On The Road: Break for a Buddhist retreat in Beara
Saturday 21 March 2009
Today my mother and I find solace in enormous views of the Atlantic Ocean from the floor-to-ceiling windows of a cottage at Dzogchen Beara. This Tibetan Buddhist retreat is perched on magnificent cliffs on the Beara Peninsula, and our drive here around the lovely coastline from Bantry was continuously lit by sunshine. It calmed my mother, who was full of trepidation at her first visit to a Buddhist retreat. Now, we are struck by the vista, letting our conversations trail into nowhere as it catches our attention mid-sentence.
We're sharing the vistas with a few travellers from Europe, Irish Buddhists on long-term stays and a loved-up couple with whom we keep exchanging smiles in the meditation garden. The centre is under the spiritual direction of Sogyal Rinpoche, the Buddhist teacher from Tibet who wrote The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, and by reading mother bits from this tome I have persuaded her to take her first guided meditation, which is free here twice a day for anyone who wants it.
The shrine room is surrounded by three giant walls of glass, so from wherever you sit on your cushion you can stare out to sea. In Tibetan Buddhist meditation you keep your eyes open, I discover, so I am able to give myself up to the view for another 45 minutes. My mum, meanwhile, is seated on a chair, attentive to the lilt of the meditation teacher's voice. There is a fidgety person next to her, she tells me later, so she never quite switches off, though she's proud of herself for trying.
Later we drive down to O'Neill's pub in the tiny town of Allihies and have a bowl of warmed-up tinned tomato soup with white bread that is the texture of clouds. We don't mind, because the owner is friendly and we can eat it outside. Back at Dzogchen, and a dusk plagued by midges doesn't stop us staying outside to watch the sunset, the sky a mix of lavender and orange. We contemplate an evening walk, but remain transfixed.
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