New year Message
Dear Sangha friends,
Looking back over this last year, so much has been received.
I am deeply grateful for all the support I received in 2018, both in the form of manpower and financially, enabling The Orchard to continue with offering retreats and being a place of refuge.
Because of that support, much needed repairs could be carried out.
The kuti’s were refreshed with new paint, change of curtains and carpets.
The room next to the kitchen is now an inviting reading space with comfortable chairs.
A new floor was laid in the entrance of the zendo.
The outside of zendo and kuti’s received a fresh coat of paint.
A gardener could be employed to help with its maintenance.
Above all there was the precious gift of dharma friends joining the retreats, practice weekends and the t’ai-ji classes, supporting each other in their practice.
There were the gifts of a beautiful summer and a rich harvest of fruits. The quince tree next to the zendo was laden as not seen before.
The gift of this beautiful environment
The gift of good health and the opportunities of going on retreats myself.
The gift of friendships and of the sangha.
The gift of life.
In his Doha Gendun Rinpoche tells us that “ Happiness cannot be found through great effort and will-power but is already there in relaxation and letting-go”, addressing the very essence of the practice.
Too often we focus on what we did not get rather than on all we are and have been given.
Gratitude is a practice of letting-go of “what I want” that leads to a sense of ease and joy.
Gratitude is a form of generosity, of giving rather than taking.
Gratitude relates to the 3rd of the Four Brahma Viharas, Sympathetic Joy, to be happy for the good fortune and happiness of others, for the gifts life bestows on others.
May 2019 bring you good health, inner peace and contentment, and may there be more gratitude, respect, loving kindness and peace for our troubled planet and all its inhabitants.
May all beings be well and happy and free from fear and at ease with themselves and others.
With love, Ad
May all places be held sacred.
May all beings be cherished.
May all injustices of enslavement, oppression and devaluation be righted, remedied and healed.
May those captured by hatred be freed to the love that is their birth right.
May those bound by fear be released to the safety of understanding.
May those weighed down by grief be given over to the joy of being.
May those lost in delusion find relief in the path of wisdom.
May all wounds to forests, rivers, deserts, oceans, all wounds to Mother Earth be lovingly restored to bountiful health.
May all beings everywhere delight in birdsong and blue sky.
May all beings abide in peace and well-being, awaken and be free.
(Copied from the ecosattva website)
“Happiness cannot be found through great effort and willpower, but is already there in relaxation and letting-go”
“Wanting to grasp the ungraspable you exhaust yourself in vain.
As soon as you relax this grasping, there is space
– open, inviting and comfortable”
Dear Sangha friends,
Another fruitful year is nearing its end.
The departure of Jane and John heralds a new phase in the life of The Orchard.
I would like to thank them again for their much-appreciated contribution over the years to the sangha, The Orchard and myself.
Their humanity and presence made all visitors feel supported and welcomed. It also allowed for a smooth transition period after Sonia’s death and made the development of a new format for the retreats possible.
The Two-week Retreats were a deeply nourishing and a joyful experience.
The Zen teachings on the practice of mind training (lojong) and compassion proved an inspiring and supportive guide for our practice and application in daily life.
The benefits and preciousness of that time together are indeed immeasurable.
The Practice Weekends have seen an increasing number of participants and enabling new students to join our sangha. They provided a welcome opportunity for a regular sharing of the practice.
As the Buddha once said to Ananda, his attendant, having sangha friends is most important of all on our path towards a life of less stress and more ease.
All the signs are that The Orchard is in a healthy shape with a positive energy providing a clear function in an uncertain world.
I am immensely grateful to all of you who have each in your own way made all this possible for the benefit of many!
Since the announcement of Jane’s and John’s departure, I have already received several offers for practical support with running The Orchard and with their help I am committed to continue with it as a place of practice and refuge.
Please use the menu at the top of the page for information on the meditation and t’ai-ji events in 2018.
I am looking forward to sharing the coming year with you.
May you all be well and happy and free from suffering and fear.
With love, Ad
Wisdom and Loving-Kindness
New Year message from Ad, December 2016
Dear Dharma friends,
A Three Months retreat at the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, MA mirrors the 3 months of the rainy season during which since the Buddha’s time, monks and nuns stop wandering and stay at one place for intensive practice.
The retreat at IMS was such a time of practice of sitting and walking meditation, maintaining silence throughout with a daily one hour Dharma talk in the evening.
One day a week focused on the practice of Metta - Loving-Kindness and each day finished with the chanting of the Metta Sutta.
It is said that a formal retreat covers only half of the actual retreat period with the second part of an equal length for integration. So, I have still 3 months to go. It is indeed difficult at this early stage to fully realise what changes have been set into motion and what is still waiting to unfold.
It was an intensive and rich time, inspiring, educative, with its highs and lows and its challenges. The job at hand was to meet whatever arose with open spacious awareness and experience its true nature of un-satisfactoriness, impermanence and uncontrollability. It was a beautiful time of being immersed in the simplicity and power of mindfulness and silence, shared with about 100 others. There were many moments where I felt this is the only thing I truly wish to do, for it to last forever. It was such a natural and sane thing to be doing compared with what we generally keep ourselves busy with.
Apart from my personal integration I am also having the privilege of putting together a programme of retreats at The Orchard for the coming year with Wisdom and Loving-Kindness as the chosen theme.
Let me start with expressing my deepest wish: the benefits of a long retreat are precious and immeasurable and I would like to provide such an opportunity here at The Orchard. No, not a three months retreat, but a couple of two-week retreats, one in May and one in September.
I am fully aware that it will not possible for many to attend for such lengths of time and you could therefore also participate for just the first 3 or 5 days instead.
As is the tradition at The Orchard, our practice will be grounded in the way of mindfulness as taught by the Buddha in the Satipatthana Sutta.
I also wish to continue with the monthly practice weekends, offering an integrated whole of mindfulness and the Brahma Viharas at its core.
It is natural and common to stay with our practice within our comfort zone and for it to become another habit pattern of going through the motions without the energy and curiosity necessary for the progress on the path.
I benefited greatly from the practical meditation instructions given during the retreat at IMS. They brought to light where my practice had become somewhat stale, lazy and without sufficient clarity of mind. It helped sharpen my mind and energize my practice. It also made clear the need for support in my practice, for being stretched, extending the boundaries of my comfort zone and receive teaching on a regular basis; such is the nature of being human.
It is my aim to provide a similar structure at The Orchard and give you all the support I can for your practice to blossom and find more ease and happiness and that despite all the ups and downs we will experience in our practice, our trust and confidence in it will only grow.
Equally I want to put more emphasis on the insight/wisdom aspect within the practice of mindfulness and to deepen our powers of concentration, wisdom and loving kindness. Ultimately, these are the only reliable refuges.
I will continue with the weekly t’ai-ji classes and give a 5-day t’ai-ji seminar in August.
Details of the programme for 2017 will come to you in the beginning of the new year.
Jane and John have offered to continue with their support for the coming year. I am very grateful for what they have given us all over the last few years and am looking forward to working with them for another year to come.
While they will continue with offering classes in mindfulness and t’ai-ji at The Orchard, I am happy with the fact that they are finding other ways of sharing their expertise outside the boundaries of The Orchard and I am wishing them success and happiness with that.
For now, I wish you all well and happy and may you be free from suffering and fear.
May 2017 become a year where you will be the receiver and giver of loving kindness, where you will find refuge in wisdom and compassion and experience joy and happiness.
With loving kindness, Ad
Newsletter 2016 & Programme of events
2015 has been an inspiring and fulfilling year full of wholesome energy and with new people joining us.
We finished on a high note with the celebration of The Orchard’s 30th anniversary. Twenty of us reflected on those past years, what they had meant for us and also how The Orchard still holds a dear place in our lives as a sanctuary, providing a place of practice and peace in a world of turmoil.
Though the absence of Sonia was strongly felt, she was very much part of the day guiding us in the Loving Kindness meditation.
I felt deeply nourished by reminiscing about those 30 years with its various phases, about the large number of people who have passed through and benefited from it and by the presence of a still very alive sangha. As one person remarked, it felt ‘so warm, safe and at ease’.
With the ongoing indispensable support of Jane and John it remains my intention to keep offering such a much needed sanctuary. I feel blessed to be able to do that while it also gives me inspiration and support in my own practice. As clearly stated in a Chinese saying: “a meeting between teacher and student is like two stones rubbing on each other; they change each other without one being more important than the other”.
For that I would like to thank all of you who are part of this, through your multifaceted support and by joining us on retreats and personal practice times.
Though each retreat has been a highlight in its own way, the long sati retreat in August has to stand out as a very enriching experience, deepening our understanding and practice of Satipatthana as taught by the Buddha in his discourse on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. As this is such a central and complete teaching, I have again planned a long sati retreat for the summer that may well become an annual feature in our programme.
The Buddha taught us that the main causes of the suffering in this world are greed, hatred and delusion. As long as they are not eliminated the world will not be at peace. This past year has given us more than sufficient proof of this and the pain it has caused for numerous innocent people. Yes, we can help in many different ways, but ultimately we have to start with ourselves: “we have to be the change that we want in the world” (Gandhi). In the coming year I will therefore put a strong emphasis on the practice of Loving Kindness and Compassion and with the cultivation of wisdom as its necessary foundation.
The monthly Sati and Medicine Buddha days have become an established part of our practice and we will continue offering those over the coming year.
Several retreats will give you the option to attend for either three or five days. I fully understand that for many of you it is simply not possible to be away from home/work for that length of time and without taking anything away from the benefits of a three days retreat, I recommend the 5 days if you can.
The visit in September of the Ven. Khemadhammo was warmly received and we will invite him again to bless us with his teaching. I also have also approached John Peacock, a well known and respected Buddhist scholar and teacher to come and give a talk. We may even have the opportunity to welcome Ringu Tulku Rinpooche.
I will keep you posted about these events..
Tim Jones will open the new year activities with a weekend of voice work, emphasising the art of listening.
See the relevant pages on this website for full details of all events.
As mentioned in an earlier letter, I will go on a three months insight meditation retreat at the Barre Insight Meditation centre in Massachusetts from September until December during which period there will be no guided retreats at The Orchard.
However, The Orchard will remain open and be taken care of by Jane and John. During my absence they will continue running their weekly classes, the monthly MB and Sati days and support anyone who would like to stay for personal retreat time.
Further details about that period will be given nearer the time.
May the wholesome activities at The Orchard be for the benefit and uplifting of all beings.
With loving kindness, Ad