Today is the day. The new website Sitting Buddha Hermitage is now up and running and as of today I shall be posting all new information to the new site, including this blog. So if you have an RSS feed set up for Field of Merit Blog you will need to set up a new one for Sitting Buddha Hermitage Blog if you would like to continue to receive these blog posts.
As a bit of background: Field of Merit is the project launched in July 2012 by Rev. Mugo and me to gather support and raise funds to purchase property for the founding of a small rural retreat in the UK for practitioners of Soto Zen Buddhism that would offer a number of individual hermitages for short or extended retreats. The project eventually evolved into its present form, which is in a rented, rather than purchased, property and with one monk (me – Alicia) resident and offering one retreat caravan, a guest room in the house, and a meditation shrine for individual day retreats. I moved into this property in February 2014 and named it Sitting Buddha Hermitage.
Field of Merit remains the name of the associated charity. In time that may change, but for the time being it seems to work fine and it is not uncommon for a charity to have a different name from the actual enterprise.
This website, Field of Merit, will remain accessible so that people can read about the first two years of the project, but the site will no longer be updated with new information.
Moving to Sitting Buddha Hermitage was a significant step for this project, and for me personally, and the transition to the new website feels like another milestone. I sincerely hope that you will follow the project to the new website with me and that I will one day welcome most, if not all, of you to the actual physical Hermitage. I remain immensely grateful to everyone for helping the project to get this far and for your continuing support.
I have been beavering away at a new website for Sitting Buddha Hermitage and I would like to invite you to a preview by clicking here. The Field of Merit website will remain accessible so that people can read about the first two years of the project, but once I switch to using the new site (technically a subdomain) I will direct people towards it and be posting to the new blog.
So please do have a look around the fledgling Sitting Buddha Hermitage site and if you have any comments or suggestions for improvement I’d love to know – you can either comment here or use the contact form on either site.
Oh, and I heard this week that the lake here is going to be stocked with fish – carp and gudgeon to keep the water clean and some goldfish to look pretty – around 40 fish in all. Arriving in a couple of weeks. Won’t that be fun!
I spent the morning fitting a piece of carpet in the summer house and installing a Kanzeon altar.
So this is now the Kanzeon shrine and it is available to anyone who would like to come and make their own silent day retreat here. Just give me a ring on 01629 821813 or use the contact form to let me know when you’d like to come so that I can confirm that the date is suitable and let you know how to get here. You can bring your own lunch and use the kitchen facilities. The shrine has electricity and a heater if needed. The path around the lake is great for walking meditation. I simply ask that you leave a small donation towards the upkeep of the Hermitage.
The trees and shrubs are blossoming and there is plenty of bird life around the lake – it’s a lovely time to visit!
Rev. Wilfrid sent me this photo last week. He took it on the day I left Throssel for Wirksworth, me driving the car and Rev. Mugo driving the hired transit van. A transit van to help with the transition. I’ve always honoured times of transition and recognised that they can be quite unsettling and bring up unexpected and disquieting feelings. As it happens, this time I have only experienced joy and gratitude for the place that is now Sitting Buddha Hermitage and for all the help, support and kindness that has been coming my way from friends both old and new.
Uprooting from one part of the country to another and from a community in which one has lived for the best part of 20 years is a big transition. But when are we not in transition? Transition is the process of change from one state to another and, as the Buddha’s teaching on impermanence tells us, and as we can see for ourselves, everything is in a continual state of flux. Sometimes it seems that I am upset out of all proportion by a small event when a large one can pass by smoothly. Large and small, rough and smooth are just labels. My wish is simply to bring an open, accepting and compassionate heart to all that arises.
Each morning, after meditation and morning service, I light a stick of incense and step outside to offer it at the statue by the lake. Then I take a walk around the lake, pausing to look at what I see in and around it. Yesterday I noticed activity in the water, something darting out from under the rocks at the edge. It turned out to be a frog. Later I saw another frog making its way across the path towards the lake. Guess I can expect frog spawn soon.
There are a duck and a moorhen around most of the time and sometimes other ducks come. One day last week I noticed the moorhen being particularly active, zooming around the edge of the lake. Turned out it was chasing a stoat which was having great fun running in and out of the rocks and jumping between them, making at least one complete circuit.
I’m not much of a bird watcher, but a yellow wagtail has been catching my eye (though it turns out to be called a grey wagtail – see comments). That was (obviously not) easy to identify in the bird book. Harder to recognise are the numerous little brown jobs as Rev. Master Daizui, a keen bird watcher, used to call them.
In addition to being new to bird watching I am also new to gardening. I can see that the grassy bank around the property has many beautiful mature shrubs and trees, which are currently bursting out of their buds, but I’ve no idea what they are going to look like – quite fun really! Spring is definitely a good time to move to a new place.
After my morning walk around the lake I get on with my day, knowing that nature is right there outside the door to remind me to relax, walk slowly and pay attention. If you’d like to read news about how it’s all going with getting the place set up you can click Archive to see the newsletter that I sent out yesterday. Click Subscribe if you’d like to receive the newsletter each month.
Yesterday was a beautiful day so I got out my camera and took some new shots of Sitting Buddha Hermitage. To the left of the building you can see the space where the retreat caravan will go. Two generous donations to the caravan fund have been made so far, totalling £1,500, which are both Gift Aided adding another £375. I reckon that I should be able to find a decent second hand caravan for £4,000, so we are almost half way there. If you can help with a donation please go to the Appeal for Funds page where you’ll find details of how you can make your donation.
Back in December Rev. Wilfrid and I visited a caravan dealer in Newcastle and we saw a 4 berth caravan with a fixed bed at the end. I liked this layout because you don’t have to convert the seating to a bed at night and then convert it back in the morning.
(You can click on a photo to see a larger version.)
If you are wondering what happened to the idea of getting an ecopod or a shepherd hut, I am still very keen on them and am holding them in mind for the future when we may possibly be able to buy our own property with more land. For now, on this rental property, it will need to be a caravan. And a caravan is considerably cheaper! I have started looking online for used caravans in the Derbyshire area and a kind Sangha friend has offered to tow it here. Just need to find a good one…
Just thought I would say thank you to all who have sent cards and messages of support – it means a lot to me.
Beautiful sunny morning. I am not much of a birdwatcher, but a yellow wagtail caught my attention. The resident mallard is out there on the lake. Mostly I see his rear end in the air as his front end bobs down to reach whatever it is he is feeding on. There is usually a moorhen around too. This afternoon I’ll be calling in at IKEA and a DIY shop, and tomorrow I’ll probably be assembling some shelving and putting up voile curtains in my bedroom. I am finding it deeply satisfying to do simple (I hope!) physical work to set up Sitting Buddha Hermitage.
So I can show you some photos:
Two days ago – Tuesday 25th of February – at 8am, the community at Throssel waved me off as I departed for Derbyshire and Sitting Buddha Hermitage. I drove the car kindly lent to me by the trustees of Reading Buddhist Priory, and Rev. Mugo followed in the hired transit van into which had been cleverly (magically!) slotted all my bags and boxes, mattress, desk and chair, the day before.
We arrived at the Hermitage some hours later. Four Sangha friends from Leicester came to help unload the van and share this significant afternoon with us. Another Sangha friend came by later and helped to locate a source of second-hand bed frames and chests of drawers which Rev. Mugo and I went to pick up the next day whilst we still had the van. I feel truly blessed to be the recipient of so much help and friendship.
Today Rev. Mugo has left to drive herself and the van back up North. I have set up a table by the window where I am currently sitting to type this, looking out over the lake, watching ducks and a moorhen through alternating showers and sunshine. It will be a few days yet before I have broadband so I will go out to a café with an internet connection this afternoon so I can post this. No broadband means no photos with this post, but as soon as I can I will compile a few photos from Tuesday and post them here.
Still lots of boxes to unpack, but order is beginning to emerge from chaos and my new life here is starting to take shape.