Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Mind like a Clear Sky

I've just arrived back from spending a few days in Cascais, Portugal with Jules and the family, amongst others. Actually, amongst many others - I was there for a Buddhist meditation retreat and teachings and there were somewhere between 8,000 and 9,000 people booked in. Pretty extraordinary!

The festival site was in the Hippodromo, and I was sharing a house with Jules and the family and a couple of other ladies about 20 mins walk away. It was mostly sunny, so I could flounce about in nice dresses and I even got a bit of a tan. In between meditation sessions we took walks around the place - we sat in the park, went to the play ground with the kids, we went out for coffee and we sat and picnicked on the beach. The seven of us all had a fairly leisurely family breakfast together every morning too which was lovely (and we all know how much I love breakfast!) and I had lunch and dinner with the family too, so I got a lot of time with Jules and a lot of time with my godson.




The house we were staying in was someone's weekend house - so I was expecting a cottage. Oh my goodness, was I wrong, it was huge! All three of us ladies had a room each, and we shared a bathroom and an extra toilet downstairs, while Jules and her mister took one of the upstairs bedrooms and the kids shared another room. In addition to that, there was a whole bit of the house that had just been renovated and so was unfurnished - which included another kitchen upstairs and a dining room, and then there was an extra floor and a balcony roof at the top with a stunning view. (We also met a teeny gecko up there!) The garden had a 'barbeque hut' (which was the size of my living room at home) and a whole section that was cordoned off for the owners dad to raise pigeons in. And did I mention the African bar downstairs? Yep, here it is:


The back wall is staked with bottles of Rum and Tequila and there were glasses all laid out for us. Needless to say tequila and meditation don't mix, and I'm not even going to think about how I would deal with a hangover while being woken up by small children in the morning.

The view from the roof top balcony
The walk to the Hippodromo was quite lovely - though pretty bumpy. You really notice those things when you are pushing a stroller with a 4 year old in it. The cobbles were very beautiful but very uneven and there were inexplicable random posts in the middle of the pavement from time to time. Oh well. I did really love the tiles on the walls, some of them were stunning.




The festival itself was just over a week, though I could only stay for four days. We had the blessing empowerment of the wisdom Buddha Prajnaparamita, so the teachings were pretty profound. I caught most of the teachings but I missed the more intensive retreat part. I actually missed a few of the morning meditations too, but I was happy to spend time with my adopted family - I miss them and the kids are growing up so fast! There were a few people that I missed, but I caught up with a whole load of people I haven't seen for a while, and I made a few new friends too - I met a man from LA who reads the news on NPR, and a lady who works for a charity that encourages prisoners to do activities and care for disabled people, which sounds amazing. One of the things I love about festivals is that they are so international - the teachings are interpreted into 16 other languages.


And even:


How very exciting! It was pretty well set up given the number of people they were expecting. The atmosphere was pretty easy going on the whole. There were a few places on site to get coffee and a food court. The main meditation tent was pretty big, but they had a video link as well that later turned into a kids and family area - so the parents could get some of the teaching, the kids could still run around and no-one else would mind. The shrine was beautiful as always.



I feel quite sad in some ways - partly to leave Jules and some of the other people, partly because this may be the last public teaching that my spiritual guide does (he is already retired, this was a guest appearance). I have been up and down and round about the last few months, and in truth I'd forgotten how much I need to reconnect with other people who are trying to lead the same type of life as me. I also really needed that reminder that my spiritual guide is always close to me, all I need to do is remember he is in my heart. There are many ways to get a message through  - so even when he is gone, I will still see his teachings all around.


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