As a first-time visitor to Tara Rokpa Centre, it was easy for me to blend into the environment simply because of the scenery and it was what my heart had been yearning for, for a very long time. Completely different from what you get at a vacation, for me, a vacation means how do I put that which is outside inside me. This time around I got to put that which is inside me, outside of me (around me). Which I find extremely extraordinary because in most cases we focus on what impact the external has on ourselves and hardly the impact our internal has on the external. Thus this retreat purified the contents formulated by my mind that separate what is around me from that which is within me.

I saw myself in every tree, every plant, every mountain, and every pathway. I simply just saw everything for what it is and did not see the thoughts I have about what a tree is or what a plant is. Alongside that I found myself battling with the word contemplation, which Alan (the facilitator) used a lot, however, I could not bring myself to ask him what that meant because I wanted to experience it first before embarking on a conversation about the word. Thus seeing myself in every entity I have mentioned above, I found myself doing it with more love than criticism, more patience than defense, and not trying hard enough to steer my thoughts in a direction not allowing me to be fully present and aware at that particular time.

The river sang tunes that my heart and mind refused to listen to or sit down quietly with on a normal busy day. As busy as the river is when the water moves from one point to another that’s how my mind usually races, not that it did not race when I was at the retreat, I just had the temperance to watch my thoughts. The temperance to feel every feeling and the calmness of observing from a point of impermanence. The impermanence of where I was at that point in time and impermanence of the thoughts visiting me but not the impermanence of feeling the way I did because it all rose from within, then unleashed to what is around me. Alan talked about death which is part of the four preliminaries we covered. What a scary thought. Imagining your death. (Ha HaHaHaHo) part of the Om Bendza Sato Hung mantra. Which I have come to use almost every day, in my busy schedule and in understanding that nothing is permanent. Not even the day that frustrates me and leaves me clinging to the outcome and possibility of everything turning out the way I want it to. Once again the purification practices help me to not cling to the idea of permanence.

The smiles and laughter of those around me showed me I could be at peace with the path I have chosen. I am asked at almost every retreat that I attend what made me choose Buddhism. My answer is always the same. “I didn’t choose it, it chose me”. Till today I cannot explain how I met the person that always advised that I attend retreats. But through him, I saw the Buddha, the very same way I see different elements of the Buddha in every individual I meet at retreats.

Now what stood out for me at the Tara Rokpa Centre was how we gathered during meals and transferred beautiful energies, and shared stories about our day-to-day lives. The advice was minimal but that did not make me doubt whether I was listened to or not. In fact, the energy transferred back assured me that presence is present and an ear of compassion was to my avail, and my yearning heart to be heard subsided. Is that just not the break we all need at times? A simple smile and a loud laughter one not threatening but soothing vigorously. I believe that’s the kind of family we ought to create for ourselves besides the ones we are blessed with at birth.

The possibility of imagining Dorje Sempa made me find comfort in understanding that I can quieten the mind even if it is just for a few minutes and watch my thoughts embark on analytic meditation. Chanting the Green Tara in the mornings made me find comfort in understanding how powerful my hands are, how I can nurture and show kindness by just using my hands, channel my feminine energy with brilliance and complete joy, creating more and more streams of light, with laughter overpower Maras and Worlds. The Om Mane Padme Hum has always been my favourite Mantra. Long before I even knew what it meant. All over the Tara Rokpa Centre pathways, it is visibly seen with bright colours illuminating like stars in your eyes. This made me feel like I am exactly where I needed to be. Cultivated a moment of trust within myself, for myself, and to those that are around me. A gift to myself that was a true blessing.

Thando Mvubu, May 2022