An article I wrote for an Indonesian female lifestyle magazine Femina, which was published in August 2009.
Here’s the English translation:
“SEEING” MYSELF IN SCOTLAND
It is astounding if these legs are able to walk to wherever the heart desires.
THIS WAY OF WALKING has been guiding my path. Last year, I, who were so used to the busy life of a metropolitan Jakarta, ‘had’ to spend six months in a remote area in Scotland. There, I enrolled myself to a course at Beshara School of Esoteric Education. The school discusses who we are, our potentials and why we are here in the world.
I first knew Beshara when a friend invited me to a weekend course in Jakarta. Towards the end of the course, I chatted with a Beshara supervisor. I stated my interest to enrol to the course but I had some financial challenges. He advised me to email the principal.
The advice remained in my head. Ten days after I sent my email, I received a response: ‘OK!’ What? OK? Life is full of surprises.
Scotland was actually no stranger to me. About 11 years ago I enrolled to a university here, or specifically in Stirling. Now I was returning to this land that is so peaceful and has left such a strong impression in me. It felt like returning to my homeland. I was ecstatic!
Edinburgh still greeted me with its characteristic style: grey clouds hanging over the sky and mild rain. That is okay. Rain seemed to emphasize the beautiful scenery before me even more.
It felt like a dream for me to be able to arrive at this country. I approached the school slowly, just about 20 minutes outside of (the nearest) town.
I was then shown the house and the surrounding area of the Chisholme House. It felt like living in a classical period. The authentic feeling of the house is maintained and the environment was genuinely taken care of. My room had four beds, white walls with wooden door and windows as accents. The room was tidy and clean, complete with fresh flowers on the table in the middle of the room along with some fresh fruits to warmly welcome me.
The next day, the course started. The course is a retreat program without any breaks and intensive daily activities. This year, one class (and there was only one class) consisted of eight people, assisted by two supervisors who have been with Beshara for years.
My days were filled with strict and tremendously consistent routines. The days were divided into two types: study day and work day. Two study days, two work days, two study days, etc. This went out without any break or holiday.
Once I commented on how intensive the program was. My friend responded: “Well, you have been warned. Pay attention to the name of the course: Intensive six month course.” The program had four aspects: study, work, meditation and devotional practice. All aspects supported one another in helping the students learn about themselves and develop their true potentials. Hm, sounds rather tough, right?
This is a typical study day for me: wake up, shower, meditate, have breakfast, study, have coffee break, study, meditate, have lunch, work, have coffee break, study, mediate, work, have dinner, shower, and do dynamic meditation. The day started at 6am and ended at 10.30pm. During work days, the schedule was more or less similar, but the study hours were replaced by work periods.
The study was done in group. We read classical text that relates to what it means to be human, including the work of Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi, Tao Te Ching, Baghavad Gita, and Rumi poems. The emphasis of the study session was to provide us with an opportunity to ask questions and look into ourselves, to understand what the text was trying to tell us.
Various questions and feelings that were emerging were discussed together as a group. There were no such things as stupid questions. All questions were considered valid and were treated as collective questions.
The meditation and devotional practice were inseparable (part of the course). These aspects helped us to journey within ourselves and develop a sentiment or taste that would fortify our knowledge of self.
Meanwhile, as far as the work aspect was concerned, do not think of it as what Jakartanian professionals do at their offices. The work here referred to everyday housework, such as cooking in the kitchen (including baking bread and making yogurt), gardening, cleaning rooms, cleaning chicken hut, digging a trench, and building a new wooden house. Wow, when else can I do these things?
EVEN WORK WAS CONTEMPLATED UPON
I really enjoyed the work periods, whatever tasks I was given. I was a beginner in taking care of the house, in the kitchen or in the garden. So every task was a new thing to me and was a learning opportunity. Interesting. The situations made me an open-minded person who simply followed whatever instruction has been given to me. These tasks have open my mind to learn about things that I did not imagine I could learn from such simple tasks.
Once I was asked to make bonfire. The wind was blowing rather fiercely. I felt like the smoke from the bonfire was following my move. Then I realized that I needed to pay attention to where the wind was blowing and to move to the opposite direction to avoid the smoke. Move with the wind.
When I worked at the garden, I watched the leaves fell from the trees. We might think that it was the end of the leaf. But no. We gathered the leaves, buried them for a couple of years, they turned into fertilizer. We then use it in the same garden to fertilze the future plant generations.
I often was given the task to mend china. It was an enjoyable practice of concentration, patience and paying meticulous attention. I could do that for more than one hour.
The times of preparing dinner table for meals were one of the most interesting ones for me. Preparing dinner table was always a collective effort. There were no explicit work distribution. But everything seemed to flow. One was putting forks and knieves, another cutting the bread, yet another is preparing the fruit, other people were serving the food, all happened without any specific command from anyone. Everybody was doing what has not been done by others, filling in the void. One single natural movement.
Funnily enough, there was one task that people, including I, seemed to pick when he/she was upset and wanted to be left alone: washing the kitchen utensils in the main kitchen. Perhaps the heavy and often black pots helped us channel our emotions. Simply speaking, when I took that position and I did not talk much [sic].
A JOURNEY INSIDE MYSELF
Out of all the aspects of this course, the most interesting one for me was the journey within myself. To watch my emotions going up and down and my thoughts that often travelled here and there. The biggest challenge for me was to understand and except myself as I am.
One day early this year, I was digging a trench. The snow was quite thick. I stepped into a trench and slipped. I injured my knee. I was taken to the hospital and my knee was stabilized to ensure that it would not move. I—who was very active—had to use the crutches for over a month and concurred to this limitation.
I tried to be positive. I viewed the incident as an advise to stop for a while and allow myself to receive helping hands from the people around me. Until my supervisor said, “You are being too positive.” Ouch.
At that time she reminded me that human was not expected to be positive all the time. Human is expected to be honest to and about herself. It would be good if we can accept and love ourselves as we are at any circumstances. “Just like God has accepted and loved you as you are.” The tears then could not help but fell from my eyes…
What was even more interesting, my school appreciates the unique process and journey of each individual. Even though we were one group, our (spiritual) journey remained personal, different according to our own needs.
There were times when I felt sad, angry and like crying. Those feelings were respected. I was given a bit of room, a bit of distance, to be with myself. During those alone times, answers or explanations of how this feeling came about often arose. My supervisor said, “The question is whether you yourself have respected those feelings within you and granted them the opportunity to express themselves?” Geez, another tear fell.
This individual journey was even stronger during a silent day. For 24 hours we stayed silent, did not talk to one another and looked within. That day I realized how private the relationship between human and God was. Each person has her own way of facing God and conducted her role in this world as a form of worship to Him. That day I also realized how I have fallen in love with God.
Time flew very fast. Day after day, week after week passed by. Without realizing, six months were almost over. During the last days, an old student from beshara asked, “What will change upon my return from this course?” I stayed silent for a while. I then told him a theme that had been recurring over the last month: fix thy mind on Him and be still.
Maintain my gazing towards Him. At that time I understood another meaning of the term “lillaahi ta’ala”, to allow God or these supreme force to govern and guide our steps.
On the last night, an end of course feast was conducted. Beshara students, old and new, gathered, sharing happiness. It was very touching to see how hapy and proud the older students were to see us finish this course. A special feast were served that night.
One by one the students left the school. What was one group of people who have been together for practically 24 hours for a full six month period went our separate way ‘just like that’. I had mixed feelings within me. I was happy to know that I would meet my family and friends soon. I was said to feel that I was about to leave something so beautiful.
I remember the last time I went up the hill to sit by myself. At that time I asked whoever was listening: how should I be now? What should I do next? The answer that was whispered in my heart: dive deeper. Fly higher. And Love. Just Love.I smiled and shed another tear yet again. An old eternal lesson to learn.
BOX: How to get there.
The Beshara campus in Scotland, The Chisholme House, is located at the border between England and Scotland. 15 minutes from the nearest town Hawick. The nearest airport is Edinburgh, Scotland. From the airport, take Airlink shuttle bus to the citiy center, stop at the Waverley Train Station.
From there you can go by bus. From in front of the Waverley Station, walk for about 15 minutes to Saint Andrewes Bus Station. Take the 90 or X95 bus to Carlisle. Get off at the Morisons Supermarket, Mart Street, Hawick. Continue by taking a taxi from Hawick to The Chisholme House (about 10 pounds) or call Chisholme to arrange pick up.
You can also contact The Chisholme House to arrange pick up straight from the airport to Beshara campus.
Please visit http://www.beshara.org.