History of Söpa Chöling
In 1985 several students asked the Vidyadhara Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche for permission to enter three-year retreat at other dharma centres. The Vidyadhara answered that we should create our own retreat within Vajradhatu, that it should be in English, that it would require a large translation effort, and that it would take about five years to prepare.
In 1987 Venerable Thrangu Rinpoche began conversations with Ani Pema Chödrön about initiating a long-retreat tradition at Gampo Abbey for interested students, in particular as a training for the monastic sangha. In 1988 Rinpoche unveiled a plan for the retreat consisting of five segments of about six months each. This schedule was designed to make it more accessible to lay sangha with family and career commitments. The building was completed at a cost of $350,000 in time for the first phase of the Group A retreat, which began in December 1990. It was blessed by Jamgön Kongtrul Rinpoche and named Söpa Chöling, meaning "Dharma Place of Patience."
After consulting with Thrangu Rinpoche, subsequent retreats now occur in three, rather than five, segments. This reduces the number of transitions (into retreat, out into the world, and back again) and the total number of years to complete the full program.
The breaks between retreat sections are longer now. Loved ones and careers need our attention, thus we return to those places and people after each phase of the retreat. On a really practical level, some individuals need that time to earn and save money for the next phase.
These transitions are important as a time to practice post-meditation and to see how the time spent in intensive meditation has affected changes in our view and action in the world. The goal of practice after all is not to become perfect meditators but to bring our practice into the world, and here is the opportunity to do just that.