7am – Time to wake up. Where am I? Ah, Taraloka! And a smile spreads across my face. Throw on some clothes and head to the kitchen to make a cuppa. Step outside in the early morning sun to do some Qigong. The geese fly over my head…
7.30am – Community shrine room for meditation. The sound is amazing when we all salute the shrine together – such strength in our voices. I feel grateful for this opportunity to be here with these amazing women. We chant the refuges and precepts before meditating – our own practice in our own time.
8.15 – 8.30am – I leave the shrine room and get properly dressed for the working day.
8.30am – Breakfast in the Community kitchen – I make porridge for 2, 3 or 4 of us, depending on who is there at the time. Some mornings it is already made for me, which feels such a treat! I check that Ratnasuri has all she needs out on the table, and read the message book. Someone needs picking up from the station – I could do this! I love getting out in the car…
9am – anyone ‘9 o-clocking’? Time to gather in the lounge for our morning ‘check-in’. Could be just 2 of us, or up to 4 or 5 people. When it’s nearly my turn my heart begins to race and my palms sweat… I don’t like speaking in groups much.
9.30am onwards… time to start work, but not before clearing the breakfast dishes. I open the dishwasher to find it full – do I empty it or leave it? A perpetual question in the Community kitchen…
I look at my list of jobs and / or check-in with Ginny re work for the day. I don boiler suit and rigger boots (thanks Des!), and off I go, relishing the chance to do some practical work. My work as a volunteer was varied and involved a mixture of maintenance and grounds work, interspersed with time in the Retreat Centre kitchen chopping veg and cooking. I’m glad I wasn’t in the office (sorry Jo!).
11am – “Shall we stop for a cuppa, Ginny?” Ratnasuri is in the middle of her morning coffee ritual as I make myself a cup of tea. Shall I have one or two bagels today? All this physical work makes me hungry! A quick chat with Saddhanandi, then back to work… hanging out a load of wet towels on the washing line outside on the way.
there is so much land to look after at Taraloka…
1pm – time for lunch back in the Community. I collect a loaf of bread from the Retreat Centre freezer on the way, and more toilet rolls! Mealtimes are rarely solitary and I enjoy this. A chance to find out what others are doing, and if anyone needs help with anything. I find a note from Singhamati asking if I can unload the laundry from the car and put away in Retreat Centre. I check the current retreat timetable and find a slot when I can do this unseen (i.e. during a shrine room activity). I wash up and leave the kitchen tidy for others.
2pm – Back to work… via the garage to break up a pile of cardboard boxes I’d spotted earlier.
Time to go to the station. I check if anyone needs anything while I’m out and I’m given a list for the supermarket.
A quick cuppa, then back to work…
5pm – finish work for the day, unless I am the cook for a Retreat or cooking for the Community. A chance to have a lie down or go for a walk, or check personal emails… and go and talk to Smokie bunny!
6pm – supper together in the Community. I love this part of the day, when we all come together around the kitchen table. We all clear up together (except for whoever cooked the meal), and go our separate ways…
7.30pm – time for Mitra Study (thank you Samantabhadri!) or GFR Group or Community Night. Other evenings were spent watching a DVD, going for a walk, talking on the ‘phone, or just hanging out. The wild geese fly overhead again, in the opposite direction from the morning….
10pm – time to think about going to bed, tired from another day at Taraloka, yet feeling content and nourished from being here. The evenings went really quickly, and I often didn’t get to bed before 11pm, but that’s another story… and not one for the blog!
If anyone reading this is thinking of being a volunteer at Taraloka, I say “do it!” Taraloka provides such positive conditions unlike anywhere else I know of. Yes, it was intense, and yes, it was hard work, but it was also very nourishing. I felt all my needs were being met and that I could really grow there… I wish in some ways that I had asked to stay longer. I loved the sense of sharing with others – work, meals, practice, life… and the joys and challenges that brings. I was continually impressed by the women living there and learnt quite a lot, both about myself and relating to others. And after 3 months of almost daily check-ins, sometimes twice in a day, I can now speak in a group with almost no anxiety!
A big heartfelt thank you to all the Taraloka Community for my 3 months living and working with you all. May you all continually grow and be inspired by the Dharma!
Information about Volunteering at Taraloka:
Taraloka runs on the generosity of lots of women! Including long term community members, short term volunteers, Order Members leading retreats, volunteer cooks, retreat organisers and volunteers on our gardening and work retreats!
If you have been on retreat at Taraloka a number of times and are familiar with us then you could consider volunteering on one of our retreats either cooking, organising, gardening or helping with maintenance work projects. If you would like to give to Taraloka in this way then please either chat to one of the team at the end of your next retreat or email Jo in the office with your details, interests and skill.
The Taraloka community is a practising Buddhist community and is made up of women who are members of the Triratna Buddhist Order and those who are in training to join the Order. So, if you are a Dharmacharini or have requested Ordaination into the Triratna Buddhist Order and would like to volunteer to live and work in the community, for a short or longer period, then please do contact us.
Please note that due to the practical nature of the work here at Taraloka all volunteers do need to be physically fit and able to work full time.