Featured in the Garrison Institute Newsletter Spring 2011
Retreats at Garrison has had the great privilege of hosting some very special retreats. Here are some highlights:
In 2010 the Garrison Institute was honored to host retreats taught by three extraordinary brothers, sons of the world-renowned Dzogchen master Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. All three are Tibetan Buddhist masters of high lineage, part of a dynamic new generation of teachers making Tibetan Buddhism accessible in the West. They each teach worldwide and return periodically to the Garrison Institute. Their 2010 programs here attracted a combined total of about 250 participants.
The eldest son, Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche has been teaching for 30 years and is abbot of Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery, one of the largest monasteries in Nepal. In July 2010 he led a five-day intensive retreat at the Garrison Institute on Dzogchen meditation, or “The Great Perfection,” which seeks to realize the primordial state or natural condition of the mind.
His brother Tsoknyi Rinpoche III has been teaching for 15 years. The abbot of monasteries and nunneries in Nepal and Tibet, he also has a Western seat as the head of Yeshe Rangsal in Colorado and is known for his ability to bridge East and West, ancient wisdom and the modern mind. The author of Carefree Dignity and Fearless Simplicity, he has a keen interest in the ongoing dialogue between Western research (especially neuroscience) and Buddhist practitioners and scholars. He returned to the Institute in October 2010 to lead a retreat for students of all levels entitled “Luminous Love: The Path of Devotion,” assisted with chanting by his student Krishna Das. He will teach here again in 2011.
Their brother Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche is likewise one of the great Dzogchen masters, known for his accessible and joyful teaching and writing style, exemplified in his books The Joy of Living and Joyful Wisdom: Embracing Change and Finding Freedom. His straightforward approach to meditation emphasizes experiential inquiry and direct observation. A frequent teacher at the Garrison Institute, in July 2010 he returned to lead a retreat for experienced practitioners on the teachings and practice of Mahamudra and the Songs of Milarepa, canonical Mahayana Buddhist texts by one of Tibet’s foremost poets and yogis, active in the 11th and 12th centuries. They deal with the temporary nature of the physical body, non-attachment and recognizing the pure nature of mind.
Women Moving Millions, a donor initiative in partnership with the Women’s Funding Network, seeks to raise the bar on women’s giving and amplify the voice of women and girls worldwide. In September 2010 it convened women donors at the Garrison Institute, facilitated by Akaya Winwood, president of the Rockwood Leadership Institute. Participants strategized about the most impactful ways of focusing their giving and organizing themselves into a force for sustainable social change.
Founded in 1961, Amnesty International is a global movement of more than 3 million supporters, members and activists in more than 150 countries and territories who campaign to end grave abuses of human rights. In September 2010 the US section of AI held a staff retreat at the Garrison Institute for its Organizing, Membership & Campaigns Department, which organizes large-scale events, engages members in its human rights work and develops key projects such as a national youth program. At the Institute, staff members worked on strategic planning and team building.
Gangaji is an American spiritual teacher born in Texas in 1942. She grew up in Mississippi, graduated from the University of Mississippi, raised a family, practiced Zen and Vipassana meditation, helped run a Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Center and had a career as an acupuncturist. In 1990 she went to India and met Sri H.W.L. Poonja, also known as Papaji, who “opened the floodgates of self-recognition.” Today, she is a teacher and author, sharing the essential message she received from Papaji, traveling the world speaking to seekers from all walks of life. In September 2010 she led a silent retreat at the Institute for her East Coast followers and will return again in 2011.
The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society works to integrate contemplative awareness into contemporary life in order to help create a more just, compassionate, reflective and sustainable society. Its Academic Program supports the contemplative dimension of teaching, learning and knowing in higher education. In many ways this work complements the Garrison Institute’s Initiative on Contemplation and Education (see page 12) which focuses on K-12 teachers and classrooms.
In November 2011 the Garrison Institute hosted CCMS’s retreat for academics, led by CCMS staff including senior fellow Mirabai Bush, director Arthur Zajonc, Sunanda Markus and Beth Wadham. They offered instruction in contemplative practices that cultivate capacities central to teaching and learning, such as focused attention, kindness and compassion and contemplative inquiry, and also explored contemplative methods adapted for postsecondary classroom settings. CCMS will offer another retreat at the Institute in 2011.
New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care integrates Buddhist contemplative practices into training for professional and volunteer caregivers. Interfaith and experience-based, it offers a year-long training program in contemplative care and has the only fully accredited Buddhist Chaplaincy Training Program in America. Through its work over 23,000 people with serious illness have received contemplative care since 2007.
In January 2011 NYZCCC held its annual gathering at the Institute: a four-day training retreat for healthcare professionals and volunteers led by Trudi Jinpu Hirsch, Koshin Paley Ellison and Robert Chodo Campbell. Designed for anyone who cares for others in diverse settings (from homes to hospices, palliative care to critical care, fields ranging from gerontology, oncology, general medicine, nursing and emergency medicine to pastoral care, psychology, social work and health care education), the retreat drew on Zen Buddhism and mindfulness practices to cultivate presence and inner ethics and deepen contemplative responses to the needs of patients.