stepping stones of truth

A journey along the path of life - the stones can be rough, smooth or even wobbly!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Being Peace Cottage

Being on mindful retreat with the Community of Interbeing means you get up early.

Your reward? Seeing the sun rise over the gentle hills of Dorset. We follow the Zen tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, and the early morning chant before the first meditation of the day is softly heard on the still air:-

The Dharma body is bringing morning light.
In concentration , our hearts are at peace, a half-smile is borne upon our lips.
This is a new day, we vow to go through it in mindfulness.
The sun of wisdom has now risen, shining in every direction.
Bring your mind into meditation.....

The CoI has bought a small cottage in a quiet spot in Dorset, to act as a place to practice in small groups of up to six (or in solitude if you wish). They have been fundraising over many years, and had grand ideas of a big centre, but realised that small beginnings are easier to live with.

Monks from the monastery at Plum Village came to stay for a while and join in the celebrations on the first retreat.

We all walked in silence up to the cottage where the monks had offered to ceremonially plant a tree (an amelanchier, a small tree ideally suited to the chalky downland soil and windy conditions)

There was a respectful atmosphere, but great fun too. They had put traditional bowls of fruit and incense in what was the small front room, but is now set aside for quiet meditation. Some of us did wonder if the smoke alarm would go off with all the incense being wafted around!

They carried bowls of water with small flowers sprinkled on top of the water to water in the new tree. A very happy time. Great views from the cottage too!

The area around the cottage is used as a field study centre for children, and has a small collection of old fashioned animal breeds and an orchard. The blossom is gorgeous among primroses.

They also ensure that the cowslip meadow has excellent conditions. I dont think I have ever witnessed such a mass of cowslips ever before. A path through the field has been mown so that you can walk down the hill without worrying about crushing the delicate flowers.

An amazing sight today. But you can also see modern farming on the hill opposite - this bright yellow splash of a rape field is a crop that is very recent in English farming.

Its very lovely to have such a place so close to my house - only ten minutes drive away!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Like the first morning

This spring somehow seems to be the first spring I have seen. Maybe I have new eyes. Maybe I have the time now to see and appreciate it in. Maybe it is the contrast with the cold dark winter when I was housebound....

These are snapshots of an early Sunday morning as I walked to bellringing, while the rest of the world seemed asleep in their beds, missing the freshness and newness and the sparkling air.

The small village lane is bordered on one side by the wall of the manor house kitchen garden. You can just see the magnolia tree peeping over the top. Lovely! Old Dorset walls always reminds me of the walls of Japanese gardens, which are tiled in just the same way. I think English ones would have been thatched in the old days though. The small river runs under the small bridge, then through their garden, and they have cleverly grown a green living wall above the railings,

Looking upstream, away from the manor house wall, the peaceful church yard borders the river. Only the fir trees are showing any green. No leaves yet on the bare branches.

I was late and so had the delight of hearing the bells as I walked along the lane. Only six bells were being rung though, and one ringer is listening and leaning on the ancient stone font. The framework above the ringers is to hold the guiding rings to keep the ropes straight. Only needed in tall towers like ours. The fluffy blue bit on the ropes where your hands go is called a sally. Its such an ancient thing, some of the names and terms are quaint, even to my ears.

Soon we were ringing all ten bells. This number of bells is unusual in a small village, and mostly found in large city churches or cathedrals.

Back home for breakfast and a wander in the garden to see what is bursting into bloom and the first cutting of the grass.......