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Our year began with the preparations for the 3 month ordination retreat, and we thought all was ready when we discovered the lower water tank was completely empty, an animal had broken a pipe and all the water 20,000 litres had flowed down the hill ! Fortunately we were able to have it fixed pretty quickly and begin filling it again and also fortunately, we had another full tank ! That was enough of a heart stopper one may have thought – but Mara had other plans … The day the retreatants arrived something went wrong with the electricity, which meant no pump to get the water into the house, and no lights!
What a start to the retreat! We filled buckets from the rainwater tank to bring in for washing and of course the solar water is gravity fed so that was OK in the kitchen. It was quite atmospheric with lots of night lights about the place. This too was fixed the next day. We were very impressed and touched by how quickly all the repairers came to our aid, they all seem to share in the responsibility for all these women up a mountain!
Once the retreat had settled in, we were able to take some time to catch up with friends and family – Mumukshu’s came to her and the rest of us went to our homelands to see ours. We were all back together in the community by the time the preceptors came. We took over the cooking for that period of time too – a first for us during this retreat. It is always a busy time for the community so we were glad to be four sharing these extra duties! The public ordination day went well, was full of joy and celebration. Great to be able to witness another 12 women enteriung the order !
At the end of June I (Acalavajri) left for the US to be on retreat in San Francisco with Viveka and Paramananda. The community were most generous in supporting me taking a couple of months away during the final phase of the ordination course and the busiest time of the year with retreats coming afterwards. I really appreciated this gift.
Whilst there was a gap in the calendar – Mumukshu went off to the UK, to see family briefly, attend the Buddhafield festival and then on to the European Chairs Assembly at Vajrasana. Shridaya’s daughter, son and his girlfriend came to stay for a few days at the community. Vikasini was left fielding all the bookings and communications for the two week ordination retreat, as well as all the other admin that goes on here. The two of them then prepared for the Bodhiheart retreat, which began on 24th July, and Vijayamala and Moksanandi led everyone expertly through the Tonglen practice and the seven point mind training in a very experiential and spacious way. The eleven retreatants really appreciated the teachings and left changed.
We then sadly, said ‘goodbye’ to Shridaya – she felt that it was no longer possible for her to stay as a member of the community here. Her health was not 100% and there were pulls from other directions. We miss her and naturally, wish her well.
During the Summer we had some shocking news - a straw-bale house built and run by friends as a rural hotel was completely burnt down. They were out for the day, no-one was hurt, but they lost everything, all their possessions plus 7 hectares of surrounding pine trees and bush. It has made us think again about building the solitaries with straw bales, mainly because the planning authorities are going to be less likely to approve the plans. Mumukshu and a local agent have been independently researching about building with earth, a traditional and popular material in Spain far more likely to be approved of here where fire is such a hazard. They have been using this method at Eco Dharma. There will be more discussions and decisions – but we are still hopeful to begin the build in the latter part of 2018.
We have just said goodbye to the folk on the 2 week ordination retreat, which was the largest we have had with 15 ordinands, 13 preceptors, 3 public preceptors plus me as organiser and Siddhisvari came again from Barcelona to be our cook. Another great day witnessing the public ordinations and we have now had 215 Ordinations in the shrine room – a lineage that will continue down the years ahead.
Currently, we are hosting the 10 year reunion retreat for those pioneering women who were ordained here in 2007 – the very first year that Akashavana was open for retreats. There were 14 women in 2007 who bravely came up the mountain to a ‘just finished’ retreat centre and 11 of them have returned this week. Sadly, one of the 14 died and one resigned in the intervening years … and one cannot make it for family reasons. They are seeing some changes in each other and in the retreat centre. Things are much easier these days on the mountain than they were ten years ago ..
The community here is changing too – Vikasini will leave us in November as she too, like Shridaya, feels that she can no longer stay on the mountain and I will be leaving sometime next year. So Mumukshu is currently looking for others to come and join her in this wonderful place. We have some interest – both from prospective community members and from possible short-term volunteers. Its heartening to know that Akashavana is firmly in the heart of the Triratna Community and its future is secure.