Spending time at a Buddhist commune in the middle of Scottish nowhere (Balquhidder) away from it all, rising at seven in the morning, meditating, climbing hills in the rain and helping out with the housework may not be everybody's idea of fun, but the truth is, I've always been a sucker for all sorts of well-marketed serenity and I'd been meaning to go on a retreat for quite a while.

When I booked my place and flights back in April, my plan was to make the most of my time in Scotland, spend a long weekend in London, visit my old stomping grounds, try to put my scattered brain in order and take it easy, away from deadlines, productivity scores and the urban rat race;

But it all actually became so much bigger than this. The recent, unfortunate developments brought about in my life made me realize how much I needed the time and place to hide and grieve; to lick my wounds and heal them.
I'm not much of a cynic, but as I grow older I find it exceedingly difficult to embrace any philosophical, religious or other belief system which I'd fully adopt and adhere to, be it Christianity, Buddhism or other. The only things I truly believe in nowadays are dignity, compassion and beauty - in its purest, most primitive form; and I've met some really beautiful souls while in Dhanakosa.

The gorgeous landscapes, the random conversations about inner peace and the meaning of life, the loud breakfast jokes, the poems Nayaka read before our morning meditation, the warm hugs and the occasional weeping, the deep, night long silences and, above all, the strange sense of attachment developed between 24 strangers who eventually became friends, even for a while, are memories I'll cherish;

Till I return to this magical place...

Would you trust this man to guide you in the mountains? (i sure did ;))
My good friend Natasha and the rest of the group saved my day when my backpack got lost between Heathrow and Edinburgh airports

Loch Voil (photo by Alistair)


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