You know that feeling, when you go back to that place where you grew up? The familiar sights and sounds. The poignant feeling of coming home. I’ve been coming to Lama Losang’s retreat for 6 years, now. And every time it feels just like that. I have a rosebush in my garden. It blooms just before the retreat every year, and I start to get excited.

As I walk down the long driveway, I catch glimpses of the ocean; smell the salt air mixed with the light fragrance of Tibetan incense wafting from the distant doors. I hear the seagulls squawking; and the eagles calling. All accompanying the wonderful sound of Lama Losang’s jovial laughter dancing on the air.

Familiar faces and some new ones, greet me at the door, and welcome me home. A community of people who gather to learn and meditate together is called a Sangha. It’s one of the main support structures in the Buddhist path of life. Although I see most of these lovely folks only once a year, I feel at once at accepted and supported by them all. It is an open and caring environment in which we may all share and grow together.

This year there were about 40 participants. Our lovely Soo Kyong was unable to make it, and was greatly missed. There were a few other usual attendants who were not with us in person, but they were remembered, and we carried them with us during our tea ceremony.

We were blessed with fresh fruit during our break and a lovely assortment of baked treats. And Im serious when I say, THE BEST GLUTEN FREE COOKIES I’VE EVER HAD. So thank you to the volunteers who lovingly prepared everything for us.

After much sitting, my body and mind were thrilled to be cared for by Alli Cherron, who came to lead us through some gentle and restorative yoga in the grass. My focus was renewed and my body released and we all shared a palpable gratitude for that wonderful gift.

This year, the focus was on learning about White Tara, who is an archetype of the nurturing mother. To tap into our own innate ability to heal and have a long life. And on Palden Lamo, a protector, to be called upon to support us in our challenges. The tea ceremony was a lovely way to practice asking for what you need.

These retreats are always very informal, and you can sit on the floor, in a chair, or even walk around if you feel the need. So if your body has limitations, don’t let that stop you next year. It is also very suitable for non-buddhists, and for beginners. And for those of us who are a little further down the path, somehow it is just as applicable. I alway come away with a deeper understanding, and some tidbits of information that transform my view of this already beautiful world.

Sometimes, during our silent meditation time, Lama Losang might speak softly to help guide us, or deepen some understanding. It is strange but no matter from where he speaks I often feel like he is speaking directly to me; as though he somehow knows what I have been struggling with in my life, and during the course of the weekend, allows me to hear exactly what I most need.

We gave little gifts and shared stories with each other. Bringing us closer together. I felt very seen and heard. It is beautiful to be trusted with the level of vulnerability and authenticity people arrived with.

As the weekend wrapped up and we all said our “goodbyes” and “until next years!” I felt a bit sad, like the feeling you have at the airport terminal waiting at the gate, leaving your hometown to return to your daily life. But ever am I, and ever will I be, grateful to have so beautiful a place, with such beautiful people, to call my home.

I see the petals falling, and the blooms turning to rose hips, and I can’t wait for it to bloom again next year.

~ Francis Wolokoff