Guhyaloka retreat centre plans first One Year Retreat
On Wed, 9 May, 2012 - 11:01
Bodhidaka writes from Guhyaloka, Triratna’s men’s retreat centre in the Spanish mountains, with news of their plans for Triratna’s first ‘One Year Retreat’ - and an invitation to contribute to it. He says -
“Since its founding in 1986 Guhyaloka retreat centre has hosted Triratna’s annual 4 month Ordination retreats for men. There has been a resident community here almost continuously since then, and many changes in how the community here has organised itself. Besides the regular Ordination retreats there have been many working retreats, sometimes for 5 months at a time, and those who attend retreats here now do so as a result of enormous amounts of hard work spanning 4 decades.
In the 90’s we had two interlocking communities in the Valley - a hard-working ‘support community’ and a ‘vihara’, plus several facilities for solitary retreats. The communities embraced two spiritual poles of life in the mountains: those working directly for the benefit of others and those practising more intensive meditation. Since 2007 there has been a single community, which has been attempting to integrate both these in a single yearly programme: working to support the ongoing retreats and solitaries but also engaging in a 3 month retreat ourselves each autumn. In a very real sense the Guhyaloka community has been exploring how to live a simple life in the mountains while maintaining our three core principles of deepening our spiritual practise, living communally, and serving each other and those who come to live with us.
In January 2013 Guhyaloka will be starting another new phase of its life with the launching of the One Year retreat at ‘El Collao’; a property bought exclusively for the purpose of longer term retreats. The land (just under 4 hectares) is 40 minutes walk from the main retreat centre and high up on a south-facing hill with vast and stunning views of the mountains all around and the sea in the distance. Click here for a video showing a little of the beauty of El Collao.
Before we bought it in 2010, the land had been cultivated for 25 years by a local stonemason from Benidorm. He started with terraces completely overgrown with scrub and pines but worked it gradually and lovingly into its present state of abundance. There are olive and almond trees in profusion, a wide selection of soft fruits, bee hives and grapes. In the summer every few weeks sees a new fruit ripe for the picking and the olives provide over a hundred litres of oil every year. The grapes could make wine of course but if last year is anything to go by Vasubandhu might press them with his carefully washed feet and serve the juice; ice-cold and delicious!
Since then we’ve been hard at work learning how to look after it as well as preparing the buildings for the first retreat. We’ve had great help for the various people who have been here on retreat especially the guys on the Ordination retreats. Roughly once a week they have taken a break from their study and meditation to do some physical work .They have heaved rocks, dug pits and hammered nails –all with great good humour.
Now we’re ready to make serious plans for our first year-long retreat, which will begin in January 2013. Five of us will participate: Vajrapriya, Udara, Jayaraja, Vasubandhu and myself (Bodhidaka). All of us have long standing connections with Guhyaloka and quite a bit of experience of the Ordination retreats held in the main retreat centre. On this retreat however we will be exploring new territory and learning lessons that we hope will contribute to future retreats and in time to Triratna’s own long term retreat tradition.
Between now and the start of the retreat in January there’s still a lot to do however - more building work, a water system to finish, and solar panels to install. And of course there is the ongoing work of looking after the land and the trees – and maybe learning more about the bees too along the way.
The retreat itself will be a community project without any of us being the leader - though we are hoping to have visits from some friends and senior members of the Order with many years of retreat experience. We will be meditating, studying, eating and working together so we will get to know each other pretty well! For me this communal aspect is very important and although there will undoubtedly be difficult moments it is a great way of bringing the inspiration from meditation into relationship with others. Not an easy practise but if we succeed it can have very deep effects.
Working on the land will also be a significant aspect of our year and it is one that after doing it part time for a few years I relish. I don’t think I am alone in finding physical work very grounding and it can bring new depths to meditation. When it is such connecting work as looking after the land and harvesting the incredible profusion of fruits, almonds and olives I feel sure we will be nourished by it on a deep level.
Having said that we will only have work periods of about a week each month and in some of the dry months in the summer less than that. So there will be a lot of space for meditation, reflection, Puja and all the practises that we hold dear. Personally I want to generate as stable a base of mindfulness and happiness as I can and just soak myself in the Dharma, in particular Sangharakshita’s teaching on the System of Meditation. I feel very fortunate indeed that this retreat is taking shape and I know that it does so on the basis of so much hard work, generosity and love that has gone before.
We have bought the land with surplus funds built up over our many years of running retreats. We have had some very kind donations totalling €33,000, more than half our needs (one friend in Ireland bought us a tractor for €6K!) as well as a very significant interest free loan. Now the project is really taking shape and the first group of retreatants are preparing themselves we’re able to see how much more we need to fund-raise; currently we estimate €60K.
Even if you can’t hear the bees buzzing and the wind in the trees, even if you’re not praying for rain (as we are at this moment) maybe you will feel a sense of connection with us. And if you do perhaps you will feel like supporting us through offering us some Dana via our new JustGiving page. And perhaps you’ll even do something like this yourself someday…
Yours in the Dharma, Bodhidaka Guhyaloka May 2012.