Winter 2019 Intercollegiate Meditation Retreat
This album documents the Winter 2019 Intercollegiate Meditation Retreat, held at Dai Bosatsu Zendo Kongo-ji near Livingston Manor, New York. Photographs courtesy of Bassam Albassam
Tay Lotte, University of Syracuse ‘19
“I met Miles and Aaron at the first Intercollegiate Meditation Retreat at DBZ in January of 2019. Prior to this retreat, I had only been exposed to traditional Zen meditation practice. During the 3 day retreat, Miles brought the group together to learn and experience a variety of practices that we hadn't experienced before. My favorite of these was interpersonal meditation. Many of us were complete beginners. Some had never sat down before and some of us had a daily practice. But that didn’t matter, because at the end of the experience, we had all connected with ourselves and each other in such a deep and transitive way that I have trouble finding the right words to describe the impact of this session. I did know for certain though that I wanted others to have this same experience. When Miles and Aaron shared their vision for Dharma Gates to grow into a nationwide movement of creating a contemplative revolution on campuses that is rooted in an approach that respects the depth of contemplative traditions, I knew that programs like this are the type of mindfulness teaching and exposure that students could really find beneficial. Miles and I decided to try a one day modern meditation workshop at Syracuse and it was a huge success, we had over 30 students sign up. Many of the students who came had never experienced meditation before, but everyone left the workshop excited to dive deeper into their own practice and find their own application for mindfulness in their life.
One of my favorite memories from our one day workshop at Syracuse was when JoAnn, the Syracuse University Budhist Association Chaplain, said she “was so surprised to see that so many students were willing and interested in spending their Saturday sitting”. It is moments like those that helped me see how important it is for Dharma Gates to work together with campus organizations to create the most impactful and personalized experiences for students to learn meditation.
Miles and Aaron’s teaching truly acknowledge and teach the application of mindfulnesses specifically for students and how we can use it as a tool for moving through our busy, social, and often stressful lifestyles. It has been such a pleasure to be apart of the Dharma Gates and I hope that we can all work together to make meditation and mindfulness an accessible experience and learning opportunity for students across the nation.”
Gabe Desmond, Middlebury College ’20. Student Leader of Prajñā Insight Society.
“I haven’t had such a rewarding day in a long time. Blue skies, a slight breeze, and an open space created a wonderful background for our retreat, but that is not what made it special. The highlight of this experience was Miles’ teaching, which interwove aspects of both traditional Zen practice and more contemporary interpersonal meditation. This combination allowed me to have a relaxing day that also fostered growth in my personal practice. Miles’ guidance is unique in that it not only allowed me to grow as a student of meditation, but also as a steward of the world who hopes to bring communities together with shared commitment to compassion.”
Courtney Wright, Middlebury College
"After a few years of sporadic study, I saw meditation and contemplative practices as a noble yet primarily self-interested endeavor, and had grown weary of anyone who claimed they had the ability to achieve macrocosmic change. My short time with Miles Bukiet convinced me otherwise. Miles teaches to the foundation of the human experience, utilizing both traditional meditative practices and interpersonal meditation to foster compassion and resilience in oneself and in community with others. For myself, the workshop functioned as an investigation into what it is to be a mind in a body, in the presence of other minds in other bodies—succinctly, an investigation into what it is to be human—of which I believe anyone and everyone can reap enormous benefit. I would say it may appeal especially to change makers, though I perceive the practice to be a changing force in itself, igniting one’s capacity to love the fellow human.
The takeaway, however, as promised, extends beyond oneself.
My experience in workshop with Miles demonstrated the reverberating potential of meditation to kickstart positive feedback loops between the individual and the community, where each continually betters the other. If universities seek to cultivate leaders and participants in the next generation of positive change, I believe this work not only deserves, but demands, a space on their campuses. Luckily for us, Miles’ initiative in collaboration with the inter-collegiate meditation network is bringing workshops and retreats to college campuses and helping to meet this demand. If to change the world is to change the people in it, I believe Miles’ approach to meditation—as an incubator for compassion—has the ability to do just that. And if I could attend the same workshop every Saturday, I would.”
Victor, University of Pennsylvania
“I had nearly no expectations coming into the session, if anything I felt a little nervous about it. However, by the end of the experience, I felt that the potential of a lifelong meditation practice and training of your mind could have for one’s wellbeing. I realized how my body would react to the world around me without by mind directing it to do so, and that my bodily sensations would command my emotional response and thoughts to whatever I was witnessing or experiencing. I always felt helpless in the face of my emotions, especially anxiety (diagnosed General Anxiety Disorder), and this experience presented a model of the world and self that I found to be helpful. I learned to acutely observe the physical sensations that came into my stream of consciousness, instead of recoiling at them and trying to block them from my mind. Observing these feelings and understanding that they fuel my negative thoughts and emotions, greatly diminished their affect.
This experience has had a profound and lasting effect on me. I’ve started to practice meditation daily and am more mindful throughout the day. I hope that focusing on this aspect of my experience helps explain how it could benefit college students around the country, who struggle with anxiety.”
Claribel Wu, Brown University
“My time at the Monastic Academy in Vermont was transformative in ways that I am continuously discovering and redefining for myself. I could not have expected the fundamental shift in perspective, attention, and embodiment toward compassion that occurred under the guidance of the teachers and communities there. Miles Bukiet was the head of the internship program there that I took part in, and often encouraged us to question our own assumptions and predilections through dharma talks, meditative exercises, and community gatherings to share about our progress in Awakening (spiritual practice) and Responsibility (engaged practice). He modeled for us the ability to hold abundant energy, warm curiosity, and the stillness of sitting within one’s practice and livelihood. As someone returning to the chaotic world of college after the incubative period in the monastery, I was especially grateful to see how to apply the principles of mindfulness to a relatable and grounded way of being.”
Doyeon Park, Buddhist Chaplain at Columbia University
“One thing I found most unique about Miles is his boundless heart that enables him to connect with anyone he meets. His words are inspiring and powerful because they come from a place of experience as he continues to research and practice meditation. I know he will never stop learning, growing and teaching. The world is better with Miles in it.”