Yesterday, at 5am four of us piled in car for a road trip up to Manchester for a public talk and an empowerment granted by Gen-la Dekyong. I think that this is a testament to how much I love empowerments, because I'm not getting up at 4.30am for just anyone. Mrs W kindly offered to drive us up there. She is essentially a small squirrel in human form, and she was so excited she was dancing around the kitchen when I came downstairs in the morning. We had to pull her back down to earth so that she could actually drive the car. We had a fairly uneventful journey until we got into Manchester and tried to find the car park: damn the one way system! We got the the Convention Centre eventually, and just as it started to rain we managed to dash inside and register.
The day started at noon with a public talk, which was inspiring as always. Gen-la Dekyong is a very accomplished meditator and she has a lovely stage presence. Her voice is very soothing, I felt all my worries disappear as soon as she started speaking. There were hundreds of people there and I ran into quite a few people that I know: one of which being a friend who is based in Sydney but is back here seeing family for a bit. It was delightful to catch her in the country and not busy for once, so during the break we ambled out and got a white chocolate mocha from Starbucks to perk us up a bit. They don't have Starbucks in Australia so it's one of her rare indulgences when she comes here.
After the break, Gen-la Khyenrab, a monk who has also been practising Buddhism for many years, guided us a meditation to prepare us for the main event later. It was brief, and I have to say that my mind was all over the place. Would this have anything to do with the large caffeinated beverage I had just consumed? Possibly.
I managed to hang out with some more people (really? you ask) while I had a late lunch. There were so many old friends meeting up, it was a real festival atmosphere. (Except without the camping and the mud, of course.) After that, it was back into the auditorium for Buddha Shakyamuni empowerment. The shrine was really beautiful, and there was a huge painting of Buddha projected onto the wall behind her, it was heartwarming! Buddha Shakyamuni is the main person that people think of when they think of Buddha. He was the founder of Buddhism in this world, and chiefly occupied with reducing people's suffering and increasing their happiness through teaching people how to train their minds. Empowerments are special blessing ceremonies that enable us to get closer to Buddhas, to feel like they are a presence in our lives through their teachings, rather than mere historical figures from a long time ago. I have been to many empowerments, and I love them because you get a real feeling of connectedness. Also, because you can sleep through them and still manage to transform your mind.
We managed to reassemble and after a few wrong turns we made it to Vairochana Centre where we were spending the night. They had a mens dorm on the ground floor and all us girls were upstairs in the shrine room. More happy hopping about occurred as Mrs W was incredibly excited that we got to sleep in with all the statues of Buddhas. The centre itself is across the road from a big Catholic church, it is very spacious, and the shrine room is fairly big and airy. There were lots of big windows and sky lights, and there were lots of mattresses and pillows already out for us, all we needed to do is bring a sleeping bag. They had a selection of breakfasty things for the morning and tea in the next room. They had even provided us with eye masks and ear plugs in cases we needed them! How kind! It was much more comfortable than I expected... although there was some general rustling at about 6am (6am!) Of course by that point the girls had already been up for an hour and had showered, breakfasted and gone for a walk. I managed to sleep for a bit longer and then gave up. So the girls stared at me intently while I got my confused, sorry self dressed and ate something and in the end we were back on the road by about 7.10am this morning. No wonder I'm knackered! I did sleep for an extra hour on the road which was helpful.
The journey back was quite illuminating. I learned things about Mrs W's childhood that were a bit shocking, and she discovered that I really like cheesy music. I like lots of other music as well, in my defence, but there is something about road trips that inspire me to listen to sing 80's songs very loudly. This is quite handy because Mrs W also had a penchant for a bit of cheese while on the road, and we are going to have a few long journeys to Buddhisty things together I suspect. We ended up getting home just in time for lunch.... and then, another nap. Naturally.
It was a short but sweet weekend. It was so fun to have a blast of my spiritual community, if only for a day or two. I can go back to my daily life inspired to keep those blessings alive, to train my mind, and to cherish all the people around me.