When nature calls
Living in community, I have been learning a lot about the need to find balance between time spent with others and time spent alone: time to simply nourish myself. I felt a little burnt-out after my time in Newbold House in Scotland, I loved it there and loved the community but I really missed time to myself and time for my creative practice. The wildness of nature, the need for solitude and time for my own spiritual practice were calling to me so I did some research and found a community in Northern Spain with a retreat cabin in the woods. The irony of travelling to be alone, as part of a year dedicated to being in community is not lost on me. The fact is, we need time alone. We can’t all head to a cabin in the woods for two weeks, but we need to figure out how to provide for this need. I wanted to explore my desire to be alone and I loved the idea that the cabin is part of a Buddhist Eco-Community project, so even in my solitude there, I am part of a community.
On the evening I arrived to the little cabin in the woods, in the Catalan Pyrenees for my two week retreat I wrote the following:
So I have arrived and I am full of excitement to write about all aspects of the place here on the side of a mountain crest. I’m writing at a small desk in a one-room cabin and I’m bleary eyed from lack of sleep and travel. I came from Dublin today up at 4am for a 6:40 flight with no sleep during the night and very little the night before.
For the retreat I decided to bring a few books with me, one of them I was reading on the journey here:The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist – in it she talks about the three great lies that we collectively hold around money.
- ‘there isn’t enough’… there isn’t enough time in the day, I don’t have enough money, I don’t have enough clothes, I didn’t get enough sleep, I don’t have enough education, I’m not handsome enough, I’m not pretty enough, I’m not slim enough….
- ‘more is better’…. If I just had some more time every thing would be better, if I had more money, just a few more nice dresses, just one more hour sleep, just one more degree, if I get just a little bit more make up or plastic surgery. If I loose just half a kilo I’ll be happy
- Well that’s just the way it is…there is nothing that I can do, this is just how life is…
But is it?
I have my own issues around money but these ‘lies’ are swimming in my head as I land here in one of the most wonderfully remote secluded spots in Spain, and I’ve noticed how my fears are bubbling: I am wondering if I will have enough food for the two weeks, will I have enough water, do I have enough paper and enough electricity, will I get enough exercise? I’m here to spend some quality time with myself and to land into a more grounded and satisfied place in myself.
So here I am in a little cabin with food to do me for two weeks: a bin full of vegetables a loaf of bread and two cartons of oat milk, a variety of large jars of rice, pasta, chick peas, split peas, lentils, a jar of tahini, salt pepper, sugar, a jar of marmalade, two tins of tomatoes, and outside, a bin of fruit. I have a large canister of water that I will need to fill myself for drinking water and any washing I need to do. The tap is up the hill about 50 metres and there’s a water container on the deck. There are basins outside for washing clothes and myself. There is a compost heap about 60 metres away and a compost toilet down the hill. The compost toilet is a raised platform that one steps up onto, unenclosed, basically it’s a drop toilet…. squat over the opening and throw ashes over afterwards.
There is a large pile of sticks with a saw and hatchet out on the deck along with a chair and a view of the stars up through the trees. Inside there is a desk and another a small shrine with a beautiful Buddha, a kitchen area with water container sink, food and prep area, a bed and a smoke belching stove.. another cylindrical drop type item that doesn’t ‘seem too keen on lighting… its chilly so I hope that it changes its mind.
The room is very simple and with nothing, nothing extra… but its beautiful and built lovingly all from locally cut pine logs built up from an old stone base. I have a yoga mat and meditation cushions with candles and incense provided.
I was collected from my 3-hour bus journey from Barcelona and driven to the community by the lovely Alex who has lived in the Eco-dharma community for 7 years. We drove out of the local town Isona and along country roads with an INCREDIBLE full moon looming over the mountains. The road changed to very rugged dirt track and I was very impressed with how assuredly Alex handled the hairpin bends and potholes that you could bury yourself in. we travelled in a well ‘broken in’ jeep that they use once a week to get provisions from Isona. We got to the community and I waited in the dark amongst a small cluster of buildings … I couldn’t see much but could make out some single story buildings a caravan and when I looked up…. the stars were just as I had hoped they would be.. spectacular, unspoilt by any form of artificial light. I was met at the community by Carol, from Barcelona who drove me with equal skill over another stretch of equally gnarly track. Then we got out and trekked through the forest to a little hut.. and here I am with no real idea of what’s outside.. as it was all dark when I arrived.. I assured Carl that I would remember how to get to everything.. but now I’m not entirely sure where the perch-able compost toilet is…
I am feeling a sense of calm as I look around and think about how my days can unfold here, fetching water, cutting wood, preparing simple vegan meals, meditating, walking out in nature, just living very simply.
OK I have put this off long enough.. I’m going to sleep…but I will write more soon.