Blog Archive

June 17, 2013

2013 ~ Tibetan Institute Yeunten Ling (Huy - Belgium)

One of the big advantages in my line of work as a psychologist is that I can keep myself occupied with ‘mindfulness’. It’s a win-win situation as both my patient and I feel completely relaxed after a session.

MC Groenewoud offers a special program to patients who lack a sense of meaning in life and they get the opportunity to spent a couple of days in the Tibetan Institute ‘Yeunten Ling’ where they are offered a new context of meaning. Since I was very curious about the place and there was an opportunity for me to accompany a group of Ciran rehabilitation patients, I was happy to go.

I would like to share my experience and insight it brought me.

All the way from Arnhem to Huy it was pouring with rain but I arrived in an oasis of peace and tranquillity. The institute is situated quite remote and away from civilization, located at a forest. I was in luck to arrive before the group of patients did, and got one of the other supervisors to give me an extensive tour of the site.

 On site you will find a castle surrounded by a moat. That is where the Lamas stay (I will tell you more about them later on) and it serves as the kitchen and a dining room too. A new complex with rooms for visitors has been build more recent , which is a smaller building, sponsored by people who own a room in this building and you will find a beautifully and colourful Tibetan temple nearby.

Support team members are assigned to one of the sponsored bedrooms, which is very special because of the personal touch those rooms offer and mine contained a picture of the owner, as well as drawings of his children.

I felt very welcome and it warms my heart that people make their room available for strangers.

The institute is run mainly by volunteers who have an affinity with Tibetan Buddhism. Lama Tashi and Lama Nyima Zeupa teach at the Tibetan Institute Yeunten Ling.

 As Monk children they lived in the monastery of Kaloe Rinpoche in Sonada, near Darjeeling. Today they are the permanent teachers of the institute. At regular intervals other itinerant Lamas come over to lecture and provide meditations. There are special yoga and meditation weekends which visitors can attend. The program for our Ciran patients consisted of lectures, walks, yoga, Chi Kong and meditation.

Our patients arrived in the afternoon and stayed there for two nights. It was my job to work with the other supervisors to make their stay as pleasant as possible. We were not there as a psychologist, but to offer practical guidance. In addition, one could share their experiences with us.
To me it felt very pleasant, especially since this was also my first introduction to this beautiful place and Tibetan Buddhism altogether.

 The first night we all did the dishes together after a nutritious, healthy meal. After doing this group binding chore we introduced ourselves properly and checked the program for the days to follow.

The group consisted of 57 patients from different cities all over the Netherlands. The atmosphere was very respectful and friendly. There was curiosity and openness towards Buddhism. After a cup of tea I went to bed early that first night. I was tired of all the impressions and stimuli and longed for the peace that I had experienced upon my arrival.

The next morning after a good night's sleep I got up at 7 am, took a shower and walked over towards the temple wearing my sweatpants for yoga. The lama Tashi Nyima proceeded with the yoga exercises which I could keep up with reasonable well, but was experienced a bit challenging for some patients who often are not yet in the best physical shape. After yoga we had a delicious breakfast, which served as the basis for the first reading Lama Tashi Nyima was about to give.

His lecture was about the ‘Four Noble Truths’, which is the first principle teaching of the Buddha.

The ‘Four Noble Truths’ consist of the following;

  • Suffering exists,
  • Attachment is a cause of suffering
  • The elimination of suffering requires the abolition of possessiveness.
  • The lifting of ‘attachment’ is possible if you follow the ‘Noble Eightfold Path’ and become the void.

The 'Noble Eightfold Path' consist of applying the right way of:

  • Understanding,
  • Thought,
  • Speech,
  • Action,
  • Livelihood,
  • Effort,
  • Mindfulness,
  • Concentration.

The lama spoke in a calm manner in the Tibetan language and the interpreter translated it for us in Dutch. It was easy going, interesting and instructive information. It made me aware how our Western thinking and acting is sometimes very ego-centred minded. After reading for about half an hour, we had covered the first two noble truths.

After our hot meal we had an extensive walk in the woods. It had rained all day the day before so this was quite an ordeal for some. I was glad I had brought my walking boots, which kept my feet dry and made sure I had enough grip on the slippery sloops. We walked in total silence and tried to truly experience the forest.

During sessions with my own patients we occasionally go on silent walks in the forest to experience inner peace. I can highly recommend it if you find yourself to be living to much in your head.

After the walk we got a second reading on the last two Noble Truths. To clear our occupied minds we received meditation for an hour that afternoon. They first told us more about meditation and the way we could apply the exercises in our everyday life.

For many of us it’s a helpful way to unwind and find ourselves again. Most exercises are based on quiet breathing, after which you focus on an object or sound, and close your eyes to try to maintain this focus. When you are distracted by thoughts, let them lovingly pass by and restore focus
on the object. Practice is the way to perfection.

That night we took a walk after a cup of soup and a snack before we went to bed. I slept pretty restless, and was still thinking about everything I had learned that day.

 The next day we started off at 8 am with our ‘Kong Chi’ exercises taught by lama Zeupa. Excellent exercises for your digestion and stability. This was followed by a delicious breakfast after which we received a lecture from Lama Zeupa on the 'Paramitas'.

 In Mahayana Buddhism the Paramitas are called the ‘Perfections’.

There are six:

  • Generosity,
  • Ethical behavior,
  • Patience,
  • Enthusiastic energy,
  • Mental stability
  • Wisdom.

Practice will lead to enlightenment and a good life.

At the MC Groenwoud, I too give presentations on the Paramitas, hence this information was mostly known to me, nevertheless a meaningful reading and Zeupa lama read it in English so everyone could understand and we were offered an opportunity to ask questions.

After reading it was time for dinner which again was a great success. The volunteers prepare each meal with such care and love which made me suddenly realize that there are so many good people in the world.

 We concluded with a visit to the shop where you can buy lovely items like books, jewellery and incense. I bought a book about Tibetan mystic poetry in memory of my unforgettable visit. I had the chance to experience this special place for myself as well as an accompaniment for the people who wanted to share their experience with me.

 I enjoyed the conversations and walks with the group, the delicious meals and experienced more peace and rest compared to my normal working days. I can definitely recommend a visit to this institute if you want to reconnect to yourself and life and want to come to learn about this respectful way of living. And perhaps like me, this place will enrich you with knowledge and wonder!

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