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June 13, 2023

What I Learned from Volunteering at a Buddhist Centre in the Scottish Wilderness.

In 2021, I had a real f*ck it moment and literally walked out of my life.

I resigned from my corporate job, left my apartment, sold most of my belongings, and packed up a backpack to walk more than a thousand kilometers across Spain on a pilgrimage route.

Ever since, I didn’t stop.

I ended up traveling through Scotland in 2022, volunteering at various places. One of them was a remote bio-dynamic farm in the middle of nowhere on the edge of a forest. In my time off, I loved to wander around the forest; it felt like a magical place. I met the most random, weird people who popped out of the bushes to disappear the next second. I never knew where they came from—until one day, I wandered across their secret home, a beautiful Buddhist meditation centre in the middle of the forest, called Gomde.

I felt like I crossed a portal and suddenly teleported to Tibet. Nothing reminded me of Scotland anymore. Colorful flags dancing in the wind, chimes playing, birds chirping around me as playful dogs came to greet me. Gomde had such a magnetic peaceful atmosphere that literally sucked me in. To be honest, most of the time, I wandered around the forest to meditate over my relationship problems with my then-boyfriend. So you can imagine the relief I felt once I entered this sacred space that washed over my troubled mind and heart with its calmness. I didn’t even need to meditate; meditation became me.

Soon I became friends with the people who ran Gomde and the few volunteers over there, and I was invited to join their weekend meditations and teachings with Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche. He wasn’t present, but we always followed his meditations live via Zoom calls.

Their welcome was warm and open. For the first time in years, I felt like someone was interested in getting to know me, to actually get to know who I was, and not to see how they could benefit from having any kind of relation with me. I could open up about anything and was met with no judgement but pure understanding and loving acceptance.

It felt like arriving home, but it also felt weird. It was something I never really met before. I started to spend more and more time over here, especially on weekends, when I joined the meditations. They were also unusual for me: chanting in a language I didn’t speak, and nobody bothered that I was totally out of tune and late with my chants. I didn’t know what we were chanting about, but I immediately felt peaceful and relaxed.

After the meditations and lessons, I was offered tea, biscuits, and sometimes even lunch or dinner. They wanted me to stay and tell tales of my life and adventures. And they listened. Really listened. I know because they understood many things, even if I didn’t say them. During the few weeks while I got the chance to visit and volunteer over at Gomde, I learned the real meaning of kindness.

Kindness is giving your presence to someone.

Kindness is showing to another soul they truly matter.

Kindness is being a safe space for one another.

Kindness is a gift we can offer to anyone, anytime.

After my experience at Gomde, I started to engage differently with people. Eventually, I realized I used to be kind with people because I was expecting something in return. If nothing else, to be praised for being so kind.

Now, I rather pull back and allow the other to step forward and show their true face in the safe space I create. Sometimes it leads to loving experiences; sometimes it leads to running away from toxicity.

I’m still on the path of learning and healing, especially when it comes to interacting with people who are so hurt they bleed on everyone. They are the ones that need kindness the most.

~

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