Taraloka Retreat Centre

Coming on retreat for the first time?

On Tue, 21 August, 2012 - 13:54
jobiwan108's picture
Jo writes:
It’s been a while since we’ve posted anything on our blog. We do now have a Facebook page for short pieces of information, but this wonderful piece was written by Emmy very soon after her first retreat here this year. She came on the Metta Retreat in March and there’s another one running from the 1st-5th October 2012. It’s a great read and a lovely reminder of that feeling of discovering Taraloka for the first time…

Emmy writes:
When I booked onto the 5 day Metta Bhavana Retreat in March 2012 I wasn’t really sure what I was letting myself in for. I’m not Buddhist, vegetarian (never mind vegan) and have never been on a retreat before. The night before I left I scoured the Taraloka website again, reading information about the community and people who had volunteered there, but not finding anything about the retreats themselves that would tell me a little bit more about the journey I was about to embark on.
On our last day at Taraloka I talked to one of the leaders of the retreat; Satyajyoti, and told her that I would have found a blog by a participant really helpful, ‘Wonderful’ she replied ‘when are you going to write it?’
There was so much packed into those 5 days that it would take me far too long to recount everything to you here – so what comes next are some of my fondest memories of that amazing week in March – one of the best things I have ever done.
First let’s tackle the nitty gritty things that you may be concerned about: the food, the accommodation, meditation, chanting, Buddhism workshops.

Food – I am not vegetarian but I can promise you that the food is lovely, I didn’t miss meat or fish or eggs or alcohol once. There was always ‘seconds’ available and the portions were more than generous. Hot drinks of every description are available 24/7 and at our first meeting together we were all invited to ‘treat Taraloka as your home’, we did, and that’s just what it felt like for our stay.

Accommodation – Clean, simple, comfortable and there’s loads of hot water!

Meditation – Some ladies on the retreat had meditated before and many had not. On the first morning we were given full and very supportive details about the positions available – don’t worry about the lotus position, you can sit on a chair if you like! The Shrine Room is a lovely space, with beautiful views and such a calm atmosphere – it was a pleasure to spend time there.

Chanting – Yes, we did do some chanting (something I’d been apprehensive about) and it was lovely. The ‘Maitri’ chant was soft and tuneful and we did sound pretty good, if I say so myself. Singing in a group is an activity that I don’t do very often and this reminded me how nice it is.

Buddhist Workshops – ‘Are you going to get your head shaved?’, ‘Don’t come back a Buddhist!’ – These were some of the things my friends and family said to me in jest before I came to Taraloka. The only way that I can describe the fine line walked on the course between providing information about Buddhism and then allowing general personal development of any faith – is ‘elegant’. The leaders did explain the basics of Buddhism and I found it intriguing. It’s okay to take part in any activity without a reference to Buddhism as a religion, and everything had been prepared so well in advance that it was never an issue. Everyone I spoke to felt completely comfortable in this respect.

So, onto my lovely memories…

  1. Chopping vegetables in a period of silence with Ruth and Charlotte; the red and orange and green peppers, the ‘crunch’ of the knife slicing through the flesh as they turned into cubes to go into pasta for our lunch. The warm companionship of working in a quiet kitchen, doing a job we enjoyed and smiling at each other as we finished our task and wandered outside.
  2. Walking with Satyajyoti to the ‘peat bogs’ when I asked her to answer some of my questions. Such a calm and fascinating discussion that we ran out of time. After walking over the canal bridge a wind blew up and the hail storm came down. As we walked through the wooded area for shelter and out onto the field before the pond we looked up and saw a rainbow encasing the Taraloka retreat building. Before our eyes a second, fainter rainbow appeared next to the first – beautiful.
  3. Sitting in our ‘check-in group’ in the lounge with Maitrimala and 6 other ladies, talking about our day and how our meditations were going. Really listening to each other in a warm, supportive atmosphere; at one point Caroline said that she was so pleased that we were her group as every person there was making positive difference to her. We all smiled our agreement and I felt very lucky too – it didn’t matter that we were all different ages and had different life experiences; it felt very important that we were each there.
  4. Realising that I had enjoyed the vegan food so much that I wanted to do it at home too (sometimes…). I copied out 2/3 recipes from the menus in the kitchen and enjoyed sitting in the lounge anticipating cooking at home and sharing the delicious food with my own family.

I could go on and on and on, but I would like to finish with a poem that I found when I was at Taraloka; it may be helpful for someone who isn’t sure whether to come to a retreat or not. Thank you for reading my blog – and I hope I meet up with you at Taraloka one day.

The Door

Go and open the door.
Maybe there’s
A tree, or a wood,
a garden,
or a magic city.

Go and open the door.

Maybe a dog’s rummaging.
Maybe you’ll see a face,
or an eye, or the picture
of a picture (…)

Go and open the door.

Even if there’s only
the darkness tickling
Even if there’s only
the hollow wind
Even if
Is there

Go and open the door.

At least
There’ll be
a draught.

Miroslav Holub
(Translated by Ian Milner)
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Suryadarshini's picture
Thanks for writing this post, Emmy. It’s fantastic to read about Taraloka through your eyes. I’ve been there a few times now, but I was delighted anew by your descriptions - they helped me remember how awed I was when I first arrived, and to appreciate the efforts of the women who run it. I’m glad you enjoyed your retreat. And Sadhu! to Jo and others for continuing to create such a welcoming, positive atmosphere for people to meet the Dharma.
Saddhanandi's picture
Thanks for sharing this letter, Jo. Having lead retreats for so many years I never tire of reading these kind of appreciative notes from such ‘new women’ - it makes it all seem worth while.
jane.easton@blueyonder.co.uk's picture
Hey Emmy, thanks for your post about the retreat, you write really well and honestly. As a vegan cook/teacher I was especially touched by your open-minded attitude to the food! Hope you enjoy the new vegan section on this website. And do check out www.vegetarianrecipeclub.org.uk if you fancy cooking some yummy vegan food at home. I was part of Sheffield TBC’s Vegan Feasts Day a few weeks ago and I think you would have enjoyed the food and the discussions! Cheers, Jane