photo by Matthias Ripp (creative commons)
Here are the sound files from a 2012 meditation retreat led by B. Alan Wallace. (This is well over 12 hours of material! but the quality is uniformly high.) He was an ordained Buddhist monk with the Dalai Lama for 14 years, obviously in the Tibetan tradition. The focus of the retreat is the shamatha practice, which, broadly, is a concentration practice. It is also associated with leading to states of bliss. (In some circles it was seen as potentially dangerous, as practitioners would get addicted to these blissful sensations. See also jnana.)
Wallace is very articulate and passionate and you could do a lot worse than listen to him for 12+ hours, if that’s what you want to do. He weaves in what many view as the complementary practice to shamatha, vipassana — or mindfulness. While shamatha is meant to calm and focus, vipassana is meant to unsettle and open up. It is essentially a tool for tearing down. Not necessarily an association many in the West would have regarding vipassana.
As a footnote, I was quite surprised to find that Wallace is a quite religious Buddhist. In one of the discussions he talks about keeping an open mind about the possibility of life after death and about the importance of honing a more and more subtle consciousness so that we may open the possibility of making a transition to an afterworld. If that turns some off, I would add that this was just in passing, and his lectures are direct, urbane, articulate, passionate, and very knowledgable.
Click here for the files: Shamatha Retreat
Few things affect our lives more than our faculty of attention. If we can’t focus our attention â due to either agitation or dullness â we can’t do anything well. We can’t study, listen, converse with others, work, play or even sleep well when our attention is impaired. Clearly, if we were to enhance our faculty of attention, our lives would improve dramatically. During this week-long retreat, B. Alan Wallace will explore in theory and practice a range of methods for developing meditative quiescence, or shamatha. This is an opportunity to gain the skills to take your meditation practice to another level and to reap the benefits of a more concentrated mind.
Wallace will teach a range of techniques for developing concentration including the practice of mindfulness of breathing which is an especially effective approach to soothing the body and calming the discursive mind, as well as more advanced techniques for “settling the mind in its natural state”. Instruction will also be offered in the meditative practices of the “Four Immeasurables”âloving-kindness, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimityâwhich wonderfully complement training in shamatha. It is not necessary to be a Buddhist to practice shamatha.Whatever your spiritual path, you will benefit from the development of a more concentrated mind.
Again, well worth a look. Shamatha Retreat