Endah Dwijayastri, a member of the thubtenchodron.org migration team, sees Venerable Chodron in person for the first time and notices a difference.

My name is Endah and I am a 26-year-old who lives in Indonesia. I have been following Venerable Chodron’s teachings since 2013, and had the great fortune to attend my first retreat with her from June 18 to 21 2015, in Jakarta, Indonesia. A piece of quick advice: whenever Venerable Chodron gives teachings or retreats in your hometown, just grab the opportunity and go for it!

It’s one thing to read or listen to teachings through Venerable Chodron’s website or books, but it’s a whole other experience to actually receive the teachings directly. Being able to sit in front of our precious teacher, look at her and listen to her word by word, letting her teachings and energy absorb into my heart, was really something to appreciate. Venerable’s teachings during the retreat were quite familiar for me—I’ve read or listened to them at other times—but still, when I heard them in person, they hit my mind hard. I gained a whole new understanding and perspective on the teachings. Venerable Chodron’s questions and humorous explanations were so true and inspiring, and when I checked them against my life experiences, it was really sobering, sometimes to the point that I laughed at my stupidity and myself.

Being in a retreat setting, in which we were asked to keep noble silence (not that I kept it fully), was also very helpful for my practice. When we have fewer distractions—no cell phones, no people to talk to, no books or magazines to read, no music, no Internet—we are left with our selves. I really had to be with myself all the time, facing my inner garbage—which is plenty! During one of the sessions, we contemplated the eight worldly concerns. Suddenly, I found more of the eight worldly concerns in my mind than I had been aware of during my solo meditation sessions! Now I like to think of the retreat as “turning my inner garbage can(s) inside out”—I could begin to see how much clean-up work I still have to do!

During the retreat, I also realized what it means to be with a community of practitioners. I knew that being in touch with a community of monks and nuns, as well as lay practitioners, would help greatly in my practice, but it wasn’t until the retreat that I begin to understand what this was all about. When you are with people who practice in the same way, who have the same faith in the teachings, and aspiration to transform the mind, it’s a game changer. I felt supported and encouraged. I didn’t feel so alone in my practice anymore. To be honest, I had several episodes of breaking the noble silence with fellow retreatants, because I guess we all wanted to share and discuss what we learned during the sessions. Being able to discuss the Dharma directly with fellow practitioners was quite amazing for me, because I’ve rarely discussed the Dharma with anyone here in Indonesia—I didn’t know who I could to talk to. I’ve only corresponded with volunteers working on the migration of Venerable Chodron’s website, especially with Heather and Venerable Damcho.

Last but not least, meeting Venerable Chodron and Venerable Samten was such a joyful moment for me. I managed to introduce myself to them, and I’m glad I mustered the courage to do that. I told Venerable Samten and Venerable Chodron about my wish to go to Sravasti Abbey to practice, and they were really supportive. Venerable Chodron told me to keep the determination to go to Sravasti Abbey strongly in my mind and to keep creating the causes for it.

Finally, I was very fortunate to be able to take refuge and the five precepts with Venerable Chodron. Lots of retreatants joined in the ceremony as well. Many thanks to Heather and Venerable Damcho for your kind advice on requesting to take refuge! Venerable Chodron said at the start of the retreat that we were going on a vacation with the Buddha. So everyone, please do go on a vacation with the Buddha whenever the opportunity arises. I think we all desperately need this kind of vacation!