened to our lama's teachings; and did our daily chores.
Only eight people came to the retreat, so it was quite peaceful (I've been to some retreats with 40 people in the past where there was always so much commotion). I got a room to myself, and nobody snored.
The most beautiful moment for me during the retreat was when I went to the stupa alone at night after all the meditations and teachings were finished for day. I walked around the white stupa while looking up at the stars in the clear winter sky as the prayer flags flapped in the cold wind and the bells chimed. The golden relief of Guru Rinpoche on the front of the stupa glimmered in the starlight while overlooking the sleeping village in the valley below.
My legs now ache from so much sitting and my abs ache from doing full prostrations during the 21 Praises to Tara in the morning. I haven't started Ngondro yet, so I don't do prostrations regularly, but I think I might start doing them anyway because they are good for both the body and the mind.
In previous retreats, I was so caught up with my own thoughts and opinions about what the retreat should be like or worried about what I should be doing. This time, my mind was more at peace and I could simply relax and enjoy the process as it unfolded. I simply felt it was a great privilege to be able to meditate and recite mantras along with my lama. I especially enjoyed practicing tonglen with other people.
Such a short retreat didn't transform me, but it certainly did inspire me! Hopefully, I'll be able to do some longer retreats this summer.
May all beings find true happiness.