One of the things that makes a huge impact on me is the family and community spirit of the retreat centre members and of the participants, which creates a lovely atmosphere of bonhomie.
We share meals together, help clear the table together, look to pass the salt cellar and ensure everyone has water. This sounds quite obvious but, frequently, in everyday life we are too busy to notice our neighbour has run short of bread. Here, there is always somebody nearby looking after your needs, asking how you are, and it’s these small details that really make a difference.
The food itself is prepared by a wonderful team with care and attention, meaning each dish is suffused with delicious flavours and combinations. Each lunch and dinner is presented by a short speech, informing us exactly what we are putting into our bodies. As such love has been poured into the food, we mirror that respect for us by taking time to really savour and appreciate the aromas and tastes. It truly is amazing.
On the first day, one of the group activities is making mandalas. We all sit in a circle in the sunshine and, after Albert shows us how, winding wool of a bursting array of colours around two sticks. It is a relaxing activity, soothing. While we wrap the wool into patterns, we chat about our lives, where we come from. As we cover the sticks, we discover each other, unravelling the wool of ourselves. Everyone is helping others with knots or passing scissors, straightforward actions but ones that take on a greater significance when you realise that if people carried on these simple acts in our daily lives, it could improve the quality of our days immensely.
On the Saturday evening, we gather together in a large room, in which a semi-circle of tea-light candles glow softly. Albert and Neus lead us in song, with a guitar and rain-maker. The mantras are upbeat and spiritual, and even though not everybody joins in the mantras, we all enjoy how the music envelopes us and brings us together. When some are moved to dance, they make everybody feel included, wanted.
The spirit endures until the last moment of the retreat: Albert and Neus sing a song that they have written themselves. None of us know the lyrics but it is fun simply listening and joining together in laughter at the amusing lyrics before we say our goodbyes. The lesson of unity and the memory of being together are things we all take away with us. Whatever else happens, we have created a beautiful weekend with small kindnesses, and these small kindnesses are the pieces making up a larger harmonic jigsaw.