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Writing with sun shining high in the sky over mountain landscapes into the first floor lounge of Akashavana’s community house. Outdoors from window edges to mountain ridges oaks and pines stand silently still - whilst indoors the smells of breakfast coffee and sounds of crockery accompanied by intermittent tones of Mumukshu, Bodhipaksini .and Maitreyi vibrate through the air.
Akashavana community welcomed Maitreyi’s return for a 2 - week ‘presidential’ visit early in September. We (and our chapter sister Karunavapi) delighted in Maitreyi leading and sharing her reflections on six element and stupa practices over a long weekend. (This was the theme of a 3-week retreat she and Padmasuri were due to lead in September, but which was cancelled because of Covid-19 restrictions.) The opportunity to practice alongside others in the same physical space is simply precious, and energetically very different to virtual encounters which has become the default for so many during these uncertain times.
The first bit of news to share since our last blog, is that the Akashavana project now includes the land and ‘ruin’ of Mas de Flara which is adjacent to the community and retreat centre. We are grateful to all the friends and supporters of Akashavana, whose energies of vision, time, practice and money have contributed to this possibility coming into being. Mumukshu signed last week and Pedro (who had inherited the property from his uncle) also ceremonially handed her the simple iron key to the entrance door of the ruin, and this ritual moment captured in a photograph. The timing of the purchase, brought to my mind an image of a circle being completed given that Maitreyi was present at this time. I remembered going for a walk with Maitreyi to the ruin when I was ordained five years ago and how she shared her long standing hope that one day Akashavana could purchase it. She did not think it would happen in her lifetime - and it has!! As Maitreyi says - we have secured the mandala; to us as a community it feels a radical response to uncertain times; to me it feels at its best an offering to the wider women’s wing: the potential for a fuller range of practice contexts in more ‘wilderness’ conditions of simplicity if this is what enough of us want and at the least it extends the land mass where boar will not be hunted! We will be posting pictures and more news about possibilities for Mas de Flara and Akashavana project as a whole over the coming weeks and months.
Alongside the purchase, the combination of Brexit, Covid and autumn has meant that as a community we have had to turn our attention and creatively respond to different issues. It’s been a practice of holding all of these lightly, whilst also being aware of time ‘deadlines‘ and that we cannot control anything.
So, September has brought challenging mental states arising out of multiple (to date unsuccessful for Bodhipaksini and me) attempts to apply for spanish residencia - i think we are on our fifth attempt to progress this (involving long journeys and early starts to the day). Fortunately on our last visit, Mumukshu got closer to converting a more temporary residencia into a more permanent one. Also on our ‘to do’ list is converting our English driving licences into Spanish ones.
September has also seen us busy clarifying and putting in place policies, protocols and practicalities from which to offer future ordination retreats. It has been a pleasure to witness how the 2021 ordination teams (and subsequently wider private preceptors and future ordinands) have responded so positively and creatively to what we can offer under COVID restrictions. Plans for four shorter ordination retreats instead of two longer ones have been confirmed which means that as many women as possible will be able to be ordained at Akashavana in 2021under current COVID restrictions.
More immediately, we are also delighted to welcome a Spanish ordination retreat taking place here in early October 2020. So as September progressed, we were busy readying the retreat centre for our first retreat this year: from deep cleaning, to wooding, strimming and chainsawing to getting the spring water tested to making sure repairs are done to fitting out and reorganising the retreat centre and shrine room to meet Covid protocols.
And September has been a time of abundance from the earth: this time the season of blackberries, lavender and figs as well as crops of golden yellow tomatoes. We discovered a wonderful recipe for vegan blackberry and lavender cake, which was delicious. And biting into fresh figs - food of the goddesses and gods - brought by Karunavapi from her land.
And in all this busyness staying open to experiencing this elemental landscape. Delight, joy and wonder alongside sadness are oft companions. Joy arising in response to noticing the moon and the stars in night skies, delight in seeing fresh fox poo; sadness in coming across a dead ibex on a track; wonder in the coming together of about 50 vultures circling high and low above the community house. Noticing that the earth just seems to keep giving across the seasons as life arises out of the tiniest of cracks in rocks or in the slightest depth of soil, and leaves, branches, bodies of insects and …. and … and … create the humus for the next generations. Being so aware that we are the conditions for each other (human and more than human), and ongoing reflections on what are the conditions we ourselves offer and bring?
Love Satyamuni x