We are now into the 3 month Ordination Retreat and the community is settled with Samata being our third member for a few months …
It was a bit of a bumpy start to the retreat as Kalyanavaca had to leave Akashavana almost as soon as she had arrived due to illness. We are happy to hear that she is having treatment and is making slow yet steady progress to better health. For a while it seemed that the other four would carry on … but a replacement team member was found rapidly. Within 24 hours, Santasiddhi had cleared her diary and handed over some of her responsibilities and headed straight out to us. Amazing – and great that the people around her were able to support this by taking on a few more things …
We have 15 ordinands and they are less ‘multi-cultural’ than we often have. 13 are from UK and 1 from Germany and 1 from Finland and they are settling well to the new environment and the aspect of living as ‘community’. The retreat centre will be quite full when the 15 preceptors arrive …. so lets hope that the weather stays as good as it is at the moment so that the campers can stay out of doors and free some space up in the bedrooms.
Life in the community had a few readjustments to make after the volunteers left. We were initially busy settling in the retreat, but then we found a bit of time and space to find out from each other and ourselves how we wished to live for the next few months. We have stayed very close to the daily structure we had with the volunteers … wherever possible we keep the mornings to ourselves and work in the afternoons. Where this is not possible, we stay flexible to the changes required whilst keeping a watchful eye on the level of work we do … its easy to become distracted by it. We have introduced a community night as well as a chapter night and we have been able to have a couple of ‘practice days’. Last year Manigarbha and I found that our collective / formal practice was not at the centre of our mandala – it was work. Well, we both have either Calvinist or Protestant upbringing which conditioned us into ‘work first, reward after – possibly’. So we decided to make a change to that and keep practice alive and at the heart of what we do.
Samata is managing to help us honour that and we have had some good times meditating outdoors on the top of the water storage with the whole vista ahead of us…. we have been looking at our ‘direct experience’ and more recently ‘direct pointing to desire’. I have found it personally very stimulating to have conversations throughout the day – totally impromptu, about our experience. We have also had some lively debates about it too.
Our two recent guests have fully engaged with the material too, so there has been no vacuum.
We are having time away from the community and the responsibility of the retreat . On Sunday, Samata and I went on the ‘XIV marcha por caminos de Torre del Compte’.This was a 15km walk in the fertile river valley near Torre del Compte – about a 75 min drive from the mountain. Which doesn’t sound too bad until I tell you that the walk was starting at 8.30am !! The Spanish like to get the walks over in time for lunch !!! So we left home before we had really got to bed… When we arrived at the registration point we were offered a tot of whisky with a biscuit or some chocolate – just to keep us warm and fed. We happily declined and brought out our flasks of tea – very British of us, but just as warming. The day had a cool wind to it, but the sun shone with as much heat as it could master. Together they provided the perfect walking day. The organisers provided three refreshment points on route – the first with wine, water and almonds; the second was wine, water, ham sandwiches and olives; the third was wine, water and the most delicious oranges that Samata and I had ever tasted…. and thats saying something at this time of year in Spain. We have the best oranges anywhere.When we reached our destination – we were offered lunch, the biggest chicken paella I had ever seen… so we happily declined explaining our strange eating habits and headed home instead.
So now, we have a gap between guests and there will be work to do … we must do the ‘pointing’ on the community house and whilst we are mixing the cement, we want to create a ‘stupa’ of sorts as the ‘gateway’ to the retreat centre. Perhaps our next post will have photo’s of this new creation which will be adorned with a beautiful mosaic by Vassika…..