I have never been a spiritual person and I’m generally cynical about all things devotional. But in 2017 a friend, sensing that I had become disillusioned with my life, recommended to me a book by Pema Chödrön, a renowned teacher of Shambhala Buddhism. The book became a comfort during a difficult time, encouraging me to see my thoughts and emotions as transient and to come to terms with the uncertainty of things.
Then in early 2018 I ended up in France with three weeks to spare. I had picked up Pema’s book again and wondered whether there was anywhere nearby I could learn more about her ideas and meditation. That’s what led me to Dechen Chöling.
I joined the Meditation in Action programme for three weeks. What I found when I arrived was a living community of diverse people from across the world: some had been at Dechen Chöling for 20 years or more; others were only starting out down their paths. All made me feel welcome. And I felt even more welcome on my second day when the temperature dropped and it began to snow (for Australians, raised on a sun-blasted lump of rock, snow is basically magic).
As an ‘MIA’, as they say here, I helped with cooking, cleaning and landscaping, and I was encouraged to participate in meditation practice. I was assigned a meditation instructor, but there was no pressure or goal-setting. Given I’d had no previous experience with meditation and found it surprisingly challenging (letting thoughts go is tricky when you’ve constructed your entire being around them) being able to work at my own pace was important.
Living, helping and practicing at Dechen Chöling has reminded me of the importance of community and shown me how I can use meditation to create a deeper connection to the world. There’s lots of humour, kindness, love and honesty here, and it’s as real and freely given as I’ve ever known.
Guy, Australia, 41