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Re-calibrating for the year
…on retreat with Dónal Creedon at TRC – December, 2018
It always feels like there’s a lot of time on one of Dónal’s retreats. There’s an air of lightness and ease, It’s only in retrospect that you realise just how many hours of practise you’ve chalked up.
I’ve been on a fair number of retreats with a lot of different teachers, and I must say that, for me, Dónal is remarkable. He embodies a wealth of experience, and yet he also keeps breaking down hierarchies between student and teacher with his gentle, unassuming nature. There’s a sense of precision in keeping the formal boundaries of the retreat structure, but within that structure, one begins to feel a softening, an opening up; one’s mind begins to slowly shift and ease out of its regular hardened habits.
Typically, there will be one talk in the morning and one dialogue in the evening and then a whole lot of sitting in between. Fortunately, Dónal sits with you and his gentle persuasion makes you realize that you can actually sit for a whole lot longer than you thought possible. The sessions are divided into 30-minute sections, so it’s always manageable. Dónal has a way of guiding one gently and carefully, helping to push past resistances.
The evening dialogue sessions are a favourite of mine. Taken from the Krishnamurti tradition, these are open ended enquiries into a subject of deep and practical meaning to participants. Dónal invites a topic for contemplation into the circle, with the only proviso being that we try to avoid giving pat, ready-made answers or solutions. We try not to quote clever sources or tell stories around the topic or to advise anybody else on what they should or shouldn’t be doing. We’re not trying to fix anybody and it’s not about sharing data, but rather about actually facing and reflecting on our own lived experience, making discoveries for ourselves. This can sometimes be an unsettling experience; and yet I’ve also found the dialogues to be richly rewarding and even, occasionally, liberating.
I love the annual Dónal retreats, and always leave feeling recalibrated and realigned in some way, just a little bit more in tune with ever changing inner and outer experiences. I always feel grateful, so fortunate. When you start signing on for Dónal’s retreats you’ll often find that you begin to recognise the same people coming back year after year. This is because once you’re let in on the secret of how extraordinary these retreats are, you want to keep coming back again and again. The group starts to become a family of friends, a real community of diverse people. I think this is also because Donal is able to make one feel appreciated. He somehow brings out the best in one.
On Dónal’s retreats there’s a sense of devotion to the Tibetan Buddhist lineage, but also great respect and openness to other contemplative traditions. One of the things Dónal has said that’s stayed with me over the years is that “THIS” (practice, ritual, tradition, religion, form) needs “THAT” (the ineffable, spiritual source, unnameable, Tathagata); whereas THAT does not need THIS. I keep going back, because I really think Dónal is a master at working with This and That.
Anton Krueger, Jan 2019