Attending a Retreat with Namchak Khen Rinpoche: An Interview with Alley Fontenot
To learn more about Namchak’s Shamata retreats and what to expect when you attend, we spoke with Alley Fontenot, Namchak Community Steward.
How can I prepare for the workshop?
“The event is very well supported, so there’s nothing you need to do to prepare. All you need to have is an open mind. Set the intention to give yourself this weekend to step away from your phone and make a commitment to yourself to be truly present.”
Why should I attend a Namchak retreat?
“This was my very first meditation retreat. I’ve had a pretty consistent meditation practice for a few years now, but had never attended a full weekend meditation retreat. I really felt the benefits of disciplined practice for two-and-a-half days solid. I came away from the weekend feeling energized and inspired – not only by the teachings, but by the people who showed up and fearlessly opened up to a room of strangers. The reasons people came to the retreat were varied but everybody was there to learn and connect with others. A big overarching goal was. ‘How can I make myself better but also carry it out into the world?’ We had everyone from beginners and advanced practitioners to meditation teachers. It’s really designed for everyone.”
What can I expect to learn?
“Every retreat is different, but this retreat focuses on a practice. Namchak Khen Rinpoche introduces methods and techniques to practice Shamata, a technique to calm the mind. It’s a foundational practice for different paths of meditation. The retreat is very interactive throughout the whole weekend, with plenty of opportunities to ask questions. You get to learn the benefits of meditation and tricks to navigate roadblocks you might encounter in your meditation practice. Namchak Khen Rinpoche really equips the students to be able to practice Shamata after the retreat. “
What’s Namchak Khen Rinpoche like as a teacher?
“He’s a Tibetan Buddhist scholar and teaches around the world, yet he’s so accessible to everyone in the room. He has a conversational style that is very light-hearted and humorous – expect lots of laughing! He uses stories to illustrate the teachings for better understanding and allows time for one-on-one interactions between himself and the students.”
Alley recently came to Namchak as the Community Steward after serving as the Development Director for Watson Children’s Shelter, an emergency shelter for abused and neglected children. Alley was born and raised in Texas and moved to Missoula in 1994 to attend the University of Montana. Alley is passionate about connecting with people and had the pleasure of spending back-to-back weekends at Shamata retreats with Namchak Khen Rinpoche in NYC and Berkeley. When Alley is not at work, you can find her kayaking the rivers of Montana and Idaho, teaching and practicing yoga, dancing Oula, or hiking the mountains with her dog, Lyla.