Hanka Dilley, WLBC’s Centre Manager, shares some personal reflections, prompted by the approach of autumn, on the journey that led her to working at the Centre.
Walking through the streets of London and glancing through the shop windows in the course of the year, I get a sense of the grinding of monotony. And what is it in September? As the wind impresses the chill on feet stubbornly cushioned by flip flops? It’s the ‘back to school’ display, final deals and the promise that this academic year can be different – more organised, more accomplished; as if purchasing a few items will undermine years of habits underpinned by views, and magic up a different ‘you’. And yet in those windows I see a different me, one which is full of possibilities.
I have been able to follow a dream, one that I did not even know I had. Back in communist Czechoslovakia, where I grew up, I had the most fulfilling times of my life when I was involved in an outdoor ‘Pioneers’ group (with the change of system it became a scout group). We met up on a weekly basis and spent the weekends among friends in nature, sharpening our survival skills and connecting – with ourselves, with our peers, with creativity, a sense of adventure, a sense of awe and mystery. I remember from then this longing for orienting my life in such a way that the format of friends, community, living together, working together, being together, laughing and co-creating could be a way of life. I trained in youth work after settling in the UK in a desire to try to recreate the joy of Pioneers as part of my job. I then moved on to teaching when I wanted a level of sophistication beyond chatting to young people over table tennis or a game of pool. Just two months ago, after 15 years, I left the education system….. and finally, I have found a home.
The West London Buddhist Centre is just that. The Centre is made up of the sangha, the community of people who co-create something magical and explore the depths with a view to fulfilling their potential. People here are dedicated to transcending the limits of their current consciousness, for themselves and others. I like the way that Buddhists are described as cosmonauts of the inner world. Unlike the Western obsession with the external, the Centre is a spaceship which will take you on an adventure and exploration of inner landscapes. No view, no habit will remain unexplored and you have an opportunity to conquer the mind, its subtle ridges and valleys.
So here, in September, there is so much more than starting the ‘school year’: one can taste freedom in the course of that exploration of space. For instance, on Padmasambhava Day, coming up on 16 September, you can immerse yourself in the great guru’s world of ‘Daemonic Reality, Absolute Openness’. There are also retreats in September for women regulars and for men mitras, or you can book ahead for the October weekend retreat, ‘Opening the Doors to Insight’. Not to mention arts events and the International Practice Week…
What a privilege to serve this situation!