Even the little birds are happy here!

It’s been a little while since my last blog! Photographically, October – December proved to be my busiest months yet which was brilliant but it didn’t leave much time for blogging! Then it gets a bit overwhelming when you look at all the images and where to start with the backlog.  So I made a decision.  I am not going to do lots, I am going to create just one blog showing some of my favourite images from 2013.  BUT that’s still in the making so first…

I thought it would be lovely to start the year with a little visual tour of the trip I have just returned from.  Many of you will know that I was due to fly to Bangladesh on the 1st of January for a holiday to visit Bhola’s Children’s Orphanage and friends.  However at the 11th hour (well technically 24 hours before we were due to fly) we had to make a decision to reschedule our trip.  An election had been announced on the 15th of December to take place on the 4th of January 2014.  This doesn’t make for good news when you want to travel around in country as it inevitably means hartels – strikes…with all forms of transport coming to a grinding halt for days at a time.  After lots of conversation with friends in Bangladesh we took their advice and decided to change our flights – good old Emirates!!!  So I have that to look forward in the coming months.

However that left me with 3 weeks annual leave and no plans what-so-ever.  Hogmanay came and went in a blur of unpacking and food shopping and generally trying to get my head round the fact that I wasn’t going to the warm and colourful places of Bangladesh.  But I had scrubbed down my trusty backpack – clearing the last remaining ounces of African red soil….so I just had to use it.  I decided on a return visit to Kagyu Samye Ling in Eskdalemuir in Dumfriesshire for a week.  I had visited it back in August, you can read about my first trip here.

So here it is…part 2 of this beautiful, tranquil place.  Let me take you under the arches, past the Stupa and into the place that gave me rest, an awakened appreciation of vegetarian fayre made with love and of course some stunning surroundings to wander in.  I took my new compact (purchased for the other trip!),  it’s the Fujifilm XF1 and to be honest I am pretty impressed with it’s capabilities so far for it’s price ticket of £130.

On arrival reception was closed but the Tibetan Tea Rooms were open and John there suggested that I might want to go and have some lunch.  Don’t mind if I do!  I went into the dining room and had the most amazing tomato, olive and pepper pasta bake with brown rice & veg…followed by cake, banana custard and cream.  Honestly, it was amazing!  It was an explosion to my tastebuds and they tingled with every mouthful.  What a start!  I then checked into my room – again in Potala House which is next to the main Temple.  It has simple retreat style rooms and enough room to lay out my yoga mat which had journeyed with me.  The heating is always on when you arrive so the rooms are warm and welcoming and this time I noticed that they are painted yellow and blue, the colours of the flag and which I later read that the blue represents the sky and the yellow the earth.  A nice touch that I hadn’t noticed the last time.  That’s a point in itself, there was so much that I didn’t notice the last time, it’s such an amazing place to see and explore, finding something new each time. Oh and look at the view from my window…not a bad view to waken up to really is it??? 2014-01-11_0042014-01-11_0132014-01-11_001My days were leisurely, starting with my yoga practice, followed by some fruit and then a walk before lunch.    On the 2nd day I discovered Fairy Hill – located opposite the car park and I decided that was worth exploring.  So once again fed abundantly I adorned my waterproofs with my camera at the ready and headed off in the pouring rain, believing that maybe the faeries of the forest might be out dancing in the puddles!  I wandered uphill  catching sight of someone in the distance meditating at the top of one of the hills.  I kept my pace as the rain was driving into my face.  Sadly I didn’t  find any faeries at the top.  Maybe they heard me coming…but I did find some interesting little shrines and a large collection of Tibetan Prayer Flags.  Maybe the tiny leprechaun or wooden man could shed some light on the fairy dwellings?  Who knows the business of the forest?    2014-01-11_0062014-01-11_0072014-01-11_0082014-01-11_0122014-01-11_010I also took a wander up to Purelands Retreat which is located about 15 minutes walk from the main centre.  It’s another beautiful spot as you can see below.  So that was enough walking for one day…back in time to read some of my book in the Tibetan Tea Rooms with a  lovely strong coffee.      It was a quiet week at the centre as there were no courses on midweek and whilst it had been full over Christmas and New Year, most people had left.  There’s such an organic flow of people coming and going here, those who work and live, the nuns and monks who carry out their duties in the Sangha, those who attend courses or like myself who just come for a holiday.  It really is an interesting place to take a break – you really do as there is no mobile reception meaning that I completed switched off from all forms of technology.  Wifi is available in the tea-rooms and in some of the retreat rooms just incase you think it’s completely disconnected :)  2014-01-11_009You are given a daily timetable on arrival and you are welcome to join the Sangha in as many or as little of the prayers and meditations as you like.  During the course of the week I attended the Silent Meditation, Mahakala Prayers (which I really enjoyed) and the Chenrezig Prayers after dinner in the Temple/Main Shrine Room.    Not that I understand them but it’s a privilege to be amidst another culture and movement that certainly provides something special to people both here and in countless communities around the globe.   2014-01-11_0022014-01-11_0222014-01-11_0252014-01-11_003 On day 3 I took myself off on a wander and found myself in Craighaugh Forest.  A beautiful, stony track led me alongside the river into an open expanse at which point the sun decided to come out to play – being the first time I had seen it perch over the clouds since my arrival.  This late afternoon low lying sun cast deep amber and orange hues across the plains, throwing diamond like twinklings over the marshland and river.  Majestical, I stayed with the sun warming my face, capturing some images in the afternoon light.   2014-01-11_0152014-01-11_0182014-01-11_0162014-01-11_0192014-01-11_0172014-01-11_020One of the many things I love about coming to Samye Ling is that you become immersed in nature here, the trees that surround the Centre, the flowing river that gushes at the back of the Temple and along the gardens, and then there is the wildlife, rich and varied.  You never quite know what you are going to be greeted by when you walk out your door at any moment.  And I think that helps you stay in the moment!  Each morning I would leave Potala to the ringing sound of hundreds of tiny birds, puffing their chests and bellowing their songs with gusto – it’s such a beautiful thing to hear!  This time I had the pleasure of meeting 4 pea foul (I believe that’s what they call the family of peacocks there!) apparently 1 mother and 3 chicks (not sure if that’s the right term for them!) but there were 2 females and 1 male I was told.   Add into the mix the daily sightings of many beautiful  pheasants – which I love as they remind me of life up North and then….YAKS!  Yes that’s right, YAKS.  I had no idea that the Centre is home (well not indoors of course) to these incredible beasts and well I just had to see them.

So without further ado here are the YAKS!   2014-01-11_0272014-01-11_0262014-01-11_028And as quickly as it arrived my time at Samye Ling came to an end for another trip.  I am reminded of something that one of the guests had said about the chaffinches and other little birds who seem resident in the bushes and tree’s that surround this place. “Even the birds are happy here!”  They are filled with good food, looked after so fondly by the staff and tweet around merrily throughout their days (in my head just like happy little Buddhas!) and with that I leave happy.  xxx

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