Wednesday, 22 February 2012

this is not a craft post, this is not a craft the tune of this is not a love PiL

Way out west where you can barely go further without drowning on ocean you'll find the gem that is Dzogchen Beara. I'd heard of it over the years from various sources, stories ranging from the snort-inducingly amusing (Siobhan and Katie getting Siobhan's brand spanking new company car stuck in a stony ditch on a just graduated from uni weekend trip) to the heart-breaking (young friend of our family finding great solace there before her way too premature death from cancer) and had dreamed of a visit.

Well that dream came true. Last Saturday, courtesy of (another) Siobhan, I was invited down to have a look around, eat some lunch, and chat to the manager of the centre, the very lovely and very dedicated, Matt.

Siobhan and I hadn't had a road trip together since college days themselves (if not before) and the outing would have been worth it for that alone. Two women of a certain age now, with six children between us to care for in our non-nuclear family way, we pootled along the highways and byways (ok, byways then) of deepest West Cork and talked of many things. How wonderful a thing is a long car journey with a dear friend and a sunny day, especially a day that manages to feature Dzogchen Beara as one of its co-ordinates.

For those who've never heard of it Dzogchen Beara is an outpost of Tibetan Buddhism clinging precariously to a cliff at the farthest reach of the Beara Peninsula in County Cork. Tibetan Buddhism may provide a grounding force here but the place has so much to offer to people of all spiritual persuasions, and of none. There is a lovely cafe, regular daily meditations which are open to all, a beautiful space to walk and "be" as well as an extensive retreat programme and the wonderful Spiritual Care Centre, of which more later.

We drove through end of civilisation Castletownbere where a tumble weed or two on the main street wouldn't come as surprise and up the winding laneway to the centre, welcomed by Tibetan Prayer banners as we went. A retreat was just winding up as we arrived and Siobhan in her capacity as roving reporter carried out a couple of interviews with retreatants who were just finishing. Their stories were moving and inspiring and will hopefully be in print sometime in April assuming Siobhan bends the arm of her editor sufficiently to get her piece to press.

After a delicious vegetarian lunch Matt took us around the grounds, showed us the onsite accomodation available to those attending retreats or to those who simply want some quiet time in such a beautiful location.

He took us to the site of the proposed new "Temple" which will provide a tranquil setting for reflection and retreat and for which planning permission has been granted. Just a small matter of some 840,000 Euro to raise now!

This setting truly is incredible. Incredible. It feels like the end of the world. In the most magical way.

We ambled back past the Stupa, Matt explaining to us its relevance in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and through the exquisite meditation garden. I dreamed of coming back.

After a couple of hours of clifftop dreaming we climbed a little higher to the more modern Dechen Shying, which is described as (and very aptly to my mind) "a sanctuary of rest, reflection, healing and inspiration".

This place is beautiful. Quiet. Still. Calming. Perfect for those facing the worst life can throw at them, illness, approaching death, bereavement, exhaustion. The young woman I mentioned earlier, friend of our family, spent many hours and days here and I know it helped her face her own inevitable future with courage and fortitude. Indeed such was her bravery in the face of terminal illness and death at a young age that her attitude stimulated an interest in Buddhism in my 70+ father, a man whose pragmatism and commonsensical approach to life hitherto showed little space for the spiritual (to me at least, but maybe I just didn't know where to look, eh dad?) I thought of my long lost mum, and how wonderful it would have been for her to spend time here, or in a place like this (though whether one as beautiful exists elsewhere I couldn't be sure) in her final year. It's a place for love. For acceptance. It's the edge of existence. It's space and time expanded.

I loved this place. I'll be back. Maybe this is some kind of love song after all.


marion said...

Wonderful - tears in eye xx

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