The very first step onto the island and I knew I was walking on special land. Land that had been adopted by humans and wildlife and inhabited in a mutually respectful way. I have been fortunate to visit this piece of land on numerous occasions and I hope to return soon.
A wee island off the shores of Arran with the fitting title – The Holy isle.
It is a spiritual haven and a world peace centre but you know that in your first few steps. Bought by a Buddhist monk, Lama Yeshe Rinpoche, many years ago, the development of the island has been joyful to witness. Visitors are welcome during the summer months (although not at the moment due to COVID) and they have an open day annually, when possible. The centre they have built includes the most wonderful meditation space, accommodation, a small library, kitchen and dinning areas and more. But for me, it is the garden that is so special. The community is largely self sufficient in vegetables and gets a regular delivery of other goods from Arran on a small boat.
I have spent many an hour in the garden where I think I have found the greatest inner peace. The construction allows for small private meditative moments and I was fortunate to facilitate a small group meditation there a couple of years ago. As a meditation teacher I am always on the look out for small spaces that I believe to be sacred. They are sacred because they allow for privacy and quiet in, an otherwise, noisy and busy world. So the Holy isle is a place I visit as often as I can.
The centre runs a wonderful range of courses both day and residential. It also has a small resident community made up of volunteers who care for the island. Environmental stewardship is high on their agenda. Green energy, soil preservation, tree planting, water conservation and more are daily operations. If you get a chance to visit I would highly recommend it.
Finding quiet sacred spaces is not always easy but I always recommend you begin with your own environment. Create a space indoors with a comfortable chair and no distraction where you can just sit and ‘be’. Your mind and body will soon adjust to that space and the minute you inhabit it you will begin to relax. Relaxation is critical and as the world becomes more sophisticated we find relaxation more challenging to achieve.
Also, create a space outdoors. A small corner of your garden or even a favourite bench in your local park or a grassy bank on a walk. When outside I always recommend that you close your eyes for a short period. With your eyes closed your other senses have to work much harder. After a few seconds you will hear sounds you didn’t hear before and you will smell scents that would have, otherwise, passed you by. Connecting with our natural world starts with inhabiting it and taking time to listen, smell, touch, and see what lies around us.
At one end of the Holy isle is a lighthouse and rising from the hill behind are some individual pods. This part of the island is strictly off limits as it is a women only Buddhist retreat. There is a similar one for men on Arran. Mostly, these are long retreats. The first 12 women were there for over 3 years. Not everyone understands retreats. I think some believe it to be some kind of shielding from the wider world. I see it differently. I see it has an opportunity to connect with the natural world in a deep and life affirming way. I also see it as an opportunity to connect with our inner selves in a deep and life affirming way.
Great wisdom often emerges from people who have spent considerable time in retreat. The essence of retreat is to protect time and space for quiet narratives to be allowed to be unearthed. In June I am offering a virtual stitching for wellbeing retreat over a single day. The idea is to protect that day so we may come together and focus entirely on stitching and how it speaks to our wellbeing. This, I see as my primary way forward as it is the best way to support people as they find their own personal stitching practice capable of contributing greatly to a feeling of wellbeing. It is just one antidote to our complex and challenging world. More details can be found HERE.
You don’t have to attend a retreat or visit the Holy isle to find some peace but you do have to create the context for it to be part of your life. More than that, you have to do it often enough that it becomes a habit. Making and protecting time and space to invest in your wellbeing is a fundamental part of a healthy lifestyle. Perhaps the lockdown life we have all been living has given us the opportunity to reflect and make the changes necessary to invest in our wellbeing a bit more. I do hope so….
More information on the Holy Isle can be found HERE