Back from the Buddhist camp

08:46  Yesterday I was so filled with joy, riding home with two of my boys. It’s a four hour drive. Normally there is bickering when I’ve got all the kids and the road trips are a bit of fresh hell, especially because of my attachment to old expectations that life as a mother would be more like “The Sound of Music” and less like being a monkey circus coordinator. But yesterday my expectations were non-existent and my inner flower had been well-watered by my new friends at the camp and with a full heart I sang songs of love and peace (learned during the past week) most of the way home. And the kids joined in.

The week away gave me what I’d desperately needed. Guidance, reaffirmation of core values, support, bonding with my kids (well, two of them at least), and inner peace.

That’s not to say that the entire week was all lotus. There was a lot of mud too.

The first 24 hours was so difficult that I nearly packed up and left after the first night. The monastics are generously and selflessly opening their private, quiet and peaceful space to huge numbers of people (about one thousand in total, I estimate), not just adults but also children, for four weeks of the year. Everything they do is on a completely volunteer basis (the money they charge for the retreat is very little compared to the costs in building, running and maintaining even the most rudimentary accommodations and toilets and water and kitchens for so many people). It’s understandable that there will be a bit of chaos. But the level of confusion experienced by most families arriving in any of the three separate camps for the first time can bring stress levels to an extreme (first-world) high, as it did for me.

Very little information was sent beforehand, and if I had been more proactive I would have telephoned them to prompt them to perhaps broadcast more about what to expect. Last year they had emailed us a schedule in advance, this year not. Last year they’d also emailed a printable document with all kids of necessary information, whereas this year, there were only links to their website (not as handy for printing – er, especially last minute, as I myself am wont to do when preparing for a trip). It is recommended to not use smartphones and other connected devices for the week, however nowhere is it mentioned that if you haven’t developed an eidetic memory, or if you’ve allowed your brain to become addled and divided by the daily managing of monkeys, technology may be required to photograph schedules which are not delivered in printed form to each family, even upon arrival at the camp, but instead written on a whiteboard in one of the many buildings on the complex. If one has never been to that particular camp before, even finding which building the whiteboard is in can be difficult. No printed (nor online) site map is provided. It can take time for arriving families to get their bearings.

Even figuring out the online booking had been very challenging. The monastics divide children’s programs by age, language and, for the teens, by gender.  Each minor must have an adult present with them at the camp. This year younger English-language children (6-12) were at one camp and all-languages teen boys were at another camp, five kilometers away. This for us meant our family had to divide into two groups. I suppose I could have put them in the French-language children’s group but I was “dragging” all of the children (as well as my husband) along with me in the first place (a week without technology? Whaaaaaaaat?! and for my hard-working husband: a summer vacation without beaches and beer? Whaaaaaaaat?!), and I felt the least I could do was put them all in the program that used the language of their choice, which of course was the language they felt most comfortable with — in our case, English.

This was the decision I’d allowed them inside the wider sphere of my “soft commandment” that we all attend this year. I had been telling my husband about my plan since last year. Last year only I and the younger three children had attended because my eldest was a teen boy, and teen boys were not allowed at the teen girls camp, and yet the teen girls camp was also where the English children’s group was being held. I had asked my husband to attend the teen boys camp with our eldest boy but he had refused. So I have been working on him softly for a year on this. I was thrilled when he agreed this year.

However, in the beginning of the week, even the most basic expectations I had were not met this year. I had expected that the teen boys (we have two teen boys this year, since our second son has turned thirteen) would (OF COURSE!!!) be sleeping in the same tent as their parent. But that was not to be the case.

09:30 I have to go now, I will continue it later perhaps.

With mindful hugs,

sending love.

p.s. I leave you with a little gatha (song/poetic verse) they taught us:

Breathing in, breathing out
Breathing in, breathing out
I am blooming as a flower
I am fresh as the dew
I am solid as a mountain
I am firm as the earth
I am free

Breathing in, breathing out
I am water reflecting
What is clear, what is true
And I feel there is space
Deep inside of me
I am free, I am free, I am free






3 thoughts on “Back from the Buddhist camp

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