With all of the Autumn leaves now off the trees, BMIMC finds itself a much quieter place. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we have only had the opportunity to run two retreats in 2020. Late 2019 and early 2020 have been dominated by National and Global events which have affected many people in our community and emphasised the ever changing and impermanent nature of this world.
The last quarter of 2019 saw massive bushfires that swept through 80% of the Blue Mountains National Park. Stoic yogis meditated through smoky air, witnessing on most days a haunting red sun. The fires burned in both the Jameson and Gross Valleys, and in late December the looming threat of the fires came too close for comfort. The fire burning in the north encroached into Blackheath, threatening many of the homes, including that of our previous manager Margie and her partner Bugs. However, due to the tremendous work of the NSW rural fire service, no houses were lost in Blackheath and the fires did not make it into Medlow Bath. BMIMC was once again saved from the bushfires.
In a sudden change, January and February 2020 saw massive amounts of rain come to the Blue Mountains, bringing the garden back to life and relieving Don of his heroic efforts to keep the garden alive throughout heavy water restrictions. When it rains it pours though, and with the rain came some unusual flooding through the Mountains, which seemed to wash away the memory of the fires only a few weeks prior.
As we moved further into February, news of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) started emerging which led to the decision to cancel further retreats. The cancellation the one-month retreat with Ariya Bauman came merely two days before its start, and we were incredibly grateful to the kindness, patience, and understanding shown by the meditators set to attend. Ariya was already in the country by this time so spent a few quiet weeks at BMIMC. In lieu of a residential retreat, we were able to run an online retreat via with Ariya for a few of her yogis. Although it was different to the residential retreats, we found it was still a nice alternative for those who could participate. An additional benefit was that although Ariya had to leave Australia early to make it back to Switzerland before the borders closed, we were still able to run the retreat remotely with a few adjustments for the time difference.
Since then, the centre has been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Wednesday night sitting group has moved online and has been quite a success. Although I am sure many of our community prefer the in-person sits, our Wednesday night meditation group still maintains its warmth and support, even if it is through a screen.
As I write this, Medlow Bath has had its first snow of the season. I am incredibly grateful that the manager’s cottage now has its own bathroom and kitchenette, which saves me racing through the icy weather in the middle of the night. This project was beautifully undertaken by Dan and was completed in November last year.
Although we were looking ahead to greater upgrades to the centre, most of the larger plans have been put on hold due to the uncertainty around when and how the centre will re-open.
We have started to move more retreats online, beginning with a 9-day virtual retreat with Patrick Kearney (3-12 July) followed by an online Foundation of Buddhism weekend retreat and course with Danny Taylor (17 July – 5 September). As ever, it will be lovely to reconnect with the broader BMIMC community and support them during retreat, despite it being virtual.
We are looking forward to having meditators back on the BMIMC grounds, however in the meantime, we wish everyone health and happiness during these uncertain times. We will see each other again soon.