A Mindful Journey Home

by Anna

When the bell invites me for breakfast the last time, I step outside into the warm rays of the sun that are filtering through the leaves, into the fresh morning air, sensing the cold, as the cuckoo greets me with his call.

Bell tower at Lower Hamlet in Plum Village

Reality sucked me in like the East Australian Current does with the sea turtles. At first I withstood the current, smiling, driving far too slowly through the rolling green hills as I leave Plum Village behind me. But all too soon did other drivers, traffic jams and time catch up with me. I maintained my conscious breathing, which did help to remain calm. It was difficult, however, to find decent food. I just didn’t want to eat meat. And everything had cream of some sort or another. When I actually found a salad bar along the motorway they didn’t even have green salad leaves.

After a ten hour drive north, I arrive with my protector on the roof in the pretty country village of Mont-Dol, where I had booked in for two nights. This time I took full advantage of my protector and he duly took me to the nearest toilet or petrol station whenever I asked for it, even if it meant that I “accidentally” misread the sat-nav.

The BnB is a beautiful farm building and is run by a lovely couple, accompanied by two friendly dogs, a loud goose and a few horses, still, the atmosphere is noticeably different to Plum Village. People ask so many interrogative questions and the old awkwardness of having to make conversation for the sakes of it hangs in the air, all the while the TV is running in the background. In my lovely little attic room hang abstract drawings of nude ladies.

Countryside BnB in Mont-Dol

I try to accommodate the “new world” which is clashing with my inner peace like two rivers meeting and being expected to share the one and only river bed. Outside it thunders and the heavens are pouring tons of hail over us. There was thunder the evening I arrived at Plum Village… I remember one of the nuns saying yesterday that “It isn’t other people, songs, movies, books etc. that make us sad or happy, but that they merely bring up the sadness or happiness which is already in us”.

Walking towards Mont St Michel

The whole next day I spend on Mont St Michel, a granite rock island topped with a picturesque abbey and even has a few houses dating back to the middle ages, which are now mainly hotels, restaurants and gift shops. Up the stairs, down the stairs, left round, right round and then down to the beach and round the island rock at low tide. Pretty impressive!

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View of St Aubert’s Chapel at the beach of Mont St Michel

The following morning I wake up early, as if my body unconsciously joined in the morning meditation at Plum Village, and as I look outside the window a huge full moon is hovering over misty fields. I nearly lost all my mindfulness trying to open the window, but it wouldn’t budge, so I only got a blurry impression of the mighty scene. Oh how I wished I was at Mont St Michel now! Why didn’t I at least go outside? Because I was at the top floor of a tree story farm house whose stairs creaked like nobody’s business and it was Sunday after all and I worried the owners might think I try to sneak away without paying 🙂

Mindfulness is to enjoy the moment when it happens and not to look at it on a photo later.

When I enter the dining room for breakfast I naturally bow as I see a monk in cream coloured robe sitting at the table. Oh dear, I wonder if I shouldn’t have. Plum Village has properly conditioned me 🙂

Nearly two weeks driving through Europe including 6 countries and many toll stations on the last leg of my travels, and I was back again at the familiar ferry port in Calais. Earlier I had found myself suddenly and unexpectedly on a rather high bridge crossing the Seine estuary, clinging to the wheel of my car for dear life as I reach the middle of the bridge which was way too high above the water.

On the ferry I get myself an über-expensive meal because I am proper hungry and as I sit by the window eating, watching the French coast pass by, I feel like the Queen of England 🙂

As soon as I have finished eating I am outside, pointing my noise into the wind. With no more spaces left on my memory card, eliminating the chance of taking any further photos, I surrendered fully to the present moment. With view of the French and English coastlines as time grants me an extra hour, I find a place to simply be. Soon the first seagulls announce land and the familiar white chalk cliffs welcome me home. We even get an extra tour along the cliffs thrown in for free as the port wasn’t ready to take us in and we had to wait for a little while.

Chalk cliffs at Dover

The last couple hours driving on English soil pass in no time and I find myself back home, sitting on the sofa, smiling blissfully hoping that this feeling will last.

And I totally forgot to add the map in all my blissfulness 🙂

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Travelled from Plum Village (4) to Mont-Dol (5).

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And from Mont-Dol back to Eastbourne.

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