For the last nine years I have worked closely with Manjudeva running focusing retreats. The conditions of being on retreat can allow our experience to be deeper than usual as there are less distractions. With meditation and focusing in the mix, anything that is normally pushed away asks for attention. Sometimes traumatic and painful experiences from childhood are more present. Focusing is very gentle and lets things progress at their own pace. The conditions on retreat are generally very supportive, with space to go for walks and groups to talk in. The team are on hand and there is usually a friendly and allowing atmosphere.

Dhanakosa is one of the retreat centres we use for focusing retreats. It is in Scotland by a beautiful loch in a glen with steep hills. The surroundings often come into my own focusing session where the valley is like an image for Presence holding my experience.

One year the loch was frozen and as the sun shone during the day the ice partially melted and then refroze overnight. The ice made a deep primordial sound as it froze and melted. On the full moon we had lanterns leading down from the road to the loch side at night and processed down in silence. On the ice was a ring of night lights and people had brought stones representing the sorrows that had happened in their lives. During the ritual each person put their stones in the middle of the ring of lights until there was a small heap of stones which was held by the beauty of the ice, flames and open night sky full of stars. Though each of our sorrows were very important to us and had shaped our lives, it was a release to see the little heap of stones in that huge context.

This simple ritual allowed us honour our own pain which was often ignored and pushed away by others and ourselves and also helped us recognise the universality of suffering and our interconnection through that.