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holy islander

So in love with the Island .

It’s been a constant presence in my life since I started meditating 5 years ago. It was my first introduction to Buddhism via the builderly, unshaven monks who were rebuilding the farm house when I first visited and it’s been the place I’ve always returned to refresh the Buddhist batteries.

I landed there one June to do a tai chi course and was so bowled over by serenity and happiness of the Monks and nuns that ran it, I thought, “I want some of that”. I came back 2 months later to work for a fortnight, getting to know that motley bunch of South Africans, Brummies, Mancunians, Londoners all in the maroon robes of the Kagyu Tibetan lineage. Also getting to know the fantastic contours of the island itself. A mile wide and 2 miles long, a mountain rising up out of the Firth of Clyde, a purplish peak running with streams down to its deep green, brackeny skirts. Wild horses and goats and the occasional Tibetan rock painting. There’s something about the springy grass and the intoxicating sea air that is deeply conducive to meditation and happiness. I love it there.

Now they’ve expanded the farmhouse into a retreat centre proper. And whilst the South End of the island is closed for a 3 year retreat for nuns, including my dear friend Rinchen Khandro, the rest of the island is there for the exploration. They’ve got a full programme this summer – yoga, tai chi, environmental work – and I coming back once again but this time to teach.

Last time I was there, I was talking to Shaun, one of the managers of the retreat centre, and saying they should lay on a basic meditation course for the layman… and within minutes he’d volunteered me for the job. Which I’m doing with huge enthusiasm.

Basically a week on the Island would inspire anyone to meditate. But sometimes it’s good to have someone to talk through the problems that come up … aching legs, wandering minds, uncertain focus. It’ll be about 6 days long with basic instruction in several different meditation techniques – concentration, insight and visualisation – they’ll be loads of practice, sitting and walking with afternoons free to experiment with different meditation styles as you explore the nooks and crannies of the island. There’re so many secluded, sun-kissed, wind-tickled spots to sit and ponder in. The rooms are really nice and smart now, there’s fabulous organic food from the garden, and if the weathers nice and there aren’t too many jellyfish you can swim with the seals in the lung-stretchingly fresh water.

I’m not sure how the numbers are doing but I’m sure there’ll be some space. Or we’ll make space if needs be. Booking’s through the Holy Island office. I love it, I love it, I love it.

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