We held a retreat last month at the Jampa Ling Buddhist Centre in Bawnboy in County Cavan. It was our first time to hold a Zen retreat there, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But it turned out to be a real nice retreat with a real nice group of people. Some people were trying a Buddhist retreat and meditation for the first time, while other people had been at a retreat before and had been doing meditation for several years or more. The people who were trying it for the first time seemed to enjoy it overall, and no-one complained about sore legs or the bad jokes. The people who had been to retreats before seemed to enjoy the atmosphere and zazen at Jampa Ling as well. During the retreat we got a chance to meet the Tibetan monk who lives at the Jampa Ling Centre and some of his students. It was my first time to meet a Tibetan Buddhist teacher. After chatting to him and his students, I realized that even though there are differences between Zen Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism, there’s plenty of common ground as well.
Apart from meditation, one of the activities during the retreat was a work period each morning for about 40 minutes. During the work period we chopped veggies or worked in the garden or cleaned up around the Centre. I was in the garden crew for both days. Usually I work indoors, so it was great to get outside in the fine weather and do some weeding and mess around with the wheel-barrow, although the bit of weeding I did was nothing compared to some of the work that was done by other people in the gardening crew. The person in charge of the gardens at Jampa Ling told me afterwards he was delighted to get so much help. He didn’t expect people would get into it so much, and he told me to let everyone know they were welcome back anytime! I didn’t get a chance to chop any veggies during the retreat, but I appreciated all the work people did to help with the food prep and wash-up during the retreat.
The Jampa Ling Centre is in a great location surrounded by woodland and lakes. In one of the free periods during the retreat a few of us walked up to the nearby lake for a swim. I hadn’t brought my swimming togs so I just went in for a paddle, but the wise folks who had brought their swim gear really enjoyed the water. To get to the lake we had to walk through a field that had some cows and a bull. I grew up in the countryside and I’ve come across the odd bull that’d get very upset if you approached his field on the wrong day, so I was a bit worried when someone told me there was actually a bull there as we were walking through the field. I had visions of us being chased and attacked by the bull, and then having to cancel the retreat and it being all my fault. Luckily though, the bull must have picked up on the fact that the retreat was strictly vegetarian, and he and his herd let us pass in what I interpreted as a kind of mutual understanding of live and let live.
There were really friendly dogs and other animals around Jampa Ling as well. One of the dogs was the cute scotch terrier in the photo, and another was a very friendly border collie who was one of those dogs that loves to run after sticks and bring it back for you to throw again. If he saw you walking around, he’d run off and get a stick and bring it over and drop it down a few feet in front of you. Then he’d back off a few yards and crouch down and wait for you to throw it so he could run after it and bring it back to repeat the process over and over. If you walked past the stick without throwing it, he’d get it and drop it down in front of you again, and would keep doing that until you either gave in or went somewhere he couldn’t find you. Well he got plenty of throws out of me and lots of other people during the retreat. I’m sure he must have thought it was great to have the Zen folks around for the few days as well.
Anyway, I’d like to thank everyone who came to the retreat, as well as those who wanted to come but couldn’t make it this time. I know quite a people travelled a long distance to be there. Thanks also to everyone at Jampa Ling who made us feel so welcome. Hopefully, we’ll be able to organize another retreat there at some point.
(Ps. Many thanks to Michael for the photos.)