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Peace Begins Here - Monastic Led Stroubridge Retreat 2024

In March, 17 practitioners from across Wake-Up Bristol and White Clouds Sangha Bristol were lucky enough to attend the 5 day monastic led retreat at Stourbridge. The picture above captures most of us and apologies to those who were not able to get to the "photo shoot"! Having such a large group from Bristol felt very supportive.

Around 260 people attended the retreat, the largest gathering in the UK since before the pandemic. Nine Plum Village monastics led the retreat, bringing their deep practice, joy and insight to all the activities. These included: morning and evening meditation, often accompanied by beautiful monastic chanting, dharma talks, some interactive activities with fellow practitioners, walking meditation, deep relaxation and sharing in smaller groups. Thây planted a magnolia tree when he led a retreat at Stourbridge some years ago, so it was wonderful to enjoy the magnolia trees in full bloom and feel connected to Thây in this way.

All meals were in silence, during which we were invited to practice mindful eating.

Steph, who attends WCS, was one of a team of helpers in the dining hall. She kindly brought a selection of beautiful plants for us to enjoy as we queued for our meal - thank you so much Steph.

Many others were involved both before and during the retreat which was beautifully managed. Huge gratitude is transmitted to those who organised this wonderful event.

On the last morning, the monastics led a ceremony of the transmission of the Five Mindfulness Trainings. Those receiving the transmission, around 40 in total, sat in the middle of the dharma hall whilst the remaining retreatants sat on either side, supporting those receiving the transmission. The photos below shows how the hall was set up the evening before and gives you an idea of the numbers involved.

Four practitioners from Bristol received the transmission of the 5 Mindfulness Trainings. It was a beautiful ceremony with much celebration and hugging afterwards as people received their Dharma names.

Above is Polly receiving her certificate from Sister Dao Nghiem, the senior monastic on the retreat, and, to the right, Gideon and Phil with their certificates. Johnny also received the 5MTs, but I couldn't find him at the time to take a photograph - my apologies!

There were many special moments during the 5 days: here are a couple of quotes from those who attended:

'The Stourbridge retreat was at once challenging, rewarding and ultimately transformational. I am grateful for the connection and support I felt with my fellow retreatants. The lessons I learned from it will be enduring and will inform my practice for a long time to come.'

"The retreat filled me with so much gratitude and joy. It was wonderful to be part of this community with beautiful silence, deep teachings and such an incredible experience of connecting with others."


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