Silence and Space

I’m sitting in a one-room cabin. It has particle board flooring, simple decorations (a single painting and two clothes hooks are all that adorn the walls), spare furnishings (a desk, chair, twin bed, and bench).

It also has amazing views down over the harbor and bay, the town of Akaroa, the peaks and rocktopped undulating crater rim of the Banks Peninsula, and all the way over to the Southern Alps to the west.

The meditation temple, which faces west.

Birds including rifleman, tui, kereru, sparrows, fantails, and bellbirds (along with the resident rooster!) sing from before sunrise (5:30ish) until about sunset (nearly 9).

The sun rises over the Pacific, just over the ridgeline from the center, and sets over the Alps, and the moon (which is full on my last day here) rises, a shell-pink dusky visitor.

full moon setting, Thanksgiving morning

I’m spending two days at a retreat and meditation center to do some quiet reflection, reading, and writing.

My days are structured around meditation times in the temple, a beautiful 6-sided wooden structure with peaked roof and lots of windows. The first session is at 7 am, the second at noon, and the last at 5 pm. Unlike the meditation forms I have done at Quaker meeting, Christchurch meditation group, on my own, and at Wangapeka, the sessions here are guided, meaning they aren’t fully silent.

There are only four people here at the moment: Orest and Julia (the caretakers), a young American on a working holiday, and myself.

The terms of my stay are that I don’t have to do anything that I don’t want to do (ie I’m not required to attend meditation sessions or do any labor), that I pay $35NZ (about $23US) per night for lodging and access to the grounds, and that I feed myself (there’s a shared kitchen, shared shower, and shared toilets).

akaroa 1
picking salad greens; the chickens and rooster; part of the gardens; and one of my meals

I have really enjoyed the time that I have had here. It’s a beautiful place, stunning in its scope and scenery. Having the space and luxury to walk slowly, sit quietly, read without any interruption, escape from day to day responsibilities, and write is truly something I appreciate.

Along with sitting things (reading/writing, seated meditation, napping, and quietly watching the world), I also did moving things, including my first experience with tai chi! Which I LOVED.

I also did an H&R (hike and run) of about 6 miles and with some serious elevation/hills; I am learning to find space and inner stillness when moving, not just when my body is motionless.

akaroa 2
a baby fern plant; the labyrinth and harbor at sunrise

James and I recently made some big decisions about the rest of our time here in New Zealand, including changing  our airline tickets to return to the states in June instead of in March (a future post will describe this in greater detail). We also have booked our travel accommodations for December and January throughout the South Island.

After all those decisions and making the necessary arrangements, it felt like a really great time for me to retreat and spend some time in a beautiful and peaceful place.

Among other things, I have written this blog post, several journal entries, and three poems. Only time will reveal whether what I have composed will go any further than my hard drive. But I do believe that the very act of writing, of making the time to write at all, is transformative and important.

On the way home I stopped to hike out to a peninsula in the harbor that has long been a sacred Maori spot. In fact, James and the kids and I have visited before, but I had not been able to hike all the way out to the summit that day. I embraced the opportunity and spent about an hour in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

akaroa 3
83 and sunny and I was the only one there #gratitude

I return home refreshed in body and spirit, grateful for the gifts in my life, and excited about what the future holds for me and my family.



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