Silent retreat at The Forest Hermitage

I don’t have any photos from the retreat because my phone was off for the whole two weeks. So here’s a swan I saw in Newcastle

My stay at the Forest Hermitage started out as a long weekend silent retreat, Friday-Monday. When I got off the train I was looking for a taxi, there was a taxi company storefront type-thing right next to the train station, I headed towards it and as I did I heard someone else saying that they were headed to the Forest Hermitage. I inquired, and it turned out they’re going to the same retreat as I was. So we split a cab.

The schedule at the retreat was as follows:

  1. 5:30 : Wakeup Bell.
  2. 6:00 : Puja – Morning chanting and meditation.
  3. 7:00 : Tea, coffee, shower, etc.
  4. 8:00 : Chore period.
  5. 8:40 : Sitting meditation (S.M.)
  6. 9:20 : Walking meditation (W.M.)
  7. 10:00 : S.M and dhamma talk.
  8. 11:00 : Meal, clean up, free time.
  9. 1:20 : W.M.
  10. 2:00 : S.M.
  11. 2:40 : W.M.
  12. 3:20 : S.M.
  13. 4:00 : Break.
  14. 4:30 : W.M.
  15. 5:00 : S.M.
  16. 5:40 : Break.
  17. 6:40 : S.M.
  18. 7:20 : W.M.
  19. 8:00 : Puja, dhamma talk.
  20. 9:30 : Tea, time for personal practice, bed.

Which totals out to nine hours of meditation every day (Saturday and Sunday). It was tough. My body was aching from all of the constrained postures of sitting and walking meditation. One of the things I discovered on the retreat was that I have a tendancy to lean back, thinking that leaning back is standing up straight with good posture. So I worked on adjusting that because the better your posture is, the less achy your body is.

I was somewhat worried about the one meal a day thing going into it. But it was actually totally fine. People came on the three days there was a meal and cooked and offered us food. It was always delicious. I think it was easier to deal with because all we were doing was meditating, so it wasn’t super taxing on our bodies. 

Ajahn Manapo led the retreat. At 31 he’s probably the youngest Ajahn  I’ve met. (Ajahn in this tradition pretty much means they’ve been a monk for over 10 years. Literally it means Teacher) In his talks he talked a lot about sila, virtue. The practice of being good, doing good things that bring about happiness in yourself and others, and avoiding doing things that bring suffering in yourself and others. He talked of Right Livelyhood, a factor on the Buddhist Eightfold Path, and how we can do good in the way we make a living. Or at least avoid causing harm. Some classicexamples of ‘wrong’ livelyhood is dealing in drugs, human trafficking, or weapons and poisons. But there are others as well of course. 

The retreat was a wonderful experience, and a great way to start my time at The Forest Hermitage. My meditation practice clearly benifited from it, and I had a lot of insights. I would like to do a longer silent retreat in the future.

I’ll post about the rest of my time at The Forest Hermitage soon. 

A few days in Bath

I was in Bath August 23rd-25th

First day

I got to Bath just after noon. It was about a half an hour’s walk up a hill to my Airbnb. The room wasn’t ready yet (as expected) so I dropped my bag and headed back down into Bath. Grateful to not be carrying it around anymore. 

My phone was low on battery and I’d forgotten to bring anything down with me into the city (such as my portable charger) So I have no pictures from this day. however, I took a few later on.

On the first day I,

  • Saw the outside of Bath Abbey and The Roman Baths.
  • Walked in the Parade Gardens.
  • Saw Putney Bridge. A bridge lined with shops. If I hadn’t known it was a bridge, and was just walking over it I might not have realized.
  • Went to the Victoria Art Gallery
  • Saw The Circus. (A ring of houses. Super cool, unfortunately no pic)
  • Saw the Royal Cresent (similar to the Circus, but a cresent instead of a circle).
  • Walked in the Botanical Gardens. Which I loved.
  • Walked along the river.

For lunch I discovered a small Indian Street Food place. I got their Onion Bhaji naan wrap. Which was absolutely delicious. Plus one of the best samosas I’ve had in a while. 

Putney Bridge and The Weir

I also discovered a small Leatherworking shop in the Bath Guildhall Market. Called Bath Leather Goods (website). They had belts, wallets, journals, and probably more, but to be honest I was only interested in the journals. I had to get a new one because I was about to finish my first that I got for the trip. While there I met a lady from New Zealand. She was telling me that I needed to book absolutely all of my time in New Zealand. That if I didn’t I’d have no where to sleep and nothing to do. This freaked me out a bit, as I’d already been worrying about that. But I talked to some people (other contacts in or from New Zealand) and they helped to calm me down and let me know that I really don’t need to worry too too much. Though booking some things is necessary, most things aren’t. (Dispite wanting to keep New Zealand completely plan free, I’ve booked a couple of the Great Walks. I’ll update my Itinerary soon). In fact, one person told me to book absolutely nothing and see what happens.
I got to my airbnb around 7 and cooked myself some dinner. Though I had booked a couch bed, there was no one staying in one of the bedrooms for the night so I slept there instead for no extra charge, I’m grateful for that. 

Second day

My breakfast was a cinnomon raison bagel, with two eggs and some aged gouda. Three things I’ve had not nearly enough of during this trip. I also had a lot of tea that morning.  2 different oolongs (one from Taiwan, the other from Kenya) and a Nepal golden buds black tea. The tea I had got in London was about to run out, so on one day at Hartridge I turned on my phone and did a quick order from What-cha, one of my favorite tea vendors who happens to be based in London, it got to my airbnb the day I did, carrying Red Buffalo Oolong and the above mentioned black.

After breakfast and tea I headed down into Bath. I went into the Roman Baths this time, and toured there for an hour or two. I was impressed by the size of them. (Or really, the size they once were)

The Roman Baths with Bath Abbey in the background.

After leaving the Baths I was to Sally Lunns,  an apperently famous bakery (I’d never heard of it) that makes the Lunn Bunn. (possibly similar to a Bath Bunn?) I had one with cinnomon sugar on it. It was super duper fluffy, somewhat large, and delicious. 

Lunn Bunn

Next I went back to the Leatherworking shop. And bought a new journal. The paper is handmade, and they inscribed my name on it for no extra charge, only took 10 minutes, during which I had a delightful conversation with one of the owners. Only £25! 

New journal

After buying my journal I got some ink for my pen. And then got a haircut. For Lunch I went back to the Indian Street Food place. This time getting their Samosa Chaat, a curry with a samosa broken into it. It was good, but didn’t blow me away in quite the same way. 

Later on I went to Holbourne Museum. I also went to several parks, meditating under a tree in one of them for half an hour. 

That night while making dinner I hit my head on the fixture above the stove in my host’s kitchen. It tore it from the wall in one place, though not completely off. He spent most of the night fixing it. I felt terrible, and left him a good tip when I left the following day. Thankfully I had already made most of my dinner. However I think he had to order something, though refused for me to pay. 

Third day

My last day. I made some tea in the morning and packed up. Once I was done I made myself the same breakfast as the previous day. Only with more gouda because I figured I might as well finish the piece, and I love the cheese. I left my host the food I hadn’t used (a couple bagels, some pasta, etc.)

I walked down through Alexandra Park, which I had discovered the day before. Which offers wonderful views of the city below. Once in Bath I went to an outdoors shop and got a couple things I’d figured out I needed. (a couple more dry bags, and bungee cords to help strap my sleeping bag to my backpack)

Alexandra Park

I walked to yet another park that I hadn’t been to before (can you tell I like parks?) and sat there and drank tea and cubed and journalled. Eventually I headed back into Bath and found a place to eat lunch. I got a delicious eggs benedict with avocado, and homemade french fries (chips) that were amazing.

Hedgemead Park

I wondered around for a little while more, mostly relaxing and taking in the sights before my train in the early afternoon. My time in Bath was a good one, and I wish I had scheduled slightly more time there. As it was, it was a nice break between two monasteries. 

Next: 2 weeks at The Forest Hermitage