Finding the best way to describe my experience so far is not the easiest task. For the first time in my life I have been blessed with the opportunity of time. Time to be alone, time to think, time to confront so many emotions, time to rest on them and process. Before arriving here in Malaga the thought of this gift of solitude seemed like paradise, and while I have been overwhelmed and my expectations surpassed, I was not prepared for how intense and at times difficult these realisations and introspections have been. The Buddhist leaders have challenged me on so many levels, to confront my thoughts, feelings and fears and to become more aware that all the control lies within the sanctuary of my own mind. How liberating to know that by changing and centring our mind and heart to a place where love, understanding and compassion resides, that the gift of peace and happiness is available to us in abundance.
Our days here are slow and gentle. Waking to the bluest sky and the warm Spanish sun, instantly creates in me a feeling of peace and gratitude. Breakfast is served by the wonderful international volunteers, some who have been here for more than a year, some a few months. All with their own stories, all following their own personal path to discovery and peace within. Here they find refuge and safety. The feeling of acceptance is like a net of protection surrounding this little paradise in the hills. With the opportunity to remain silent for most of the morning, there is a wonderful opportunity to wake into my morning slowly and mindfully. At home every morning I wake with my youngest boy crying, for at least the past 2 years he wakes upset and its only being here that I realise how much that effects the start of my days back home. Something I know I will address when I return.
The first guided meditation of the day starts swiftly after breakfast, all are optional but we all try to attend this session. We are a unique gathering of humans, many new to meditation, some following the Buddhist teachings and some of us on our own spiritual journey, seeking to make connection from prayerful meditation with our own higher power. We are encouraged to centre ourselves, by the cleansing of thoughts and the business of our minds. Through body scanning and visualisations this enables us to prepare mindfully to let love, light and understanding in. This process takes practice and remaining in this state of concentration is no easy task, but that is one of the main reasons I am here, to immerse myself in these practices while having the opportunity to enjoy the benefits.
The combination of the heat and the deep relaxation that comes from the meditation leaves my body heavy and sleepy. On the one hand this is a wonderful feeling as I’ve nowhere to go and no one to be responsible for. However as movement is something I am used to, being able to take moments out of the day to practice some yoga in the warm shade is an immense pleasure. With improved flexibility, due to warmth and a mind that is free from rushing thoughts, I have loved my quiet moments of flowing movement and stretching.
The beauty of this location would take your breath away. In a small secluded valley surrounded by lush green shrubs and trees, oranges, lemons and avocados surround me. Scents of Lavender follow me everywhere I go, a smell I have become accustomed to carrying around with me, tickling it under my nose and using its relieving qualities to induce calm at every opportunity. With still 1 more day left to enjoy I settle down for a restful, uninterrupted night’s sleep, something I have not experienced in over 8 years. 10 hours of sleep last night, I am hopeful for a repeat.
In moments of doubt or guilt that I should be at home serving my family I am reminded that an empty well is of no use to the ones who depend on it. I am replenishing, restoring and recovering because I want nothing more to be of service to the ones who need me to be strong.
Retreat Location - Centro De Meditacion Budista Kadampa, Alhaurin El Grande, Malaga