Rigpa USA held its annual autumn retreat near Santa Cruz, California from 24 November – 1 December. During the first weekend, two parallel programs were held with a focus on healing. In one, approximately 60 Rigpa US students, along with Vision Board members Verena Pfeiffer and Valerie Baker, participated in a powerfully moving process of listening, hearing and acknowledging, that was led by An Olive Branch, a project of the Zen Center of Pittsburgh with broad experience in helping Buddhist sanghas heal from crises. An Olive Branch led the group through a series of exercises that allowed us to deeply explore, discuss, and better understand and appreciate the many events and experiences that comprise our shared history as a sangha.
During the weekend, a second group of approximately 45 sangha members practiced Narak Kong Shak (in English) and accumulated the 100-syllable mantra in a nearby room. On Monday morning, both groups came together to go over some of the initiatives taken by the US Board over the last year, for example, a brief US addendum to the Code of Conduct and identifying a US grievance panel. We also discussed priorities for moving forward by conducting a ‘World Café’ exercise to draw out key needs and wants from the group.
The sangha really 'stepped up' for the weekend, and both groups found the programmes heart-opening, transformative, and mutually supportive. They were also an excellent prelude to the remaining six days of the retreat, during which Verena, Valerie, and Ryan Duval presented essential teachings and led guided reflections on Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara with humour, spaciousness, and clarity.
Read more about how Rigpa is moving forward and other initiatives for healing and reconciliation.