My Yurt Escape

I have recently moved into a Yurt. Ever since going on my first meditation retreats, I have longed for somewhere quite, somewhere still, to escape to, to be in nature close to the teachings. I am so very lucky that I did not have to wait all that long, only a four or so years. My Yurt is very beautiful. It is located in a small wood on the border of a Buddhist monastery. I will not say where as I do not want people to come and knock when I am not there! I will also not include photos of the inside as it is a very special place to me and I do not think that photos are necessarily appropriate (it is not a bragging point!) I shall, however include a photo of the outside. This is to provide a thumbnail for the blog post, as well as to serve as a reference and hopefully an advertisement for Yurt Workshop, who built it with patience and with skill.

Yurt in the UK

My Yurt, built by Yurt Workshop, before I planted my little garden

Anyone that knows me knows that I am an over-researcher. This is, perhaps, slightly against some of the teachings (letting things go and letting things be…!) but, to be fair, this does mean that big projects do tend to go pretty smoothly… to a degree, that is!

After irritating and testing the patience of more or less every well known Yurt maker in the UK, I finally settled on Yurt Workshop. They have the most stunning Yurts for Sale that I could find, and, fortunately for me, they also:

a. Make them bespoke to order

b. Are very, very good at what they do

c. Are incredibly patient when dealing with total idiots like myself

Not to make too much of a point about it, but Rob who built the Yurt is completely brilliant. He is an English ex-pat living in Spain. A very kind man who is, I very much believe, one of the most gifted Yurt builders in Europe. His website can be found at: www.yurtworkshop.com

I found the monastic location quite by chance. My hippy friend Charlie (any keen readers of this blog will know him as the friendly nutter that I had the privilege of spending much of my time on my first visit to Nepal/ Tibet with) has a Geo Dome and a Tipi (of course he does…!) in the countryside (I will not say where for obvious reasons!) He invited me to set up shop next to him, in his forest garden. I gladly and gratefully accepted, however was thwarted by his landlord who, perhaps understandably, did not want another utter weirdo pitching up and perplexing the neighbours! It was back to the blueprint, when Charlie’s old pal’s said that his landlady was looking to lease a small patch next to a monastery to a would be yurter. It was a monastery that I had never visited, but had long wished to. Honestly, prior to this point, had someone asked me to list my top ten locations in the UK to set up shop, this particular monastery would have been one of these locations, and close to the top of the list. Kamma kamma kamma… good luck, bad luck… who knows!

There were a few minor detail problems yet to be overcome. I am (or should I say, now, was) completely rubbish at DIY, having been a pampered soul for the majority of my life. The idea of building a sturdy, insulated and weather proof Yurt base was, to say the least, a tall order.

Fortunately I am coming to learn that there are a few additional and unexpected benefits of living the simple life. One of these is the level of good will and support that you are often granted by friends and strangers on the same or similar paths. There is, in my experience, spiritual vanity, and then there are also true spiritual seekers… those that are not in it to enhance their idea of self but to destroy their idea of self. And these seekers are often the first to lend a hand, or indeed to completely ignore you when you are encroaching on their shanti vibes! One such seeker that I had the privilege of meeting was the modern-day-caveman-space-nutter that came bouncing into my life with a huge smile on his face and maybe, just maybe, far too much of a certain shamanic-vine in his bloodstream gained during several sightseeing trips to Peru (although I am, naturally, unable to either confirm or deny this point!)

This quasi caveman/ meditator is called James, and he now lives in a forest in Wales under the guard of Emma Orbach at their community of Tir Ysbrydol. James, when he is not lost as a ‘wild man’ in the woods, is a roundhouse builder who builds the most breathtaking hobbit houses that need to be seen to be comprehended. He does so with skill and sensitivity to the surroundings, and plans and executes them in a manner that will make you completely and absolutely confident that he does not know what on earth he is doing, and that everything he touches will fall to pieces around you in a whirlwind of un-thought- through chaos, right up until the very moment that he fits the last beam in place and unveils an utterly wonderful masterpiece.

For those who are interested his website is: www.circlesofearth.com. I could not recommend him more highly.

In return for his sweat and groan inducing work, he requested £100 worth of raw chocolate. A good deal I think. I would love, very much, to share here some of the emails that I have received from James. They are extraordinary and wonderful things which start with the beginning of a point, and then seem to take on a life of their own, spiralling out on a philosophical and spiritual journey, before half returning to the original point, whilst retaining an air of confusion as to whether this end point is the same brain wave as the start point. If you get my point. However I shall not share emails without first being given permission to do so, and you shall just have to use the most extraordinary areas of your imaginations, amalgamate it with an unquenchable and unapologetic love of nature and the provisions of the earth, and multiply it by the excitement of an over excited child on Christmas morning, and you might come close to fathoming.

After many a rain soaked morning and evening, the base was completed. I then enlisted a number of friends to help me erect the thing. It took us all day. Our relief was eked out in pained collapses and half-high-fives after a full, into-the-evening day of labour (I had enlisted their help on the promise that it was a few hours work). As we put the final canvas, the outer rain cover, in place we took refuge in the knowledge that in a few moments we would be able to stoke the fire and relax in the warmth after a satisfying days work. It was, however, only at this point, in the final moments, that a heavy realisation manifested itself like a heap of mouse poo in a box of cereal: the flue hole did not match up to the flue. The whole thing was misaligned by approximately a meter. We would need to take it all down and start again. Non Buddhists should enter expletives here:

I returned a few days later with a new group of friends (the first lot, quite rightly, decided that they would opt out of round two), and we took the thing down (more or less) and started from scratch, this time with the correct dimensions. One full dusk-till-dawn later, and my Yurt soared into life, like a miniature mountain: stable and still, in an enchanted wood, next to the monastery by the lake. What a breathtaking wonder life can be. It has its ups, it has its downs. But a still and stable harmonious mind will treat all as equal: will nod hello and then let it go: watching it pass, remainderlessly.

Yurt outside

The Yurt and the cherry tree as it starts to blossom

What it has provided for me is a place that I can retreat to, to lose myself in nature and to get away from the torrid bustle of city living. I go down there most weekends with my girlfriend who finds the detox from city life to be almost as refreshing as I do. It is still and quiet and beautiful and I love it. I have a bed, a small kitchen, a space for meditation and a space for reading. In the spring I wake up to the birds singing, to chickens nosing, the foxes foxing and the trees making a nuisance of themselves as they grow around the Yurt and scare the life out of me by occasionally dropping one of their branches onto my roof. I walk outside to the crisp, fresh air and look at my vegetable garden, excited to do some planting, whilst recognising the transience of this excitement: it will not be long until the slugs destroy anything that I am trying to grow (aside from the odd tomato/ cucumber which can sometimes escape their onslaught). I am, of course, unable and unwilling to kill them, a fact that they seem to take full advantage of as they massacre my crops and slither and slide all over my good will!

Yurt garden

Planting my foxgloves next to my yurt… at the time I did not know that handling foxgloves without gloves on is not such a great idea…!

 

In the Summer the meadow is in full bloom, with countless wild flowers and long grasses springing up. The monastery keeps a path cut from more or less outside the Yurt, right up to the cloisters outside the dhamma hall. Although almost certainly not cut for me (but for the resident monks and lay people), it provides a beautiful passage from said Yurt to said dhamma hall, and one which is particularly loved by my wonderful Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Winston. It gets very hot sometimes in the Yurt, especially when it is baking outside and one of us is cooking on the stove inside. Opening the little window and door does not seem to provide too much of a refuge from this heat, so we just have to acknowledge the sauna and be grateful for it. Not always that easy…

We can now start to harvest any of the vegetables that have survived the slug raids, and include them in my lunchtime and evening meals!

Yurt garden

Winston and I by the vegetable garden

The Autumn sees the long days shorten and the long nights draw in. The stove becomes hot all day and the mornings open with a shiver as the last stand embers fail to provide enough heat to keep out the chill. Time starts to be redirected: the last of the vegetables (those particularly hardy/ high ones that have survived the slugs and caterpillars) curl and go back to the earth. My time is spent lighting fires, sorting wood, cleaning mouse poo, reading and meditating.

On the same note, if anyone reading this has not read: The Pilgrim Kamanita, A Legendary Romance, then you must! I recommend the one edited by Ajahn Amaro.

When Winter unfolds itself things become dark and cold. The early dark offers more opportunity for undistracted and still meditation, and so I am very grateful for it. I wrap myself in my cover and sit in front of the shrine, absorbing the silence and absorbed in the silence. The rain harries the side of the Yurt and the canvas is rocked by the bullet like rebounding of hard rain drops on the outer cover. But inside the Yurt the stove remains busy, bringing the Yurt up to a wonderful heat that only disappears at night if I am too much of a muppet to wake up and reload the fire.

My little Winston loves it with a passion. In the city he is quiet and reserved, although interestingly at night (and after a long day of work) he becomes a del nuisance, insisting on playing throw ball-with-tail for hours. That aside, when it rains he becomes an utter Princess and refuses to step outside. The rest of the day is spent sleeping anywhere and everywhere, as long as it is close to me. In the Yurt however a new Winston comes to play: the Spaniel. He darts, runs, jumps, barks, shakes, paddles- you name it. Rain, sun or snow. He chases the chickens (poor chickens), annoys the foxes, bemuses the monks and upsets the mice. Not bad for a lap dog…!

I have to say that I love it too, as does my girlfriend. It is a little heaven and my weekly retreat. We are very, very fortunate.

My all beings be happy. May they be peaceful and free from suffering. May the know real peace, real happiness.

May all beings be happy. May all beings be happy. May all beings be happy.

 

 

2 Responses to “My Yurt Escape”

  1. Rachel
    8. April 2016 at 22:54

    What a beautiful story of a retreat into peace, quiet and solitude. My soul craves wildness. Blessing you with love. rachel.

  2. Hilary Knowles
    24. May 2017 at 12:09

    I too feel like the luckiest person alive to own one of Yurt Workshop’s Yurts. Just on three years ago I was left a small pot of money at the end of a rainbow of my Aunt’s life to “create something beautiful in my life’. I too created a Yurt – a meditation space .. a just being space.

    It is at the bottom of my garden with the fairies .. among fruit trees and herbs. My cat loves it .. but then she loves meditating too. I remember the day we erected it .. and feeling the hairs on the back of my neck and arms stand on end, sensing the energy, as I first entered it’s space.

    I also feel very very fortunate indeed.

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