Friday 12 August 2011

Almost entirely unlike being a snail

The thing about setting up residential retreats, is that it is almost entirely unlike being a snail.

What we do - what we did this last week - was uplift part of our 'home' and take it to some rented venue. This shot of Sonam and Simon's Wedding Blessing shows a hint of what we can achieve in our current nomadic mode. Thangkas depicting the Eight Manifestations of Padmasambhava can be seen on the walls here, according to the Dud'jom gTér, which help transform the room we use as a shrine room.

However to give a sense of the amount of artefacts we would like to have on permanent display, our lineage Lamas alone transport two 50kg suitcases of objects from their home in Penarth. This includes robes, instruments and lineage treasures.

The thangkas come from Aro Ling in Bristol, along with statues and other shrine objects. When there is an ordination - as there was on this retreat - the full array of Vajra Weapons are taken to the event, and in this case that is sufficient to fill the back of a regular family car.

And it is not just the transportation that presents challenges. The room you see here is actually a living room in a rented property. It takes a team of eight people a good couple of hours to clear the room of furniture and artworks, and secure them safely, to then set up the shrine accordingly. Again at the end of the event a similar amount of time and energy is spent putting things right. Unlike a snail, we can leave no trail that we were present, because later that same day some other good folk will be using the space for their own purposes. Obviously it can be quicker if there are more people but it is not just about schlepping stuff around the country

- if we were to just run a weekend retreat, a good half day could easily be spent in setting up and taking down the shrine room alone - eating into time for teaching and study
- the amount of handling of these items results in damage, requiring repair and attention - consuming time and resources that could be better spent elsewhere
- the array of practice equipment and inspirational artefacts on display is limited by the amount of spare luggage space we have in vehicles, which means not everything is always available to hand, constraining spontaneity and opportunity
- in fact, in effect for a 30-person event we have at least one full vehicle equivalent just transporting stuff to the event. Hardly economically or environmentally sensible

So - we've gotta stop being so unsnail-like - just on a pragmatic basis.