Heart Teachings for a Troubled World

Guided practice and teaching on loving-kindness, compassion, empathic joy and equanimity with B. Alan Wallace.

During this 7 day urban retreat, B. Alan Wallace, one of the foremost meditation teachers of modern times, will give teachings and experiential guidance on Buddhism’s four heart practices — the cultivation of loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity.

Traditional Buddhism describes boundless love and compassion as liberations of the heart that free us from ill will, cruelty, and indifference. These states of mind are called divine dwellings because the contemplatives who inhabit them radiate holy wishes for the welfare, happiness, and security of all beings. However, given the gravity of the troubled times that confront us today, these practices and the virtuous states of mind they engender, are arguably more important for urban dwelling lay people than they are for those living a monastic life in relative solitude.  After all, it is the state of mind of those who are actively engaged in shaping our world that is of greatest concern.  In the words of Bhikkhu Bodhi:

“it is questionable whether the merely inward cultivation of such virtues is sufficient. If love and compassion don’t find expression in concrete action, they could remain purely subjective states, lofty and sublime but inert, unable to exert any beneficial influence on others.”

In recent years, appreciation of the therapeutic and social benefits of these practices has grown, but the qualities or virtues they establish are not always well understood.  Cultivating loving kindness and compassion can easily become softhearted. We need a special robust potency to drive any skilful action in the real world. How can loving-kindness empower us to address our deepest blockages and afflictions? How can we make our aspirations more grounded and transformative?

B. Alan Wallace, will show how deeply these ancient contemplative skills, when combined to mutually support each other, can strengthen and empower a mindful way of living in our troubled world, that is grounded in a truly enduring style of love and compassion profoundly transforming our work, our relationships, and our life.

The cultivation of these four immeasurable virtues will be supported by instruction in calm-abiding mindfulness practices that clarify and balance the mind.   In this way, practices that focus the mind will be interwoven with those that open the heart – mutually enhancing each other.

The non-residential format is designed to facilitate easy access to profound teachers and teachings in an urban context. This format also provides participants with potential opportunities for both cultivating and expressing these virtues as they move between the experience of retreat and engagement with everyday life.  The format of each day will involve periods of meditation alternating with periods of teaching.

No previous experience of meditation is required and people of any and no religious persuasion may find this retreat beneficial.  The Heart practices are easily integrated into diverse religious and secular lives.  Mindfulness and Compassion have become of considerable and universal interest to those wishing to cultivate greater levels of wellbeing and to professionals working in the health and wellbeing sectors. This retreat provides an opportunity to learn these practices with a depth of understanding that is sometimes lost in translation.

“These four mental states—loving-kindness, a profound sense of connection to ourselves and others; compassion, the trembling of the heart in response to seeing pain; sympathetic joy, joy in the happiness of others; and equanimity, the balance born of wisdom—can also benefit us in our aspiration to create a better world. Practices that cultivate these states foster a connection to our own inherent capacity for wisdom and love. They put us in contact with a world beyond the moment-to-moment fixations of our mind.”  – Sharon Salzberg, 2015