I believe the Buddhists say that without the clouds and the rain there would be no flowers...so I guess it is a good thing it has rained the majority of the time I have been retreating in France, we should be abundant in flowers this summer!
Imagine my delight to find myself staying in a 12th century chateaux here in Monbazillac in the Dordogne, a short drive from Bergerac...wine country no less. Not only staying in a wonderful building surrounded by green as far as the eye can see, but also with a wonderful family who share my surname - Despres - and in particular the wife, Sophie, a kindered spirit.
My parents met Thierry and Sophie about 8 years ago when they were wine tasting in the area and were drawn to Grandes Maison on account of the surname "Despres", not a common surname. Mum and Dad became friends with our French "cousins" and their two youngest sons, Louis and Jacques, came to stay with us in Guernsey for two summers to improve their English. And now I am here, not to improve my French skills necessarily but more so to rest and to enjoy the healing nature of both rural France and Sophie's wisdom.
I slept for most of the first 24 hours. I am staying on the top floor in this enormous room in this comfortable bed all to myself and all I felt capable of doing was sleeping. I would try to read and then fall asleep. Bliss. I must admit I have done a lot of resting ever since. It is the energy thing again, somtimes I am fine and then I just need to lie down and close my eyes for a bit, believe me, it has taken some time to become accepting of this!
Sophie has lots of spiritual related books here and some of them in English. She handed me a pile on my first day and I have slowly worked my way through some of them. My favourite is a truly inspired Yoga book for women all about Kundalini Yoga. No surprise actually, this is something I dabbled with this time last year and only 2weeks ago I happened to be at TriYoga when a big Kundalini Yoga event was taking place and then a week after that a friend mentioned I needed to get back to it to help me to heal...get the energy high again, clear the blokages, especially the third eye and balance the master gland of the endocrine system.
So I have been practicing from the book and have been my own teacher again, I believe I am destined to learn this way, sometimes I long for the simplicity of a teacher on my doorsep - but then itis easy to forget that everyone we meet is a teacher to us in sme way. It is inspiring, this Kundalini Yoga, the energy is powerful and provides much opportunity for inner silenece and peace of mind - even if it is only temporaray...after all Rome wasn't built in a day and each step builds on the last.
Sophie tried to teach me a little Tai Chi in the enormous green garden with views over the vineyard and then took me along to two of her Tai Chi classes at a local studio. This was interesting, not only is it very different to Yoga in terms of how one moves the body and postural alignment but the class was taken in French (obviously) so I had to really try and tune into what was being said. The teacher was very kind to me and tried to explain a little in English and Sophie is always on hand to translate - she wanted to be an English translator and her English is wonderful and means I have been able to be most lazy on the French side!
Today Sophie took me to a Vietnamese Buddhist Centre for their morning session, which was fantastic as I have missed the Buddhist influence in my life, which I usually absorb through Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal...how I miss Nepal. Anyhow we sat with about 30 other people, some Vietnamese monks and others visitors to the centre from France and from other parts of Europe - it never ceases to amaze me how many centres like this there are around the world and the eclectic mix of people who attend, it would be easy to try to stereotype if everyone was not so different...and yet so much the same inside - and listened to some teachings.
After morning tea we all went out for a walking meditation, in silence of course, inhale one step, exhale another step, all of us in a line, very slowly, all the way along the road past fields and flowers, green everywhere you look, birds chirping (there are so many birds in France!)and up to a 12th century church for views over the surrounding landscape and a chance to join in the daily 8 exercises, before slowly walking our way back down the hill in time for lunch, inhale one step, exhale another. Of course the mind was distracted by many thoughts, how to make nettle soup, what I need to do to organise the Lihou retreat, what Ewan was doing, how I was getting hungry for lunch. Clearly the path to mindfulness is a long one!
Back at the centre Sophie and I ate lunch together outside, sitting under a wooden pagoda and eating fresh vegetables from the garden - and of course Vietnamese rolls and leaves. All very nourishing and lovely. As Sophie quite rightly says sometimes you do not need to leave the country to visit a different country, for all intents and purposes we were in Vietnam this morning...and of course this has given me a taste for visiting the real place one day too! One novelty was discovering the joy of the mulberry tree and its delicious berries - the centre grows lots of these trees and the fruit is ready for picking so we joined all the other people standing under the branches and eating the fruit straight form the tree...now that has to be healing!
Back at Grandes Maisons we have been doing the very same with cherries. The cherry is a particular favourie of mine and Sophie has this wonderful cherry tree literally laden with bright red cherries, which need to be eaten before they spoil. As if I need much encouragement. Each afternoon after my Yoga practice, come rain or shine, you will find me eating cherries from the tree - and also picking for everyone else, I am not so very greedy!
I have been spoilt with wholesome and fresh organic food while staying here. It is easy to forget the healing nature of freshly prepared pure foods, eaten at a tabe without rushing - what with living stressful and busy lives back home, it is all too easy to eat packaged and processed foods - albiet organic - on the go, without much awareness and then wonder why we lack energy. Here they make the time and indeed tak the time to sit down to eat together every lunch time and dinner time.
Thierry loves to eat meat and butter and cream and cheese and drink wine and smoke cigarettes, all the things Sophie loathes. So for her I believe she has enjoyed having me to stay as it has given her an excuse to eat her own preferred way - so we have eaten well; lots of fresh vegetables and salads, good organic grains, brown rice, millet and quinoa, fresh organic bread and fresh herbal teas - I have become quite fond of Rosemary and can recommend to everybody.
I am learning lots about the healing process, that perhaps it is only through learning to heal ourselves again and again that we can grow in awareness and consciousness and can then help others to heal - not directly of course, it is only us who can heal ourselves, no one can do it for us, not doctors or holistic practitioners, they can only share and try to guide us, it is us who has to deal with the pain and the discomfort - and deal with it we must if we hopeto heal and feel lighter. Of course we can numb ourselves from it and push it away, but it will keep coming back to bite us and eventually the dis-ease (i.e. ill at ease) will be too great.
It seems so familar to me, this process of sefl healing, yet this time it is real, not for experimenting or for interest, but to actually put into practice what i have learend about the process. So thus is is not the first time I have taken myself back to basics, eliminated as many toxins as possible from my diet and lifestyle, practised lots of Yoga and pranayama and a little meditation each day, rested, walked, looked, listened and abosrbed nature, fitful dreams, and still a relentless tiredness and sore throat, but still an inner knowingness that something is working its way out and when it does the storm will pass and hopefully I will fel lighter, happier, more joyful, content and eager to start teaching again.
Anyhow one of the greatest lessons I am perhaps learning is the joy of simplicity. Here Sophie lives simply and it is so refreshing, less choice, more time, the days are longer, there is more silence and space and light and opportunities to breathe and literally smell the roses. I am reminded of life in Nepal...again...maybe it is now time to start listening. This simplicity resonates well with each and every one of us I suspect, yet it is so easy for some of us, as I have done, to become consumed by the western speed to life and lose all sense of what is real beneath the exterior - this is not true of everyone I appreciate - I am gifted with those close who know how to hold strong, Louise and Hayley and Hannah, there is no surprise they are my anchors and best friends. Still it is best not to blame, just accept, forgive and love, the self of course first.
I am sure the lessons will continue. The body has a way of making us listen.
I hope everyone is happy. Sophie has this wonderful quote from Buddha...
"There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way".
Love, light and joy