7 days at Satipanya

During April 2017 I attended a meditation retreat at Satipanya Buddhist Retreat in Shropshire. Our retreat leader was Guus. At the age of 69 I was the ‘baby’ of our group of eight with far less experience than the rest some of which were half my physical age. I had had plenty of life experience in Business and the British and Omani Armed Services but this was very different. I arrived full of my usual confidence.

The retreat was seven days long with approximately 9 to 10 hours meditation a day and ‘Noble Silence’ for the whole period. The rest of the group of ‘yogis’ were a wonderful example to me with a number of devout Buddhists among them and they all lasted the course. I began to crumble after 3 days and by day 5 found myself ‘meditated out’ so with our leader’s permission resorted to reading books on Buddhism which I found fascinating.

My reflection on the course:

1) What a thoroughly delightful and decent bunch of people the course attracted – my fellow yogis. It is profoundly true to say that if the world were populated with their like it would be a far better place for us all to live in.

2) What a special, humble, gentle, honest and devout course leader Guus was. Every evening he gave a talk on a part of basic Buddhism which were enhanced by his slight Dutch accent which somehow added clarity to his words. I believe we all looked forward and especially enjoyed that part of the day.
Our daily interviews were also an inspiration with Guus offering both encouragement and sound advice.

My advice to a beginner of any physical age thinking of attending a retreat run by Guus is go – you won’t regret it.

(man, 69, retired Business Executive)

I attended Guus’s retreat at Satipanya Retreat Centre in the UK alongside a lovely, small and intimate group, which included my Dutch girlfriend.
Although I had attended many retreats before I had never sat one with anyone I knew, let alone a girlfriend, so it was essential to me that the retreat conditions and guidance offered helped me to stand firm on my inward journey, a precious opportunity. I was not disappointed.

Guus provided clear instructions regarding the Mahasi practice, emphasising the importance of daily activities alongside formal meditation in order to develop moment-to-moment awareness throughout the day. I particularly found the encouragement to not only use noting to ‘aim’ attention towards the particular object of meditation, but also stay with the awareness of phenomena from beginning to end by ‘rubbing’ attention against the sensory input of experience, so to speak, and ‘observing without reaction’. Guus was very clear about these points and the instructions proved fruitful.

I also found that his guidance in the personal interviews skillfully challenged any gaps in my practice and helped me to become clearer about the principles and process of meditation. I particularly found his encouragement to write down my observations regarding my relationship with phenomena useful, something which I had avoided in the past, believing that writing would be a distraction and I’d end up writing my personal memoirs or a novel! On the contrary, writing brief notes gave the interview process clearer structure and focus, helping Guus to give me skillful tweaks and suggestions that I could then use in subsequent sessions. In this way I believe that Guus has helped me to further develop my efficacy at being my own teacher.

I really appreciated Guus’s commitment to communicating his instructions and Dhamma talks in line with his understanding of ‘the way things really are’, which particularly shone through in the authentic accounts from his own personal journey that he used to illustrate the wisdom of The Buddha’s teachings. I also found it a real delight to take in Guus’s mindfully creative expression, using charmingly broken English, as he allowed the words to find themselves, another example of his heartfelt authenticity.

Finally, I really appreciated his inclusion of mindful, gentle yoga exercises in the early evening as a way of stretching and taking care of the body after hours of working with reactionary knots that build up in intensive meditation.This helped the body relax and continue the task at hand with more ease.

I am immensely grateful for having the opportunity to deepen my practice with support from Guus. Seeing more clearly into the nature of existence, appreciating more fully the causal relationship of phenomena, and uncovering the simple contingency of mind and matter, has thus reinforced the wisdom of living an ethical life with a heightened heedfulness which I will take forward post-retreat…Onwards!

May I, and whomever reads this, be safe from the onslaught of the hindrances and the tyranny of greed, hatred and delusion…May we taste the bliss and peace of the liberated mind in this very lifetime!

(man, 46, xxx)