Tara Rokpa Centre remains beautiful even after fires, the charred remains of trees interspersed with bright new shrubs and seedlings. I have never seen buds look more hopeful. I was burned out too on arrival, so smiled at my reflection in the landscape.

This was my first visit, and my sense of where I was grew in circles, as Donal’s teachings took us ever deeper into the forests of our minds and the light of our nature. Asleep on the incoming bus I was bound, initially, pretty much to my cabin and the beautiful Octagon, interspersed with much-needed (and amazingly eclectic!) food from the central hall.

Dialogues illuminated all my new friends, fellow retreatants, with complexity and depth. We were never far from grief at the ever-present wars of the world, and I learned much about the fears of living in a society troubled by corruption and poverty. As I opened up to my fellows, loosening the walls of hidden caverns within, strength grew, taking me out along new paths up various hills, covering my toes in red dirt, enabling perspective: views of the astonishing land.

This counterbalance of increasing depth and widening vision reached its pinnacle right in the belly of the retreat. I went on the midway trip off-site: a safari with buffalos’ horns braiding the horizon, giraffe’s spots flashing through olive branches and elegant zebra dashing across open slopes. Shortly after this a member of staff, Mampope, succumbed to aids at the age of twenty-eight. Heartbreak was our close companion, though in company, and hopefully for her benefit too, we sat on.

My favourite walk came in the final week. I thought I knew the paths available to me, the lay of the land – until I discovered an entirely new route with far more than I could explore in the time I had. A shaded and secluded avenue snaking uphill through green bounty. I wanted to keep walking, but had to turn back in time for the gong… What better reason to come back another year.

A month at Tara Rokpa Centre was about as healing an experience as I could have wished for. Deep and resplendent forces are at work there, thanks to the dedication and blessing started by Akong Rinpoche, and continued by each member of the generous team. Already seeds are sprouting. Visiting family in Oxford for Christmas I received a last-minute invitation from fellow retreatant Diana to Nine Lessons and Songs at Christ Church Cathedral – tickets are a bit like Willy Wonka’s golden ticket, not easy to come by. Sitting in the front row with my new friend, I rejoiced in my good fortune.



Retreat: Dónal Creedon’s Selling Water By the River Retreat, November 2023