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Breaking the Silence

I always wonder what other people are thinking and this has never been more true than during our time at Root Institute. Sitting in the gompa during meditation, when my legs began to tingle and my back started to complain, my mind would invariably wander to the other students in the room. Before I remembered to focus again on my breath, I would wonder if they were also distracted, and by which thoughts, or if they were meditating as successfully as their straight backs and my own projections would have me believe. Furthermore, the majority of our days were spent in silence, and apart from the hour in the afternoon reserved for discussion in small groups, I had no way of knowing what the students with whom I didn’t have this opportunity were learning from our classes. So I asked them, once the silence was broken and we had returned to the noise of Varanasi, what they would take away from our time in Bodh Gaya.

How much of what we experience is greatly influenced by mind and preconceived habits. The power the mind has to change itself and how possible the seemingly impossibility of a perfect mind is. The amount of unimaginably hard work Buddhist monks put into the ultimate goal of benefiting others. How great a monk complimenting me with such selflessness makes me feel.
– JJ

I will take away the importance of knowing that emotions are caused internally and that I can limit how I’m affected by external factors.
– Rachel N

I learned how to sit with a straight spine and crossed legs on the floor for 45 minutes without any limbs falling asleep. And while doing that, I learned ways to think more positively that I really believe will help me be a happier person if I can remember to practice them.
– Callie

My experience at the Root Institute in Bodh Gaya was a memorable one. Each morning, we woke up and meditated for 30 to 45 minutes, and then enjoyed some really fascinating teachings from our teacher Venerable Namgyel. The environment is very peaceful and warm. And the more I learned about Buddhism, the more the warmth grew.
– Sophie

I will remember the Venerable’s laughter. When I meet new people, I often find that the most memorable part of their personality is their laugh. The Venerable had such an honest sense of humor — he was always able to laugh at his own jokes. That’s one thing I think I’ll always remember.
– Matthew M

One of the things that stuck with me is the realization that we don’t live life, we live what each one of us perceives life to be. The concept of impermanence was also one of the most important teachings for me. Everything changes, nothing can be permanent, neither the good nor the bad.
– Dani

Compassion makes me so happy!
– Rachel W

As for me, I learned the importance of looking inward. In the Western world, we are so concerned with manipulating the external conditions of our lives. In fact, difficult situations aren’t inherently difficult — the challenges stem from the way in which your mind is responding to them. Sometimes it is easier to let go of trying to change the world around you and simply to focus on what you can do to change your mind.

I think I speak for all of us when I say that we have come away from our retreat with a lot to think about, ready to face the challenges of our last few weeks in India with new tools and a new attitude, and inspired by our wonderful teacher to practice every day becoming more compassionate and better human beings.