Guest article by Sravasti Abbey
A motionless figure seated cross-legged, eyes lowered, and radiating peace: this is, perhaps, the most universal image of Buddhist meditation. It may look simple, but that concentrated state comes from skilled instruction and lots of practice. Sravasti Abbey, a Buddhist monastery in the Tibetan tradition, will offer training and practice during its Labor Day retreat, Developing Meditative Concentration, Aug. 30 – Sept. 2 at the abbey’s rural location outside of Newport.
Venerable Thubten Chodron — a Buddhist nun for over 35 years, a student of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and founder of Sravasti Abbey — will give teachings and lead the meditation sessions. The retreat, which is held in silence, begins at 5 p.m. on Aug. 30 and ends after lunch on Sept. 2. The course is suitable for beginners as well as more experienced mediators.
“The Tibetan word for meditation is gom,” Venerable Chodron explained. “This has the same verbal root as ‘to habituate’ or ‘to familiarize.’ Thus to meditate means to habituate ourselves to constructive, realistic, and beneficial emotions and attitudes.”
“Meditation builds up good habits of the mind,” she continued. “It is used to transform our thoughts and views so that they are more compassionate and correspond to reality.”
Nine nuns and a postulant trainee live, study, and meditate at Sravasti Abbey. One of very few Buddhist monasteries in the United States that offers training for English-speaking monastics and lay student, Sravasti Abbey also cultivates inter-religious dialogue and offers service to the community through activities such as spiritual counseling, teachings and workshops, support for homeless teens, and prison work.
Like all programs at Sravasti Abbey, the Developing Meditative Concentration Retreat is offered on the basis of generosity; participants determine what financial offering they will make for accommodations and the weekend of teachings. However, an initial offering of $100 is requested to reserve a place in the retreat, and space is limited. Further details and an application form are available on the abbey's website or by calling 509-447-5549.
Tracy Simmons is an award winning journalist specializing in religion reporting, digital entrepreneurship and social journalism. In her 15 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti.
Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas and Connecticut. Currently she serves as the executive director of SpokaneFAVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Wash. She is also a Scholarly Assistant Professor at Washington State University.