In 2012, thanks to the kindness and support of my family, I took six months off to participate in the Ngondro women’s retreat at the Tara Rokpa Centre near Groot Marico. It was an incredible experience made even more amazing by the support of the TRC family under the able leadership of Pippa and Alan. For the last three years I have been looking for a gap to go back to Tara’s valley in order to give my practice a fresh new impetus which I find difficult to do under normal everyday circumstances.

At the beginning of 2016 I decided that I would do a 10-day personal retreat at TRC at the end of April. TRC offers a 3 month retreat opportunity between April and June every year. One can do a week, a month, the whole three months or anything in between and Alan is there to support your practice. I was astonished to find that there were only two of us making use of this amazing facility. The other retreatant and I overlapped by one day and I found that I had a whole 9 days on my own in this very beautiful setting. The days are glorious with the bluest skies you will ever see and the night skies are truly magical with a clarity and vividness that city dwellers rarely get the chance to see. The Milky Way in particular forms a fantastic backdrop to Tara’s Valley at night. The full moon rising over the hills is a spiritual experience in itself. The walks in the valley are a delight with cows, donkeys and horses keeping you company and an abundance of bird life to enjoy. The waterfall walk in particular through the cool forest is very special.

The opportunity to do your own personal retreat spending the time however you wish while being provided with 3 meals a day, a very comfortable room and hot showers and at an affordable rate in such a pristine setting is a treasure that I think is undiscovered amongst practitioners here in South Africa and abroad for that matter. Alan provides wise and kind support and there is the opportunity to do Green Tara in the morning and Chenrezig in the evening in the lovely peaceful shrine room.

I know that especially in Johannesburg finding time for our practice is very difficult but when you think about what is really important in the long run finding the time to go on a personal retreat to TRC is time really well spent. It is an opportunity to kick start your practice if it is has lapsed; inspire yourself if you are feeling jaded or just a chance to revel in the clean country air in surroundings that feed your soul.

I would encourage anyone feeling in need of some quality practice time or even just me- time to book a week, or two or more at TRC and make use of the very underutilised facilities that are offered in this beautiful area only 3 and a half hours from Johannesburg.

My experience is that here at TRC you feel as if you are in a completely different universe and time frame; everything is slower, more gentle and conditions are so conducive to good quality practice.

Go and treat yourself! Bring the benefits that you will definitely feel back to your family, friends, coworkers and everyone you know to help make life better for everyone.

Perhaps next year in April when I plan to return I will find that I get to share this precious opportunity with many of you.

Amanda Simpson