Top left and right: Dhanakosa; Main: Loch voil
What is your ideal summer holiday? Sun and beach? Doing eurorail across Europe? Or adventures in South America? After spending three months traveling and working in Asia earlier in the year, I felt the need to give myself some ‘me’ time and space, and to get away from the city, work and responsibilities.
I realised that it has been almost 1 1/2 year since I have been on a meditation retreat, and I felt that it was time to do one again. I didn’t want to travel out of U.K. and wanted to combine it with some hiking, so this easily limited my options to only a few places…
Finally, I opted for Dhanakosa, a remote Buddhist meditation retreat centre located in an idyllic setting by Loch Voil in Scotland. I was slightly concerned about the indirect travel routes at the beginning, but then I decided to leave a day early to get to the ‘biggest’ nearby town, Stirling to do some sightseeing before the retreat. Actually Stirling is hardly a big town, it was easy to walk around and I ended up spending hours exploring the historical Stirling castle and nearby sites on the day of arrival.
Top left: The Erskine monument in Stirling; top right: Stirling castle; bottom left: Kings knot garden; bottom right: Wallace monument
Getting to Dhanakosa was slightly easier than I thought ( even though I had to take 2 buses and a taxi ride from Stirling), and I was completely taken by the scenery as I was traveling towards the retreat centre. Upon arrival, I felt so joyful because of the stunning surroundings and location of the retreat. Instinctively, I just knew this retreat would be a special one. And I was right.
For many people, a media-free week might sound like a daunting idea, but for me, it was exactly what I needed. No tweets, posts, texts, emails, phone calls, TV, radio, newspaper and music… just nature and a group of strangers.
Now back home in front of my computer, words fail to describe my feelings… contentment, joyful, grateful, peaceful, relaxed, reflective, energised… is it possible to feel all of the above at the same time?
In the last few years, I have been to various types of retreats (mostly gardening ones) and I have learned not to compare my experiences because each one was unique, largely due to my state of mind at the time. However, I would say that this was probably the most fun and relaxing retreat that I have ever been to. Even though I noticed my mind constantly being distracted during the meditation sessions, it would immediately calm down when I was out in nature. Observing nature allowed my mind to rest, and standing by the loch alone, I could feel the sun, hear the wind, birds, insects, which all made me feel immensely peaceful.
On this retreat, we experienced the typical Scottish weather while we were out hiking, showers, sun and heavy rain… we were completely drenched one afternoon, and even my 5000 mm waterproof jacket and leather hiking boots could not save me from being completely soaked from head to toe!
Aside from the beauty of nature, what touched me most was the group of strangers whom I spent the week with. There was so much laughter, joy and harmony, and because we knew it was an experience that could never be repeated, we all cherished the time spent together.
For those of you who were at this retreat ( if you ever get to read this), I want to thank you all ( especially the retreat leaders and team members) for giving me one of the best summer ‘holidays’ that I could ever wish for!