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“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”
I came across this quote from Seneca recently and it resonated as I prepare to leave Akashavana after two years. Originally I was only coming for a year, but very quickly knew that wasn’t going to be long enough, as being in this quiet and beautiful land made me feel at home and supported by nature’s brilliance. One of my constant delights has particularly been sharing the land with the ibex, although there is a sadness there too as they have had an illness over this past year, which has decimated their population and we see far fewer of them than before. Hopefully they will breed and grow over the coming years, but for now it is a joy to sometimes meet one along the path, or hear them munching grasses outside my bedroom early in the morning. You can stand still and stare into each others eyes for quite some time and it feels a little like the communication exercises we used to do in Triratna (maybe they’re still done?).
Our year here hasn’t been the usual, as I imagine is the case for all of you, with Covid-19 meaning we haven’t had any retreats at all yet and seem unlikely to have any this year now. Financially this isn’t great of course, but personally I have appreciated the time and space to do little. I’m not a ‘doer’ by nature, unlike the others on the team here who enjoy getting on with projects; I am happy to sit and learn about people and the world via podcasts or documentaries, or dive into some engrossing drama. Recently we all listened to the conversations about race, both between Suryagupta and Subhuti, and more recently the panel hosted by Vimalasara. I really recommend them. This feels such a positive move, both in the world as a whole and in our community, and I feel I’m learning about myself, society and my friends. May it long continue.
My last month has also not been as expected…life definitely is king at the moment…but then isn’t it always. Three weeks ago my dad had a cardiac arrest and died 5 days later without ever regaining consciousness. It was hard being in Spain the first couple of days, but as the hospital wouldn’t let anyone visit my sister encouraged me to stay here, but I needed to be with her and my family, so flew over, leaving here with about an hours notice. Community shine through at times like this and Mumukshu was so kind, driving me to Tortosa over an hour away and staying the night with me there so I could catch the earliest bus out to the airport the next morning. The hospital allowed my sister, Dad’s wife and me to stay with him once they withdrew treatment, which I am very grateful for as I was very aware of those families that couldn’t be with their loved ones as they died due to Covid-19 restrictions. It was a painful but also precious 31 hours until he died. Returning to Akashavana a few days later to pack up what little I had left here seemed the best idea, but of course has meant this last couple of weeks has felt very different to how it would have if Dad hadn’t died. Trying to control life seems pointless and yet there is some need to organise too. I must admit I’ve yet to find that balance without stress or apathy taking over.
So I leave in 3 days, no longer returning leisurely through France by train, as Covid-19 has led to the cancellation of my Barcelona to Paris train, but flying back in time for the funeral and now having to quarantine at my sister’s for 14 days before moving to Shrewsbury for yet another new beginning. A new home, a new job (neither of which I have yet!), and now a life without any living parents. I think that’s why I appreciated Seneca’s quote…seeing new beginnings and remembering that everything before was also a new beginning is a way of allowing life to be king and yet staying awake to and excited by whatever is happening now and next.
So goodbye Akashavana. I shall miss being here and the community, but it does feel like time to start anew somewhere else. I especially want to thank Mumukshu for two years of such enjoyable friendship. We were ordained together in Tuscany in 2003, but didn’t really know each other well when I arrived, but it has been a joy to share this time with her…many evenings spend playing Bananagram (a word game) with a bowl of crisps and a tonic water with ice and lemon…we became creatures of habit in those days. She works so hard to ensure Akashavana is thriving for those of you that come on retreat, and she deserves to be lauded.