We were warmly welcomed by monks and lay friends and soon settled into our routine of morning and evening meditation, ping pong (mostly Jasper and his monk friends), delicious meals spent both in silence and in conversation and many happy moments throughout each day.
We weren’t sure how our whole family would fit into a retreat centre, so we initially planned to stay for four days, but it quickly became apparent that we were each loved and appreciated for exactly who we were and so after a family meeting we decided to stay for the whole week.
Some of my favourite memories include Jasper holding hands with the monks during walking meditation, gently learning to slow his steps, Anna Sierra translating for her friend Jean Luc before they both went to the Happy Farm to transplant baby leeks, harvesting green beans on the Happy Farm and seeing them appear on the table a day later and hearing Derek and Anna Sierra bravely share a song at a sharing circle.
We loved all the cups of tea shared with each other and with new friends, we loved getting to know Maggie, the tame magpie and we loved waking up to a sky full of stars. Stopping and breathing whenever we heard the bell sound was also lovely.
Waiting until everyone served themselves lunch before eating was challenging at first, but was a beautiful practice that reminds me to eat more mindfully and to practice patience!
We left with many beautiful memories, many new dear friends and some new family traditions that will guide and ground the rest of our journey.
I’ll leave you with one final teaching that brought a huge smile to my face when a Dutch monk explained it: a more precise translation of the Buddhist statement, ‘life is suffering,’ is actually ‘life is a wheel with a hub that doesn’t quite fit,’ or ‘life is a shaky ride.’ So it seems like the issues we were having earlier in the trip with the tandem were much more profound than we realized!
Sending everyone our very best!