The warmth of compassion on a winter retreat

Last weekend saw the annual Chenrezik retreat at Poulstone Court Retreat Centre in Herefordshire led by Liz Godfrey and David Armstrong. This has become something of a fixture in the Dechen calendar, and this year it was attended by members from Sakya Bristol and Exeter, but also sangha from Kagyu Ling in Manchester – 19 in all. We were given a warm welcome by the owner and then left to our own devices over the weekend.


The length of the sessions was extended last year to one and a half hours and these were ably and patiently led by Liz and David. As usual, between sessions retreatants were well catered for in every sense of the word – a comfortable lounge to relax in between sessions, sustaining meals and most of all a peaceful and spacious environment in which to practise.

On the Saturday afternoon there was an extended break which gave us the chance to have a have a walk in the beautiful, but very damp, countryside surrounding the Court, crossing a bridge over the river Wye. As far as we know this was not built by the author of the Chenrezik sadhana, Tangtong Gyalpo, famous for his bridge building amongst other things. A Sakya website tells us: “Tangtong Gyalpo constructed 58 iron suspension bridges, 60 wooden bridges, 118 ferries, 111 stupa monuments, countless temples and monasteries, and is credited for the creation of Tibetan opera. According to Tibetan Buddhist tradition, it is believed that putting Tangtong Gyalpo’s picture over a door or window serves as an Earthquake Protection Amulet.” (Maybe you live in a fracking area?)

There is a further connection here, with our location – King’s Caple (“caple” being Old English for horse) and Tangtong Gyalpo.  In his biography entitled “King of the Empty Plain.” it relates his tendency for unconventional behaviour which included on more than one occasion, riding his horse into the main hall of monasteries during a teaching session. Although there were some horses in the fields next to where we were, Tangtong Gyalpo didn’t appear in physical form to do this in our meditation hall, although one participant at least mentioned that his blessings were tangible.

Please keep an ear open for the date and venue of next year’s retreat which will be fixed to fit in with other major teachings and events.

Many thanks to David and Liz for such a well-organised, beneficial and enjoyable weekend.

Paul Rogers