Isolation Inspiration from Lama Shenpen’s Life Story: What can we learn from her life spent in retreat?

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With a life spent in long periods of isolation in meditation retreats, both here in the UK, in France and the Himalayas during the 1970s, Lama Shenpen can teach us a lot about living in lock-down during the Coronavirus pandemic.

How might we use this time as an opportunity to benefit ourselves and others through meditation, reflection and insight?  Lama Shenpen’s recently published life story book ‘Keeping the Dalai Lama Waiting & Other Stories’ takes us on the journey from her home in Essex, UK in the late 1960s to the foothills of the Himalayas, to North Wales via Oxford, in her lifelong quest to discover the true nature of reality, learning from some of the most respected Tibetan Buddhist masters of the 20th Century.

In the lively, anecdotal autobiography, it documents her extraordinary spiritual journey and her encounters with her teachers that are profound, moving and often very humorous. By following Lama Shenpen’s story, her fifty-plus years of experience and teachings, we can be inspired by her example and journey within ourselves to make deep discoveries that have the ability to transform our hearts/minds.

Lama-Shenpen nun Peter Mannox
Lama Shenpen as a young nun in France, photo by and copyright Peter Mannox

In the short videos below Lama Shenpen talks about retreat and its similarity to self isolation and how being isolated with family members is an even better for practice because ‘we need provocation to develop patience and loving kindness!’.

“I think the most important thing about spending time on your own is some understanding of the nature of your mind and your experience… so if your interest is in your own experience and you’re genuinely interested in your own experience, being on your own is actually very helpful because there is nothing to distract you. You can spend time familiarising yourself with what your mind is doing and what it could be potentially doing, and how you confuse yourself with the way you think and how you can un-confuse yourself by letting go of certain ways of thinking…”

In the video below Lama talks about Lockdown being not that much different to normal for her, living in semi retreat and how that came from a single-mindedness, orientating her life to what is truly important : “…That simple truth of where you put your heart, where you decide what’s important and you really make that important in your life, that’s how you end up where you end up. There is something in that being single-minded and pursuing what you really believe in, and if there is a message [in the book] maybe it’s that. And in my case, what I was believing in is the Truth beyond birth and death. Something that’s extremely profound, and I had teachers who were willing to teach me how to follow such a path, that’s a big inspiration. Although the stories [in the book] are quite amusing, behind it all is a very deep sense of meaningfulness and inspiration, which probably is quite helpful for our day and age when so many people are feeling quite lost and disorientated.”

For more details about Lama Shenpen’s life story book and to buy a copy, click here.