By Deanne Brennan
My favourite moment was on a hike, we came over a hill in light rain and I saw endless fields of Sunflowers and Vineyards. It was one of those moments in life when you say to yourself ‘Wow, this is amazing’. It was a magical feeling and I wanted to make it last as long as I could. A part of my own big vision is rewarding myself by attending a retreat once a year and this made the feeling even more magical. I made it happen!
Plum Tree Village is a Buddhist Monastery 1 hour South East of Bordeaux. Founded by well known Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. This wasn’t your typical health retreat, no body scrubs or someone turning your bed down at night. It was more like camping and most people stayed in dorms or tents. There were 250 people from all over the world. This particular retreat was about sustainable health and happiness through the practice of mindfulness. I liked the fact that I knew I was going to learn some valuable skills I could apply to my life and that it would have a lasting effect.
A Typical Day
6am Body Warm up
6:30am Seated Meditation
7am Lecture by a monk
11:45am Relaxation Meditation – My favourite activity!
3 – 5pm Working Meditation or Workshop
5:15pm Choice of Yoga/Thai Chi/QiGong
8:30pm Small group sharing/stories
10pm Noble silence/lights out
During the 7 days we had 1 ‘Lazy Day’ where we were free to do whatever we pleased. Some people went on hikes and some snuck out to eat pizza and drink wine at a nearby village. Believe me, it was tempting.
It’s the kinda retreat you need to go on your own, leave any baggage at home and immerse yourself with interesting people from all over the world. I made loads of new friends. An Irish guy considering taking the bar to become a lawyer in New York, an Aussie girl living in London recovering from Cancer, a Bodyworker from Vienna, Canadian Yoga Therapist and Scandinavian Sex Therapist who was absolutely hilarious.
The food was amazing and most of it was grown organically onsite in the ‘Happy Farm’. I really enjoyed learning about ‘ working meditation’ because it was something tangible I could apply in my working day. The lectures were simple teachings and stories about approaching life and plenty of opportunity to reflect and ask questions. I particularly loved the sound of a bell that would go off randomly and everyone would stop what they were doing for 10-15 seconds. We all took a breath and then carried on with what we were doing. It was seriously weird the first time watching people freeze and then it became normal. By the end of the retreat I even found myself singing in the shower…which I don’t normally do. Perhaps they put something in the food.
This retreat is not for everyone. If you have a curiosity for Buddhism, a willingness to meditate and an open mind you will absolutely soak it up. I hope you enjoy the photos!
About author: Deanne Brennan is a Life and Wellness Coach, Massage Therapist and Mindfulness Meditation Teacher. She is a big advocate for d.i.y health and happiness and loves sharing with others what works for her.