Enjoy Your Life! That was the theme of Gampo Abbey, a small Buddhist Monastery situated along the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada. This was certainly a place where it was easy to enjoy the beauties of nature as well as the peaceful environment on the Northern tip of this island.
Fiddle Farm Bed & Breakfast became the starting point for this adventure. While visiting the other boarders in the evening, Arlin, a young geologist, discussed his plans to go to the Abbey in the morning for a one month stay. Here he would relax and develop an openness of mind and heart by plunging himself into a time of meditation. He was to call the Abbey for pick up, but there was a problem that day so this gypsy volunteered to drive him to the Abbey – but then, only with the Abbey’s approval.
Having been here before, Arlin was a great travel guide. With his background in geology, he pointed out and explained the rock formations along the way. One of the breathtaking spots very near the monastery was Cathedral Rock. This was viewed off a three hundred foot drop into the vast Gulf of St Lawrence. Have to be careful not to get too close to the edge!
Then came the beautiful white Gampo Abbey trimmed with red. Arrived just in time for lunch, which today was salmon – their one meal of the week where meat or fish was served. The beautiful salad really caught my eye as it was made from the various plants in the yard and garden of the Abbey, and even had flowers mixed in for beauty. Turned out the flowers were also quite tasty. They did explain that they studied the plants in the area so they knew which plants were safe to eat and which were poisonous. Lucky not to have any poisonous plants that day!
Seating for the meal was at long plain tables with benches. Everyone served themselves and when finished, washed their own dishes. Arlin volunteered to serve me that day, but personally felt it would be an interesting part of the experience to follow their example. While washing my dishes, also got to talk to others on the retreat and felt very welcome.
Then toured the shrine rooms elaborately decorated with Buddhas and pictures of leaders of their Tibetian section. This was where they meditated nine to ten hours a day while sitting on rugs on the floor. The aim was to make their mind blank and then allow that space to be filled with the beauty and blessings existing in their present world. Silence was an important part of their training.
Everyone participating in the retreat must agree to abide by the five Buddhist principles: avoid killing, stealing, lying, sexual activity and intoxicants. Everyone must participate in the daily schedule and observe silence. Heads were shaved on men and women alike, and both wore the garb of monastic life. No outdoor shoes are allowed inside the Abbey, just slippers.
Gampo Abbey is a very powerful place to become a loving, caring person interested in helping others. Relax your mind and listen to the world around you so you can enjoy the moment. One important question they pose is: What is the best use of each day of our lives? That would be a great question for us to ask ourselves every morning. Enjoy your life!