I wave bye to hubby as I get on the MTR to go to Lantau Island. I’m buzzing with excitment at the unknown. I get on the train with other commuters, probably on their way to Disneyland. We head out of the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong island and the closer we get to Lantau Island, the more the scenery and vibe start to change. The other passengers are families, tourists and teenagers on their way to anything other than work. As the majority of the people get off the train, I stay on, and realise whoa, I’m in Hong Kong! I’m on my way to the Plum Village Foundation, I’m about to have a weekend of mindfulness, my first retreat, and it’s a Friday! I start smiling from ear to ear.
I get off at Tung Chung station, and I’m amazed that I can see mountains in the distance, how quieter (although still busy) it is and just how green everything is. Not really knowing where to go, I head off in search for Bus 23. There aren’t any English signs, but I know I have about 5 minutes until the bus leaves. I find the bus pretty easily, get on, and I keep thinking “ooh wow” as it takes me into the heart Lantau Island. The bus weaves in and out of the mountainous terrain, skirts the coastline and goes through the luscious green 19th century landscape. It’s stunning. I start getting all excited. But all of a sudden I slightly panic because I don’t actually know where to get off. I whip out my phone and start following the bus on google maps (hurray for 3G everywhere). It’s okay, I’m en route.
I step off the bus and arrive at Ngong Ping Village. Tourists, everywhere. Not exactly what I imagined. I asked how to get to Lotus Pond Temple, but no one knows what I’m talking about. Panic. I look at the map, wander around then google for instructions. According to the website all I have to do is go towards the arches, turn left and keep walking until I see a sign. Okay, easy enough. I head off, the excitment returns. After 20minutes of walking in the sun, on a very humid afternoon, I start to get frustrated and think “ugh whatever, I’ll just go home now”. Annoyed, I start walking to the bus stop. Something stops me and I spot a lady in the distance so I suck it up and ask if she knows the temple. She does! She tells me the way and I’m off again. Turns out the sign is in Chinese, so no wonder I didn’t see it!
I walk through a windy, shady path, through the gates and I see the temple. Almost instantly I feel like I’m home. I feel so relaxed and at peace that I forget about my worries and for a moment, even what I had to do next. I walk past a group of very chatty monastic brothers and sisters. And to be honest, I’m taken aback, because I always think that monks and nuns are super quiet and serious. Not here though, there’s a group of about six, just hanging around a table, chatting. It’s like they’re having a nice afternoon beer, but for them it was tea 🙂 It looks like fun! I spot the registration sign, a sister shows me the dining area, sleeping quarters and leave me to be.
I choose a top bunk bed, literally under a fan, unpack Newton (my little teddy) then I sit, not really sure what to do next. Nothing came to mind so I get off the bed and start walking. I wander over to the temple, and stand on the balcony. I smile to myself. I look up and there’s the Big Buddha on top of the mountain. Ah, so that’s why there are tourists, here I am thinking they’re here for the retreat hehe. Despite being initially greeted by the crowds of tourists, being inside Plum Village is like being in a totally different world. It really is just oh so peaceful. I start to feel so positive and re energised. I can’t help but keep smiling.
This is my first weekend retreat, so I didn’t know what to expect, but instead of worrying of what’s to come, I think to myself, “let’s just try to let it be”. I want some down time after all, so why not make this weekend about that. Make it about me, let it be me time. And as it turns out it was the best way to start the weekend. Because little did I know, but I was well on my way to getting the most out of the practice of being mindful.
What do you do to feel at peace?