German Blues–Dutch Treat — Family treat–Swiss ReTreat –Loads of Books ……. January 2014
When I returned from Germany in September I came down with a bang. I think it may have been something to do with my slight obsession with WW2 , and my perception that some Germans are suffering from a ” victim mentality” .
In my case the belief that the past is more powerful than the present , one of the definitions of the victim , could well be true.
In the case of the Germans I detect the victims question ” Who did this to me ?”as opposed to the non victims ” What did I do wrong?” . However you like to look at this , and the history is fascinating , it’s not always being in the now and that’s what created my lose of energy and depression , and as the Buddha would say suffering .
The journey started in Hamburg , then up the Elba and across to Berlin . The old East has such a different feel , lovely camping by lakes and early morning swims.
Joined the german SERVAS get together in the village where the 1936 Olympics athletes shook their arses. It’s now a giant discount Brands village, the ultimate consumer paradise . Surprisingly my rather dismissive comments about this culture didn’t go down too well, I was taken aside and told I should be more tolerant.
One of the excursions into the city was to visit the new Horror of the Nazis Museum, so you can see where all my troubles started. After Berlin a ride to Leipzig my hosts happen to be an Olympic Gold gymnast . She must have had quite a privileged life under the commies though her interesting comment , that one of the reasons for the socialist failure was the pollution from the open caste coal fields that were encroaching the city had a familiar ring . Lord Brown of BP fame wants to frack West Sussex to death.
I was reading a book on Wagner so on to Bayreuth where the Sorcerer spun his web and helped to change the world. On to Bodensee down the Rhine stopping to look at what’s left of the Remagen bridge, where the photographic exhibit of the open fields where 400,000 german POWs were left to rot for three weeks didn’t help. But once again I left the country full of admiration for its cycle tracks ,bratwurst,and value.
Anyhow a cycle ride in Spain in October with my brother raised my spirits , and a Christmas get together with my two boys and partners with him in Wales and his son and girlfriend with fabulous films all helped to ease the suffering .
And the following five weeks in Switzerland also helped to restore my old energy and returned me to the reality of the now, how it is, and not to take refuge in the past. You can guess that one of the books was Eckhart Tolle .
Just before I left I met up with a potential trainee monk from Holland at Chithurst who is working on this Web Site , so there should be some improvements .
So this blog is going to be about my experience at Dhammapala a sister monastery to Chithurst , situated in the Bernese Oberland in a large village called Kandersteg.
From January to March the Forest Sanga monasteries all over the world go on a winter retreat . This means that you can offer to look after the monks and nuns , by cooking the daily meal , and do some chores which should all finish by midday , when you are free to practice by yourself. Generally the noble silence is observed , though the four of us met up at tea time and discussed Dhamma. I also got through four books.
So who was I locked up with for all this time? that’s not strictly true as we could explore the area as much as we wished, but not encouraged to enter bars, hotels , visit other places etc.
There was another sixtyish male who is a member of our Dhamma group in Chichester , a fiftyish women from Germany ,and a fortyish women from France.
We all got along reasonable well though the german lady had a rather strong control dendency. Without divulging too much of what was a confidential contract , I will tell you of one incident.
Every morning at six we meditate together but on this occasion the german lady was absent, so the French one went over to her cushion to retrieve the bell and clock which were somewhere under a blanket. While she was fishing for said items in the gloom the other Englishman quipped ” she’s not there” which got me giggling and the French followed suit . After the session I asked her how her meditation went . She answered that much aversion came up for her, and she found it all very revealing . Then it occurred to me that when I make my silly but to me amusing quips , for others it may feel that they are being laughed at , or something along those lines.
The monastery is an old restored hotel in this rather upmarket village at the entrance to the longest rail tunnel in the country, so the gentle sound of the car-train taking those resource gobbling contraptions on the short cut to Italy ,punctuates the snow deadened stillness. Every other day the sun breaks through the surrounding mountains and I sunbathe on the balcony . As most of the villagers have a dog it’s a relief on the eyes when it snows.
Our masters consists of four monks and one nun, who surprised us all by disrobing one day. By that I mean that she announced that she was going to leave monastic life, not a strip-tease.
We also had some strange visitors. An enormous Canadian came for lunch one day , he said he was connected with the Rainbow people, but though the Abbott offered him the food , he made it very clear that it was not possible to stay the night. This rule is true at all Forest Monasteries during the winter retreat. A couple of weeks later another visitor turned up at nine at night. I was busy reading and was reluctant to get involved in what appeared to be earnest conversation in the corridor. In the morning the story was revealed about this deranged visitor who demanded to stay . Fortunately it was handled by a new , but experienced helper who was able to redirected him to the Scout centre down the road, I would have been too soft , allowing him to crash somewhere and faced a very angry Abbott the next day.
The International Scout Centre is a very impressive place which also had some interesting visitors. A group of Hasidic Jews in their long black coats and black hats were staying , and they look a bit incongruous strolling around in the snow , but they added to the black and white tapestry . It felt lovely greeting them with Shalom on my daily circuits. Who says religions don’t mix!
And so to the books. The Guru Papers, masks of authoritarian power. A must for any serious spiritual practitioner. I suppose one of the things that attracted me was its explanation of the SELF TRUST , that corresponded with the ZYCLING Guide.
That’s all folks ! PLG ( peace, love gratitude) tony