With a big smile on my face, I returned home after the Wake Up Netherlands Summer Retreat at the Maanhoeve farm. Rain was pouring down on my companion ‘Duck’ – my car – which forced me to try my hardest to keep the water damage to a minimum as the rain penetrated every possible hole in this old buddy of mine. But I couldn’t care less. I felt so happy, so completely zen and so full of love because of the retreat. Wow! And it is inevitable to suffer a bit if you drive an old French car from 1972. It even has a certain charm, I think.
Vive La Liberté
It wasn’t until a week before the Summer Retreat started that I registered, as I had assumed there would be enough spaces left. Unexpectedly, however, I ended up on a waiting list. I was really bummed out for not having signed up earlier. I just really love to make my decisions at the latest moment possible to keep my schedule clear. Vive la liberté is one of my life mottos. Fortunately enough, everybody from the waiting list was able to participate in the end, hurray!
Joyful Dharma Talk by Sister Annabel from the EIAB
Sister Annabel from the EIAB, an English woman by origin, gave a very beautiful Dharma talk about our retreat theme ‘Cultivating Joy & Happiness.’ She told us that we do not need to be a victim of our own perceptions. When she came to Plum Village over 30 years ago, the people there weren’t eating organically grown food. She thought that had to change straightaway. Thay, however, made it clear to her that change couldn’t be accomplished as quickly as she wanted it. They reached a consensus, and Sister Annabel was assigned a small piece of land where she could make a start. In turn, Sister Annabel didn’t cling to her idea that one should switch to organic farming at once. Happiness is now or never, she added. Not when your tooth ache is over, or after finally having gotten that job you’ve been dreaming about, or having visited that faraway country you’ve always wanted to visit or with the perfect partner, or when the sun is shining. Happiness is really just now.
There’s a Jewel in Every Sharing
I certainly experienced a lot of joy and happiness during the Dharma sharing circles. It really touched me and I feel so happy about that because I wasn’t able to fully experience the beauty of Dharma sharing before. Somebody had told me once that “there’s a jewel in every sharing.” “Yeah, sure!” I thought at the time. I had only experienced it as a lot of complaining, as I was full of annoying prejudices and judgments. I did participate in the sharing circle and tried to listen to other people’s sharings, but I was often elsewhere in my mind. It was like there was a little voice in my head making sarcastic comments most of the time. Very tedious and tiresome. Because of this, I rarely spoke during Dharma sharings until I came to the Wake Up Summer Retreat and felt how beautiful they could be. I was so happy about that!
My change mostly had to do with the facilitator, Hanneke, who explained very clearly what the practices of deep listening and loving speech meant. The way she explained them and the atmosphere in our group allowed me to be really present. Sitting, listening without judgements, and just being present. So amazing!
I was also happy that she explained to us what it is like to ‘take space’, something that I find pretty scary. All of the people’s attention focused on yourself … scary! And then allowing your heart to speak? How do I do this? But the way Hanneke illustrated it, it became less of a ‘thing’ for me. Not that it made it a piece of cake straightaway, but at least it gave me the courage to try it out myself twice. Thank you, dear Dharma family, and thank you Hanneke for these beautiful moments. I also liked starting and finishing our Dharma sharing sessions with singing some songs together, which led to a very enjoyable atmosphere and allowed us to connect more deeply.
From My Mind to My Feelings
Knowing about feelings in your mind doesn’t necessarily lead to getting in touch with your feelings better. Bringing knowledge to your heart, so that it can become an inner truth, isn’t easy as Wim emphasised in his farma talk (his own word for his lectures on the Maanhoeve farm, a combination of the words ‘Dharma talk’ and ‘farm’, ed.). At least not for me as I am quite a rational person and like to analyse all kinds of things. Yet I really want to learn to feel more, and think less. To be more present. During this retreat, I really managed to get in touch with my feelings better. I feel very grateful for that to my Dharma family, all the other Wake Up friends at the retreat, and Ida and Wim who hosted the retreat. How to get from your mind to your feelings? For me, the answer right now is to attend retreats, go to Sangha meetings and experience mindfulness together.
So Many Beautiful Moments
Our ‘dancing meditations’ were really happy moments. It felt so good to let the music in and start dancing. So cool to share this experience together, and to watch everyone enjoy themselves. Yeah! I also loved sheep herding. And sitting by the camp fire, sharing meals in silence, meditating, camping, singing in my car with a fellow retreat participant, enjoying Ida’s delicious desserts, watching the stars, doing total relaxations, and much, much more! There were so many beautiful moments to look back. Thanks so much, everybody!
This article was originally posted in Dutch on wkup.nl