Holy Isle 6

Tonight is our last night.  Although the storm still rages outside, the forecast is for sunshine and low winds tomorrow afternoon.  I am happy to be leaving, but also sad, as it is unlikely that my path will cross again with any of the people here.

It's also unnerving to be moving back into the real world.  It has been so wonderful to have the time to meditate three times a day; to contemplate and reflect quietly and to be around a disparate group of people who nonetheless share my interest in a spiritual path.  It is so quiet here and I am wondering how I can bring some of that silence back with me into my everyday life.  Of course, there is silence in meditation and in yoga practice and I have access to the silence within myself, but I worry about just how busy the world is now and how many ways there are, in any moment, of taking our attention out of our bodies and hearts and away from each other.


Turn off the phone; unplug it at the wall.  Designate a couple of days a week as screen-free days at home (no, t.v., no computer, no wii, no DS).  Pick up a book.  Regain the habit of being able to sit quietly and do nothing but silently reflect.  Teach your children that there is a value to silence and that taking time for contemplation is crucial if we are to stay healthy; that we are not built to be constantly bombarded with information, messages and images.

Pay attention to yourself.  Are you ill?  Are you tired?  Do you need to rest?  Do you need to walk?  Do you need to eat?  Your body is the home of your spirit in this lifetime, so take good care of it, so that you can be well.

Pay attention to other people.  Look at them and really listen to them when they talk to you.  Take a moment to chat to people as you come across them.  Remember our common humanity and that whatever and however we project ourselves to the world, we are all of us looking for understanding and for love.

Pay attention to the words you speak; choose words carefully and speak with kindness to yourself and to others.

Express yourself.  Create something, just for the fun of doing it.  Knit, draw, bake, write poetry, sing songs. 

Meditate!  Every. Single. Day.  For five minutes or five hours; the time you give to it is not so important as the commitment you bring.  It will help you; it will change you; it will make you stronger, braver and more true.  You will learn how to rely on the strong, warm heart of yourself.  I know this to be true and I have been blessed this week to spend time with other people who either understand this, or who are just beginning to see the truth of it.

These are some of the gifts and commitments that I will take away with me when I leave tomorrow.


Holy Isle is a very small island off the west coast of Scotland.  To get here I took a car, a plane, two buses and two boats.  It is a retreat centre run by Buddhists for the good of anyone and everyone, of any faith or none, who has the good fortune to end up here.

If you come here, you will be accepted; you will be treated with kindness; you will be served delicious food.  You can hike; you can swim (if you are brave enough!); you can volunteer to help in the kitchen, or in the garden; you will be left in peace or you can enjoy company by the fire, just as you wish at any point during your stay.

If you do come here, you will be very lucky indeed.

If you do come here, remember to pack a waterproof coat.



  1. Thank you very much for your blog, my sister-in-law (and dear friend!) who works on Holy Island recommended it to me. I love what you say about relying on the "strong, warm heart of yourself" - as a teacher, I have, for the past year or so, been trying to integrate my mindfulness practice with my teaching practice and, you know, it so rewarding, and I know that I am a better teacher because of it.

  2. Thank you for your message, Jon. It's so heartening to know that we are all out there, trying to live mindfully, seeking to live through our hearts. It's amazing, isn't it, how we do things better and become more whole simply by practising mindfulness... nothing complicated or expensive, nothing you have to get a degree in, or have a special talent for. Just living mindfully day by day. Best wishes to you and thank you for taking the time to write. It means a lot to me. Sarah.


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