The pink and white cherry blossom of Hackney blessed my first, but long overdue, visit to Lekdanling for the May bank holiday Mandarava Tsalung teachings.

Transport challenges notwithstanding, 27 of us gathered in the lovely multifunction practice room on Friday evening, for the start of the intensive teaching. People had come from as far away as Mexico, Denmark and Spain and even Devon and Wiltshire!  Total attendance over the three days equalled 32 eager practitioners.

The Venerable, but ever-young, Nina Robinson flew into London from Tuscany, and throughout the weekend gave us a thorough grounding in the essential practices. She also shared insightful hints, tips and anecdotes connected to this feast-cake of an amazing teaching of Rinpoche’s. How lucky were we?  Nina is the principal editor and collater of Rinpoche’s Mandarava Long Life teachings and practices, as they have unfolded to him over many years, now published in a comprehensive book for practitioners who have the transmission, by Shang Shung editions.  In fact, it was in England, half a lifetime ago, in the October retreat 1984, that Rinpoche first shared a fascinating account with us, of how the terma had unfolded on the Maratika pilgrimage, from which he had just returned.

I had arrived a little early on the Friday evening, so Colin Ellar kindly gave me a brief tour around the Ling and I could see just how much love, care and effort had gone into creating the London base for the Sangha, from what sounded like ‘a rough canvas’ at the outset. I loved the secret kitchen and the magic mirror walls that doubled our numbers to 54.

Heat and strong sunlight marinaded the whole weekend, as peacock feathers wafted and waved and accomplished their sacred tasks. Dadar makers shared their skills, while others pondered the meaning of ‘kindly bent tweezers’ (a miss-hearing of one of Guenther’s  book titles that Nina shared with us) and my poet self is still chuckling.  Towards the end of the retreat Nina, auctioned one of the dadars she had made as a fundraiser, for Dzamling Gar Gonpa.  Andy Henry was the lucky winner and his melong will soon be in the post! Thank you Rinpoche and Nina and thank you to all those who organised a great retreat.