Postcard 49 from Robina: Marzens, France, Sunday, January 4, 2015

Jan 4, 2015

From Ixopo we drove to Durban on Monday December 1 and then to the airport for my flight to Johannesburg and then on to Doha.

The South African countryside is beautiful: mountainous and lush. Photo Kate Macdonald

Most of my sixty-plus flights every year are with the OneWorld alliance of airlines: that way I accumulate lots of points, can get deals and so on. My flight on Qatar Airlines arrived in Doha late at night. The airport is shiny and new, and huge. More and more these days the airlines, it seems, compete with each other for the top-end customers and that includes providing big, fat, luxurious lounges for stopovers. Because I’ve got Emerald status, as they call it, with OneWorld, I am allowed to use those lounges, and the First Class ones at that. I didn’t have a hotel for the night so had to hang around the airport for twelve hours. No need to worry: the massive Qatar lounge was like a five-star hotel!

Qatar’s First Class Lounge in the Doha airport.

It was midnight but the various restaurants were packed with people: obviously Doha has plenty of flights coming in and out all night. They had a Quiet Area where one could have a private daybed. They were full. But they kindly allowed me to use a couch in the Family Area, which was virtually empty. Quiet, elegant, and very comfortable. Then in the morning a shower and a delicious breakfast. And, of course, everything is free. How kind! I totally enjoy my times at the airports! I remember the lounge in Moscow, where I had spend some fifteen hours one year, was also fantastic: couches for sleeping, food all night. So fortunate.

I begin and end my round-the-world tickets at the beginning of December every year. They last a year and have sixteen sectors covering the three continents I travel to. I always start in Amman in Jordan, so of course need to end there. Starting on my fifth consecutive round-the-world ticket, from Amman I flew to London, and then to Sweden for teachings in Stockholm, at Rinpoche’s center, and in Gothenburg where a student of Rinpoche’s is involved in a group. The weather was very mild. Short days, of course: the sun up a bit before 9am and down at 3pm, but not unpleasant and no snow.

Martin Strom runs the group there.

At Drom Tonpa Center in Stockholm. Photo Malcolm Larri

He and his wife Maria and daughter Tara are about to go on journey to Australia for six months, mainly up and down the east coast and partly to investigate FPMT centers there. I warned him that the weather was exactly the opposite of Stockholm’s, but he’s looking forward to it.

With Martin Strom’s daughter Tara in Stockholm. Photo Malcolm Larri

In Gothenburg the group is non-sectarian: they invite lamas from all traditions. Kate is a student of Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s and I always stay with her in her little flat. Here too the weather was mild. I like those old cities.

Next was Copenhagen: that city I love! The center there has moved into a new place, not far from their old one, and bang in the middle of the city, which is great. It’s in an ancient little place with low ceilings that must be several hundred years old.

At the new location of the Center for Wisdom & Compassion in Copenhagen. Photo Martin Lyngby-Nielsen

Martin Lyngby-Nielsen has taken the running of the center from Rasmus, who now spends full time worldwide running his Potential Project, that teaches mindfulness-based methods to corporations and the like. Martin also works for him. It’s marvelous these days that methods that find their source in Buddhism are appreciated in the contemporary world. A starting point, at least, on the journey into the mind.

On December 15 I flew to Toulouse in France, and Francois and Violette from Institut Vajra Yogini picked me up. I’ve been coming here for years, usually to do an eight-day retreat, one of the few every year I manage. I love their center! A big four-story, rambling chateau. Everyone seems to love this place! Such a good feeling. It’s far from elegant, but warm and friendly. They charge maybe thirty euros for bed and breakfast but always offer their courses and retreats for free, which is amazing, and very brave. Not many centers do that. But it works, Francois says.

Institut Vajra Yogini is in the hills of the Tarn, about 40km east of Toulouse.

With the group attending the course on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment at Institut Vajra Yogini. Photo Violette Pliot Lecointre

The Swiss artist, a student of Rinpoche’s, is into his second year here painting his unbelievable forty-foot thangka of the Twenty-one Taras. Amazing to see, I tell you!

Peter Iseli has finished the first third of the 21 Taras thangka. Photo FPMT

Before my course I had ten days to spare, and I spent them in bed! I got a bit sick in India, then got better, but got sick again: throat, chest, etc. I slept and slept and slept. I hadn’t done that for twenty years, since I had hepatitis and malaria in india.

In between, however, I had take a few drugs to perk me so I could fly to Helsinki for my first visit ever to Finland, to the FPMT group, Tara Liberation FPMT Study Group. Lovely people! They celebrated my 70th birthday on Saturday December 20 with a song – and a trumpeter! Sunrise here was 9:30am! No snow here either.

With the Tara Liberation FPMT Study Group in Helsinki. Photo Jere Valkonen
The group in Helsinki wishing me a happy 70th birthday with song & a trumpeter.

My sister Julie made me a birthday card: 70 Robinas!

Then back to Institut Vajra Yogini and bed for a few more days. I’m better now, thank goodness, got my energy back.

Our retreat was straight after Christmas. People seem to flock to the place this time of the year.

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