About his experiences on the Lilienhof and the socio-political relevance of mindfulness training.Fabian G. (34 J.)
(Starts with another report from his colleague)
I took part in the ten-day silence retreat to take a break from normal “everyday stress” and to learn more about myself and my mind. The environment in nature, the direct presence of the forest, the birds, the stars in the sky – all this helped me to feel more connected to nature. The days of silence were warmly accompanied by Hanna. In her talks about the “Dharma”, the teaching, I could learn a lot about myself my mind and others. Her encouragement to research within myself helps me to find confidence in my own path. The greatest gift for me are the many small, often playful exercises, how I can be mindful and present in every moment. In the very small circle of five participants, I felt very much in good hands. I am very grateful to the Lilienhof for the teaching and the opportunity to look “inside” in this well-protected setting.Luisa (28 J.)
Since my first retreat I have been returned regularly to the Lilienhof and I realize that it is one of the most valuable places you can find in life.
I really enjoyed the weekend at Lilienhof. I was allowed to meet many nice people and animals. I was also able to learn a bit more about myself. Going to your own limits, as I’ve been told so beautifully here. Thanks again for that. When I got back home, I immediately felt more balanced and relaxed – and found a meditation group around the corner. Now I am ambitious and confident to integrate regular meditation into my daily life.Jan-Malte (25 y.)
It is always a great enrichment to visit this place with its warm-hearted beings and to experience Dhamma. It was a beautiful and very valuable time, in which I learned a lot, again. I felt my mindfulness the day after the retreat more clearly than usual, I was somehow very finely tuned – a great experience. I could clearly feel my mindfulness in all my activities. If you work on it, everything is possible!
The small number of retreat guests is a pleasure, because you have a very direct contact and support by the teacher. For those who have already experienced Dhamma, they will immediately realize what a treasure this place is.
A body, feelings, perception, thoughts and consciousness =)Thorsten (48 y.)
A few months ago, I made one of the best decisions of my life.
I spent some time in the monastery.
When I returned from my stay abroad, I was at a point where I didn’t know what to do. I fed my fears with more and more thoughts, making them more and more present and bigger.
And so I began to inform myself about meditation monasteries. I finally wanted to wake up again, learn to control my unhealing thoughts and strengthen my mind. Besides, I didn’t want to be fogged over by massages or a corresponding daily program at the same time.
When I arrived at Lilienhof for the ten-day silence retreat, I had no idea what to expect.
For me, the term “monastery” had always been shaped by the image of an old stone castle with dark corridors illuminated only by candlelight, and a large hall in which one sits at a long table and dines from clay plates.
The Lilienhof is the complete opposite: it resembles an old country house, with a spacious garden and a barn surrounded by woods and fields. When you arrive, you immediately feel the idyll and tranquillity that surrounds it. And also inside everything is lovingly prepared, although the place is under reconstruction, so that I straight away felt comfortable.
But what really fills the Lilienhof with love and healing is Hanna, the spiritual direction. In a way Hanna was also regarded as a role model during our time there.
If one chooses the path of Buddhism, awakening is at the end (from the beginning). This means freeing oneself from all one’s concepts, prejudices, views and thoughts. To return to the inner core and for that to remove all those layers surrounding it. And what remains there in the end, Hanna embodied and lived for us: love, acceptance, compassion, the here and now.
Everything I read before about liberation or mindful living, I absorbed intellectually and thought to understand, but only through my time there did I really find an access to these topics and could incorporate them into my everyday life.
At Lilienhof I have been given the focus to accept (my shortcomings as well as good sides), to be patient, to practice mindfulness and to meditate elsewhere, to learn to be in the here and now, to learn how true compassion looks, how humility appears – and to come a little closer to myself every day by becoming more and more familiar with the concepts that (in)salutarily influence my everyday life and by practicing to let go of them. To then arrive at a love that each of us can live and give. Then this is not inherent love as we know it. Then this is a love that will continue even if everything else should fall away. A love that is so pure that you have to feel it to truly describe it.
Whether you just want to come for a weekend, or if you want to come back again and again as a longtime participant – the Lilienhof will welcome you. It has a healing influence on me and takes me much further along my path.Nele (19 y.)
For some time I have been engaged in meditation, mindfulness and inner work. My experiences have made me wish to devote myself even more intensively to the process I have begun and to deepen it. The silence retreat at Lilienhof was like a gift that came into my life at just the right time. In my daily life I was quite alone with my interest in mindfulness. Arriving at Lilienhof, this place seemed like a great luxury. Here everything is dedicated to mindfulness practice. I find the very special, intimate atmosphere of the place, which has nothing of a “centre” or in any impression of being part of a larger organisation, extremely valuable. In this atmosphere and with the very cordial and supportive support of Hanna I could trust and get involved in the ten-day process. Bit by bit I experienced an opening, inwards and outwards. For me, being with the group in silence was a real challenge. I could neither check nor cover up my social reactions and projections. They were there – and I had to accept that. I also learned to listen to Hanna more and more “with the heart”, as she put it (and not with the head). The Buddhist teaching was new to me and I now recognize its relevance to my own practice. One of the very beautiful realizations was that it is good and correct to go my completely personal way in the process of consciousness. And that I am not alone in this, but that I find myself in the whole and in a thousand-year-old teaching or in my opposite one.H.W. (38 J.)
Falling snowflakes and rotting cows
10 days of silence and mindfulness at Lilienhof. It is the first retreat held there, in the Nienburger Bruch between wide fields, individual farms and generous mixed forest. Early November – autumn is still mild and colourful. We are 5 participants, 3 women, 2 men, plus Hanna – the spiritual guide of the Lilienhof, her little dog and a young cat.
Departure mood: We sit together at the table, eat soup, and all don’t really know what to expect. We come from different corners with different backgrounds. Some of us with more, others with less experience in meditation, mindfulness and Buddhist teaching. Excitement, curiosity, anticipation, perhaps also a little uneasiness for the outlook for the next 9 days. We still talk to each other, laugh, ask the last questions before we put one after the other a small piece of wood into a clay pot and thereby begin the silence. The cell phones are switched off, the clocks are put aside, the books are stored. All worldly input, all outward communication is in standby mode. No talking, no reading, no music for the coming days. We have arrived. Meanwhile, the night has fallen.
The next morning: The gong rings. Outside, black night. I’m on my way up to the meditation room. Cover myself in blankets, close my eyes, watch my breath. Thoughts come and go. I try to go back to my breath, to suppress the tiredness, to not give so much room to the physical aches and pains. Silence surrounds me.
Finally breakfast: The stomach growls. Why does the food taste so good, so delicious, so fresh, so intense when meditating? Pure sensual pleasure, that quickly is revealed as such. Every day a small task to take care of. Ultimately, this is all about practicing mindfulness. “Don’t concentrate on the taste, just the texture, the feeling in your mouth. The soft, the hard, the liquid, the solid.” The mango is so sweet and juicy that Hanna’s instruction seems almost impossible. And yet there are changes in perception. One chewing body, one becoming with food. Gratitude and awareness for the energy supply and the whole process that is then set in motion.
A walk in the forest: Be with your breath and still remain open to the beauty of nature. 3 steps – inhale, 3 steps – exhale. We make our way through the woods. Feet embedded on soft moss, careful not to crush the many small mushrooms that sprout out of the earth. The forest – a real wonderland. Large clearings, majestic trees still shining in the colours of autumn, woody scrub, soft, ankle-high grass, berry bushes, singing birds and at some point even a pack of wild boars rumbling ahead of us in the distance. The amazement is easy, but also the memory of the many shots of the hunters, which we hear almost every evening, echoes. It smells in the distance. Smell of decay. We’re moving closer. There’s a dead cow in the corner. It’s face is clearly recognizable, her hooves, her wounded and open body. Hanna encourages us to look closely at the process of decay, also to develop an acceptance for the circle of nature. I don’t want to face death. Not now, just as new life is growing inside me. We go on. Into the forest. Suddenly it starts to snow. We pause. I look up and follow one snowflake after another as it slowly falls to the ground and dissolves. Joy is spreading. An inner laugh and a warmth that makes me forget even the wet feet, the hard stomach and the touch of tiredness. We return to the farm. It smells like cake.
Space of knowledge: Hanna guides us tirelessly through the sessions. Hour after hour, day after day. She offers various methods without evaluating them. Here it is not about the one right way, the only true technique, it is not about a religion, about a tradition. It is about one’s own experience and the knowledge associated with it – one’s own path. And it can feed itself from many means, traditions and teachings. Ultimately, it does not matter whether the breath, a mantra, the physical sensations or the examination of sacred writings and teachings become the object of contemplation.
The spectrum is wide: from metta, the meditation of loving-kindness, to bowing down (even if perhaps only in spirit). But all practice, all action, acting and thinking should always be in the service of mindfulness: A constant training of concentration and a constant return to the here and now, no matter if you sit on the pillow, drink tea, clean the toilet or walk through the forest. It sounds so simple and yet so difficult. Again I realize that meditating is somehow always a permanent failure. I feel the mental restlessness, I follow thoughts, I notice sluggishness and yet I keep coming back to my breath. I notice how it is becomes easier and easier for me to lovingly accept these conditions. A little more patience, a little more equanimity. Hanna says: “Of course it’s about awakening. Everything else is nonsense.” We swallow. The road feels far.
A long afternoon: The wall clock strikes. A sign to pause. Inhale, exhale. It doesn’t matter what time it is. The clock goes wrong anyway. It’s still light outside, but twilight is approaching. We got time. So much time. Not always easy for people who love structures and plans, who prefer to start the day with an overview of long to-do lists. I sit and listen inside myself. A cup of tea. The view out the window, bouncing birds, falling leaves. Silence is spreading. How long have I been sitting like this? The bell is ringing. Time for the next meditation.
And it changes: We sit minute by minute, a mantra runs. The baby in my belly is boxing and kicking like I’ve never experienced before. I get hot and then sick, I want to throw up. “If the baby doesn’t want to meditate, the baby doesn’t want to meditate. Don’t torture it,” says Hanna. I give in, practice acceptance and loving thoughts and at the same time feel a little bit transparent. This is also what makes the Lilienhof unique. Here you are not an anonymous someone who meditates among hundreds of others and receives the teachings from the tape. One finds oneself in an almost one-to-one situation with the spiritual guide, which allows their guidance to be highly intuitive with individual approaches for each through every single day. There is nothing here that is tailor-made, tested 1000 times, found to be good and picked up again. Unlike in previous meditation and silence retreats, I enjoy less physical flow states in the meditations, which is also due to the fact that we sit less overall. One’s own ambition is quickly unmasked, as well as comparisons with the known, desires for certain mental states… In return, a permanent discovery and investigation of one’s own being, momentary state, of each breath. It’s being thrown back on oneself and not being relieved of one’s responsibility. And that’s why I have the feeling that I can take a lot with me into everyday life. But of course it is easier to be served “the only true method” on a silver platter and also being rewarded with physical relaxation.
In between: Impatience spreads and becomes louder. The pulling in the stomach becomes stronger and stronger. I know I have to go back, need time to get everything ready. There’s a feeling of unease, even though everything is actually all right. A painful, inner balancing act between the worlds. But my job is out there now. I’m counting the days. The bell rings. I notice how I remove layers after layers of thought garbage. And I feel myself getting soft, permeable, vulnerable in a secure setting. Gratitude rises for all that surrounds me, nature, silence, good food. Love for the little person in me, the people with whom I share my life, the people with whom I experience this together and for those who are responsible for me being in this world. “May I be happy, may I be free, may I be safe. May all people be happy and free, live in peace, live in their hearts.” Gunshots are fired outside. The hunters are on their way again.
Return: We sit at the table. Earlier than expected Hannah announces that the silence will now be broken. Everyone should pull a stick out of the clay pot and lay it down in front of them. One of us is asked to read something. Silence… We sit and eat devoutly without a word. Weight and lightness at the same time. And then it seems to burst. There is joy and anticipation, enthusiasm, light-heartedness, the desire to exchange experiences. When we sit down for the last time to meditate, I notice an inner restlessness, small but still clear. I realize how close I have been to myself in the last few days and how I move a little further away from myself with every word I speak, every contact I seek, every smile I exchange.
We’re going back out into the world. In the car, we wonder who became president of America.
It’s not time to turn on the radio yet. We still want to keep a little bit of the silence. I’m looking forward to home. And I know I’ll be back.R.