Jessica Eve Watkins

6th January, 2015

I am standing in line for passport control at Frankfurt airport. Outside of this metal container the moon is full, and dancing between rapid midnight snow clouds. It’s the first full moon of the year, and though it’s tipped to be a difficult planetary moment for us humans, I feel shrouded in its auspiciousness. I feel so close to her.

A few months back, while riding a whisky high in New Orleans, I dropped a letter in the mail, applying for funding to attend a Buddhist Youth Retreat in Germany. All my friends waited patiently in the hot car outside with hangovers. I was feeling grumpy and in need of a shower, but I did it anyway.

As fast as the postal service could wing my letter across the ocean, I received a reply that I’d been granted the money, and I hastily booked tickets, feeling guilty to be leaving the UK almost as soon as I touched back down, and underwhelmed by the idea of more physical wrenching from my comfort zone. Seeing my mum had reinstated a desire to lie on her sofa hiding behind a cup of tea forever. I wondered several times over Christmas why I always make life so colourful for myself – why I can’t rest back and just enjoy the stillness of simplicity for more than a day.

So it was with a sore throat and tired eyes that I met my brother in London a week ago, and together we boarded a plane east. I don’t want to say too much about the retreat now, because I’m writing an article that I’ll post soon. But I do feel the need to vaguely unravel some of this ball of thought I have in my head tonight, under the strip-lights, as I wait with a hundred other Europeans to catch a bird through the sky.

On the first night, as we padded through the castle in new festive socks, I was overwhelmed by how beautiful everyone was, and so super intimidated that I clung to my brother’s side and made small, uneventful conversations with Dutch men over vegetarian lasagne. Suddenly sandwiched between blue-eyed tree planters and eccentric harp makers, everything was brand new again, nobody knew me. As we met, the snow like a fairytale fell through the night, covering the steep old roofs of southern Germany.

The next morning at the Opening Circle, I introduced myself officially to forty strangers, cross-legged, in a loop of scarlet meditation cushions. I could barely get my words out. But so rapidly the foreign bodies became friends, as we chanced at letting our barriers down, over meditation mornings and group discussions. Evenings I spent playing music by the fire in the Ancestors Room, or giving Reiki sessions upstairs on the wooden library floor.

Within two days I felt a sense of kinship with these people who had chosen to spend New Year in such an unusual place. Everyone from Sarah, aged 16, to our teacher Karl, 61, in their own way unlocked life in me. The musicians who wanted to sing songs every night, those interested in talking with radical honesty (extremely touching); the dancers and odd balls, the smokers and bloggers, the creators and Russian angels. The yoga teachers and piano players and lost souls of Europe, all cut from different cloth, but holding no pretension that we shouldn’t be Love and Truth to one another.

There is little hiding on a retreat like that. We opened about deep sadnesses, illnesses, crushes, romance, open relationships, life problems, and compliments. We talked about how hard it is to talk, how difficult it is to be young and human and awake. Each time somebody cut through my cocoon I felt gratitude. This week was about becoming more real.

Leaving was a wrench. Like hugging goodbye to forty soul mates and a snow-capped fairytale castle. ‘Cant we just start a commune here?’ somebody asked.

After we’re scattered once again, I read an email from Anne. Beautiful people. I find myself alone in my living room and among many other things, I feel sad and confused. Where did you all go? What just happened? And why is there no music going on? 

I don’t doubt that all of us, star shaped and sown across Europe, are missing that something we just found in one another.


Photos and more to follow soon.


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