The “What Connects Us All” interviews

 

We hope all of you are well. Things at Poulstone have been difficult but we are still here. The grounds are looking and feeling fab and we cannot wait to start hosting retreats again, but this might still be quite a while. We have thus started to think of new ways to use Poulstone and what it stands for, so we have started an initiative, which we have called “What connects us all”. We hope you enjoy it.

As you know Poulstone has been facilitating and providing a conducive physical space for retreats for well over 20 years and in this time it has seen quite a few different types of retreats. The retreats range from shamanic, yoga, tai chi, meditation, counselling, self improvement and the list goes on and on. Each of these disciplines also vary significantly from within, for example, one tai chi retreat may well vary quite differently from another tai chi retreat we host.

On the face of it the retreats who come to Poulstone are diverse. They may sound different, they may originate from different geographies, from different cultures, with different emphasis, using different languages and having different expressions. But fundamentally they all have so much in common and in my mind, and this is the hypothesis, they all remind of the inner connection and connection with the world we inhabit.

It is this commonality that inspires Poulstone to do the work it has been doing.

Over the last three years Poulstone has been actively working with the theme of Unity with for example, Meditate for Unity, a concert for Unity and Connecting Retreat to Retreat Initiative. Poulstone now wishes to introduce a new initiative, “What Connects Us All”.

We wish to host remote interviews over ZOOM, lasting about 40 mins, with many of the facilitators who host their retreats at Poulstone. We wish to interview the facilitators about their retreat, the tradition/discipline they teach, the fundamentals of their teaching, how these fundamentals are expressed and to say something on diversity and unity. We hope to upload these recordings on the Poulstone website, which will be revamped.

We have all had to reflect on the role of Poulstone during the pandemic and how it can share its wisdom. Up until now, our guests have to come to Poulstone to share in its magic. We now are hoping that initiatives such as these, will allow Poulstone to reach out and share its magic with the world.

I hope you enjoy the magic of Poulstone Retreat and Meditation Centre.

5 January 2021

Rajesh Rai

About Meditation at Poulstone Retreat and Meditation Centre

“Illuminate the Mind and Shine”

Meditation and Enlightened Living

Meditation in the Living Tradition of the Himalayan Masters – “The Royal Path”

Meditation has become a generic term used in a variety of ways which includes philosophical inquiry, contemplation, prayer and so on. There are various types of meditative practices. Some defined by their heritage of which, Tao, Jain, Sufi and Buddhist are examples. And others even describe activities such as swimming, running, working hard at a task as meditative.

The word meditation has entered into common parlour usage but in the tradition of the Himalayan Masters it has a specific meaning.

The dictionary definition describes meditation as the act or process of meditating, a devotional exercise of or leading to contemplation, a contemplative discourse, usually on a religious or philosophical subject. The main ingredients of this dictionary definition include contemplation and a spiritual focus.

The system of meditation in the tradition of the Himalayan Masters gently peels away the layers that cover our own reality. This is done through training the Mind by initially creating mental grooves, known as “samskaras” or mental habits, conducive to moving inwards. In this way the Mind is made a tool in which it assists in the process of its own unfoldment. One learns to appreciate the subtleties to and of the Mind in this journey of its own self discovery. This unfoldment of the Mind opens up an existence of an awareness that moves from its engagement with the external world of senses to the internal world of Mind. The journey of this awareness is the Royal Path.

The Royal Path finds its roots in the tradition of the Himalayan Masters. Its heritage is rooted in India and some of the Masters in the tradition include Kapila the founder of Samkhya philosophy, Narada, the primordial sage, Sanatkumar, Parashurama and Shankacharya. All have been written about extensively. The tradition is non-religious and teaches at its most fundamental, we are already divine we just need to learn to be human and value our humanness.  It is a tradition that stretches many thousands of years and through trial and error, insights have been passed from teacher to student in the caves of those divine Himalayan mountains on the practices and techniques of meditation and the resultant blossoming Mind.

It is these insights that are shared in the teachings of the Royal Path. There are no pre requisites to follow the Royal Path but an intuitive understanding that life offers us all the source material required to enable growth at every level.  In this way one develops determination or sankalpa to journey this path.

The Royal Path is known by a number of names including Raja Yoga, The Eightfold Path or Astanga. It is a system divided into eight steps. The eight steps are sometimes described as rungs of a ladder and as understanding of each rung increases, one climbs to the panoramic view of the beauty that is around you and that is you.

The rungs are:

Yama:             Restraints; Ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacarya, aparigrahah,

Niyama:          Observances; Sauca, santosha, tapah, svadhyah, isvara pranidhanani

Asana:             Seat

Pranayama:     Control of breath

Pratyahara:      Withdrawal, relaxation

Dharana:         Act of holding (concentration)

Dhyana:          Meditation; the continuous act of holding

Samadhi:         Absorption

The eight rungs systematically move awareness from the manifest gross to the subtle. The 8th rung, “Samadhi”, is the experience of complete absorption and ultimately, it is the experience with that which exists beyond the fluctuations of the Mind. “Samadhi” is the inherent subliminal consequence of the previous seven rungs. “Samadhi”, is complete absorption where awareness becomes aware of itself and then loses itself into itself. Even remnants of samskaras disappear and the playground of the field of intuition itself, no longer provides an identity.

The 7th rung, “dyana”, is translated as the continuous act of holding focus. Holding focus on a specific task or ideal also accords with the dictionary definition of meditation.

The focus for the Mind during meditation is subject of the 6th rung known as “dharana”, and includes yantra, mantra and breath. Yantra is a visual focus, Mantra is sound articulated in such a way that its vibration has subtle effects in the space that is you and around you. And breath, at a more subtle level than providing oxygen and eliminating gases, is the bridge between the external and the internal. Breath is the direct link to the Mind and by becoming aware of it, one begins to know Mind.

Pratyahara” is the fifth rung and is translated as sense withdrawal, a moving from the external and beginning the inward journey. Deep relaxation techniques such as yoga nidra fall within this rung where Mind, body and breath quieten and align in preparation for the remaining climb. Pratyahara is the disassociating  of the Mind from the senses and the beginning of the Mind to know it’s own qualities.

Rung four, “Pranayama” relates to breath. More precisely, by becoming aware of breath, one becomes aware of one’s own vital life force. Pranayama is the control of Prana. The breath has a direct relationship with the Mind. When breath is disturbed, the Mind is disturbed. When the Mind is disturbed, the breath is disturbed. Control of breath leads to control of Mind. Breath is a bridge that can be consciously manipulated to calm, focus and understand Mind and it is suffused with a force that also suffuses the Mind. This is the connection between breath and Mind.

Each rung is a spiritual discipline in itself. An example of this is rung three, “asana”, now also known as hatha yoga or for that matter, dyana, where Zen meditation, finds its roots.

Rungs one and two, the Yamas and Niyamas, provide guidance on relationships; The relationship with yourself , with others and with the world. The understanding of the Yamas and Niyamas continue to deepen in this journey, where one realises there is no real distinction between the qualitative external with the subtle internal.

The eight rungs of Raja Yoga are explained in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. The rungs are not ordered by priority but rather, in a way the Mind can cognize their relevance. The Royal Path in its linear or logical understanding is a progression from the gross to the subtle but with practical experience, one learns they are different facets of the same because of the profound interconnectedness between them.

If it is the management of stress that one seeks or one seeks an inner journey or insights into fundamental questions such as what is truth, who am I, what is the reason for my existence then this systematic approach will hold your hand in this endeavour.

I was told that the precursor to being a good Hindu, Christian, Muslim or whatever is to be a balanced human being.  If thinking is unbalanced then whatever you do will be unbalanced. Meditation will open you up to yourself, to both the perceived negative and positive grooves of the Mind and allow one to see beyond them.

Going beyond the fluctuations of the mind and learning to abide in that which remains is the gift of meditation.  It is a source of strength, joy, compassion and love. It gives perspective, insight and illumination to life.

It literally allows one to experience “being” and gives insight to the idea of a “deva” – a being of light. Illumination brings light and removes the darkness of fear and self-doubt.

This is the Royal Path, illuminate the Mind and Shine.

 

Rajesh Rai

12 October 2012

Overview of Meditation classes at Poulstone Retreat and Meditation Centre

 

Overview of Meditation classes at Poulstone Retreat and Meditation Centre 

“Illuminate the Mind and Shine”

You can learn Meditation at Poulstone Retreat Centre and if you are interested, please let us know.

The Royal Path Series is rooted in the Living Tradition of the Himalayan Masters and consist of 5 classes of 1 hr 15mins duration for each level. There are three levels of classes; A Beginners class, an Intermediate class and Advanced Classes.

Classes will also be available on Zoom platform

Beginners Classes. “Accessing the Meditative Mind”

Beginners class requires no previous experience of Meditation.

The teaching is systematic and spread over 5 classes. The course teaches deep relaxation, the  importance of the sitting position, working with breath, recognising the relationship between Mind and Breath, the meditative focal point for the mind.

There will be discussions in developing concentration and the philosophy of Meditation.

By the end of this course, it is hoped that the student is be able to sit and and enjoy their meditation practice for at least 20 minutes.

The cost of each class will be £12*

The Intermediate Classes: “Being with the Meditative Mind”

The Royal Path Series Intermediate classes requires some experience of Meditation and ideal for those who have completed the beginners classes. The Intermediate classes work on the foundation created in the beginners class and introduces the use of mantra, how to use a  mala,  pranayama techniques for Meditation, fire havan and the practice of Bhuta Shuddhi. By the end of the 5 classes the seeker’s experience of Meditation will be more immersive and these auxiliary practices will further provide an anchor to the practice of Meditation.

The cost of each class will be £12*

Advanced Classes. “Beyond the Meditative Mind”

The Royal Path series Advanced classes are suitable for those who have been meditating for a long period of time, those who have been initiated into a mantra practice or for those who have completed the intermediate classes.

These classes teach advanced Meditation and Pranayama practices, experiencing and working with  the subtle bodies, fire havan, working with mantras and their evolution through repetition. These classes will assist in the absorption into the practice for significant periods of time.

There is no charge for Advanced classes, although voluntary work at Poulstone is welcomed.

 Weekend Retreats

From time to time weekend programmes will also be offered, which include

  • Mantra and Meditation
  • The Practice of Bhūta Shuddhi Meditation, Cleansing the Elements; Basic form and Sound
  • Practices from Sandhyo Pāsanā, A Twilight Meditation imbibing GAYATRI MANTRA
  • Agnihotra Havan Practices
  • The Mahamrutunjaya Mantra
  • The Journey of a blossoming Mind: The Sutras of Patanjali in the context of Meditation
  • Pilgrimages to sacred sites of India and United Kingdom
  • Pranayāma practices for Meditation

 

*If you have difficulty paying for classes, voluntary work at Poulstone will be welcomed instead of payment

Spreading Kindness

COVID-19 News

Dear friends,

We have been trying to orientate ourselves to what has happened over the last 2 weeks and what is currently happening. What was unimaginable 10 days ago has become a reality.

Living in this reality is going to take a significant amount of
mental and physical adjustment. I spoke yesterday to a friend who was exasperated by what is happening. He told me he just did not know what he was going to do as he has no income and has a family to take care of. Then he told me – he had a small victory today. He mowed his garden. I too was gardening and told my son, Kaushik, this story.

Kaushik told me we should not underestimate the value of small victories. He is a history scholar studying the history of philosophy and explained a debate between Voltaire and Rousseau. Both 18th century philosophers of the Enlightenment Period. Voltaire, in his “Candide”, a book in which the characters compete as to whose suffering is the greatest, concluded  “just cultivate your garden”. Kaushik explained during the Age of Enlightenment, there was a huge sense of optimism about the future of the world but the 1755 Lisbon earthquake killed an estimated 100,000 people. Philosophers started to question this optimism as devastation caused by natural disasters could not be controlled. Voltaire’s answer was, cultivate your garden. Kaushik explained; Voltaire tried to say, do what is within your control rather than making sense of what is happening around you.

The fact that my friend could garden, is what is important. My friend had a small victory, he, in the words of Voltaire, cultivated his garden.

I hope we can all adjust to this evolving reality by doing what we can do. The Director General of the World Health Organisation said that Covid-19 has taken a lot away from us but it has also given us something special, an opportunity to come together as one humanity. My way of adjusting to this new reality will be to include small acts of kindness that are within my control to assist those who need help.

Poulstone Retreat Centre will not be hosting retreats until at least the end of May. We will then have to review the situation. Any retreats booked during this period will be permitted to postpone their retreat to a later available date in our 2020 calendar and deposits will be carried through to the postponed date.

We wish you all well during this time of transition and see you on the other side.

Look after each other.

Raj and Divya

23 March 2020

CommUNITY at Poulstone

  1. CommUNITY at Poulstone 15 Jan 2020

Happy New Year and wishing you all prosperity in all its forms.

It’s been a while since Poulstone retreat centre last posted a blog (Jan 2018 inner and outer prosperity !!!) and a lot has happened since then … but this said, not a lot has also happened here.

Some members of the team have moved on but we welcome new members to the team. So, welcoming our very own
“resident sadhu” Raphael, Jack , who lives at Poulstone, Mihaela, who helps in the house and Kaush & Nish – who have always been helping as all rounders but their involvement has grown significantly as they have grown (also significantly). And other members of the team still remain with us.

Divya and I introduced three new notable initiatives to Poulstone over the last year “Retreat to Retreat Mala”, “The future is fluid” and “the fire of illumination and healing puja”. These initiatives have been inspired by the idea of unity.

Unity is very close to our hearts and it is a theme we have promoted over recent years. In 2018 we held a multi faith musical concert at Poulstone, which celebrated different spiritual musical traditions. This event  concluded our third annual non stop 7day meditation “akhanda” practice. The akhanda practice was dedicated to “Meditate for Unity”. In 2020, we intend to again promote Meditate for Unity – so please watch this space (In 2019 Meditate for Unity was put on hold as we promoted  “Year Long Meditation” (YLM) in its place. YLM is worth looking into, it’s a phenomenal practice (https://www.himalayaninstitute.org/year-long-meditation/#/ ) and Poulstone is hosting a retreat in March 2020 about YLM and the  positive impact of group practices such as this – contact us if you wish to know more).

The retreat to retreat mala initiative links one retreat to the next retreat with a message of love, unity and peace. We wanted to create a connection between retreats visiting Poulstone. It just appeared odd to us there was nothing connecting some of the amazing retreats we host at Poulstone. So, we introduced a connecting thread linking all retreats by asking an outgoing retreat to leave a simple message of love, unity and peace for the next incoming retreat. We have created a mala of retreats connected by a thread made up of these messages. We hope to get to 108 messages.

This has proved hugely successful and we have some wonderful messages from many retreats connecting the many diverse traditions that visit Poulstone. We now have one years’ worth of messages of love, unity and peace which we hope to make available soon.

The future is fluid initiative was inspired by a trip to the Rubin museum of art in New York. It really is one of my favourite places where I enjoy getting lost in the predominantly Buddhist religious arts of the Himalayan regions displayed over five floors. The future is fluid “immersive art” is on two walls at the Rubin. One wall is headed “I am anxious because …” and the other wall is headed “I am hopeful because ….”. You stick a one line message on one wall about what is making you anxious and on the other wall, a one line message why you are hopeful.

Well …. Poulstone now has a “future is fluid” wall. It is adjacent to the meditation room. If you wish to participate, please leave a one line message of what makes you anxious and a corresponding one line message about what makes you hopeful. Step back and read the messages, you may be surprised by the experience.

The third initiative started in October 2019 and is a monthly havan practice (Vedic fire ceremony/puja ) followed by meditation and lunch. Jan and Desiree, who have been holding annual shamanic retreats at Poulstone for about 30 years (and are our oldest attending retreat), helped launch this initiative by participating in the fire ceremony. We call this initiative, “the fire of Illumination and healing”. This is held monthly, on a Saturday (subject to an available Saturday) at Poulstone and starts at 10:30am. The fire puja is followed by a relaxation and guided meditation session and a simple lunch at around 12:30pm
There is no charge for this and it is in honour of community. Please join us. The next havan and practices will be held on the 29th February 2020 starting 10:30am.

There will be other initiatives celebrating Unity throughout the year but if you wish to know more or join in with any of the initiatives at Poulstone or simply wish to volunteer, please go to the contact us page on our website (www.poulstone.com) and email us.

A lot has happened at Poulstone over the last year or so and a lot planned for the future but at the same time Poulstone remains the same. The Wellingtonia tree still stands tall and proud watching over the ashram. The moles still dig up the lawn, birds continue to sing and the wall surrounding the gardens, continues to hold the energy that you have fed over the years.

I am reminded that today it is “Makara Sankranti”, when the Sun moves into Capricorn. But the Sun at Poulstone still rises in the east and sets in the west.

A lot of activity at Poulstone but somethings “still” remain unchanged.

In Unity

Rajesh Rai

15th January 2020

Inner and Outer Prosperity

Poulstone has had a well deserved rest in December 2017 but just as well as 2018 will be a busy year for us.

The website has been updated and a participants leaflet can now be downloaded from the contact page; the cookbook has been refreshed, updated and given a new look and plans are in motion for another edition. Further efficiencies will be introduced in the administration of the office and in administrating retreats so that a more seamless service is offered. We will be implementing an environmental policy to add to what is already in place at Poulstone. This is a priority for 2018 and the coming years. There are plans for organised voluntary work at Poulstone so there is  help with all that we have to do and finally pleased to announce that meditation will be taught at Poulstone for no charge and at least once every other month. We hope you join us in what ever way you can and be part of the Poulstone Community.

Its going to be an exciting year.

We do this so that Poulstone continues to be a wonderful haven for your retreats and visitors leave nourished & refreshed by the energy at Poulstone and to create a supportive community around Poulstone.

This is working at inner prosperity for outer prosperity, which is the central theme at Poulstone for 2018.

Wishing all inner and outer prosperity.

Happy New Year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rajesh Rai

5 January 2018

The Magic and Beauty of Flow

Summer is coming to a close but we are entering my favourite period at Poulstone – the harvest and the start of the sobering charms of autumn.

The plum, fig, apple and pear trees and the berry bushes, have all produced a bumper crop. The long overdue pruning of the fruit trees undertaken last year has had the desired effect … and the vegetable organic garden continues to provide.

The gardens have been very, very generous. We are trying to use as much of the crop as we can but the fruit trees are going to provide more than Poulstone can use or store!

Summer at Poulstone has seen a steady number of retreats but the autumn months will be busy with retreats and additional tasks around the garden and house. We are also planning an update to the website, installation of a new fire alarm system for the house, a review of the flower beds, a review of our recycling policy and to publish it and to make further additions to our popular cook book. This should keep us all busy!

Emma, Jess and Kaushik are leaving Poulstone for University. They will be missed but we all wish them success in what will be an exciting period for them. So, if anybody wishes to volunteer their time at Poulstone or to work at Poulstone, please let us know.

Things never stay still, its the magic and beauty of flow.

Rajesh Rai 5 September 2017

Cherry Blossom

Many people have asked for more self-contained accommodation to be made available at Poulstone.

Well at last we can offer self-contained accommodation for two people, which is not in the main house but still on the grounds of Poulstone. The flat is called “Cherry Blossom”. This follows the tradition at Poulstone of naming rooms after trees and the flat overlooks into the walled gardens and the cherry blossom tree.

If you wish to volunteer your time at Poulstone and need a place to stay or wish to spend some time here for quite meditations. Or even wish to have use of self-contained accommodation during a retreat, then we can now offer Cherry Blossom. It has its own kitchen, dining room, bathroom and bedroom.

At one level, Poulstone Retreat Centre is a business at another level, Poulstone provides a conducive space for retreats. I am very mindful of the potential of commercial activity affecting this space. This said commerce allows Poulstone to exist, to provide an excellent service and helps to maintain the house and grounds. It has a purpose!

But Poulstone does not survive because it is a business organisation, it survives because of the love and affection its guests have for the space. This is priceless and continues to nurture Poulstone. Paying someone to do a job at Poulstone is very different to someone offering their time and love to work at Poulstone voluntarily. I am very grateful to wonderful individuals like Anne who looks after the shop and does so, solely, out of love. This is what Poulstone is about and this is what it needs.

We now have had three people stay over in the flat, who have provided their time and lovely energy, on a voluntary basis to add to Poulstone’s energy. Isabelle, “Shamanic” Dave and Michael. All found their stay at Poulstone to be healing. Thank you.

It is this service that nurtures the energy at Poulstone. The wonderful pictures in this blog are part of the contribution made by Michael during his stay at Poulstone.

Much love to you all

Rajesh Rai

8 May 17

Farewell and Welcome

Many of you will know Gail, who has been part of Poulstone’s furniture for the last eight years. Gail recently retired and has bid Poulstone farewell. Poulstone wishes her a fun packed retirement although from what she tells me, her retirement is going to be very busy. Gail tended the organic vegetable garden, dealt with food ordering and generally kept an eye on how Poulstone ran. This included, ensuring the high standards visitors to Poulstone have come to expect, were met. Gail certainly set a high bar! She will be missed.

Divya and I, on a more personal note thank her for deciding to remain at Poulstone for another year after Steve and Mel left to ensure we settled into Poulstone in our first year.

It has been difficult looking for a new gardener but just when we needed one, Merla arrived looking for work as a gardener. So, welcome Merla, is now looking after the gardens with Jane. Merla is an experienced organic gardener and from what I have seen, loves nature, organic gardening and the open outdoors. Just what Poulstone needs. Merla has been busy pruning all the fruit trees and shrubs, cutting back all the overgrowth of the last few years and preparing our new strawberry bed. She has given the garden a well needed “short, back and sides”. We have been making plans for the beds and the garden for the coming years and the theme will be healing and rejuvenation. I am looking forward to how the garden develops with this theme over the next few years.

The calendar on Poulstone’s website (www.poulstone.com) is “fully operational”, so if you wish to know what is going on, please just have a look.

We are creating a database so we can update you on what’s happening at Poulstone, including forthcoming events that are open to the public. If you wish to know what’s going on, please “contact us” (which again, can be found on our website) and ask to be on our “whats on data base”.

Much love

Raj

 

Christmas Tree

At the end of year staff meeting we discussed whether there should be a christmas tree in Poulstone. Poulstone is not usually decorated for christmas, so this means no christmas trees.

Some felt uneasy about having to cut down a tree for decoration for christmas. Some suggested a real christmas tree will cause too much of a mess and others, a fake Christmas tree will just not be authentic enough.

After much debate, it was decided, we should grow our own christmas tree in the gardens and decorate it for future christmas(es).

Later, I took a walk in the gardens of Poulstone. I was reminded that Poulstone has one of the largest christmas trees in the country (we think!) on its grounds. It was planted almost 150 years. It is soooo big, we forget it is also a Christmas tree, amazing what you can take for granted!

Well, it has taken a year, but we have at last updated and published our new website www.poulstone.com. We hope you enjoy it.

We also welcome Merle to the team who will help look after the gardens. She has been working hard raking the leaves and pruning the fruit trees.

Merry Christmas and Seasons Greetings to all.

Rajesh

15 December 16