Last week Sukhacitto Bhikkhu, a highly esteemed western Buddhist monk, came to New Life to hold the first Insight Dialogue Retreat ever to take place in Thailand. As far as self development retreats go, it was an exceptionally appropriate match for our mindfulness-based self development community!
Combining vipassana meditation practices with partner and small group sharing, the Insight Dialogue Retreat merged spiritual development with practical psychology and self growth. First developed around 1995, Insight Dialogue aims to increase understanding of core issues and promote acceptance of ourselves, others and life … and also death!
The program was divided into silent sitting and walking sessions, short teachings and interspersed with the Dialogue element. Working in pairs or groups of threes, we were asked contemplate key Buddhist / life topics, beginning with sickness, old age and death.
The sessions continued over four days and covered subject matters relating to many New Life workshops such as judgment of self and others; generosity in relation to non-harming, stealing, right speech and use of intoxicants; plus how we have experienced change in the long, medium and short term.
Each Dialogue share began with ‘pause and relax’, a short meditative period to connect to our bodies and the moment, increasing the mindfulness of the communication and intensifying the potential for true insights. The shares were divided first into speaker and listener roles and then opened up to a discussion of the topic. Each session was structured to deepen and expand our understanding of the issue and of ourselves.
For me the retreat was profound. I experienced a deepening in my meditation practice through sitting and walking for several half hour periods during the day. With the benefits of four days of silence (outside of the Dialogue elements) my ability to remain mindful increased significantly. But most rewarding were the noticeable changes in attitude and mind-set; a powerful feeling of acceptance and a deep sense of ease.
Of the 25 people participating in the retreat, about half were New Life residents and volunteers. All the feedback was extremely positive and everyone agreed the retreat had built on the personal development, the life skills and mindfulness practices we had been developing at New Life. Those coming to New Life especially to join the retreat (from Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Hong Kong and even further) were impressed with conducive conditions: the peace of the Forest Meditation Hall, the tranquility of the surrounding nature … and the delicious food!
Upcoming retreats at New Life Foundation include:
*Many thanks to B for this special guest post!