We have listened to much wisdom on various matters over the past week. I had meetings on Wednesday and Thursday with people from local government organisations that give (free!) advice to small groups on getting themselves up and running, fundraising, managing etc. Then on Saturday I took the train down to Nottingham to meet up with Rev. Mugo to travel the following day to The Hermitage of the Awakened Heart in North Wales to spend a couple of days with Lama Shenpen Hookham and learn about her experience of setting up and running a centre where people can come to do solitary retreat. In all of these encounters we were receiving much wisdom that we will benefit from as we try to create the structures and environment that will most benefit beings.
My meetings with advisors from Social Enterprise Northumberland and Community Action Northumberland were for the purpose of exploring the options for a legal structure for Field of Merit and to see how we could set up our own bank account as soon as possible. Talking to these two very helpful people enabled me to start sifting through the rather mind-boggling array of options, gradually discarding what is not of use to us and getting a clearer picture of what the important questions are that we need to decide in order to choose the most helpful structure for us. For those of you who know about these things, my first level of sifting revealed that legal structure, organisation type and charitable status are three separate, but interdependent parts of the whole framework of an organisation. After that, one needs to weigh up the benefits of incorporating vs not incorporating, etc etc. The most useful guide I have been given is called Simply Legal and is available online for free from Co-operatives UK. Anyway – sifting is still in process and we are taking the time we need to be as fully informed as possible on what is a fundamentally important decision for Field of Merit.
Mugo: If Rev. Alicia talks of mind-boggling my mind is triple mind-boggled at the complexity of what we are looking at! So share with us and click on the links above and be informed, as we are becoming better informed. There is a part of me that enjoys the attention to detail that is involved in setting up Field of Merit as an organization. There is no part that does not need and deserve the very best of our attentions. Testing of the grey cells as that might be!
On Sunday afternoon, we arrived at the Hermitage of the Awakened Heart, near Criccieth in North Wales and spent an absolutely delightful two days with Lama Shenpen and her assistant Tara. Lama Shenpen teaches within the Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and I first made her acquaintance when I attended the consecration ceremonies for the new stupa at the Hermitage (pictured here) last October.
Our conversations on this visit ranged over the whole spectrum of her experience of creating and maintaining a place from which to teach and support her Sangha – legal and financial matters, practical and spiritual aspects. For example, one of the themes we explored was how best to support those who come on solitary retreat so that they can gain the most benefit from their retreat. At the Hermitage, retreatants receive a booklet of guidelines about doing retreat, and on arrival they will meet with Lama Shenpen to work out their individual programme, which can range from minimal structure to a more scheduled plan depending on the need of the individual.
On the second day of our visit we walked and talked our way along the beach at Criccieth and lunched at a seaside café. Tara braved a swim, Lama Shenpen paddled, but Rev. Mugo and I kept our boots on!
We left on Wednesday morning feeling that we have made a heart connection with two very special people.
Mugo: It has been both instructive and humbling to spend time with serious practitioners in other traditions as well as in our own tradition. It has been instructive to learn for example how others deal with the delicate balance between the extremes of micro managing somebody who chooses to be on a solitary retreat and on the other hand, not offering much guidance at all. For example the extreme of simply escorting a retreatant to their room or hut and mention in passing to: ‘Sit still and all will be well!’ Neither will do of course. So this question about guiding and supporting people on solitary retreat is of ongoing interest and a matter for reflection. And learning from the experiences of others is really helpful.
Yes and it was humbling to listen to the couple who hosted me last week in Nottingham. Rev. Alicia and I sat with them on Saturday night and as the conversation developed it became clear they are deeply moved by what we are anticipating offering. ‘This is a great opportunity, it’s a REALLY great opportunity’. One of them emphasized. And there was a feeling and a depth in what was said which touched and humbled me. Often one can’t see what is so close up and it takes somebody else to point out what they see.