Fringe benefits

There are many benefits to living at a retreat centre like Bodhi Khaya. You have the opportunity to live close to nature; drink a raw food smoothie made from the veggies in our organic garden, and participate in wonderful courses. There are so many fringe benefits.

One of the things I love best about my new home is the meditation hall. Every morning I get to sit in silence in a space filled with the energy of years of meditation. It is with reverence that I leave my school shoes outside the door as a gesture of respect when I enter. I had bought the school shoes just before I came here. They are a constant reminder to be open to learning new things, and to learn to live in the moment.

I have learnt so much already. As a newcomer to living in community at a retreat centre, I am amazed and awed by the skillful way David and Chantel are able to sit with situations, thereby allowing them to unfold in the most synchronistic and seemingly effortless fashion. They take action from a place of centredness and calm which is inspiring to behold. And should any one of us experience a slight wobble for whatever reason, the others hold the space. I am most grateful for this feeling of being held while I learn the ropes. And grateful for the fun and lightness that we share during our meals and in our daily tasks.

I have been practising this new way of being in the world. I must be ready to work this way myself, because here I am – at this wonderful place and part of this team.

After morning meditation, as we venture out to greet the day, I bow to this beautiful serene space. I put on my school shoes and surrender to what the day may teach me.

Perdita Van Dijk Du Bois


Embodying Presence Retreat

Last weekend, only my second at my new home Bodhi Khaya, found me enjoying a wonderful intimate retreat with the intriguing title, Embodying Presence, led by Dai Heyne and Annika Nicol.

Our retreat manager, David, had told me what great teachers they are. They were both registered clinical psychologists who had spent the last ten odd years abroad training at the Karuna Institute in the UK as well as sitting meditation courses with various teachers.  What impressed me more than their obvious experience was, well, their “presence”.  They are warm, empathetic, and grounded with a wonderful sense of humour which made for a light yet profoundly moving weekend. What I appreciated most was their emphasis on practicality. The way they structure their work ensures that you not only learn great transformative techniques, but also how to apply this learning into real life. The retreat is designed to take you gently from being with yourself to gradually relating  with the world and others while still being aware of what is happening for you in the moment.

It soon became apparent that there would a lot of silence involved, both during the sessions and at meal times.  Not everyone in the group were seasoned meditators or partial to silence, but Dai and Annika made sure that the meditation was comfortable for all concerned. Participation and sharing was invited rather than enforced.  During the sessions, there was regular sharing and checking in, which gave us all the opportunity to learn from both the teachers and others in the group. Dai and Annika engaged with each participant in the most heartfelt, connected way.

For me, one of the most useful techniques was designed to help one allow space between you and your thoughts, feelings and sensations. It was fascinating to realize and experience that it is possible to observe your feelings (and thoughts or body sensations) while at the same time exploring them and describing them. It was an eye-opening experience to be awake and present to what is there without identifying with it, whether it is doubt or anger or simply boredom. The reminder to allow whatever is present, to be, and to just sit with it was powerful in its simplicity. Also the suggestion to describe all feelings, thoughts and sensation as “happening” was really useful.  It may well have appeared and sounded quite absurd to an outsider hearing us all murmur, “thought happening”, “happiness happening” but guess what? It works. Just using this technique creates the space that allows one to explore with detachment.

My other personal favourite was a guided meditation to help us explore and experience our bodies from the inside out! I found it delightful to actually experience and explore being in my body. It makes you wonder where I have been hanging out for most of the 52 years I have spent on the planet…

Perdita Van Dijk Du Bois