Participants on the Qigong & Meditation Retreat Week are a mix of differing ages, abilities, nationalities and backgrounds: they include absolute beginners, experienced practitioners and some who return year after year for their annual Holy Isle top-up. Most arrive tired yet exhilarated from the journey to Holy Isle which includes two ferries, the big Cal Mac boat and the little ferry making the short crossing from Lamlash to Holy Isle itself. So during the first part of the week practising relaxation and we all gather together in the beautiful Peace Hall for what has become known as ‘duvet’ time! We also explore our intentions for the week
When I arrived on Holy Isle in September 1999 Lama Yeshe Rinpoche, the Retreat Master, gave two instructions to guide me during my year of retreat. One was to not do anything unless I could rejoice. This was not what I had expected to hear and I can remember leaving his presence with a sense of joyful anticipation. A subtle instruction, if ever there was. And yes, some days it is easier to rejoice than on others.
I have been leading Qigong & Meditation Retreats on Holy Isle since the Centre opened in 2003 and Lama’s instruction hovers around my heart as I meet and teach the participants on these courses. Many are coping with changes in their lives that diminish their ability to rejoice. Coming to Holy Isle offers respite from the pressures of every-day life. Over the week (or a weekend) the healing movements of Wild Goose Medical Qigong alongside the simple loving kindness and peaceful mind meditations we practice together enable deep relaxation to arise. The releasing movements of Wild Goose recharge the qi, the life force, and the peace of the sitting meditation sessions allows the mind to have a holiday in peace. The ethos of Holy Isle is friendship. As well as the Qigong and meditation we practice together the island itself is restorative: I have seen participants choose to climb the mountain when their greatest fear is of heights – and come back filled with glowing confidence! On every course that I have run on Holy Isle, be it a week or a weekend, I have witnessed transformations that are truly healing. Participants arrive as strangers and rapidly and naturally they weave friendships based on mutual support and kindness. One of the requests made of participants is to help in the kitchen with the cleaning and washing up and I always hear laughter from the group joyfully working together. Holy Isle is an excellent place to rediscover our ability to rejoice.
As well as their own insights, participants take back home with them tools to sustain their own personal practices. This feedback says it all:
“What a wonderful, magical and transformative week. I arrived tired and depleted and I now have fully restored and with so much more than I ever imagined.”
And the other instruction given to me at the start of my year retreat by Lama Yeshe? I’ll tell you when next we meet on Holy Isle!