This is the Kanzeon Retreat at Throssel. It is on the edge of a copse in the field beyond Myrtlebank. Both Rev. Mugo and I have spent time alone on retreat here. Inside the hut is a table, chair and bed and a small gas stove and sink reclaimed from a caravan. Both the stove and the heater run off a calor gas bottle. In a separate little room off the porch there is a chemical loo.
When someone is on retreat here they fly four pennants from flag poles placed at the four corners of the hut – a yellow flag in the north, red in the east, blue in the south and white in the west, representing the qualities of mindfulness, diligence, meditation and faith. The flags let people know that there is someone on retreat who is not to be disturbed. There are also three stupas and an outside altar at four points around the hut creating a sense of sacred space within them. When I start a retreat here I put up the flags, offer incense at the altar inside the hut, then circumambulate the hut three times offering incense at each of the stupas and the outside altar. At some point I will recite The Scripture of Avalokiteshwara Bodhisattva. Then I go inside and start the first meditation period of my retreat. Performing this ceremony helps to direct my mind to my intention to put aside my usual activities and concerns and simplify my life, allowing the silence and solitude to do their work on me.
When I imagine the hermitages that our project aims to build, I imagine them surrounded by similar flags and bunting. In fact we are delighted that friends of ours in Malaysia have very kindly offered to send us some Buddhist bunting and one or two Buddhist flags. When we eventually purchase property we will hold a ground-blessing ceremony at which we will hang out all the bunting and fly the flags. Early days yet – we have some serious fund-raising to do first. But a little bit of imagining certainly helps!