A Rare Treat Reflection by Tim Leyland

Breath is Energy Healing, Breath is Life retreat reflection by Tim Leyland (January 12 to 26, 2024)

The Buddha states that mindfulness of the breath, “developed and repeatedly practiced, is of great fruit, great benefit.” It fulfils the Four Foundations of Mindfulness (satipatthana). When these are developed and cultivated, they fulfil the Seven Factors of Enlightenment. And when these are developed and cultivated, they fulfil “knowledge and freedom” plus “clear vision and deliverance”.1

So, what a wonderful opportunity we had for Bonni to guide us through the Ānāpānasati Sutta “Breath-Mindfulness Discourse,” the Buddha’s instruction on using awareness of the breath, as taught by Namgyal Rinpoche in his meditation manual “The Breath of Awakening” (…. now available on kindle via Bodhipublishing.org). Having read Breath of Awakening, I know its not always easy to comprehend the true meaning of some statements. Bonni’s wonderful clarity, experience and humour solved that! For nearly two weeks we received insight and support, patience and instruction, within the peaceful environs of the Wangapeka in January. The vibrancy of early summer, changeable weather, a waxing moon and of course cicada love songs. The weather was well behaved, with generally cool evenings and hot days. There was a memorable rain storm, that came just after Bonni noted the impact of the weather on mind states. The torrents started falling just at the start of an evening sit, drumming the roof of the Whare but cleared as the review gong sounded, allowing a fragrant and cool walk back to our abodes. Through the retreat we became more attuned to the causes and conditions influencing the quality of mind, whilst noting its contents. The strong emphasis on informal practice helped deepen the experience. For me, the calm of the retreat space and Bonni’s advice on where to focus the days’ formal practice, allowed several new realisations to unfold, particularly around mind states, the nature of distortions and the impact they have on energy flows in the body. I now have a much stronger appreciation for the energetic support of the planet, blessed spaces such as the Whare and Pagoda. My commitment to the dharma has deepened as a result and my trajectory toward gaining a continuum of awareness, for the benefit of all beings, is more robust.

As the practice deepened and we verged on cognition of “feelings” we had a delicious taster of Namgyal Rinpoche’s Holistic Clearing practice; techniques to identify, reflect on, and transform strengths, weaknesses or blocks and lacks. This was just an introduction to a practice that Namgyal Rinpoche specifically developed for those who grew up in the West and many participants found it both powerful and useful.

Much dana to the land was carried out with noble souls frequently heading out in the afternoons to carry on tasks begun earlier. Sustenance was provided by the calm and creative Chrystal, and when she had a weekend off Karen Harley and Graham Sandlant supported to prepare our wholesome and delicious food.

A covid case on the first morning of the retreat, showed us we were in the capable retreat management hands of Jane. The case had several consequences; Denise had to depart the retreat but she left with the gratitude of those who remained. She had been so diligent about testing promptly that no secondary cases were seen for the rest of the retreat. Masks were worn for the first days as a precaution. This made the evening sits with a focus on breathing challenging but still rewarding.

The end of the retreat coincided with the full moon and the closing circle was very powerful. Blessed with the most beautiful mandala assembled from Wangapeka flora through the night with love and care by Graham Price and Jane.

1 As extracted from Wikipedia!