THREE YEAR RETREAT JULY 2018 – OCTOBER 2021

The Three Year Retreat is the traditional meditation retreat in Vajrayana Buddhism where one receives and practices the entire path from beginning to end. It is a format adopted by all the lineages including the Drikung Kagyu lineage and because of the purity in which it has been practiced and passed down, it has great power and benefit. In the Drikung Kagyu there have been several groups of non-himalayan practitioners to complete the Three Year Retreat in the traditional style under Himalayan retreat masters. Through their experience, deeper understanding of the needs of non-himalayan practitioners has come to light.
Through years of working non-himalayan practitioners Drubpön Rachel Dodds and Giorgio Savigliano have found a holistic approach best supports and accelerates real experience in practice and retreat. One must bring every aspect of one's being into the practice. Starting with the basics of body, diet, exercise, proper sleep, right posture, right breathing, body awareness, mindful relaxation, emotional health, communication skills, and self inquiry using western counseling methods are all essential aspects necessary for success in retreat. Only after we have become balanced in the gross level of body and mental health can we hope to go deeper into subtle mind states and work on prana and subtle energy work with success. In this retreat all of these aspects will be addressed to give you the best possible chance to realise the true nature of your mind. Many people waste years in meditation because they have not addressed these basics.
Drubpön Konchog Chödrön will also be present at the site for the Three Year Retreat and will share her expertise in all the practices of the Three Year Retreat, giving the students access to the traditional monastic approach of teaching and practicing. She will teach all the ritual aspects of Tibetan chanting, torma making, hand mudras, musical instruments, yidam sadhana, fire pujas and will lead monthly Ganachakra pujas.
The goal is to support you in receiving and practicing the entire cycle of teachings and meditations of the ‘Five Fold Path of Mahamudra’ and the ‘Six Yogas of Naropa’ in its purity, but less obstacles and with ease and joy that is inherent in the practices themselves. Drupon Rachel Dodds and Giorgio Savigliano will work closely with each practitioner giving real direction and guidance based their cultural background, personalities and capacities. It is their hope that providing both support in the traditional aspects and rituals of the retreat by an experienced Himalayan nun together with individualized guidance and personal advice by two non-himalayan lay practitioners with many years of retreat and teaching experience, that they can truly provide the best level of teachings and support possible.

THE RETREAT MASTERS
Drupon Rachel Dodds will be the main retreat master for the Three Year Retreat. She has completed a traditional Three Year Retreat in the Drikung Kagyu Tradition from 2004 to 2008 in Almora India under the auspices of H.H. the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang and H.E. Garchen Rinpoche, under the guidance of Drubpön Champa Rigzin Rinpoche. She was named Drubpön by H.E. Garchen Rinpoche in 2009 and since has been teaching and guiding retreats in Europe, Russia, Ukraine and the US. Rachel lives in Italy with her husband Giorgio Savigliano. She will present the teachings in the traditional way with a special understanding of western mind and methods to make the practice more accessible for students. Each student will be guided according to their capacity and needs and will have individualized teachings and weekly private interviews in person or by telephone to support them and help them deal with the various things that arise in such an intense retreat.

Drupon Konchog Chödrön will guide the retreatants in the more traditional aspects of the Three Year Retreat such as torma making, musical instruments, chanting in Tibetan, hand mudras, Chod practice, fire pujas and all other ritual aspects necessary in the Three Year Retreat. She lives at the center and is available to assist in the absence of Drupon Rachel Dodds. She has completed three times the Three Year Retreat, including once in Lapchi, Nepal and has been living at the Milarepa center since 2013. She has had comprehensive monastic dharma training at Samtenling, Dehradun in the Drikung Kagyu Tradition.

Giorgio Savigliano will be assisting Rachel Dodds in guiding students and has special expertise in the teachings of Tsalung. He is a Hatha yoga instructor for over 15 years and completed the practices of the Three Year Retreat in solitary retreats over 5 years. His special understanding of body and breath will become an indispensable support to the practice and help to accelerate your progress and prevent the many imbalances that happen in such long term retreats such as 'Lung' conditions (prana imbalance) which can make it impossible to complete a Three Year Retreat.

THE FORMAT OF THE THREE YEAR RETREAT
The format of the Three Year Retreat follows the traditional Himalayan monastic style. Drubpön Chödrön will guide the students in all the traditional ritual aspects of the retreat and Drubpön Rachel Dodds and Giorgio Savigliano will teach the step by step instructions for practice and guide the students in a practical, individualized basis in a holistic approach that will specifically address the needs and challenges faced by Non-himalayan practitioners. This is extremely important and not easy to understand if one has not gone through a long term retreat experience. Based on our cultural background and modern lifestyle the challenges we face in long term retreat may differ greatly from those faced by Himalayan monastics living in the Himalayan region. There are differences in how we are used to expressing and resolving challenging issues that arise in retreat. In general Garchen Rinpoche has emphasized that it is important for non-himalayan retreatants to have support by non-himalayan retreat masters. Drupon Rachel and Giorgio offer from their personal experience a western perspective and knowledge of other modalities that will become an essential support to retreatants to minimize the obstacles that arise in retreat and make the most of each day of practice.

All the teachings and texts will be given in English and German and one is free to recite the texts in one's own language. Tibetan language, although helpful, it is not essential to know for this retreat.
The teachings are given before each section of retreat. The practices of each section last from several weeks to one or two months. The teachings can take up to a week but usually lasts only a few days and there is a chance at that time to discuss the teachings and ask questions. During this time talking is permitted. One enters one’s retreat room and keeps silence for duration of that particular practice. Once a week each retreatant will have a consultation by telephone or in person with Drubpön Rachel Dodds with assistance from Giorgio Savigliano. Drubpön Rachel and Giorgio do not live at the center, but every 4 to 6 weeks they will come to give teachings, private interviews and support to the retreatants. They are available at any time via telephone. Drubpön Chödrön lives at the center and is available for support to the students at all times. She speaks Tibetan and some German language. A Ganachakra puja will be done with Drubpön Chödrön every full and new moon in order for retreatants to get more familiar with instruments and Tibetan chanting and to support the cohesiveness of the group.

RETREAT IN SECTIONS
The traditional way to do the Three Year Retreat is as one complete uninterrupted cycle taking a total of three years and three months. Preference will be given to prospective retreatants who are able to complete the Three Year Retreat without interruption. There will be open also options to do the retreat in sections. One option would be to do 6 -12 months in and 6 -12 months out, or to complete various sections of the retreat one by one. Those wishing to do a Three Year Retreat in this way will have to discuss this directly with the retreat masters.

RETREAT FACILITIES
The Amitabha house is the Three Year Retreat house. It has 7 large rooms all with attached bathrooms. There is a kitchen where the retreatants will share cooking space. There is a shrine room where teachings are given and there is a telephone there for weekly telephone interviews and emergency. The retreat house is enclosed by a hedge and is off limits to staff and visitors. The retreatants will spend the time in this area without leaving, except in emergencies with permission from the retreat masters. The retreatants will be supplied with ritual items such as damaru, vajra and bell, electronic candles, and all texts necessary for the retreat. Retreatants must cook for themselves. Weekly a staff member will collect shopping lists and will do the shopping for you.

RETREAT RULES
The Five Precepts should be observed at all times:

  • No killing, no stealing, no lying, sexual abstinence, no intoxicants.
  • Silence (one can communicate verbally with the retreat masters and with notes to other retreatants and staff. During break periods one can speak with other retreatants.)
  • Not leaving the retreat premises unless in an emergency with the retreat master’s approval.
  • Dietary restrictions during certain practices.
  • Respecting others in retreat with you in terms of your behavior, clothing, and activities.
  • No visitors except during the fire pujas.

RETREAT PROGRAM
The retreat starts with a special long life practice of Amitayus from the tradition of Rechungpa;
then the Outer Ngondro of the Four Thoughts;
the Four Inner Ngondro practices of Refuge, Vajrasattva, Mandala and Guru Yoga;
then begins the 5 Fold Path of Mahamudra which is unique to the Drikung Kagyu Lineage. This starts with a special practice of Bodhicitta, then a full yidam retreat of Chakrasamvara complete with Fire Puja. Next is an extensive practice of Guru Yoga called the Four Kaya Guru Yoga. This prepares us for the main practice of Shamata, Vipasana and Mahamudra. Finally there is a special Dedication practice.
The final year is dedicated to the practice of Vajravarahi with Fire Puja and the Six Yogas of Naropa: Tummo, Clear Light, Dream Yoga, Illusory Body, Phowa and Bardo practices are extensively taught.
The retreat ends with another long life practice of Amitayus.

DAILY SCHEDULE
One usually rises at 3:30am and begins the first session at 4am. There are four daily sessions of about 3 to 4 hours each. Dharma Protector Pujas, Chod or various other prayers are done in the evening. One usually retires at around 10pm. In this lineage of the Drikung Kagyu sleeping in a meditation box is not practiced. Sleeping sitting up is not mandatory for this retreat. During the first 2 years there is a fair amount of accumulation of mantra and prayers and one must stick to a tight schedule. This can be challenging as one must also cook for oneself. One needs to learn to manage time well and cook easy, quick meals. Incorporated into the retreat sessions will be Hatha yoga and breathing exercises which will be done at least twice a day. In the third year the Tibetan yoga called Trulkor is taught.
Twice a month there will be a group practice of Ganachakra (Tsog) with the Drupon Chödrön on new moon and full moon.
A typical schedule might be:
session 1: 4-7:30am
session 2: 8:30am – noon
session 3: 14:30 – 17:30
session 4 : 19:00 – 21:30

GENERAL REQUIREMENTS TO DO THE RETREAT
Previous retreat experience:
H.E. Garchen Rinpoche suggests it is best to do a 100-day retreat on the outer preliminaries of the Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind. At least one should try to do several short individual retreats of several days or weeks. This retreat is not suitable for beginners.

SUMMER CAMP FOR PROSPECTIVE THREE YEAR RETREATANTS
At the Milarepa Center we are offering a summer camp from August 12 to September 2, 2017. It is necessary for prospective retreatants to attend. It will give you an introduction to real retreat experience, a chance to connect with the retreat masters and a chance for us to assess your suitability for long term retreat. The camp will include basic training in posture and breath, yogic exercises for meditators, information on long term retreat and how to face various challenges that arise and an opportunity for you to have a real retreat experience. There will be a psychological component where you will explore aspects of your history and personality that will arise in solitary retreat and learn how to integrate these things into the practice. It is a way for you to discover if long term retreat is really the best path for you and how you can prepare yourself to get the most out of your retreat experience.

STUDY OF BASIC BUDDHIST PHILOSOPHY
Prospective retreatants should have a basic understanding of the Buddhist Path, attended teachings by Buddhist teachers and read books on Buddhism. (some suggested reading is by Gampopa; Words of My Perfect Teacher by Patrul Rinpoche)
It is not necessary to have completed the Nyöndro, but it is helpful to have started and have knowledge of how to do the practices.

SOUND PHYSICAL HEALTH
Physical and dental check-ups are necessary prior to starting the retreat. Many people had to leave retreat for some time for medical or dental treatment. The retreat is demanding on the body, especially for the Six Yogas of Naropa; however, many retreatants in there forties and fifties have successfully completed the Three Year Retreat without major obstacles, so age does not have to be a deterrent, as long as there is good health. Prior to the retreat one should develop some type of physical exercise yoga or tai-chi, where one can begin to develop body awareness. This will be the most important skill to enhance your practice and health. One should also seek advice from a doctor of alternative medicine such as Chinese, Ayurvedic or Naturopathic medicine and begin to learn about your body constitution. Learning what foods are suited to your constitution and what foods are harmful for you will be invaluable information. Each person has a basic constitution and no one diet is suitable for everyone. When you begin to work on subtle energetic levels necessary in Varjayana practice, diet becomes very important. If you are eating low quality food and food that is not suited to you it will block your channels and sensitivity (for example dairy, night shade vegetables, refined foods such as white flour and white sugar, wheat, coffee, pork are usually not suited to most constitutions.) You can get some type of intolerance testing to see what foods give you problems. You can try some cleanses and so forth. All these things will improve the basic level of health necessary for rigorous practice, and also prepare you to develop the body-mind sensitivity that is necessary for success in the higher yogic practices. SOUND MENTAL HEALTH
This retreat is absolutely not recommended for psychologically or emotionally unstable people. Meditation is not a cure for people with mental instability. One must have a stable, balanced mind to begin meditation practice. Retreat is not an escape from the challenges of daily life. In retreat you come face to face with your own mind. There is no distraction or escape. All your fears, judgements, doubts, and projections will come in full force. It is valuable for everyone to have some level of counseling prior to a Three Year Retreat. We all have unconscious beliefs and fears that drive our life. If we are unaware of them, they are very difficult to integrate into our practice. Counseling will bring to light patterns in our behavior that contribute to our suffering in this life. It will help us to uncover our ego's strong holds. We should not see it as something only for mentally ill people, but as an important tool to uncovering our weak points, especially if we have had any trauma in our life big or small.

PREVIOUS CONNECTION TO DRIKUNG KAGYU LAMAS
It is best if one has studied with at least one Drikung Kagyu Lama. On the internet one can find many teachings now of H.E. Garchen Rinpoche or other Drikung Lamas that one can listen to. This is a Drikung Kagyu retreat and all the texts and practices are from the Drikung Kagyu traditions. Although it is open to disciples of other Vajrayana traditions preference will be given to disciples of Drikung Kagyu. Connection to a root lama to whom one has devotion and guidance from prior to the retreat is extremely beneficial. Devotion is an essential part of success in practice and it comes mainly from a real connection with a realized being such as H.H. the Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang or H.E. Garchen Rinpoche.

MATURITY AND INTEGRITY
This retreat is a solitary experience for the most part, and so one must be self- motivated and able to rely on oneself. One is not monitored daily and so one must be mature in one's practice, self- disciplined and able to deal with being in a group setting. The pressure of retreat can bring out all sorts of interpersonal difficulties. Little things can turn into big problems if we do not have the mind of a practitioner. A practitioner is not interested in other people's minds. He or she is interested in only their own mind. One should not focus on the faults of others, but only on one's own impure perception. Whatever others may or may not do it is not of any concern to a practitioner. Everything can be transformed into the path if we chose to see things as a reflection of our own mind. An immature person will spend much of their time worrying about what others are doing and how other are offending them. This will lead to nowhere and waste any merit of retreat.
Being in a group retreat is a very powerful way to see the projections of our mind and to purify them. If we use it as part of our practice it has great merit and is very supportive.
If one has a strong desire to join such a retreat one should not hesitate and should continually pray to the lineage lamas and dharma protectors for their blessing to support you in coming to retreat. With an attitude of joy and gratitude for such an opportunity to do retreat, most of the disciples here were able to persevere and thrive even in challenging situations and despite the hardship of adjusting to a solitary life and intensive meditation practice.

RECOMMENDED PREPARATIONS
The most important preparations that you can do are to work on the basics.
In the retreat you will receive all the instructions necessary for meditation practice. However for you to have success in these practices you must have the basics of body health, body awareness and emotional and mental well-being. Many practitioners are surprised to hear that diet and exercise are two of the most important aspects of meditation practice. If you have not paid attention to your body, listened to your body and learned what it needs and how to keep it healthy, you will have a very hard time getting it to support your practice, especially when you reach practices such as Chakrasamvara, Vajravarahi and the Six Yogas of Naropa. These are all practices that require a very strong body and mind connection. One must be able to direct subtle energy in one's body to specific locations. If one has no awareness of the body and one has physical pain and energy blockages, if one eats foods that block one's channels and sensitivity, if one has childhood traumas or heavy emotional patterns that they have never investigated, then one will have great difficulty to feel one's subtle energies and manipulate them. If you start the process first through taking care of the basics now, you will be in a great advantage and in your retreat.

WE RECOMMEND THE FOLLOWING:

  • Taking up some awareness exercise such as hatha yoga and/or tai- chi. Even if you have a teacher that does not focus on listening to your body, you must do this. Every movement must connect mind and body. See Giorgio's video's on you-tube.
  • Try some type of body work like massage or reflexology again to awaken this connection of body and mind and learn to relax the body.
  • Go to a Chinese or Ayurvedic doctor or Naturopath to learn about your body and what food you should and should not be eating. Get some advice on purification of your body and how to keep it healthy. Get testing on food intolerances.
  • Take time to have some counseling or inner emotional work done to start to explore your main emotional issues and weak points. This will accelerate the process and prevent you wasting a lot of time in retreat. Every practitioner needs to know themselves. They need to face the traumas big and small in their childhood and life. They need to be aware of their personality flaws and what their emotional limitations are. It doesn't mean one cannot do retreat with flaws or negative emotions, but one needs to be aware of them. There is no way to bypass this level of work. The sooner you are aware of these things the easier it will be to heal and integrate them. Such work as family constellations, The Work by Byron Katie, Non-violent communication by Rosenberg, and Focusing by Ann Weiser Cornell are all helpful tools to aid self inquiry.
  • Never give up one's commitment to practice. If one has determination to go into retreat and one continues to make aspiration prayers for this for the benefit of all beings, it will come to fruition. Even if there seems insurmountable obstacles such as money and so forth, if we have pure motivation and never give up the Dakinis and Dharma Protectors will aid us if not in this life, in the next. We must make an unshakable commitment that will support us through all obstacles that arise in retreat.

We can give further recommendations and work with you on these things. It really takes a time to know oneself and understand one's body and mind, if you start now, then in retreat you won't have to spend so much time on these basics and can have real results quickly. It is impossible to bypass these basics. If you don't start them now, you will be dealing with them in retreat. They are gross level work and so will prevent you from going deep in subtle level work.

APPLICATION PROCESS FOR THE THREE YEAR RETREAT
Write a letter including the following information:
Name, Contact information
Brief biography of education, work, relationship status
Health condition
What health, exercise and dietary measures do you do to prepare for retreat?
Do you have awareness of your body and proper breathing?
What counseling or inner personal work have you done?
Have you had any mental health issues?
Do you have support of family and friends in doing such a retreat?
What do you see as the biggest obstacle you might face in retreat?
Will you be able to support yourself in retreat financially?
Describe your retreat experience in detail
Which lamas that you have studied with?
Who do you consider your root lama and why?
Why did you chose to do the retreat in the Drikung Kagyu lineage?
Why you wish to do a Three Year Retreat?
Why do you think it is important to learn the Six Yogas of Naropa?

REFERENCES
Doctor's certificate of good health
References: You will need to supply two references. One from a Lama or Dharma Practitioner preferably in the Drikung Kagyu lineage and one personal.

INTERVIEW
You will be contacted for at least one interview by the Retreat masters.

SUMMER CAMP
You need to attend the 3 week Summer Camp from August 12-Sept 2, 2017. Please speak to the retreat masters if there is some obstacle in attending this to see if there are other options.

COST OF RETREAT
€ 350,- fee per month
€ 200,- approx. monthly cost for food, which is payed by the retreatant and can vary depending on one’s needs. Staff will go shopping with the credit card, which is provided by the retreatant.
€ 150,- approx. for personal expenses-can vary depending on one’s needs.
Approx.€ 20,- for monthly Tsogs
Approx. €400 for two fire pujas, which will be done by the retreatant.
No cost for the support by the High Lamas, when they visit the center and no cost for the assistance by the Drubpöns and Giorgio.

SUPPORT OPTIONS
The center can give assistance for financial emergency situations
For support how to inspire sponsors of your Three-Year-Retreat intention
For ill and handicapped participants
for young people (18–26 years.)
For ordained sangha members

RESIDENCY FOR NON-EU PARTICIPANTS
The retreatant is required to inquire how long he/she can be out of the country.

CONTACT INFORMATION
For all spiritual questions: Drubpön Rachel Dodds (Retreat Master) and Drubpön Chödrön (Retreat Master) are available.
For administrative questions: Carolina v. Gravenreuth.
Tel. +49-5193-97432-000
Fax +49-5193-97432-099
E-Mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Milarepa Retreat Zentrum
Reimerdinger Str. 18
D 29640 Schneverdingen
Phone +49-(0)5193-97432-000
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