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Reflections on FCM's 2015 Spring Retreat - Dharma Medicine: The Three Fierce Mantras

21 Apr 2015 9:40 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Thanks to Andrew Rock for sharing these recollections.

Last weekend 31 practitioners from many parts of Florida gathered for a three day silent retreat at the Franciscan Center on the beautiful Hillsborough River. Every retreat is wonderful in its own unique way, but FCM’s spring retreats are unusual in two respects: they are open to everyone, not just FCM members, and they are led by senior students, with Fred coming to give Dharma talks each morning.  Our retreat sangha included several people new to FCM, and in some cases new to the practice, as well as several FCM members who had not previously been on retreat with us. Nonetheless, the sangha quickly began flowing as one, silently and powerfully, with a deep tide of commitment, discipline, gratitude for the teachings and the good fortune that brought us this rare opportunity.  We practiced for ourselves and each other, to relieve our suffering and heal our delusional thinking and afflictive emotions, so that we may, each in our own way, help to relieve the suffering of others. 

The title of the retreat was “Dharma Medicine: The Three Fierce Mantras.”  As always, the real subject matter was to observe our minds, and to awaken to reality as it is, free of our dramas and obsessive thinking.  In his teachings on the Three Fierce Mantras, Fred showed us the unvarying law of karma, that all effects are the result of causes and that our dramas and afflictions are the result of our conditioning.  If we wish happiness for ourselves and others, we must cultivate the seeds of happiness, not those of suffering.  In his Dharma talks, Fred focused initially on the first two of the fierce mantras:

Whatever has to happen, let it happen!

Whatever the situation is, it’s fine!

Not necessarily fine in the sense of ideal, but fine because it could not be otherwise, and it is always workable if we accept reality as it comes. All is perfect because it is just as it must be, the inevitable effect of the causes and conditions that have occurred.  That is not to say that we don’t take action when appropriate, but we do so without the dramas of anger, or anxiety, or disbelief. On the last day Fred taught the third fierce mantra:

I really don’t need anything whatsoever (except the Dharma).

If we have a spiritual path and an aspiration to wake up, we find that we don’t need the world to conform to our wishes and desires, we can accept it as it is and find our happiness and equanimity in a mind that is open, free and unattached to any particular outcome.

Each day of retreat opened at dawn with the beautiful tone of the bell and the morning chant, calling us back to our true home, followed by sitting and walking meditation and a chanting service. In the afternoons and evenings Diane and Bryan led us in guided meditations to help us identify and examine our resistance to accepting reality as we find it, looking deeply into the causes and conditions that lead to the afflictive emotions and delusive thoughts that trouble us.  

We also practiced mindfulness of the body as a path of awareness and healing, with deep relaxation and mindful movements after lunch, as well walking meditation in the beautiful grounds of the Franciscan Center. Later we practiced deep sharing and deep listening in small groups guided by senior students. We enjoyed sharing healthy vegetarian meals in friendly silence, and night walks outdoors after evening meditation.

We ended the retreat with a closing circle, sharing the specific aspirations and insights we would bring home with us from the retreat.  The Three FIerce Mantras no longer seemed so strange or challenging to us, but rather a source of strength and simplicity.  We return to our lives empowered by the teachings, supported by the sangha and our teacher, grateful for our precious human lives, and determined to continue down the path of healing and awakening to reality as it is. In this way we will help into bring healing to this troubled world, and greater joy, ease and equanimity into our lives.

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