The Best Family Vacation I Never Had: Chakrasmavara Group Retreat with Acharya Larry Mermelstein

Imagine  yourself  dressed in apron and a chef’s hat. You are in charge of  producing a twenty-two course banquet according to  complicated family recipes handed down for generations. But you only know how to make toast.

Next, imagine  the master who translated the recipes AND compiled a collection of helpful hints stands at the kitchen counter with you, offering encouragement and practical “how-to” advice.

If you substitute “practitioner” for “chef,” and “sadhana” for “recipes,” you’ll have a pretty good idea of the  Chakrasmavara retreat, led by Acharya Larry Mermelstein. Of the twelve participants, some had received the Chakrasmavara abisheka two years ago, or like me, two decades ago.

Rising rather blearily in predawn darkness, I was surprised to feel fresh and open— eager even— once I was in the shrine room. Through four practice sessions each day,  we had the chance to deepen our experience of the text by studying the manual and asking questions as snow fell across the valley and drifted through the trees. During the coming week, our group became a family, settling into the ease that develops between those who practice together.

On a  few evenings Acharya Mermelstein offered teachings and  stories from  lineage gurus  who had clearly known just what might come in handy for a future  a practitioner—like me.  Plus, practicing the Chakrasamvara mandala of compassion added an unexpected depth and balance to my  understanding of  the Shambhala path—the sanity of compassionate  society.

Though perhaps not exactly profound, I had the rarest of retreat experiences: I was never cold! The shrine room was warm( though we gently fought about opening windows), there was hot water for showers , the bed was more comfortable than mine at home—and the staff keeps the place as clean and shining as a hotel. Plus, three meals a day arrived like clock work.

So, sure, everybody gets stressed out, and everybody needs a break. But instead of chasing relaxation in a tent in the woods or a resort on the beach, why not meet your family in the shrine room at Dorje Denma Ling? And learn to prepare a fabulous banquet.

By Margaret Federico