April 17th 2020

Ratnaghosha and I started our retreat on the day the Spanish lock-down started. For us the only consequence has been that it is incredibly quiet here. Other than occasionally seeing our neighbours with their dogs there have been no walkers, there have been no planes flying over and there is no distant traffic noise. Yesterday I thought I heard a helicopter coming up the valley but after a minute or so it hadn’t appeared – then I saw the head of a very distant vapour trail, from a plane flying way out over the Mediterranean, go behind the mountain to the south. The noise stopped five seconds later. That’s how quite it has been. The goats and wild boar are still coming by regularly but they tend to be fairly quiet much of the time.

It has been cool and wet and we’ve had some thick cloud wrapping itself around the house, but we have wonderful wood stoves and the dead almond and olive trees provide superb fuel that simply glows brightly in the grate. When the sun does shine through, the wild flowers open and sprinkle the rich green terraces with sparkles of colour – until, that is, the goats eat them.

I’ve been quite occupied with things at Guhyaloka. I go there for an afternoon and evening once a week and do bits and bobs mainly through WhatsApp which works fairly well at Uttaraloka. But I have been somewhat preoccupied by what should be my role at Guhyaloka.

When Maniraja died I was just about to come to Uttaraloka to fulfil a strong inspiration to live a simple life, alone or with a few companions, but I also felt a duty of love to Guhyaloka and wanted to help out. This conflict was somewhat resolved by what I felt was an ‘accomodation’ – which finally took the form of a vision of a forest community and retreat involving both Uttaraloka and Guhyaloka. However there is a broad base of opinion that what Guhyaloka really needs is some upgrading of the buildings and facilities for the ordination courses. Of course this does not exclude aspects of the ‘forest’ vision but it does seem to involve rather more practical development that I personally feel able to engage in. So I have turned my mind again to the original idea for Uttaraloka. I am even in a position to ensure that this is financially beneficial to Guhyaloka.

In the meantime there is still an urgent need to find a Chair for Guhyaloka – however there is a very bright sun just below the horizon.

My inner life is still very much alive. My relationship with Vajrayogini which had such a dramatic initiation is flourishing. She is very strongly present much of the time and I am presently strengthening the bond by combining a six-element practice with offerings to her and her five-fold mandala of dakinis. I am also writing a history of my relationship with her. Surprisingly it started when I was twelve but it is only recently that I’ve seen it with such clarity and confidence – our meetings have been in dreams, in meditation and occasionally through emanations.

I’ve been reading Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s book on Vajrayogini which is a description of a very large number of ritual practices associated with her. Unfortunately I confess I find it rather irritating much of the time – it all sounds so technical – but once or twice a description has broken through into brilliant colour and spaciousness.

I recently read something that Amalamati wrote in his new book; he likened the imagination to catching a wood nymph out of the corner of your eye, following her into the forest, loosing her, waiting, seeing her again and so on. In this way one goes further and further into the forest learning more about her but never catching up with her and realising that you never will. But none-the-less learning to love her more and more intensly. This is what I feel about Vajrayogini, Queen of Bliss and Freedom.

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