By Cosimo Di Maggio and Maree Ploetz
Maree and I spent five beautiful weeks at Namgyalgar, on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, during the Covid 19 lookdown in Australia. It will always be held in our hearts as a special time together, deepening our practice and reconnecting in a unique way with the Namgyalgar Community.
Previous visits to the Gar were to attend retreats or teach courses but I have to say that this experience, being in a more relaxed state with more time to work, practice, and enjoy, was quite different. We were planning to travel to Italy but the Covid lockdown banned overseas travel so we applied to the Gakyil to caretake the Gar. We worked with the Gakyil to carry out maintenance and essential work. Our initial impression was that the Gar was rundown as it was without a Geko for a year even though some dedicated practitioners had tried to do their very best to maintain the place. Now we realize how much work there is to do at the Gar to keep it worthy of the name and how precious members are as a resource for the Gar.
Without knowing the duration of the lockdown or where we might be in the future, we decided to practice according to our personal calling, to integrate with karma yoga to make much needed essential repairs on the house including the Gönpa but also to work on the garden and ensure the infrastructure was functioning. We really appreciated the knowledge and kindness of Topgyal, the last Gekö, who came several times to advise us and repair the water pumps to enable us to fill complicated water systems essential for drinking and fire fighting. We kept to the Covid regulations but were able to do a ganapuja with James and dance the Song of Vajra, which felt so special to connect with another practitioner in this time of social restrictions.
As the days went by we discovered the beauty of the Namgyalgar in all its forms: the external Vajra Dance mandala ( which we renovated), the Gönpa for practice retreats and yantra yoga, the wonderful Dzogchen library which was made a more inviting space to read and study, the small pool for swimming and floating under a clear blue sky, and the lovely nature walks with sweeping views to the Glasshouse Mountains. There were also the contemplative walks down to the dam to see the birds, the pretty-face wallabies, and be in the tranquility of the water.
Close to the house there were a myriad of birds; King Parrots, Eastern Rosellas, Rainbow Parrots, native doves, Honey eaters and Magpies. Kookaburras and Butcher birds took turns to feed from our hand, something that Rinpoche started and we have continued. We were reminded that Rinpoche said that once you start to feed the birds you have to continue to do so. So we did and delighted in their natural beauty and antics, particularly the birds having their bath.
When we felt overly housebound we were lucky to be able to walk and swim on the pristine white beaches of Caloundra and Moffat Beach and enjoy the spacious ocean. Later when the restrictions lifted we started to explore the surrounding National Parks of the Glasshouse Mountains. Glorious! During retreats there was never the time to enjoy the beauty of the surroundings in such a way.
Namgyalgar contains everything that practitioners need to develop their practice with a private suite of rooms that was used by Rinpoche when he came to stay and teach at Namgyalgar. It is absolutely perfect for personal retreat. We highly recommend practitioners who have the opportunity to spend some time at Namgyalgar for practice, relaxation, walking around and doing a little bit of karma yoga. In this way one can help can keep the Gar alive and beautiful and benefits from what it offers.