I attended a 10 day retreat at the Tara Rokpa (Buddhist Retreat) Centre, last December. To be perfectly honest I was not too concerned with exactly what was being presented, I simply knew I needed to be there.

I started to see a therapist in December who suggested and almost insisted that I take some time out. It was difficult as the kids are 5 and 7 and my partner would have to be alone with the kids during the festive season – which is hard enough without festivities! Both my parents passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly, my beloved mother in early August and my dad committed suicide less than 6 weeks thereafter. I searched many avenues and considered a few way-out options, including a rehab centre for depression and anxiety. Thank goodness, it was TRC that spoke to my heart the clearest. I was actually in serious need of a real authentic spiritual experience and it started to feel as if it was not possible, but TRC were able to accommodate my needs the best possible way. It was also a very attractive option for me as it was a silent retreat, which meant I did not need to speak much and would hopefully be able to go inside myself. Since my life turned inside out, I was unable to grieve, and be melancholic and cry enough neither was I a nice mommy nor a nice partner!

I arrived at exactly lunchtime (opskep loer – as mom used to say!), hot and dusty, but with the most beautiful clouds on Christmas day 2015. I met another retreatant at the entrance, who sommer gave me a hug! A lovely German couple, volunteers at the time, who showed me around to my room in the Brown house. There was the most amazing spread of vegetarian food and a most delicious looking mandala of fruit and dessert next to, the largest table I’ve ever sat at for Christmas, all strangers. Then a friendly open smile with healing hands, Nan Lutz introduced herself to me and she in turn introduced me to Pippa, who, with an gentle but firm hand manages the centre. It was a jovial lunch under a large open prayer flag filled ceiling. I had the honour of sitting next to two of the chefs at the bottom of the table and felt just right. No pressure to make any kind of ‘meaningful’ conversation with a stranger, what a relief.

By the next day, after most logistical issues were sorted out and everyone arrived and were settled, we were in complete silence. The system works really well with a booklet hanging on a central noticeboard and all necessary communication happened there. Most of the sessions took place in the Octagon, a lovely, light but earthen building with a warm and soft dung floor.

Here was the first time I met Rob Nairn. He started the session with a meditation, afterwards asking who was mindful and what percentage of the time. Well, I thought I was 100% mindful, but did not put my hand up as I was so new, and clearly everyone else knew what was potting as they were saying things like 2% and 5%!!! Then I started to realise what ‘mindfulness’ really meant. Rob’s sort of “zen” explanations really resonated with me, even if most of it did not make sense at the start. All the sessions in the Octagon were magic. The mindfulness training with Rob and Nan, and the movement sessions with Pippa were extraordinary! Towards the end of the 10 days I learnt how to meditate, and what it meant to be mindful. I am no expert by any means, but I have learnt how to cultivate awareness and I am still able to apply these skill to my life and daily or weekly meditation sessions – depending on how ‘in-tune’ I am able to be.

Getting back to my reason for going and whether that worked out okay for me, here’s what I really want to share. I went under extreme circumstances, for me, and I was able to talk with both Nan, and Rob, and do not forget the dearest Pippa, personally and I was taught and given eternally valuable information and inner skills. They are the kindest and most loving people I have met in a very long time. Even as I write this 6 months later (apologies for taking this long!) I still feel that what they have given me in terms of coping skills and self-nurturing has made an eternal difference in my life.

The short conversation time I was able to spend in deep connection with Rob one-on-one was so powerful, his advice and replies to questions had so much gravitas, yet so simple, it had no other way of healing me from core. He graciously explained to me that the grieving process should take a year, and that I have to allow myself the time to grieve and mourn the loss of both of my parents. A great many other truths were spoken about and in a way this knowledge gave me peace of mind to grieve and be melancholic and embrace that feeling and ‘wear the coat’ graciously for a while. Mindfully.

Nan was instrumental in helping me to “stop the doingness”! To just be. The hours we sat talking, alone, without any disturbance were so unbelievably precious. I could not have gone home feeling as though my heart was ever so gently wrapped up and held in the softest nest ever made up for anyone if it was not for Nan. I thank you forever.

In short, the 10 day mindfulness silent retreat at the Tara Rokpa Centre was one of the most amazing experiences and gifts to myself I could ever have experienced. And even if my circumstances were not nearly as extreme as they were then, it would probably still have been the best thing I did in the last 5 years. It was a true gift, a true authentic spiritual experience, the silver lining of a very dark and stormy cloud indeed.

Thank you! Thank you!