Showing posts from July, 2007

A Meal Ritual

When I approached Max Bals (a GFR Mitra and ex-resident at Gampo Abbey) about coming to Gampo Abbey he said: "there's not much to do there for distraction, but there is a toaster". I knew what he meant, the attraction of comfort through food is common for many of us I think, particularly when our other favourite false refuges have been pulled out from under us.

Forewarned is forearmed and I guess I'd already started to think about how I wanted to relate to food before I got to the Abbey. Mmmm,as I write this, that shiny toaster and all that jam and peanut butter does look good, but I digress.

On my ordination retreat Manjuvajra advised us to think about our eating, for instance dealing with one mouthful of food before shovelling in another one and watching our existential angst driven desire for late night post puja snacks.

On a visit to Throssel Hole Abbey in Northumberland some years ago I was impressed by their mindful approach to eating and pre-food ritual, warning …

Gampo Abbey Update June 25, 2007

Hello All,

I hope you are all well and that England is providing you with a warm and sunny summer!

My time here is flying by and I am now well over halfway through my visit. The pattern here seems to be a period of intense activity followed by a short period of change and transition into another period of intense activity. I've heard that Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche called this sort of thing the great Zen monastic joke, lots of formalism and ritual combined with constant activity as a method to stun the ego into a state of numb surrender! Fortunately, we do get one free day per week.

Recent highlights have included a sponsored overnight walk for Cancer Canada. This was my first exploration into the local town of Cheticamp and proved to be good fun despite getting a soaking. They had a Scottish marching band, folk music and country and western (all night - urghhh!). We camped overnight and I got a good drenching during my period of the walk (the only rain all night). Thanks for all of yo…

Update from the Abbey May 5, 2007

Just a few lines to let you know how things are going.

Life here continues to feel more and more normal as the weeks go by. I know eveyones name now (even the Tibetan ones) and I'm getting the hang of the Abbey rituals and chants, I'm even enjoying the ritual Oryoki Zen style meals.

A mitra from Leeds (Ian Barker) joined us recently. It's nice to have another Englishman to talk to, and a fellow FWBO'er.

I've now been trained to be the shrine room Gatekeeper (calling people to mediation with a wooden clacker, and taking the attendance register) and meditation Umdze (ringing a large metal bowl at the appropriate moments). I have also been opening and closing the Vajrayan shrineroom (preparing offering teas, fruit, rice etc. and cleaning the shrines).

Tomorrow I train on the flag team. At 6.10am I'll brace myself for the wintry weather and march down to the flagpoles to raise the Abbey flags while singing the Abbey anthem. Should be fun!

The weather here showed signs o…

Report from Gampo Abbey March 11, 2007

A brief reporting in from this land of snow and ice. We will shortly be going into a ten day silent retreat (so no email) and I wanted to get something in before the deadline.

I have been in Canada for 6 days and at Gampo Abbey for three of them. It's cold. About minus eight centigrade today and snowing quite heavily (by English standards). The Abbey looks out over the bay of St.Lawrence (wider than the eye can see), more like an inland sea. The bay is completely frozen and covered in snow, it looks like the arctic circle - amazing!

This country is huge and wild and covered in trees, breathtaking and a bit humbling. Yesterday we were feeding the fox family that begs outside the refrectory of an evening, a wonderful sight.

There are currently 21 residents in the main Abbey at the moment, with others off in retreat cabins and partaking in a three year retreat. So many new faces and new names to learn, it reminds me of being back in a beginners class - strange new name overload. Learnin…

Arrival at Gampo Abbey - from February 20, 2007

Dear All,

Just a quick note to let you know I've arrived safely at Gampo Abbey.

I had three days in Halifax to recover from the jet lag and start adjusting to Canadian culture before heading up to Cape Breton.

Canada is like England but different. Same wheelie bins - different plugs!

The weather was kind to me - only -3c on arrival. It waited a day to drop to -10c. This is cold - but not as bad as you might think. A shop keeper warned me that Halifax is like the tropics compared to Cape Breton - a bit of an exaggeration, but it is colder up here.

The drive in was beautiful, very white (they really know what snow is) and lots of trees (this country is huge). The bay of St. Lawrence is frozen big style - it looks like the Arctic! I saw a guy on the way in who was riding on it on a quad bike!

The Abbey has a 3 day open period following the rains retreat which has just finished. This means I have 3 unstructured days to "arrive" before the program proper gets under way. We have a 1…