I’ve never been to Buddhafield but this year my friend Helen of East End Prints persuaded me to join her and a few of her Bristol based friends, all travelling solo with little ones to this year’s much smaller offshoot, Green Earth Awakening Camp. Any reservation I had about attending a specifically Buddhist festival were mollified once it was established that we all consider ourselves ‘Buddhish’ in nature. No surprise then to bump into yet more friends from the world of activism and FSC childrens’ camps.
Held deep in the Somerset countryside, this was a tiny gathering of just a few hundred, with one main meal tent and workshop spaces around a central meeting area and the huge ‘mindfulness’ gong. Before long we were barefoot and enjoying the marvellous weather; glorious sunshine during the day giving way to the occasional shower at night time. One night a mild rainstorm was preceded by the most amazing lightening forks, which we watched move towards us across the valley as dusk fell.
I was determined that this should be a child led experience, so we meandered between different parts of the gathering according to my toddler’s whims. In the past my naturally inquisitive and frenetic nature would have ensured that I attended as many workshops as possible, but being a mother has encouraged me to embrace a different pace of life.
So, we tried felt making (until Snarfle got bored), dressed up as Green Tara, joined in with impromptu group sing alongs, blew giant bubbles, caught bugs in nets in an adjoining field with Pupa Education, played in the paddling pool in Rupa’s sauna area… and danced gloriously naked to drums near the meditation tent (well, the boys did, we weren’t so brazen despite some of the fabled Buddhafield nudity on site). And I located the best friend of my acupuncturist: a monk turned shaman.
We ate beautifully presented and delicious local produce for every meal; home made fermented pickles and potato cakes cooked on a rocket stove and washed down with Sea Buckthorn juice. All made by folks who have lived at Tinker’s Bubble and Embercombe.
Us mothers half heartedly tried to take part in foraging, yoga, Qigong and dance classes (and mainly we failed). Sadly I did not catch up with the latest in Forest Gardening or learn the art of Focussing (a cross between mediation and counselling), but instead we rambled with the kids along an ancient track which bordered the field, made shady by gnarled trees.
The children revelled in the wide open green space, and I marvelled at the easy freedom of the older (mainly home-schooled) kids, who swung from the trees or raced around with sticks and home made bows and arrows. Snarfle became obsessed with the banjo, so I made him one out of odds and ends in the craft area. I’m sure this is how all childhoods should be, all of the time, not just for a few days here and there.
The gathering closed with a ceremony, as it had begun – the whole camp dancing, chanting and offering devotions to the goddess Green Tara, representing compassion and an ecologically minded alternative to our sometimes selfish and greedy ways. It was a fitting end to a magical few days.
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