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Cultivating Wisdom and Compassion Retreat

By Stacey Linehan, posted 02/08/2012

On Saturday, February 4, 2012, I attended the “Cultivating Wisdom and Compassion Retreat” at Amherst College with special presenter, Lama John Makransky. The event took place in the Friedman Room upstairs in the Keefe Campus Center. Beginning at 10AM and ending at 4PM gave the event ample time to explore a variety of thoughts and practices that are not traditional in Western education. The turnout for the event was wonderful! Both older Amherst locals as well as students from the five-college area and other schools, sat in chairs or on Zufa cushions or mats in front of Makransky who was on a slightly elevated stage.

Provided with a microphone, his voice and a gong, he lead us through various meditations of innate love and wisdom. Makransky is a professor of Buddhism and Comparative Theology at Boston College and a Tibetan Buddhist meditation teacher. He has been doing this practice for over 30 years which has given him a better understanding of how to help others through the process. By making the practice of meditation more easily assessable to those who would not normally have a chance to explore such an activity or way of living, he has contributed to the social justice in the world.

He is a proud teacher at the “Foundation for Active Compassion” which is an organization whose mission is to, “empower people with profound, accessible spiritual practices that support their individual and collective work to become better people and to make a better world.” The practices taught are adapted from Tibetan Buddhist meditation traditions and are aimed at being something that people of all backgrounds and faiths can explore.

There was a quite diverse crowd of people who attended the event and this allowed for a nice learning experience when other’s shared their own personal difficulties or successes while meditating, a practice that take years and years of dedication and self-discipline to master. The nice thing about meditation is how unifying it can be. All of us silent for sometimes 15 minutes at a time, with the exception of the occasional vocal guidance from Makransky, took us all to our own little world but in the larger picture, we were together. During one of our final meditation sessions we had the option of participating in a Buddhist chant which was another unifying aspect to the process. Our voices and breaths began to be as one and the process enhanced.

Although the six hour retreat may seem like a long day, the relaxation felt made it seem like an all too quick mini-vacation.