Monday, 4 May 2009

A Magical Place

I'm home again after my weekend away in the Lake District. My friend Julie had suggested we go to Conishead Priory to attend a Buddhist retreat and I jumped at the chance to spent a couple of days with the idea of relaxation at the forefront of my mind. But although it was probably one of the most relaxing weekends I can recall ever having, it turned out to be much more than that.

Conishead Priory was originally built in the 12th century by the Augustine monks and run as a hospital. In the 19th century its ruins were demolished and a house was built on the site. It was built by a local magnate who lived there with his family, after that is was bought and turned into a hotel, then later a nursing home for convalescing miners and during the Second world war it was used as a military hospital. It later became derelict before a Buddhists group bought it in the 1970s and began a long process of restoration which is still ongoing.

The whole weekend was calming and refreshing. From our arrival on the Friday evening until we reluctantly left on the Sunday afternoon it was just perfect. The setting for the weekend couldn't have been better. The tranquil surroundings and peaceful atmosphere added to an other-worldly quality, the Buddhist monks, the staff (all practising Buddhists) and the visiting practitioners (everyday people like you and me) exuded serenity and grace. Everyone was welcoming and kind. Nothing was too much trouble.
At 8am on the Saturday morning, after showering and before breakfast in the huge communal servery hall, I decided to go for a walk in the beautiful Priory grounds. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and I decided to follow a gently sloping path though the bluebell covered woodland, crunching the gravel of the path underfoot, past swathes of wild garlic......

....past the rabbits jumping through the bushes. After a short stroll of 5-6 minutes I found myself at the entrance to a deserted beach.
At first I just stood and enjoyed the tranquil setting. In the distance a heron was dipping into the water. A flock of birds took flight across the bay. I could hear the sound of the waves lapping onto the pebble beach. In the distance I could hear the gentle swaying of the woodland trees and the occasional, distant sound of the temple bell.

I walked along the shoreline for a short distance, feeling more relaxed than I had been in.....well, I couldn't remember when. This really felt like nourishment for the soul. And it was still only the first day.
Over the course of the weekend we attended most of the classes where, after a short meditation, a Buddhist priest talked about the foundations of their faith. Each talk was interesting and extremely thought-provoking. Could it really be possible to remove all negative emotions from our lives, such as impatience, jealousy, anger and greed in order to gain lasting inner happiness? Well, it would appear so as there were many examples of people at the Priory who had done just that. Talking to some of these people opened my eyes to a different way of living.

This weekend retreat was a potentially life changing experience. The time spent there was so calm, so peaceful and so spiritually enriching that I want to be able to hold onto some of it. It's a very seductive idea but also a very daunting prospect.

To be able to do it would require an immense amount of dedication, energy and time. But as far as I can see, even to be able to maintain the calmness of mind I have right now would be an incredible achievement. This weekend has touched me deeply and has shown me that it's possible to develop a fresh perspective on life, one that can bring real contentment. I have no idea how far I can go with this, but it feels like this has come at the right time for me.


Maternal Tales said...

Welcome back - I'm so pleased that you had a relaxing time - you really did deserve it. So necessary sometimes to get a fresh perspective on life - I think everyone should be made to do it! Beautiful photos btw x

La Belette Rouge said...

It sounds like you got much more than you expected from this get away. Your photos are lovely and inspire a feeling of peace and restfulness. I can only imagine what it was like to be there in person. I am so happy that you found some peace there and I hope that you can create a little magical place in your own home or heart. I find an orchid or a picture of nature reminds me that peace does exist even if I am not feeling it right now.

lunarossa said...

Really looks like a fantastic place and I'm glad you enjoyed it so much. There's is Buddhist centre not far from here and a few years ago I used to go to their meditaton classes. It was a very relaxing and positive experience. I don't remember why I stopped (probably because of work pressure!) but I might try again. Thanks for reminding me. All the best. Ciao. A.

Audi said...

Wow, sounds like a wonderful experience! Good for you for taking a little time for yourself.

Kathryn said...

It sounds fantastic!!

notSupermum said...

Maternal Tales, thank you. I loved it, and have already made plans to go to a Buddhist meditation class tomorrow night!

La belette, I'm glad you like the photos - I'm sure you would enjoy it there, it's so tranquil and calming. I love the idea of putting a reminder somewhere at home, and I think I may print out one of the photos and use that.

Antonella, you must go back and do the meditation if you enjoyed it so much!

Mrs Jane Doe, I know exactly what you mean about decluttering. It does help to clear the mind, and I have regular clear outs. At the moment though, because I have been doing some decorating and changes to the house, everything is disorganised and I feel the same. Must get it sorted!

Audi, I had a wonderful time. How did you weekend go meeting Mark's parents?

Kathryn, it was as good as it sounds!

Nicola said...

It sounds fantastic. It is good to feed the soul. And I'm pretty sure the timing is not by accident. Ooh - and what I would have done to have been there with you...


see you there! said...

Sounds perfect. I think I'm going to investigate a retreat in my area.


Anonymous said...

It looks absolutely blissful. Can I check in?!!

Sunday said...

I am so glad you had such a great time! It looks beautiful, and continuing on with a mediataion class is a good idea. I used to go to a yoga class once a week that was run by Buddhists, until they moved to a rural retreat. It was so calming and relaxing, and really helped me with focus and the strength to go on when things were tough. I really recommend it.

Mervat said...

I live nearby probably one of the most popular retreats in Australia. And the closest I ahve ever been is to walk or drive by it. You make a retreat such as this so enticing.

I am so glad you had a such a positive experience.


Kayleigh said...

I actually felt relaxed reading this, and that's saying ALOT.

In terms of any spiritual path or's been my personal experience that it's more the journey itself, the process that counts, rather than achieving some particular state. In Buddhism there are those, such as priests & nuns, that are further down the path or have been able to go deeper into the practice. But even for the rest of us any amount of discovery is worth it. There will be eb & flow, it's fluid, not so much a destination. And anything you learn along the way, from any source, that brings you peace...well, that's precious :)

A Modern Mother said...

Sounds like a wonderful place.

Highlighting your blog on mummy bloggers this week...

notSupermum said...

Nicola, it's something I've been thinking about for a while, and the timings couldn't be more perfect for me.

Darla, yes do it! Do you have one in mind?

Rosie, it was! There are other sites around the country - I don't know which area you are in - but I can definitely recommend this one.

Sunday, thanks. I've already made arrangements to go to a class on can't come soon enough.

Mervat, thanks. Have you ever considered going to a retreat? Especially when you have one so close by.

Kayleigh, so glad you were able to relax a little :-) I absolutely agree about the process to finding that inner calm, and it's already made me want to take the first step on that particular journey.

A Modern Mother - ooh, thanks so much!