The sun is shining warm on my face this morning as I look out towards the Dordogne valley. As I reflect on our weekend Wake Up retreat in Sologne, I am grateful to be back at Upper Hamlet — I feel my heart, my body, traveling easily along a well worn path, the path of our practice here. I see that all the oak leaves are out now — a vibrant green — but they are still fresh and tender….
An ant has come to visit me here on my notebook; now I am reminded of the giant ant hill, the colony of ants that we met in the forest during our first walk Friday morning. I remember feeling like an ant — wandering around — not lost, but not knowing exactly where to go — just trusting that we would find our way home. Suddenly we emerged from the forest and I had the sensation that I was a forest ant who had just discovered a whole new world with roads and fields, open skies with puffy pillowy clouds changing shape before our eyes — a world of people and houses….
Stepping through a small opening in the hedgerow, I had the impression of discovering a particularly wonderful wooden house, just down past a few open fields and rows of vines, right near the edge of the forest. This is a special place, the Maison de L’Harmonie, a new place, a new organic farm (with brand new homemade composting toilets ) a new “organic” community — a place to grow brotherhood and sisterhood. The backyard is surrounded by lovely hedges full of singing birds.
There stands here a young apple tree, offering us sweet and tender blossoms. The Maison de L’Harmonie is new, but not new — a renovation, a continuation of a former life (it was once an organic seed farm). The path of practice is fresh here — yet so wonderful in its youth, its vigor, its joy. A seed from Plum Village seems to have sprung up here and is starting to take root. Like the apple tree, this community is tender and fragile, slowly becoming its own special “tree”, unique and wonderful, suited to this particular spot, these particular people.
When I got back to Plum Village I asked myself, did we really practice this weekend? It seems like we just laughed and shared and played, we just danced and sang and made music and rejoiced with delicious organic (mostly vegan!) food – yummy vegan pizza, giant heads of perfect lettuce in fantastic salads, lentil and nettle soups, fresh bread, tabouli with wild plants we gathered during our guided “get to know the plants” tour…
We had a dance party (with crepes!), a bonfire, and we played some silly games. We shared our stories and some of our difficulties. We relaxed together in the grass and sunshine to rest and receive the sun’s energy.
I see that, yes, this is really wonderful practice — just rejoicing in life, in many miracles and blessings and abundance. Yes, we were a little excited — overflowing with joy. But that’s normal! That is the joy and wonder of spring, of new beginnings, of friendships and growing things, of wounds healing and old difficulties being released to the earth. And yet, in the midst of that energy and joy we had moments of stillness to touch silence and peace.
Saturday morning we welcomed the sun, sitting together in stillness as we turned slowly towards her. Later that evening we walked in silence to a small pond and watched again as we continued to turn, now leaving the sun behind us for a time. Birds and crickets sang to us. Tiny drops of dew began to form at the tips of the blades to grass. The water shimmered gold and purple, reflecting the sky, rippling with signs of life teeming under the surface.
Yes, this is the energy of spring, of newness and rebirth. This is the promise of abundant life, of change and growth. There are growing pains, there are fears and uncertainties — we are so tender, so delicate, so fresh and new. And there is a hunger in us too — a hunger for authentic life, for love, for communion. Let us be gentle with ourselves and each other, allowing this miracle within us to unfold at its own pace. I feel the energy of spring, of joy, and of our time together flowing in my body. I feel that energy slowly transforming old wounds.
Dear brothers and sisters, thank you for your energy and for your joy, for planting, harvesting, gardening, for cooking, cleaning, and playing, for rejoicing — for being open and tender, for sharing and for looking with eyes of compassion and wonder. Please share your reflections, poems, your experiences, your wonder — just a few words if you like — share a moment that touched you most (photos too!)
This is our Wake Up community and we are fresh and new — just entering our first spring together. What is happening out there this spring-time? I hope we can share together with openness and ease, nourishing each other with continuing love and inspiration.
PS: something else I learned at this retreat – being young doesn’t have so much to do with how many times you’ve been around the sun… Thay said recently “I am a young monk” – well, me too!