Sunday, September 23, 2007

summer - travel season

Summer always is the travel season, and it seems to get worse and worse. This summer I was hardly in my house in Philadelphia! Most recently, I went on a trip to Europe, which was a delightful combination of work, dharma and vacation. I started out very well with a retreat in Lerab Ling, Rigpa's retreat center in France. It has become quite a remarkable place, with a very large temple, constructed authentically according to Tibetan temple. It features a copper roof, as if it were the copper-colored mountain of Guru Rinpoche, with which it is compared. The inside is decorated quite extensively, with two shrines with 500 buddhas each (the Thousand Buddha Shrine), a large statue of the Buddha Shakyamuni like the one in Bodhgaya, and then finally a statue of Guru Rinpoche Look LIke Me, identical to the one that has been destroyed in Samye Monastery in Tibet. For this temple to be filled with dharma students from all over the world, engaged in a deep and extensive program of study and practice is quite remarkable. It really creates an atmosphere that instantly transforms ones mind. Moreover, it is possible to take such strong feelings associated with a place home and use it in ones visualisation practice. We already know from Free Recall studies that time-traveling to the situation or context of study helps greatly to recall words, but it also can transform ones mind. But of course during a retreat, one also transforms ones mind more directly through study and practice, and applying that directly in daily life by the way one interacts with other people and animals around.

After the retreat had transformed my mind at least a little bit, I was ready to do some work in Germany, where my lab collaborates, and then visit the wonderful cities of Paris and Lyon to talk to other colleagues. This was also the time when I went back into ballet dancing (I have slowly learnt to dance again over the past few months, progressing through beginner ballet into intermediate and slowly even pointe). The class I was able to do in Paris was quite wonderful--imagine taking a ballet class with only three people, very close to Montparnasse, and where the teacher even tries to throw in a few words of English every now and then (Studio Amana). In addition to ballet, I still keep doing some yoga, which I took up during my recovery period from my broken ankle. On the picture below you'll see me practising some yoga on the camping site during my retreat, which I really loved to do in the mornings. My favorite is power yoga, which is nicely challenging but still calms the mind. Having said that: time to go back to work, and analyze some of that data that I collected this summer at Shambhala Mountain Center this summer...