Finally the festival season ended at the end of September and the cafe and me both breathed a huge sigh of relief. It’s been good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s been tiring. Usually Out of the Ordinary in Sussex is the last cafe gig of the season but this year we were asked to cater the Young Persons Retreat. The 4th of such a thing and an annual event. It is a place in which young Buddhists within Triratna can gather. This year Buddhafield were asked to cater the event and so it was that I had to rouse myself out of my, slowly dispersing, but still very present lethargy to travel to Uttoxeter, to an old boarding school, to prep more veg but this time in a very different context.
Quite appropriately, I felt, the theme of the retreat was ‘Energy for Enlightenment’. Considering I have been struggling with my energy levels for most of the summer I was interested in what might transpire. So, here I was, inside a posh private school, feeling very out of place in such grandeur and feeling incredibly shy. It was a reluctant start.
I was curious at how the weekend would pan out. How would the school gym be transformed into a shrine room, what were other young Buddhists like and what would a puja be like with so many people!
The dedication ceremony on the first night was good. It was startling to hear so many voices in unison. It felt like a good preparation for the following night, puja night. It was amazing to chant a mantra for such a long time and to really immerse myself in it, letting go a tiny bit.
Finding myself out of context as a Buddhist was both refreshing but provoking. I am mostly to be found in a field or woodlands. Meditating in a dome with just a thin sheet of plastic, carpet and cushions between me and the earth below. I like it this way, it gets me closer to nature and the elements. This is what I found most challenging, to see myself within the wider movement and to take myself out of the Buddhafield bubble. I took me a long time to see myself as a living, breathing Buddhist and feeling apart of Buddhafield definitely helped me in this. The connections that I have made with Buddhafield have helped me so much in all aspects of my life. Triratna however still feels slightly alien to me although I do totally respect it, I felt like I had to embrace this retreat and make those tentative links with people and order members from outside Buddhafield.
The talks, all three of them, were so exhilarating. Vajratara, Singamati and Dharmashalin spoke so personally and their words are still resonating with me now. If you wish to hear the talks for yourself please follow the links below. I have been noticing more and more since these talks how energy gets blocked and misused and I how struggle with keeping my energy clear and bright. I am still thinking about the answers to all the questions that were posed over the weekend. What do I really care about? What do I need to do to focus my energy? What symbols do I connect with the most and why are they relevant, how do they help me. I might not know the answers to these questions just yet but to keep them in my mind feels important especially right now when I am searching for that thing that will allow me to fulfil my potential.
The puja was just incredible. I am not sure I could put into words just how much it moved me. No one seemed lacking in energy, the room felt ecstatic, such beauty echoed off the walls, into my ears, into my heart and back out with my voice.
I am glad that my curiosity was justified and I didn’t pander to my reluctance too much!