22/4/2007 Back from Holy Island

Back last night from retreat on Holy Island; these things are never easy (John Crook, during a discussion on making retreats less intense and more accessible, said firmly ‘Zen is not easy – there’s no point pretending it is!’) but the fruit is there when you can catch it, and this place certainly helped. One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen anywhere, surrounded by a calm sea and a bright sky. The Centre, although non-denominational and available to any group of any or no religion, has been looked after for the last five years by Buddhists from the Samye-Ling Tibetan centre in the  Borders, and they’ve  put most of their effort into environmental management. It’s delightful the way the wild groups of goats and ponies are completely unafraid of people. Unafraid and not particularly interested – they don’t expect to be hand-fed. They just come down from the hills whenever they feel like it and graze on the grass in between the house and the beach. On some of my slow, meandering, aimless walks between sitting periods, I managed to forget everything associated with my name, job, and all the roles I put on during the day from employee to musician to parent or whatever, and just be – I don’t know, attention. On one such walk, however, I was watching a boat very close to the shore in the quiet and calm of early evening. I could hear voices coming from it then, unmistakably, drifting over the silky waves: the theme from Coronation Street!  Well, they say Nirvana and Samsara are not separate…