We have a choice in the way in which we meet the many difficulties with which life inevitably presents us: we can be defensive and erect barriers to pain, or we can choose to approach discomfort and uncertainty with an attitude of friendliness and curiosity. Being open to what is challenging requires courage and practice as it is not in the nature of the human brain to remain calm in the face of difficulty. In relaxing into what is painful, we are making friends with ourselves and with our world, and we develop maitri – the unconditional self-acceptance that is the basis of compassion and well-being. Having faith in God, the teachings of Jesus, the Buddha, Krishna, Lao Tzu, and the great prophets of other spiritual paths can give us courage and provide us with great support in navigating this human life that can be so difficult at times. Faith can do a lot of things in our life if we let it. It will grow us and allow us to do things we never thought ourselves capable of. It will turn us into a dreamer who really believes that with faith, all things are possible. In the Gospel of Matthew, it is written Jesus looked at them said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
In this interfaith weekend retreat, we will have the opportunity to say yes to life in all its forms, delightful and painful. We will embark on a journey into the minds and hearts of the great prophets of our world, a journey that presents the building blocks of world spirituality and helps us find the divinity within ourselves. Drawing on the writings of, among others, the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hahn that provide a Buddhist perspective on the teachings of Jesus, we will begin to discover the affirmation of the sacred in all religions and spiritual paths, and the infinite merits and common humanity they share. We will also draw on the writings of Pema Chodron, Ajahn Brahm, and other wise teachers to inspire us to live fearlessly by giving up control and waking up to everything we experience in and around us. Loving kindness meditations will support us in our journey, as will the exquisitely tranquil and containing environment of the Buddhist Retreat Centre. The weekend will include sessions of sitting and moving mindfulness practice, as well as walking the labyrinth and group discussions.
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Richard-John Chippindall had an academic career in Microbiology until attending Louis van Loon’s retreat in the 1990’s. This introduction to Buddhist philosophy inspired him to study clinical psychology. After qualifying, he spent eleven years working at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London where he gained extensive experience in providing mindfulness-based interventions to patients with emotional and psychological difficulties, as well as chronic health problems. He is now in private practice in Johannesburg.