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Volunteer For A Year Part 5: Ciao Bello!

“Aloneness seems to be the heart of discipline [...] You cannot develop yourself properly unless you give up your need for companionship. Once you give up your search for companionship, you can make friends with your loneliness. At that point, you become a genuine practitioner.”

The Path of Individual Liberation by Chögyam Trungpa

I was covering reception a while ago when a young couple, on their first date, visited the Centre. They asked me to show them around. They sat in the Tearoom and spent some time in the Shrine Room, after chatting and looking at books together in the library (I promised you in my previous post a tale about a first date at the Centre). I think it is lovely that their first, maybe only, date was here.

During March the Centre once again hosted Gelong Thubten. Emaho! It was a weekend that had something for everyone and I got the chance to attend both of his talks. At his Saturday session, based on his best selling book A Monks Guide to Happiness, there was an interesting question about love. ‘"Is it permanent? Everlasting?". His answer "Can a construct of the mind be permanent?”. Wanting leads to more wanting was a key message. All it does is create a sense of lack, said Thubten-la.

"If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable. But if you pour the salt into a river, people can continue to draw the water to cook, wash, and drink. The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. [….] But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore."

How to Love by Thich Nhat Hanh

Volunteering at the Centre is an opportunity to pour salt (read love) into a bigger cup, perhaps even the ocean. It is hard to leave a home, a busy life, family and friends for any period of time. Not everyone will understand the need to learn to be happily alone. It is so very easy to lose yourself in domesticity. To work only for money. To spend your whole life falling, or trying to fall, in love. For me the Centre is a 'time-out' from our external path, and a 'time-in' to an inner journey. Despite its ever changing dynamic, with volunteers and residents arriving, and leaving, Lama works hard to make, and keep, the Centre a retreat environment. Thank you, Lama-la.

In the Centre all of us are together, yet on our own. Finding ourselves.


There is something you are supposed to do.

Do it!

This life is a jewel, hard to find.

You have wandered through eight million,


There is someone you are supposed to meet.

So meet!’


Ciao Bello, Katrina


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