Welcome to Avalokita,
Beloved Mindfulness Practice Center of Italy

In the first of our two posts on Avalokita, we welcome you on a photo journey through this wonderland of mountainous landscape, vibrant flora, and rock solid community. We will walk and hike through the span of one full day at Avalokita, from red glowing sunrise over the Italian countryside, to glowing mountains in the dark blue twilight. Here at Avalokita, the sun, mountains, fields, and moon are as much a part of the community as the people who live and commune here. Let us now awaken to her early morning summer rose light…

Waking up before the morning bell, taking soft steps through the house, filling a thermos with hot tea, we walk slowly up the rugged field, finding a comfortable spot amidst the straw grass and clods of earth. With each sip of tea, red light over the dark rolling hills grows brighter and brighter…

The burnt red light changes to flaming pinks and orange, all the while filling the mountainside behind us with its glowing spectrum.

Avalokita has awoken.

Like rich golden oolong tea pouring into a clear glass cup, the golden morning light flows in and fills the tea room completely, awakening both orchids and Thay’s calligraphy. Its message is clear and alive in this moment…

“La Pace e la gioia sono possibili”

“Peace and Joy are Possible”

The pond lies motionless under early morning rays. Without a hint of urgency, the lilies take their sweet time to open, and frogs rest after another boisterous night of lusty croaking. But the butterflies and bees already quietly make their breakfast rounds through the garden. Morning meditation is over, yet noble silence continues for the community, quietly and vibrantly alive.

Breakfast in serenity and quiet, as we eat and contemplate…

“This bread is a gift of the entire cosmos”

Every morning after breakfast, whether during retreat or not, the community at Avalokita gathers for Morning Circle. One of three resident practitioners, Letizia guides us in a short meditation to both center our mind and presence individually, and connect us collectively. Then we grasp each others’ hands for a few moments, welcome the day’s activities before us, and share the joy of song.

“Morning has come,

Night is away.

Rise with the sun,

And welcome this day.”

Avalokita stands like a sentinel over the activity bell, ensuring the bell master’s calm and focus as she invites the community for the next gathering.

Behind her, Thay’s words echo throughout the house, a reminder of when he and a delegation of monastics visited the center just after its opening in 2011. Upon walking mindfully up the back hill, between the center and mountains, Thay spoke, “This is a place of healing.” Then Thay offered it a name, “Center of Deep Listening”. Because the Italian translation of had some ambiguous meaning, the founders adapted the name to “Avalokita”, the bodhissatva of great compassion and deep listening.

“Ascolta con Compassion”

“Listen with Compassion.”

The Sangha gathers in the meditation hall for a Dharma discussion, facilitated by Marco, another Avalokita resident practitioner.

On the left is Dharma teacher Michael Schwammberger, former monk and abbot of Son Ha Hamlet in Plum Village, who offered this 5 day retreat at Avalokita. The community invites both lay and monastic Dharma Teachers from around Europe to offer retreats throughout the year.

Sharing in pairs…

Italians love love love to share from the heart, as seen from the rich smile on her beaming face…

And some playful sharing too, never a problem for Italian youth…

Okay, enough sitting inside for us. Let’s take this Sangha magic out and explore!

But keeping our silence, we tune into the world and each other, soaking in cascading mountain reliefs, glorious sunshine, rolling golden fields, abundant wild cherry trees, and more. Each step of our silent strolling bodies is alive and free…

Hungry?  Yum!!!

We break, and pick some wild cherries in the woods. No joke, these grow all over Avalokita’s property and around the region.

Try some, but let’s save enough for a cherry crumble later!

We continue hiking through Avalokita’s hillside of olive groves, 65 trees in total. They cure their own olives here, as well as partner with friends to make fresh olive oil for cooking. The groves are also perfect for a quiet and romantic period of evening sitting meditation.

And you can enjoy some premier organic Italian olive oil with Marco, Avalokita’s unofficial bread master, especially after a hot loaf arrives fresh from the oven.

Some salt and olive oil on delicious homemade bread, along with Marco’s charming Italian accent, “Mangi, Mangi!”, and you know you’ve truly arrived at this Italian Sangha home.

Every evening, the Sangha enjoys either sitting meditation in the hall, or a slow walking meditation outside. This evening, the weather is sparklingly beautiful, and the sunset light is irresistible…  We head outside again for a mellow saunter around the center.

Nothing else to say here …

Here is the pure land. The pure land is here.

Local villagers call this region, “the Italian Tibet.”

Turn around, and see why.

Behold the magic behind our steps….

And we arrive back home, watching dual sunsets unfurl their majesty of lights before our eyes, and at our feet.

We end this evening with a tea meditation, filled with musical offerings that respond to the day’s many wonders and teachings. Everyone has a turn to share their tune, inspiration, and laughter with the community, as we close the retreat together in rhythm and harmony.

An aspiring rock star by day, this young man shares the depths of his gifts and spirit with the Sangha by night.

We know that he will share his awakening and compassion with countless other youth as he passes through this sacred center and blessed community.

As the evening closes, we meander outside the meditation hall to commune with the refreshing night sky before bed.

Always awake, magnificent, and solidly present at any hour, we bow goodnight to the mountains embracing us.

Goodnight and thank you, Avalokita

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