When reminiscing about my recent trip to the Hsihu Ashram in Maoli, Formosa, during the Chinese New Year group meditation, I sometimes playfully compare myself with the character Richard Conway from the 1973 film Lost Horizon. After having reluctantly left the wondrous paradise of Shangri-La, all he talks and dreams of is returning there, leaving the complications and troubles of the world behind.
Immediately upon arriving in Hsihu Ashram, I went into retreat mode. I didn’t want to have too many conversations, I kept eating smaller amounts, and most of all I tried to make the most of the meditation hours which ranged from sixteen to twenty hours daily. My focus was totally within myself. There were very few outer distractions. For the first part of the retreat, I did a lot of internal scolding of myself for some human weaknesses that I had carried too long. As the aches in my knees subsided after a day or two, so did the habitual thinking processes that distract me. Created conceptions of my life, future, outcomes and possibilities became insignificant in this atmosphere of intense blessing. I was happy just to be in Hsihu.
During the second part of my retreat, I provided a couple of hours of guard duty a day at the main gate. Inevitably, this led to meeting some of the residents of Hsihu. I noted when they sometimes stopped to chat, how caring, attentive and humble they could be and this was a valuable lesson, showing me how real love in action works. It’s a question I had carried for awhile about how, in practice, one conducts oneself with love in a broader sense.
The recent retreat at Hsihu was one of the best I had ever attended. Although I didn’t get to see Master, I often found my questions being answered on a DVD of Master that were played during the sessions. Master’s previous, long-term presence and the network of Spiritual Blessing Lines at Maoli make it a very special holy haven. Returning home, I observed the strengthened qualities within myself, more patience and love, and the karmic illusions that had come biting me previously were now abated.
Even though the story of Shangri-La is
a metaphor of longing for a spiritual paradise beyond the material earth,
to me, it is wonderful to know that a heaven also does exist on this planet,
where those who are longing to rest their souls and connect with a finer
consciousness can do so in such tranquil surroundings, in the company
of kind-hearted kindred.