At the start of September, nineteen people gathered in Wales to explore further the project to create a Plum Village monastic centre in the UK. A property which is on the market and still operating as Bed and Breakfast gave us the chance to tangibly explore the practicalities of finding the right property. Two monastic dharma teachers from Plum Village were joined by UK Lay Dharma teachers, representatives from the Vietnamese community, Community of Interbeing Trustees and members of the Being Peace Project team.
A Stunning Location
The Plas Meini Estate is situated in the Snowdonia National Park. It boasts beautiful views and a breathtaking gushing river forms one of the properties borders. Harlick beach is within easy reach providing another awe-inspiring landscape. While there had been reservations about the accessibility of the location, there was a feeling that the natural environment made the journey worthwhile. We were reminded by the monastics that Thay had emphasised before his stroke the need to come back to ourselves, come back to our loved ones and to come back to the Earth. That we could all use nature as a dharma door.
What is a practice centre compared to a retreat centre
It was extremely beneficial to have the monastics present. Plum Village now has nine practice centres throughout the world and now has a wealth of experience on how to create a sustainable successful center. We were told that an important thing is to recognise is the difference between a retreat centre and a practice centre. Retreat centres provide facilities to go on retreat but practice centres offer something more. They have a living community of people practicing the art of mindful living on a daily basis. It is this living community that creates the special atmosphere of peace and healing we experience at Plum Village and other centres. It is therefore essential to choose a location and a property that will support a monastic and lay residential community to thrive and grow.
Room to grow
One thing we learned is that it can be difficult to move a practice centre once it is established. So it was important to imagine how a centre can grow over time, to ensure there is space and capacity for developments for both the monastic and lay community.
Of course, we are unlikely to find a perfect property. There is a road that is audible from some parts of the property and there are electricity pylons running through one part. We had questions like, was there enough flat space for camping? Was the environment safe enough for young children?
Coming together, making things tangible
Just coming together in a place like Plas Meini gave the Being Project a fresh sense of tangibility. Being in a group that represented so many aspects of our community from the monastics, Lay Dharama teachers, Wake Up, Family Sangha practitioners, Vietnamese community, different geographical region was very special.
It was clear there were things we needed to investigate further about Plas Meini. Questions about planning, the cost of creating more flat land, the relevant health and safety requirements. We are aware the property could be sold in the mean-time in which was we will need to practice non-attachment to the beautiful views! As we investigate these questions, we are continuing to search for other options and work on other elements of the project. The monastics encouraged us to use the search for a centre as a practice in itself and trust that right property would come to us.
We will be publishing more information on how you can get involved with this project in the next few weeks, but in the meantime if you have any questions please email email@example.com.
Photos courtesy of Vivien Uong