5 Jun 2023

By Kasia Stepien

Monastic Tour 2023 – Week Two: Hebden Bridge Retreat

Living with Compassion and Freedom

19th – 21st May

From Katie Sheen, one of the organising team from Sangha in the Peak.

Reflecting back on the learning from last weekend’s Plum Village retreat: I loved this simple anagram in the photo below, but of course there was learning in every Dharma talk by the monastics, each mindful walk in those beautiful Hebden Bridge woods, and every interaction with each person who was there.

By taking time out of our busy lives to slow down, be silent, to listen to ourselves and others, insights arise that show us how to take care of whatever we find and hence discover a happier way to live

This was challenging as I was part of the organising team, so we had to find a path of “peaceful busy-ness,” caring for others as well as ourselves whilst getting everything done. Oh hang on, that’s just everyday life isn’t it? So nothing special, just countless opportunities to practice mindfulness in every moment. Our practice is not separate. So that was another learning point in action!

One of participants, Judith shared this poem with us:

A steep-sided valley with a stream meandering through it. Both sides densely wooded, verdant slopes, moist, cool and fecund on a beautiful spring day.

Winding along the dirt path is a long, multi-coloured snake of over 80 segments, book-ended by beings in long brown robes touching ankles, feet clad in heavy walking boots. It moves slowly, silently with a huge number of lungs, breathing, taking in life-giving oxygen, exhaling carbon monoxide. There is a planetary inter-twining process of receiving and exchanging.

The snake stops in a horse-shoe shape across the stream and up both sides of the valley. You see it is a group of beings breathing with the noble trees, breathing together in this simple inter-connectedness. Breathing in, breathing out, in, out, in, out. You feel the positive power at play.

The sunlight glints through freshly minted leaves, the river sings its rippling song, the soft lichen dresses the hard stone bridge. The sister at the head of this living creature breaks away, moves slowly down to the stream, bends, feels the cool, fresh water, cups her hands and washes her face. People smile to themselves and each other- there is an opening up, a sharing of heart-felt space, of simply knowing, knowing. Knowing every moment of life is a precious gift.

May we all use our moments wisely and create our own beautiful histories and memories which are already being formed/have been formed in THIS very moment.

photos by: Katie Sheen

The retreat was organised by members of the Sangha in the Peak, York Sangha, Leeds Interbeing Sangha and Black Sheep Sangha in Keighley. The retreat also resulted in the formation of a new Hebden Bridge Sangha – contact details will be posted on the Find A Local Group page of this website once they become available (https://plumvillage.uk/practice-groups/find-a-group/)