I arrived later than planned but it was a wonderful relief to be welcomed at the gates of the Wangapeka centre by a profusion of pale lemon rhododendron flowers. “You have arrived”. Yay. Phew. Breathe. Smile. Two caretakers arrived shortly afterwards: Jacinta, getting ready to leave, and Tracy settling into her new role. The whole place looked great already, sparkling with the evidence of some serious energy and elbow grease. A few more tasks were completed and then our cook Ester arrived from Golden Bay with guitar in hand. We all sat down to a bowl of hot carrot soup and bread made by Jacinta. Yum. Ester then got busy in the kitchen and before too long she had rustled up some bliss balls and homemade cake and started prepping for Sunday lunch.
Sunday lived up to its name, lovely and warm, and a little windy. People arrived and enjoyed morning tea with bliss balls and cake (with tahini spread and honey on the side) before heading up through the pine trees to the Whare Wānanga for Bonni’s talk. It is 19 years since Namgyal Rinpoche shuffled off his mortal coil, assuming that Buddhist teachers do that sort of thing too? Bonni gave a fascinating glimpse into the life and spiritual explorations of this amazing teacher and his rag-tag following of Western hippies (or words to that effect).
We learnt a bit about how he tried to adapt the Buddha’s teachings to the Western mindset, since many Westerners seem to like words, concepts, and intellectualising more than simply meditating. He wanted to see what would be the most helpful and tried all sorts of new techniques out on his followers/guinea pigs. Whenever they got too attached to one technique or practice, he would pull the rug out from underneath them and introduce something new. So in a similar way to his own rather eclectic path, they learnt everything from Tibetan and Theravadan teachings to the Western Mysteries tradition, and even things like Scuba diving! I have never personally tried that, but I have snorkelled in Rarotonga which was incredible and highly recommended. That was in a lagoon though which is pretty safe from sharks. I would imagine diving would certainly make you aware of your own vulnerability, since you can only see what is straight ahead of you through the blinkers of the mask. You could have great white sharks above, below, left, right, and following you, without even knowing it !!! However they don’t seem to bother divers much, possibly due to the difficulty of digesting the oxygen tanks. Anyway, I digress.
Some of the practices Namgyal Rinpoche developed include the Peace meditation and the Holistic Clearing Meditation techniques and we learnt a bit about those. Bonni finished the session with a wonderful meditation quite unlike anything I had ever experienced before. And a sharing circle. And then, spiritually nourished, we wandered back down the hill to find a delicious banquet laid out with great love and care by our amazing chef du jour Ester. It was so beautifully presented that it looked too good to eat and we felt a bit awkward digging into it with serving spoons. But dig in we did, and there was enough for an army too. Chunks of roasted kumara and pumpkin, chickpeas, hummus, grated carrot and beetroot salad, a lovely pink quinoa salad, as well as a big green salad from the garden with a big jug of very yummy dressing. And more bliss balls and cake as well.
After lunch, we farewelled Bonni and Matthew, and some people then found a quiet place to curl up and nap, or read a book. Others wandered around the land to enjoy the beautiful rhododendrons which were putting on quite a show of colour, as were many of the blossom trees in full flower. It’s certainly a lovely time of year to be up at the centre. Jane organised the Whare Wānanga while Graham finished painting the new volunteer rooms. And then it was all over. Aaahh. Bliss balls and bliss. And a wonderful day. I stayed on to help Jacinta and Tracy for the working bee and left just before dusk on Monday, completely exhausted but happy.