Simplicity Retreats: Weekthun and Dathun

Cushion and Blinds“It’s very helpful to realize that being here, sitting in meditation, doing simple everyday things like working, walking outside, talking with people, bathing, using the toilet, and eating, is actually all that we need to be fully awake, fully alive, fully human. While we are sitting in meditation, we are simply exploring humanity and all of creation in the form of ourselves. We can become the world’s greatest experts on anger, jealousy, and self-deprecation, as well as on joyfulness, clarity, and insight, Everything that human beings feel, we feel. We can become extremely wise and sensitive to all of humanity and the whole universe simply by knowing ourselves, just as we are.”

~ Pema Chödrön, teaching on day two of a dathün

After beginning meditation practice, many want to deepen this experience through deeper retreats. A week of meditation, known as weekthün (week session), is offered in some local centres and in all of our rural retreat centres. It is a powerful introduction and deepening of mindfulness-awareness meditation, open to anyone.

The program includes sitting and walking meditation. Dathün (Tibetan for “month session”) is a one-month group meditation retreat led by a senior teacher. Silence and functional talking are observed and meals are served in the shrine room through a contemplative eating practice. The retreat includes talks, study, and a short work period. After attending a dathün, students may choose to do a solitary retreat, and a number of Shambhala practice centres have facilities for individual retreats.

An example of a day in the dathün:

6:30 am Wake up
7:00 am Morning chants
Practice: sitting & walking meditation
8:00 am Breakfast (in the shrine room)
9:00 am Practice: sitting & walking meditation
12:00 pm Lunch (in the shrine room)
1:00 pm Work period
2:30 pm Practice: sitting & walking meditation
4:00 pm Tea
4:30 pm Practice: sitting & walking meditation
5:30 pm Talk
Evening chants
7:00 pm Dinner (in the shrine room)
8:00 pm Practice: sitting & walking meditation
Closing chants
9:00 End of day

In general, the daily schedule is quite full, and there is not much time for personal activities.  One day in the middle of the dathün is open with no scheduled practice.

Although there is a shrine with Buddhist and Shambhala symbols as well as chants at certain points of the day, one does not need to be a Buddhist nor even be interested in becoming a Buddhist to take part.  All the symbols and chants are oriented toward arousing our natural wakefulness and compassion and are provided as methods for realizing the nature of our minds.

In the Shambhala Buddhist tradition, dathün is one of our most important training programs.  There is a real power and depth to practicing with a group for a month, and for many people, it is a big step on their path of meditation.  In terms of the teachings, there are different kinds of dathüns, with some of them emphasizing the Buddhist teachings, the Shambhala teachings, the teachings of lojong (“mind training”), or the creative arts. Yet all dathüns are alike in being grounded in intensive sitting practice of mindfulness and awareness.

Anyone is welcome to come to a dathün.  If possible, it is good if you have already had meditation instruction and some experience and understanding of meditation beforehand.

Recommended Readings

Pema Chödrön:
The Wisdom of No Escape
Start Where You Are
(These books are teachings she gave during two particular dathüns.)

Chögyam Trungpa:
The Heart of the Buddha
The Path is the Goal

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche:
Turning the Mind Into an Ally

 Where to Go, Who to Contact

There are four practice centres in the Shambhala mandala that offer dathüns at different times of the year.

Dechen Chöling,        Mas Marvent, France
Dorje Denma Ling,    Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia
Karmê Chöling,          Barnet, Vermont
Shambhala Mountain Center,    Red Feather Lakes, Colorado