Meditating on top of Mountains
Just back from 10 days up on Holy Island, including 6 spent debuting as a meditation teacher. I’ve been to that place half-a-dozen times before on personal retreat but introducing others to the Island AND to the fabulous landscapes of meditation it encourages is a whole different trip. Back down in London I can still feel the form of those magical days teaching – like the strangely moving hollow in the grass left behind after a wild horse has lain down to roll.
I’ve come straight back into the slow chain reactions of work – train journies, filming days, voice-overs and snatched meals – but just now everything still seems framed in the bright and briney air of the Island.
I went up a few days early to make sure my mind was suitably settled and in-tune with the Island’s calm energy before the course began. And it worked: because I was beautifully chilled by the time my first course participant came off the Ferry dragging huge bags of luggage and looking as unsettled and uncertain as I did 4 years ago when I first arrived at that jetty. I was able to really empathise with those first day nerves and hopefully soothe them.
I think it was a remarkably easy course to teach. The place is so beautiful and conducive to mediation that I could have just pushed everyone onto the soft springy grass of the shoreside every morning and some kind of calm and insight would have arisen. But infact I put my 8 students through an (in retrospect) rather gruelling schedule. Poor things, I had them sitting and walking for hours each day – broken up only by my chattering on about practice and endeavouring to make it interesting enough that they wouldn’t be turned off for ever.
Momentarily it would seem quite a daunting project. What if I spoiled meditation for them forever? What if I spun them off into some horribly dark mindstate from which they would never return. As it happened I trusted my teacher Ajahn Amaro’s advice about Dharma Talks: prepare nothing and talk from the heart. It seemed to work. No one freaked out, everyone seemed to love the Island and really take to practice. In fact, by the end of the 6 days we could barely scrape them off the beach to get them onto the return boat, they were like the glistening airy jellyfish lolling on the slipway.
I was also blessed by some of the most summery weather I’ve ever experienced up there. Blowy blue skies and lucid wind-washed twilights where all the colours in the Flower Garden glowed with weirdly intense luminosity. The gulls squarking around their uneasy awkward teenage young. The green seas of bracken, couch grass, rhododendrum, saplings. The red sandstone caves we discoverd, windcarved and perfect for afternoon sitting. That extraordinary expanse of sea and sky and island and coast that spills out to all four compass points from the summit. The ice cold swimming in the jellyfish blue sea.
Plus the most gorgeous set of students one could ever wish for. Each of them arrived in one state and left in a much more spacious, smiling and sunny one. To have been the catalyst for that is reason enough to be floaty with happiness. It’s blissful to be there yourself but even better to intoduce that bliss to others.