Hollyhock Sanctuary (Sep 2010)

The front cover image was taken inside the meditation space at Hollyhock, Canada’s leading education retreat centre. Located on Cortes Island, they celebrated their 25th anniversary a few years ago by becoming a not-for-profit foundation. Greg Osoba from Hollyhock has been my contact for a while now, sending me their yearly programs to distribute when I take Issues magazine around the valley. His story of how he got involved is on page 12.

Each season has its own rhythm and each year I get to know myself a little better. Summer is a time of fast growth for plants and people alike. Living in a community and having company all summer long sometimes take a toll on my patience. One of my mantras that keeps me sane during the frustrating times is “you can’t get this kind of an education in a university.” When I feel maxed-out, I find a resolution to my dilemma and soon feel the change happening within and around me.

Being around so many people does brings out different aspects of my personality that I didn’t notice before. Since I wear many hats and like being the archetypal mother figure who pleases people, it is good that I become aware of my strategies when tension arises. Noticing how I react to comments and seeing my personality being reflected back through others also provides me with many thoughts. Intellectually, I know that people affect my energy field and that I am easily influenced by various conversations. This fact was proven to me after a Rolfing session many years ago. As I left the room and walked into the hallway, another client brushed past me and I felt a jolt in my energy field even though we never touched. I thought, “how interesting” and took a walk. I noticed it took about half an hour before I could walk past someone without feeling a low-grade jolt as our auras rubbed against one another.

Learning to be an observer of my patterns, I have watched myself go out of my way to avoid confronting someone, or keeping quiet when something bothers me. In my family-of-origin (or childhood) training, it was the safest way to stay happy. As a young business owner, I learned to breathe deep, say some encouraging thoughts to myself, and then say what is on my mind: it never turns out as badly as I have imagined. Often I can feel a tight spot loosen up or my shoulders release once the energy flows from my speaking out. Richard has a family-of-origin pattern that is the opposite of mine: he is much quicker and better at putting words to his needs and feelings. In fact, he thinks as quickly as I feel. Living with him is teaching me the fine art of standing up for what I believe, or at least defending my point of view, as we learn to communicate more clearly and define what we each know as truth.

This summer, we had a twelve-day silent retreat with Robert Beatty as the instructor, There was no talking, no acknowledgment of any kind, not even nodding your head – just honorable silence. At first, it felt like we were ignoring one another, but that was short-lived. As people continued to enter the Lodge in their slow, moving silence to eat food mindfully, it helped slow me down as well. When the Tai Chi Retreat started, I noticed I reacted with a quick smile but did not feel as much like chatting and that I like being quiet doing my work.

I noticed that the Buddhists, who don’t seem to do much, actually have the most going for them. They often book the best accommodations, leave the most tips and generally enjoy helping with the various tasks. To them, doing chores is being of service, something they strive to do mindfully. This leaves me to ponder the results of meditation or reflection time: even though it may seem like doing nothing, this is the “real” work in the world. Controlling the ego/mind is a full-time job!

Once again, I am grateful for the people who showed up this summer to help make the retreats flow. Not having to cook while still getting to eat delicious, mostly organic meals is a treat. The garden produced lots of veggies with the help of Kathy and WindSong who tried to keep ahead of the weeds. Lillah was our cook and her forte is Ayurvedic and East Indian dishes that she learned while living in India. She has a flair for creating new dishes that are tasty and unique. She is now looking for another place to live for the winter, so if you have space and would like to have someone cook, please email her: lillah108@yahoo.com.

Suzanne, an amazing kitchen deva also showed up just when we needed her the most. She made salads twice a day, beds when needed and hung the laundry ... and danced while she did it. She enjoyed every new project we suggested including sharing tasks with Bonita, my five-year-old grand daughter, who is moving here this fall with her family. Getting to know so many service-oriented people was a delight, including a variety of Center Life people and WOOFERS who took turns helping with the various projects.

I am also happy to announce that Anthony Chauvet, a Buddhist who stayed here for three months in the spring working on our alternative energy projects, will be returning. He wants to be part of producing the next Issues magazine, which is a dream come true for me. He likes doing research and is planning on selling ads for an eight-page section on alternative energy and sustainability that he intends to have ready for the next and subsequent editions. He wrote an article on page 14. Richard and I both enjoyed his quiet demeanor and slow, steady working style. He comes from France and has a background in computer technology.

Thanks to our capable staff and not having so much to do, Richard and I were able to take a few days off during the hot weather and between retreats to enjoy camping on Kootenay Lake. Richard loves kayaking and I love reading, so we did a little of both. Relaxing is not the same as meditating, but to people as busy as we are, it feels like a close second.

Hollyhock offers some excellent meditation programs and I may attend Tami Simon’s workshop in September. I would also like to see how they do things. It has been on my list for at least ten years, so hopefully soon.

There are many wonderful retreat centres and teachers all over BC if you want to see yourself in a different light. For starters, there is the Naramata Centre where I am hosting the Wise Women’s Festival Sept.17-19. If you are thinking of attending, you will be happy to know that we are not charging late fees to encourage more women to sign up. There is also Yasodhara Ashram, which is on the same side of Kootenay Lake as our Retreat Centre but you travel there via the ferry to Creston. There are also the Birken Forest Monastery near Kamloops, the Vipassana Retreat Centre near Merritt, the Humuh Monastery near Rock Creek and the Clear Sky Meditation and Study Center near Cranbrook, where Anthony stayed last year. Check then out online and make some time for yourself.