Meeting of minds

In a Tibetan monastery deep in the Scottish Borders.
Breakfast is 7 am sharp.
 Be late and you wont find any food left, we were warned. The choice is thick porridge, cereals, toast (white sliced bread), jam and tea.
The devout have already had an hour of meditation. (Count me out).
By 8am the dining room is empty, all have gone for more prayers or mindfulness. (There is a course running all week) except a young woman doing tai chi near one of the lily ponds. 
M and I explore the vegetable gardens, which are organic, and provide the monastery with vegetables. 
We have a morning coffee and croissant purchased in the café and sit outside  watching the hundreds of small birds tucking into the bird feeders, and not a grey squirrel in sight.
For some reason they do not exist in this part of the country.
 Next a stroll over to the freshly painted Stupa, ( home for Buddhist relics ) with its special glass cases for the display of urns containing people alongside others for pets. Yes cats and dogs can have a Buddhist funeral.
My friend had her cat cremated and placed his ashes in a urn along with a photograph of him. (See extra photos).
Later I fall into conversation with an octogenarian Icelandic philosopher just arrived from Iceland. He is cold and wants to buy a sweater.
 We meet outside the shop, waiting for it to open until someone kindly points to a notice saying its closed Wednesday mornings.
I am after some souvenirs acutely aware that my Buddhist friend dismisses this as materialistic spiritualism. Oh well…
 Its quiet today and I get a chance to talk to folk. Who are they?  Many, I have already been told, come here to find a solution to problems in their lives. Others are “ finding themselves” trying to figure out what it is all about and hoping Buddhism will provide an answer. For many it does.
There is a young man from Brazil working in the shop alongside a girl from Poland. They tell me about the shortage of volunteers. They say volunteers appear keen then melt away when told the hours they would be required to work…oh yes and they are not allowed to sit down.
Meet some monks. Despite their rather forbidding appearance they turn out to be a chatty, jolly bunch. One is from Kent and has been there three years . He is heavily tattooed. Another comes  from Liverpool and he has been there for a year.  He tried life outside and has now come back.
One of their founder members was murdered four years ago in China while taking money to help a monastery. Today they keep his memory alive with a special seat in the shrine room and in the dining room where he always sat is another little shrine.
Would I recommend a visit? Most certainly. 
Advise? Take some emergency food unless you enjoy a spartan regime.

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