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Three Month Retreat

During Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche’s visit to Gomde Pyrenees, he was most encouraging and wished the three month retreat to happen soon, followed by six months, one year, three years… in short, longer and longer retreats.

With this information we are happy to open the registration of the retreat and answer as many practical questions as we can.  Before you register, please take the time to thoroughly read the information below so you would know what you are “getting yourself into.” It is not short but maybe worthwhile to spend 30 minutes on thoroughly reading the info before committing to a three month retreat.

What is the retreat?

The retreat is based on the practices of Vajrasattva and Korde Rushen – the preliminary practices of the Great Perfection as explained by Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche in the text Sphere of Refined Gold. There will be two group practice sessions of Vajrasattva and protectors per day but most of the practice sessions will be individual sessions in one’s own room, cabin or teepee.

For the first six weeks of the retreat we will focus on the Korde Rushen practices and for the last six weeks on the practice of Trekchö. This is not a retreat for beginners, but for those who have strong basis in Buddhist meditation practice—especially in the practice of the Great Perfection—and who have participated in long retreats before.

When is the retreat?

The retreat will take place from 4th of March till 31st of May 2019. This includes a day in beginning and a day in the end to settle in and to phase out of the retreat, but 4th of March is the latest date to arrive in Gomde Pyrenees and 31st of May is the earliest day to leave.

Who is guiding the retreat?

The retreat will be guided by Lama Tenzin Sangpo. Lama la has led the previous retreats in this series and has been a great support for everyone’s individual practice. Lama will lead the two daily group sessions and will also share with us explanations in daily teaching sessions. He also is available to answer our questions.

It is a great gift to all the participants that for this three month retreat Lama Tenzin will be able to stay with the group for the whole time. It is most probable with the next retreats of six months and one year Lama Tenzin will not be able to stay with the group for the full length, and the group will have extended periods of the retreat to practice completely on their own. This is because many students of Gomde Austria,  Tara Triple Excellence, and other centers in the world need also the attention of Lama Tenzin.

What are the prerequisites for the retreat?

To participate in the retreat one would ideally have received:

  • the Vajrasattva empowerment in the Chokling Tersar Lineage
  • the teachings on Sphere of Refined Gold from Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche or another highly qualified master.

The minimum prerequisites are to have a strong foundation in Buddhist practice through both study and time spent in retreat, and to have received teachings on the great perfection from highly qualified master.  If in doubt, one should ask Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche if it would be beneficial to participate in the retreat.

What is the daily schedule like?

The tentative daily schedule is the following:

4.00: Wakeup practice
4.30 – 6.00: Individual meditation session
6.15 – 7.15: Group Vajrasattva and Sang puja
7.15: Breakfast
8.15 – 9.45: Individual meditation session
10.00 – 11.00: Time for personal daily practice commitments
11.15 – 12.00: Teaching session
12.00: Lunch and personal time
14.30 – 16.00: Individual meditation session
16.30 – 17.15: Group dharma protector session
17.15: Time for yoga etc,
18.00: Dinner
19.00 – 20:30: Individual practice session
21.00: Sleeping practice and bedtime

The daily schedule is subject to change when needed but this should give quite a good overview.

What are the facilities and accommodation like?

Gomde Pyrenees is a beautiful old house in the Pyrenees mountain range of France, not far from the Spanish border. The closest city is Perpignan, a 1hr15min drive on very narrow and windy mountain roads. The closest store of any kind (petrol, pharmacy, cash machine or groceries) is also a 1 hour drive, so please understand that this is a remote place!

Gomde is a dharma center bought and built through the kindness of donations and volunteer labor. We cannot try to be a hotel, so when coming to Gomde for the retreat please expect that we will all work together to make the retreat happen, including the preparation of rooms and the daily tasks to keep the house clean and functioning.

Each retreat participant will have their own room. We will have 13 rooms in the house, 4 cabins on the grounds, and two big teepees (very sturdy pyramid-shaped tents on platforms) available for participants. So all together a maximum of 19 participants.

Rooms are of varying size, but all have beautiful big windows and most have quite a good view.  Rooms do not have attached bathrooms, and there are only four toilets and four showers available in the house for participants to use. Please come prepared to practice patience and take it as an opportunity for meditation while waiting to use the bathroom!  We have two washing machines and plenty of outdoor clothes lines to use for air drying. When full our house cannot support high electricity appliances such as a clothes dryer! It is not the most comfortable arrangement, but looking at the retreats held this year, it can be managed quite well with mindfulness, caring, and consideration.  Such a remote location is extremely conducive for practice!

Each room has a bed frame, table, and bookshelf. The top shelf can easily be used as the shrine if needed. We have plenty of pillows, duvets, bed sheets and towels, but your towel might be a lot more comfortable than ours, so if you have space please bring it!

How are cooking and taking care of the facilities organised?

Breakfast is a simple “continental style” put out by one of the helpers every morning: porridge, bread, various nuts, seeds and fruits, jams, yogurts and milks (gluten free bread and non dairy milk/yogurt are available if requested in advance).  We have a volunteer cook who will prepare lunch, which is the main meal, as well as a simple soup with bread and any leftovers for dinner. There will also be 3 helpers in the retreat whose practice includes supporting the cook, keeping things clean, doing shopping for the kitchen, and taking care of the house a bit. We ask that participant be ready to help if needed, but our aim is to keep yogi jobs to a minimum.

The key advice for our time in the retreat is contentment. Everyone will do their best to offer good food and a clean house, but we are in a remote area, on a limited budget, and with limited amount of people. This means that we will offer a basic selection of staples but simply cannot meet special requests or ask the helpers to run errands for participants. The food will be vegetarian with vegan and gluten free options available if requested in advance.  This is a lower protein diet than most people are used to, so please bring with you any supplements that might be needed. Please note that Gomde is completely vegetarian, so it is not possible for us to keep meat in the house

As for personal shopping. Please plan ahead and bring all needed things with you when coming to Gomde.  The closest shops are over an hour’s drive from Gomde and 1 person does the shopping for the food of the whole group once every 5-7 days, so it simply does not work well to ask helpers to do any personal shopping for participants. It is theoretically possible to use Amazon, but the postal services are quite unreliable with deliveries to Gomde.  If you need to purchase personal items before coming to gomde, we advise that you arrive early and allow extra time in your schedule to shop for any necessities before coming to gomde. If you would like to mail yourself a care package, please leave ample time for delivery and contact us several weeks before the retreat begins so we can arrange to pick it up at a drop point in Perpignan rather than taking chances with lost packages!

How to become a helper-participant?

The helpers in retreat need to be people who wish to practice and spend the time in such a contemplative environment, to take simple daily household tasks as a meditation in action, to follow the discipline of the retreat to the best of their ability, and to maintain mostly silence while balancing a bit of functional communication at times to fulfill their duties as helpers.

We need people who are willing to be flexible, who are able to work well on their own and do the tasks they have taken on, who like to work independently, and who are happy to take on daily tasks as a contemplative practice. Ideally we are looking for people who would like to take part in the practice of the retreat, but in a more active and engaged role.  

As a helper in retreat the main goal will be to fulfill the tasks that one has agreed to take on, but we also hope that the helpers are people who wish to practice a few hours a day.  We aim to organize the work so that it is not overwhelming and can be finished in 5-6 hours every day, leaving the remaining time to rest and engage in one’s own meditation practice. Generally one helper mostly assists the cook with food prep and breakfasts, one attends to dishes and cleaning the kitchen, and the third helper cleans the household common areas: bathrooms, hallways, living room and dining room.  Shopping can be done by whoever of the helpers or cook would like to take a day to go into town. We also have a local driver who can assist by driving our car when needed.

Please note that helper accommodation is a dormitory that is spacious and with large windows, so one must be comfortable sharing a sleeping space with two or occasionally three other people.  This year’s retreat timeframe of March-May can have any range of severe weather, but we do have tents and sleeping mats for helpers to set up to have their own space outside the house when weather permits.

Ideally helpers stay the entire time just as the participants do.  But if you are very inspired to help but can come only for a few weeks, we will do our best to make this work on a case by case basis.

Helpers do not receive monetary compensation for the retreat (although it certainly earns a lot of merit!), but there are also no personal expenses during their stay.  Lama Tenzin is available to teach several times during the retreat to the helpers specifically about how to take work as the path of practice and to hold time for question and answer. The group morning practice with sang and afternoon protector practice are open for helpers to join as long as it does not conflict with one’s work schedule.  

If you know people who might be happy to serve as helpers, please do let them know to contact us at: retreatinpyrenees@gmail.com.

How many people will be in the retreat?

We expect about 20 participants, plus our teacher, Lama Tenzin, and Heidi as translator, a cook, and 3 helpers. All together 25 people. Each retreat participant has their own room. The helpers share a dormitory and are also welcome to use our tents whenever the weather permits.

What is the discipline in the retreat?

The point of the retreat is to step out of our day-to-day communications and mindless talk, to really embrace silence and the extremely rare opportunity in these three months to simply practice. If one is in need of a supportive mindful conversation, please take advantage of our beautiful outdoors so that this will not disturb others. Thus the default mode of the retreat is silence, both inside the group and silence with the outside world. To be able to really use this amazing opportunity of time, space, and supportive group to progress on the path.

Otherwise if one stays flexible, caring, considerate, content, and mindful, it will be enough to create an environment of support for the practice for all of us.

Please note that Gomde’s internet is extremely slow and can only be used by staff during the retreat in order for it to function at all. We will change the wifi password the morning of the retreat boundary closing and open it again after the boundary is lifted at the end.

Is it possible to participate for shorter time?

There might be a possibility to participate for the first six weeks of the retreat, but people who are committed to doing the full retreat will have preference. Based on the interest we have received already, we expect to fill all the rooms with those who can attend the entire time.

If you can only do half of the retreat, please let us know of your interest. If the retreat is not full, we will confirm the possibility to participate for the first half of the retreat on 1st of December 2018.

If you cannot do the full time, it is also a possibility to come and be a helper in retreat. Please read the above section about retreat helper-participants.

How to get to Gomde Pyrenees?

The closest bigger city to Gomde Pyrenees is Perpignan. There is an airport with flights from Ryanair and Air France. There is also a train station with trains from Barcelona, Paris, Toulouse, Girona and other places.

From Perpignan to Gomde only really viable option is a car. Gomde can help organise pick-ups, but our ability to do so is limited, so please do not wait until the last minute to organize your transportation. Pickup in Perpignan costs 20 Euros and is often done by a very kind neighbour of Gomde. The drive from Perpignan to Gomde is 1hr 15mins on very windy narrow roads. If you are prone to car sickness please prepare yourself in whatever way works best for you!

The most usual routes to get to Perpignan are:

  • Fly to Barcelona and take train or bus to Perpignan (about 3-4 hours)
  • Fly to Perpignan (means transferring in Paris with Air France or flying in with Ryanair from London and a few other places)
  • Also possible to fly to Girona (quite a big Ryanair destination), Toulouse or Paris and take a train from there.
  • If you are coming early or departing late we can sometimes arrange pickup or drop off in Figures. Generally we are happy to have early arrivals and late departures, but please be prepared to help with preparing and cleaning 🙂

For trains in France and Spain you can use the following site: https://www.trainline.eu/

If you need help with all this, you can let us know and we help if we can.

How much does the retreat participation cost?

We have calculated the cost of the retreat to be 2400 Euros for the rooms in the house or the cabins on the grounds or 1750 Euros for the two teepees available.

The cost calculations include a modest contribution to keep Gomde running, a reasonable food budget, a small donation for Lama Tenzin and Heidi, and some extra for unforeseen costs. We have tried to keep the costs as low as possible.

At the end of retreat it is expected that one will make personal donations according to their own means to Lama Tenzin and Heidi.  If you have the means you can also leave donations for Gomde, which helps to create a more conducive environment for long retreats to develop.

The payment schedule for the retreat cost will be as follows:

After filling the registration form and getting a confirmation, please transfer 20% of the retreat cost to confirm your participation.

By end of December we would ask you to transfer an additional 30% of the retreat participation cost.

The remaining 50% needs to be brought in cash when arriving.

In case you have to cancel your participation, we will do our best to refund you as much of the payments as possible but we cannot guarantee it as it depends on having someone to take your place, the time of cancellation, and other factors.

What if I can not afford it?

If you have a strong wish to participate and you have all the prerequisites necessary but your only problem is that you cannot afford the retreat, please do let us know. The cost of the retreat is calculated based on the real costs so we don’t have much room for discount, but sometimes we can help participants to find kind sponsors who are willing to support participants.

We do encourage people to do personal fundraising and ask their other dharma friends for help. As it is such a rare opportunity to be able to practice in a conducive environment the most holy teachings for three months, many dharma practitioners are actually happy to help people they know.

How do I register?

If you have taken the time to read through the information about the retreat thoroughly, have thought about it, and are sure you wish to participate, you can go and fill the registration form here. It will take you about half an hour.

The registration will open on 5th of October 16.00 French time. This is so that everyone would have enough time to read through and contemplate all the information about the retreat and to make an informed decision to register.

What if I have additional questions?

If you have any questions please write to retreatinpyrenees@gmail.com. This inbox is monitored by Ani Sangye and Mikk. Over the next months more likely to get an answer from Mikk. If you prefer to talk then Mikk’s whatsapp is +3725531133. Ani Sangye’s is +33780545359, but she is mostly available from mid November onward

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