Fiona Travels from Asia

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustave Flaubert

Volunteer at Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre | A transformational week for me

Right before leaving England at the end of my Master’s study in 2017, I decided to spend the little time I had left as wisely as possible. Volunteering was a good thing, I’d thought, especially at somewhere quiet and remote so that I could immerse myself in the beautiful English landscape while mulling over my own future plans.

One day, I heard about the volunteering program at Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre in Ulverston by chance. For some reason, I felt I was predestined to register. This visit later transformed me in so many ways, which I will share with you below.

As I am writing this right now and the visit is coming back vividly in my mind, this quote describes exactly how I feel about my time there.

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”

Thich Nhat Hanh
The beautiful nature surrounding the Manjushri KMC Ulverston
The beautiful nature surrounding the Manjushri KMC Ulverston

This post will be divided into two parts. Firstly, I will share some practical information about volunteering at the Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre (KMC) in Ulverston. Then, I will also elaborate on how this one-week volunteer visit profoundly transformed me.

I hope this post will inspire you to consider volunteering here, trying meditation, or simply paying more attention to the wonderful world we are living in right now.

Volunteer at Manjushri KMC Ulverston – Things to know

Where is Manjushri KMC Ulverston?

Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre is housed in Conishead Priory – a Grade 2* Romantic Gothic House located just south of the English Lake District. Read more about getting to the Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre HERE.

Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre is housed in Conishead Priory – a Grade 2* Romantic Gothic House

For my volunteer trip, I took a train from Hull to Ulverston and then walked to the center. Luckily, a monk who was driving past saw me struggling with the bulky luggage and offered me a ride. In hindsight, I should have taken a taxi at around £7 since the walk was quite long.

Surrounding the center are vast spaces of gardens and woodland, providing the utmost peace and tranquility for its residents and visitors. From the main building, you can reach a cobblestone beach after walking for 10 minutes across the wood.

The calm cobblestone beach at Manjushri KMC Ulverston
The calm cobblestone beach at Manjushri KMC Ulverston

How did I register for volunteering at Manjushri KMC Ulverston?

I registered online via their website. I could also find all the necessary information about volunteering at Manjushri KMC there.

How long did I volunteer at Manjushri KMC Ulverston? How many hours did I work every day?

I worked for approximately 5 hours per day from Monday to Friday. I stayed there for one week, so I had Saturday and Sunday free. Some other volunteers I met had stayed there for months and they still really enjoyed it.

There were two 15-minute breaks per day as well, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. During those breaks, we volunteers would rush to the kitchen and find out what kinds of snacks were available that day :).

How were the accommodations for volunteers like?

The pleasantly comfortable volunteers’ dorm, which I shared with 5 other ladies, is located on the 1st floor of the building. The shared bathroom was clean and right next to our room. The centre provided bedsheets and pillowcases for us, so I only needed to bring my sleeping bag for a warner sleep.

My volunteer dorm at Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre
My volunteer dorm at Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre

What did I eat during my volunteer at Manjushri KMC?

The centre offered tasty vegetarian meals three times a day for its volunteers. Some of them were the best vegetarian dishes I’d ever had in my life.

Hummus, couscous, baked sweet potatoes and steamed vegetables - Yummy!
Hummus, couscous, baked sweet potatoes, tofu balls and salad – Yummy!

What kinds of work did I do?

At the beginning of each day, the volunteer coordinator would allocate different tasks to the volunteers. The tasks varied depending on the season.

I mostly worked in the laundry, including ironing, folding the bedsheets and pillowcases, as well as re-organizing the laundry space. The other tasks I did were vacuuming and cleaning a guestroom, cleaning a food tank, carrying tents from the forest back to the center and helping with lunch preparation in the kitchen.

How hard were these tasks?

Were these tasks strenuous? Not at all! I’m a small Asian girl who can hardly run for 5 minutes without collapsing but still could finish them all.

In fact, the more I worked there, the more enjoyable the tasks seemed to become. Once when I was folding the pillowcases, someone told me to try thinking more about the results of my folding actions. If I folded them nicely with a genuine wish that the people who would lay their heads on them would have a restful sleep, I would subconsciously transfer my positive energy into the pillowcases, which in turn would help make my wish for these people come true.

Me working in the laundry with another volunteer
Me working in the laundry with another volunteer

Honestly, I don’t know if such a belief can be explained scientifically, but I tried it and felt great myself. And I believed it. It’s like sowing a seed of positivity into every action we take and watch it bloom :).

5 ways my volunteer trip at Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre transformed me

There was ample space for quiet contemplation

Surrounded by quintessentially picturesque English landscape, the Manjushri KMC provides an ideal haven for those seeking a quiet space for self-contemplation.

Every morning before breakfast, I would wander in the wood and listen to birds chirping. If I got up early, I would also walk further to the other side of the wood and watch horses roaming freely on a nearby farm. In the evening right before dinner time, I would sit at the beach and watch the sunset in perfect tranquility.

Horses roaming freely on a farm nearby
Horses roaming freely on a farm nearby
Sunset at the cobblestone beach near Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre
Sunset at the cobblestone beach near Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre

Communing with nature helped me greatly to find inner peace. As I watched the tides falling while sitting on the beach alone, my mind became clearer and I started to notice thoughts and feelings arising inside of me.

Despite my previous belief that meditation involved stopping all thoughts, it was not exactly so. Instead, meditation was about slowing down, increasing awareness of my present being and admiring the wonder of everything, even the smallest ones, around me. That was one of the most important realizations that I came to thanks to the valuable time spent in quiet contemplation at the Manjushri KMC.

The fairy-tale shady woods surrounding the Manjushri KMC Ulverston
The fairy-tale shady woods surrounding the Manjushri KMC Ulverston
A meadow near Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre
A meadow near Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre

Talking to fellow volunteers helped me become more open-minded

During my stay, I met volunteers from all over the world who helped change my world views dramatically.

There was a middle-aged Portuguese lady who’d volunteered there for 6 months and told me that despite owning no house, no car and no credit card, she was still happy 🙂

An Indian girl in her 20s enlightened me about Hinduism and faith while we were sitting in the kitchen on a memorable rainy evening.

I also met a visiting nun from the US who was quite talkative, which surprised me greatly. Before that, I’d always thought all monks shared the same calm and meditative look. Perhaps this stereotype stemmed from my familiarity with Asian monks only. Meeting this loquacious monk helped me realize that monks are not distant but rather very relatable figures. While sharing the same belief, each of them still has a distinctive characteristic, just like normal people.

Buddha Statue at Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre
Buddha Statue at Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre

I learned new skills I’d never thought I would learn

Despite staying at the Manjushri KMC for only a week, I was lucky to learn some new skills in cooking and housekeeping. I heard that others who stayed longer had the chance to learn barista and sculpture as well. How interesting!

Love was omnipresent

“Love is in the air” – this quote rings truest at the Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre. Everyone I met was so benign that I felt naturally inclined not to harm even an ant!

No dark thought ever crossed my mind while staying there, as the whole centre and its surroundings created an overwhelmingly peace-loving and harmonious ambiance. If a criminal visited the centre, I believe his or her malevolent intentions, if any, would eventually turn into acts of benevolence at this peaceful place.

Free meditation sessions were perfect for beginners like me

Volunteers can join daily mediation sessions at the Manjushri KMC for free. Guided by venerated monks and also suitable for beginners, these meditation sessions last from 15 minutes to an hour and take place either in the grand temple or in one of the cozy rooms in the main building.

Buddha statue in the garden of Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre
Buddha statue in the garden of Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre

I myself had tried meditation before, yet often found it hard to stay focused without getting bored. Thanks to the guided meditation sessions here, I learned to relax and concentrate on my breath while practicing mediation, which was really helpful.

Volunteer at Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre – A transformational week

My one-week volunteer at Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre was one of the most peaceful and transformational times in my life. Thanks to the volunteer trip, I’ve learned to appreciate the presence, nourish benevolent thoughts, accept novel ideas with an open mind and commune with nature more.

And you? When was the last time you went on a trip that transformed your life? Share with me in the comment section below. If you have any other questions about volunteering at the Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre Ulverston, don’t hesitate to comment as well!

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