The 3 Doors hosted its first International Retreat for Academy graduates, current students, teachers in Merida, Mexico from January 4-9, 2018. This reflection by Phil Tonne from New Mexico, written initially to those in his graduating Academy class, captures the lasting warmth and vitality of his experience in a way that includes and inspires us all.

I’m back home on a beautiful day tuning up my mountain bike and thinking of each of you.

I was asked to share a bit about my experience at the International Retreat. Part of the joy of going to a retreat is being joined by others who have shared the Academy journey with you, the richness of seeing each of you, the anticipation that I would be joined by a dozen people that graduated with us and our two amazing teachers, Marcy and Gabriel. To top it all off Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche would be there. All of the anticipation, the hope active in my arrival, shifted with the storm on the east coast of the U.S. It was unclear if Rinpoche would make it, or Marcy or Gabriel. One at a time I realized that 5 members of our graduating class wouldn’t make it. Each change seemed like a missed opportunity but within that I could trust the connection; the connectivity that germinated in our time together was still alive and supportive in my heart. Everything that had been planned was shifting and within that new possibilities arose. Even people that were present disappeared for days, dealing with illnesses, only to return to add their bright sense of wonder at our coming together.

There’s no replacing those of you who were not present but there was aliveness in the shift. I just watched “Doing Time, Doing Vipassana” and in that documentary film there was a 10-day retreat. On day two a storm destroyed the tent and soaked the cushions and blankets that were in use by 1000 participants. There were discussions of cancelling the rest of the retreat, but the one who had pushed to make this happen embraced trust and said we’ll be fine. People from the community gathered together and sewed the tent back together and dried all of the blankets and cushions. A day later everything was back in place, little meditation time missed. In Merida, all that was planned for the International Retreat shifted from the moment we arrived or didn’t; the movement of hearts and winds and arising possibilities created an ever-changing backdrop to the wealth of this gathering. The gathering was like the unchanging space of refuge where all challenges, shifts, and conflicts could dissolve in the warmth of our presence, supported by the warmth of the Yucatan, its amazing people and beings including a resident coatimundi.

Tenzin Rinpoche did arrive, then Marcy and Gabriel two days later. The weather was amazing and Rinpoche talked about our organization and offered fresh direction for the future of The 3 Doors without abandoning any of its foundation. In the moist warm air he shared his vision, accompanied by birdsong, colorful butterflies, flowers and hummingbirds, the whimsical song of grackles carried from large fig trees, ornaments to his voice. When he talked about going for enlightenment he emphasized that even if you’ll never get there, going for it changes everything. It became apparent how precious the opportunity is as he shared what stirred within him. His words and emotion were doorways to commitment, devotion, and the wonder of all that’s available, all of the possibilities and positive qualities that are present when we have the commitment to our authentic journey supported by these practices.

For an extended period of time, we sat in an arc around our teacher, moved by his presence, his open heart and his vulnerability, the trust and warmth opening each of the three doors. There was a sense that we could each participate more fully and come alive within this collective journey that was only possible because of the journey a young man who kept Dawa Gyaltsen’s 5-fold teachings in his pocket as his support. Tenzin Rinpoche walked away from everything familiar to him, his community, every support and comfort abandoned so that he might fully manifest in the world, and sitting under a tree with us today, realize and share and express who we are as a collective body and how much potential there is within our journeys if we allow selflessness to arise within us and engage with open hearts the challenges and possibilities of our lives.

This message resonated in the sharing of the many participants, the many projects in motion in communities around the globe, and the warmth of the collective.

There was a word that emerged that captured the experience of being held by trees, warm moist air, and an amazing collection of individuals and beings – Apapacho, a warm collective hug much like the gompa hugs we send to each other in celebration and support. The warmth and heart of the Latin American collective was contagious leaving us all to discover our participation in something much larger that we could ever have anticipated. The many storms and obstacles that disrupted were bathed in the boundless warmth of collective potential and positive qualities as we dispersed to families and communities around the earth, a warm and giving vessel filled with beauty that is home for all of us without prejudice.

As I finish tuning my bike, I have tires that are better for the path that I’m about to take along the wilderness boundary above my house. It was like that attending the International Retreat. It was like a tune-up that left me better prepared and supported to travel the unfolding path of this life. Just like knowing each of you supports me as if you were right here, the power of connection and connectivity is the truth of my experience as I head out into the sun this afternoon. We have an incredible potential to move each other and to meet the challenges we face supported by each other. Our relationship to the collective might change over time but the truth of the support is unchanging and that is so portable and renewing, just like our practice.