Home     Contact Us         Log in
Mar 10
Community Articles, Mountain States
The Smell of Pinon Woodsmoke

First Annual Weekthun
at Albuquerque Shambhala Center

By Sandra Cowan

I could smell the pinon woodsmoke each morning as I walked from the parking area to the adobe home that houses the Albuquerque Shambhala Center. What better way to start the New Year?

I was delighted to be one of the ten participants in this historic event–the first annual weekthun at the Albuquerque Shambhala Center, which ran from December 26, 2009 to January 1, 2010. In fact, I couldn’t believe my luck that a weekthun was being offered in the town where I live, during a week that I already had off from work. It’s difficult for me to find the time or the funds to travel to retreats, so there was no way I was going to miss this one!

Our teacher during the weekthun was Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche himself, projected from Naropa Institute in 1974 to the shrine room wall. In a wonderful series of talks, which I would like to hear again and again, Trungpa Rinpoche provided instruction and answered questions on shamatha and vipashyana meditation practice. His grace and humor–and the spaciousness of his instruction–brought these practices to a new place in my own experience.

Weekthun participants - Marytu, Yeshe, Martha, Ingrid, Chaya, devon, Steve, Matt, Mark, and Sandra

Weekthun participants - Marytu, Yeshe, Martha, Ingrid, Chaya, devon, Steve, Matt, Mark, and Sandra

With an hour a day of teachings, we had plenty of time to practice. There were hours and hours of sitting. The effect I can only describe as being stirred, stewed, and thoroughly processed.

Although most of us went home at night, the container was strong and mindfully maintained, due to the participants’ commitment to the retreat, to their practice, and to each other. Even after bodies started to ache and minds started to twitch, everyone remained steadfast in the hours of practice.

Practice, of course, was the core of the retreat, and yet there isn’t much to say about it. The experience of sitting through a day, watching the light gradually change on the walls, noticing the flowers on the shrine bloom and wither, returning again and again to the breath–sometimes with a gentle touch, sometimes with a wrestle, sometimes with a leap–and all the while feeling the support of other practitioners around me, this was the living heart of the matter.

For me, the weekthun opened my heart and mind in a way that I have not experienced since being on a long retreat at Gampo Abbey in 2001.

Of course, the daily schedule also included quiet meals together and work rota. We maintained noble or functional silence during much of the week. During lunch break, while others cozied in by the fireplace to watch the flames dance, I went out for walks around the neighborhood. The horses in the field across the street greeted me most days, bumping their noses into my hand looking for treats.

Winter in Albuquerque is a dry monotone, but the sun shone and the sky was blue. The exhilaration of moving through the cold air perked me up for the afternoon sitting, when I would otherwise be likely to doze off on my cushion. I looked forward to work rota every day, and the opportunity to be outside raking leaves, working in the garden, and making friends with the backyard cat who sat in my lap as I weeded. Working together with mindfulness alongside sangha members is one of my favorite parts of retreat, and I am grateful to everyone I worked with during the week for their hard work and energy.

At the end of the week we had a closing circle in which everyone made an offering of what the week had meant to them. There was laughter, there were tears, there was dancing, singing, story-telling, and chocolate-covered strawberries. Certainly we all struggled throughout the week, but I would say that everyone was touched by the retreat and glad to be there. One of the participants said that she could no longer say that she didn’t like meditating in groups, which touched on one of the strongest and most brightly colored threads woven throughout. Even though we didn’t talk much, and we didn’t know each other very well, there was a strong sense of support from the group and a gentleness with one another that made the whole thing work.

Many thanks to our intrepid leaders, Devon Finnegan and Ingrid Koster, who organized and guided us through the weekthun, and made us feel at home day after day — to the point that some of us were threatening never to leave by the end. As the last evening of 2009 went out with a blue moon, and we returned to our cushions on the first morning of 2010, I think we were all grateful.

Post Tags: ,
2 responses to “ The Smell of Pinon Woodsmoke ”
  1. What a beautifully written, honest article! My heart was at the center all week then, although my body was unable to orchestrate being there. Thank you for sharing in a way that I had a moment of feeling like I was sitting with the rest of you.

  2. Winona Fetherolf
    Mar 10, 2010

    Sandra thank you for this heartfelt and beautifully written description. You have captured the magic of our lovely Center in Albuquerque. Thank you to Devon and Ingrid for holding the space sacred and all you intrepid participants for your mindful contributions.

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.

Website Development by Blue Mandala using Wordpress MU.
All content and source Copyright © 1994-2021. Shambhala International (Vajradhatu), Shambhala, Shambhala Meditation Center, Shambhala Training, Shambhala Center and Way of Shambhala are registered service marks of Shambhala USA
Privacy Policy


Get the Facebook Likebox Slider Pro for WordPress
Translate »