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14

Gaia House Retreat

"We daily sweep the dust to keep the outer clean - But what about the internal dirt, anger, hate, gossip and greed?"
Dada - Intuitive Intelligence '92.

Gaia House is a meditation center in Devon where your stay is conducted in silence. I could write about it at length as it is an extremely special place. Unfortunately its true spirit and beauty are very difficult to capture through words - it is a place you have to experience to understand. However, it was a significant piece in the jigsaw when it came to the decision to undertake this trip and effectively a catalyst. As after only a weekend, in August last year, it changed the perspective on certain areas of my life and additionally gave some clarity and understanding to others.

Of the retreatants that attend typically about 40% are international visitors. Even if only for a weekend retreat. Which is a measure of the draw that Gaia House has. Almost without exception all the attendees are warm, fascinating characters, all of whom have an inspiring story to tell. Like a vast well of experiences that you feel compelled to drain. Which for me is the only dissapointment of Gaia House, for as it is conducted in silence, except for the beginning and end of an organised retreat, this leaves little opportunity to quench the thirst.

I am often asked why I meditate and attend retreats. If only from a pure logical point of view, to me it makes sense. If a body builder goes to the gym he works a particular muscle group, perhaps very hard, and on subsequent visits he will rotate the parts of the body he works on. Just to rest and maybe allow his muscles to repair. Yet we work our minds at such a rate but take little down time for the healing process or cleansing. Undertaking practices like attending retreats or Yoga etc. is good for the body, mind and soul....................... Sounds good to me!

On this visit I was on a work retreat which means that my commitment was to undertake 5 hours of work a day in exchange for my board and lodgings. I fit my 5 hours of work into the schedule and attend what meditation sessions I can.
The normal daily routine is:-

6.45 - 7.30 Sitting Meditation

7.30 - 8.30 Breakfast

8.30 - 9.30 Work

9.45 - 10.30 Sitting Meditation

10.30 - 11.15 Walking Meditation

The itinerary then continues with 45 minute combinations of both sitting and walking meditation throughout the day. The last planned sitting being at 8.45pm.

Although when I arrived I was completely burnt out, by the third day I was recovering my strength and was able to go for a run. By the fourth day I had this note in my Journal at 9.30am. "Up at 5.45am for run, meditated for 45 min's, showered and breakfast, dug hole in garden for beans for an hour and am just about to settle down for my 2nd meditation session - and I feel great!"

So I guess by the 4th day I had recovered. That then became my daily routine for the next 5 weeks. So after over a month of healthy eating, daily exercise and meditation I was thoroughly detoxed, in shape and ready for my trip.

During my stay my working hours had been divided by priority between Household and Garden. The pecking order at Gaia house is 1st the kitchen, as they need to be able to feed all retreatants and staff (Of which their are 9 managers and 1 director and about 2/3 other support staff.) The next priority is the running of the house i.e. the cleaning and bedding/towels etc. Third priority is the garden. My days seemed to consist of digging holes and being knee deep in manure in the morning then sessions of cleaning toilets and washing tea towels................But the truth is it didn't matter what I did. I got an immense amount of pleasure out of the whole experience and was more than happy to do anything that was required. To the extent that on 2 occasions I was told to stop working and only do 3 and 4 hours for the following days as I was working too hard............But I guess a leopard can't change its spots overnight.

WWW.gaiahouse.co.uk

To relay all my experiences and all the people I met during my stay would be impractical. But if I may send out thanks and Metta to the following, all the managers and staff and teachers, Carmel, Susan, Don, Susan - thanks for support, Leslie - thanks for input, Martin - thanks for the tip on the book, Bodhidhamma - thanks for the guidance. And anybody I have missed.

By the end of my stay I would happily have stayed for another couple of months. However, not only is it my intention to attend other retreats whilst on my journey, but I do not believe that this will be my last visit to Gaia House.

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