Friday, October 1, 2010

Wind, rock, sky, and sea

Take a moment. Check in with your senses. Be still and notice things in your immediate surroundings. Listen to your breathing. Can you feel your heart beating? What sounds can you hear? Are you really where you are? Or is your mind scurrying elsewhere in the past and future?

I have just spent 5 lovely days at a Buddhist retreat center that I found on my last trip to Ireland 10 years ago. It sits on these stunning cliffs that look out over the open ocean. Apparently there is no land between there and Antarctica. I’ll have to look at a globe. I never tired of looking at the perfect line of sea and sky covering 2/3 of the horizon.

The first 2 days I attended meditation sits and went for walks and talked to the other interesting travelers staying at the hostel with me. I met a couple people I hope to keep in touch with, in particular a Kiwi (New Zealander) named Ben. Not everyone there is Buddhist, but all are seekers and most are travelers. I learned more about work exchange opportunities and couch-surfing, so my next adventure will be much cheaper than this one was. There is a great sense of space and breathing room. The weather was very Irish coast, meaning it changed on a dime from fair to wet to fair again.

My second night there, it had been raining hard (the Irish would say “it was lashing rain, like”). The first night had been cloudy, no stars. I stayed up late with some really nice conversations and made it to bed around 12. I was wound up, even though 8 other women slept peacefully all around me in their bunk beds. I lay on my side with my eyes open. A star pierced my vision through the window across from my bed. Stars! I jumped out of bed, threw clothes on over my PJs and ran out before I even thought twice about it. As I approached the garden wall with a view of the sea and cliffs, I gasped aloud. The moonlight was shining on the sea, in bright patches that swiftly moved across the surface. The stars shone cheerfully through the holes that grew wider and wider until most of the sky was set a twinkling. The sea, which had been crashing all day, had calmed to a sound like 100 librarians saying “Shhh, shhhh” over and over, slightly out of sync with each other. No one else was up. I stood stunned. I wept at the beauty of it. I laughed aloud. Then I danced. I danced with my moonlight shadow following me all along the pebbled path. I had a perfectly amazing and free 2 hours out there. A switch flipped which opened my heart a little wider and brought with it a growing calmness that stayed with me the whole week and is with me still.

There was an opportunity to do 2 days of work-exchange, and so I worked cleaning the hostel and working in the garden in exchange for my bed and gorgeous organic gourmet food. I really hope to return there in a year or two to do that for a month. It’s one of those places where any amount of time for a visit doesn’t feel long enough. Almost everyone there was staying longer than they originally intended to.

It has been amazing to be back here. I’m so grateful I had the time to do it. Tomorrow I bus to Cork and fly to Amsterdam early the next day. Less than 2 weeks until I am back in the States. I am almost ready.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I loved reading this! Buddhist retreat center in Ireland does sound like an oxymoron though...