I picked up my book, ‘The Secret of Shambhala’ by James Redfield, and placed it on top of the rucksack. There. Now I had everything. We were bound to get some time to read over the weekend in between tai chi workshops, relaxation sessions and, of course, meals.

I didn’t expect so many people, thirty-six in all. The little coffee kiosk at Ardrossan Ferry terminal must have wondered what hit it as we all waited for the 3:15 to Brodick. From there, a hired coach whisked us off to Lamlash Bay to catch the Holy Island Ferry. Most people were Seven Stars students but some were beginners on the tai chi journey so this was a new experience for them. Being on the Holy Island was also a new experience for many participants. Those who had been to the island before ‘oooo’-ed and ‘aaahhh’-ed as they noticed changes that had taken place since the last time. Those who had never been before just ‘oooo’-ed and ‘aaahhh’-ed.

The rooms were bright and comfortable and, after settling in, we had time for a good look around before a very welcome bowl of warming soup and fresh lemon cake, just out of the oven. After our meal, Bob gave a detailed introduction to the Holy Island; St Molaise, the recluse that lived in a cave there;’ a potted history on the roots of Tai Chi and Qigong; and he also showed some of his training snaps of China this year as well. By that time cloud had come down and the rain had come on heavy, giving the bay and the land beyond an eerie, mystical look. Although Arran , and the rest of Scotland , was just across the bay, it seemed like a different world. We were separate somehow, isolated in our little world. No telephones ringing, no TV, no traffic, no streetlights – the ‘Shambhala’ of the West coast, our own little Eden . It was like living in a hug.

Over the weekend people seemed to really relax. They seemed tranquil and rested despite their hard work during the workshops. Walking round the garden helped. It was inspiring to see fruit, vegetables and flowers growing together like little families. Much of the food we ate was grown on the island using natural methods. The result was food that was full of flavour and seemed to have an ‘energy’ to it. The garden had really taken shape since last I’d seen it. There were huge cabbages, beautiful flowers of every colour, bird feeders, painted stones, plaques with inspirational verses on them, a quiet meditation corner and, of course, fairies.

We took a walk along the shoreline on Saturday afternoon. Bob enlightened everyone about the painted rocks, St Molaise’s cave, and the fresh spring water said to have healing properties. We also had a chance to see the goats that live on the island; birds such as sea gulls and oystercatchers; and a range of flora and fauna that lined our path. Some people even saw the blue butterflies that danced between us as we walked along.

The weekend centred on the 2 nd of “Teachings from China ”, the 3 rd being taught at Samye Ling in September. Bob covered many aspects including Daoyin Qigong, Taiji Form, Acupoints and relaxation techniques.

But the highlight of the weekend had to be the party for Bob Lowey, Principal Tutor and Founder of Seven Stars School of Taijiquan. One of the organisers (who shall remain nameless) had become aware that it was Bob’s birthday and had managed, unnoticed, to bring a birthday cake with a picture of Bob in a Taiji stance, candles that wouldn’t blow out, balloons that said ‘100′ on them, etc, across to the island. While Bob was chatting to one of his students, everyone made their way to the little boat house, which is now a shop and tea-room, for a surprise party. It was a lovely way to show our love, respect and gratitude for his tuition and support over the years.

It was a memorable weekend. Some people bought gifts from the shop, prayer flags, incense, CDs, etc. Everyone came away with something: an increased knowledge of tai chi and qigong; a sense of serenity; email addresses of new friends.

And me? I had all those and more. I came away with a red balloon with ‘100′ written on it. Oh yeah, and I finished my book.

This year’s Tai Chi residential course on the Holy Island attracted thirty-seven people, raising over £3,700 for the Holy Island project.

E Rolland

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