Archive for the ‘The Island’ Category


Holy Isle Newsletter – January 2016

March 14, 2016

Volunteer Working Week

April 3, 2012

Volunteer’s week for April 2012 has been a great success, and we have been blessed with glorious sunshine. The hungry workers have feasted on malaysian curry, parsnip pasta, spicy soup and chocolate bread pudding, all made with produce from the organic vegetable garden. As always, the main currency amongst the volunteers has been chocolate – those with a stash soon make friends and find their supply is quickly diminished.

The Environment Team with their haul of washed-ashore rubbish collected from the beaches of Holy Isle

The environment team, led by Rinchen, has been busy clearing the all-pervasive rhododendrons from the hillsides. This species may look pretty when in bloom but the plants prevent other vegetation from growing and limit the bio-diversity of the island. The stalks of the rhodies are kept and dried for firewood. Beach cleaning has also been taking place, with volunteer David remarking on how many plastic sticks from cotton buds he found washed up on the shore.

In the vegetable garden, Ute set the team the task of clearing rocks from the beds and turning the soil in readiness for the next season. Planting garlic and onions was done to keep the food flowing for the kitchen. The bases of the fruit trees and bushes were given a thorough weeding and fresh seaweed mulch was put down to discourage new weeds from taking root. Beds were also spread with manure in order to replenish the nutrients.

Sid’s beloved flower garden has been tidied and weeded by various members of the volunteer team.

The whole place is a riot of yellow with hundreds of daffodils smiling to welcome visitors.

The ever-vigilant housekeeping team poses for a group photo at the end of the volunteer week

The Housekeeping team have been systematically cleaning the whole of the Peace Centre from top to bottom in preparation for the guests arriving for the season of courses. Every nook and cranny has been dusted, swept, wiped and brushed. Special mention must be given to ace glass maintenance technician Fred who has cleaned every window to a wonderful shine.

Redecorating the boathouse in preparation for the new season.

Maintenance have been busy painting doors, painting walls, sawing, chopping, drilling and hammering to ensure that everything is ship shape and Bristol fashion to withstand the busy season ahead. A fresh coat of paint has graced the shrine room door and the walls of the boat house. An unusual guest visited the workshop to check on Peter’s handiwork – a sparrowhawk! Luckily the visitor was successfully shoo-ed away with no harm done to any living creature.

Anne takes time out sketch the island

A sunny morning see's the environment team raring to go


Holy Isle Gateway Project

April 3, 2012
The Holy Isle Jetty

The jetty was given a temporary renovation 16 years ago and today is in need of replacement

While the Holy Island Project continues to blossom as an interfaith retreat centre, a new development of the Gateway Project looks set to mark a milestone in the islands development as a community project that has pioneered socially-responsible approaches to living in harmony with the world around us since it’s inception in 1992 .

Earlier this month we received the news that our funding applications for a new pontoon to replace the old jetty and for a renovation of the existing path on the western side of the island have been successful. The work on the Gateway Project will be under-way by summers end with the aim of improving access to the island with the added bonus of further conserving it’s natural habitat. The work on the path means we will be able to provide access to a greater number of people, including people with limited mobility, while the pontoon will allow improved access to the island during adverse weather conditions.

Historically access to the island has been sensitive issue for locals and the wider population alike. While on the market, the possibility of private ownership of the island raised concerns that access to this historically and spiritually significant site would be restricted. As a centre for world peace and health it is very fitting for the project to be awarded council funds to allow as many people as possible to enjoy the nature, tranquillity and work of the island.

Funding has been awarded by  LEADER, part of the Scottish Rural Development Program aimed at improving access to rural areas for community benefit and to stimulate rural industry. We have also received NAC Economic Development grants as well as Access grants from the NAC council. Our thanks go to our primary fund-raiser Yeshe Palmo for her tireless dedication to securing the Holy Isle Gateway Project despite the usual rigours of the application process.

Rinchen measures up the new drainage pipe.

The environment department here on the island have been working on improving the path in line with the Gateway Project for over a year now, and have been blessed by the help of several short-term full-time volunteers who stayed on the island specifically to take to the path with shovels, pinch-bars and wheelbarrows. The funding will mean we will be able to bring a mechanical digger onto the island, but for the past year or so it’s been a case of “never surrender!” as the group levered rocks weighing more than a ton out of the ground and Rinchen bellowed out over the grunting and straining “It’s a mere bagatelle, my dears, a mere bagetelle”. This phrase has become the environment departments new motto.

Before an image of Green Tara, Fergus strains against yet another submerged boulder.

We also have some new signs for the island to replace the now severely weather-worn ones that go ‘over the top’ and that sit on the plinth at the North End jetty. A new sign will also grace the Lamlash pier.

With an enthusiasm for the continued development of the island many of the volunteers learn new skills and take on new responsibilities. Several members of the staff will complete a one year mindfulness training course at the end of this month, and at least one member going on to undertake the mindfulness teacher training. The environment department picked up a couple of chainsaw licenses  last year, and are heading off to an introduction to funding course in Glasgow at the end of this month. The spiritual development of the volunteers continues as various members of the island engage in annual transmissions in places such as India while one of our resident artists, Bella, recently returned from a Thankga painting course in Nepal.

2012 looks set to be a dynamic year for the island with ambitious projects and some great teachers.


Holy Isle News Archive

April 3, 2012
Article Photo

Rock Solid: Marie Helvin and Lama Yeshe Rinpoche. Read the full article below.

Holy Isle has been making news headlines since the 1700’s. While 300 years ago the majority of those headlines concerned sinking ships, messages in bottles, and elite fox hunting trips more recent years have seen a fair amount of publicity given to the Holy Isle Project.

Here on the island we recently unearthed a large red lever-arch file full of newspaper clippings, articles, press-releases, leaflets and other promotional articles dating back to the islands acquisition in 1992. We have searched long and hard for electronic versions of those articles and has uncovered a handful which are now in the “Holy Isle Newspaper Articles” section on the right hand side of this page. We are endeavouring to provide as much material as we can through scans and transcripts, and would like to request any material that you might have in order to create an archive.

We are also working on creating a ‘Writings’ section to house the reviews, blog entries, stories, accounts, reflections and memories of any and all of those people who know Holy Isle and would like to share what it means to them. No page is too big or too small so feel free to contribute anything, from that which tickles you to that which moves you to tears.

Below is a transcript of one of the articles, from The Sunday Times, found in the lever-arch file. Don’t forget to check out the others at the “Holy Isle News Archive” page to your right.

Island Life

To really acheive inner peace, the solitude of a Buddhist retreat is what you need. RINCHEN KHANDRO and MARIE HELVIN took time out on Scotland’s Holy Isle.

Anon, The Sunday Times.

Call it karma or coincidence, but this story is way up in the “It’s-a-small-world premiership league. In started last August, triggered by a piece in the Style section about Scotland’s Holy Island. The island now belongs to the Tibetan Buddhists of Samye Ling monastery, who are building a multi-faith retreat centre dedicated to achieving “world peace through inner peace”.

A popular idea, it would seem, considering the deluge of calls that ensued following publication. As a nun living at Samye Ling, which is near Lockerbie in Scotland, and working in the Holy Island Project office, I was at the receiving end.

Among the requests came one from a caller giving her name as M Helvin. After putting the phone down it struck me that it could have been the famous model, Marie. I happened to have been a friend of her sister Suzon, who ad died in a tragic accident. I slipped a note in to M Helvin along with the information, and two days later Marie phoned. She said that she felt inexplicably drawn to Holy Island and really wanted to plan a visit.

Marie juggled her schedule so that she could make a trip just before Easter. We arranged to go together and took with us a couple of cherry trees to plant in memory of her sister Suzon and my sister Shirley, both of who had died young. As soon as we stepped ashore we met Lama Yeshe Losal, the retreat master of Samye Ling, who welcomed us warmly and agreed to show Marie round after lunch with the islanders.

The lama’s evident joy and wisdom lit up the dining room as he patiently answered questions. “I’ve only done a little meditation and a one-month silent retreat. What advice would you give someone like myself?” asked Marie.

“It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or the Buddha himself,” said the lama, smiling. “We all have the same potential. The only difference is that Buddha has already achieved his. Everybody is searching for inner satisfaction and a meaningful, happy life. People think they will achieve it through a good job, more money and possessions, but everything in life is impermanent. We can’t take what we have with us when we die. When we meditate, our mind becomes stable and develops clarity, so we appreciate what we have and realise that everything we need we have within us.”

After lunch, Lama Yeshe and Marie continued to talk as we strolled along the coastal path. “It’s so beautiful and peaceful here. It reminds me of my home in Hawaii. It must be the perfect place to meditate,” said Marie. The lama agreed that, for beginners, a pure and calm environment such as Holy Island is important. “It may be difficult for people in cities to develop their meditation, but coming to a place like this, at least to start with, gives you the opportunity to become naturally peaceful.”

The lama told Marie about the plans to build a retreat centre into the hillside, harmonising with the landscape and making use of the wind, sun and water to provide power. “Until then”, the lama smiled, “you can meditate in the rocks and caves, but you may have to share them with the wild goats.”

Later, back at the lighthouse cottage, after a bowl of home-grown vegetable soup, Marie and I collapsed into our beds. “Now I understand why I was drawn here,” Marie reflected. “Suzon’s death and my grieving had something to do with it, but it’s more than that. There is a sense of safety here that gives you the courage to let go. It makes you realise the need to be on your own, to explore inwardly – and personally, I need the sky and ocean, the stillness and beauty of nature to calm and inspire me.”

Next morning we planted our cherry trees in memory of our sisters where a clear spring bubbles up. We gave them a last spadeful of seaweed compost, a sprinkle of spring water, and a silent prayer to complete our ceremony. Feeling a little emotional, Marie and I hugged each other as she confided: “I swear I just heard Suzon say, ‘Me ke aloha pumehana,’ which is Hawaiian for ‘Until we meet again.'” “How strange,” I replied. “My sister Shirley just said, ‘About bloomin’ time, too,’ in pure Mancunian.”

Twenty-four hours after arriving, we boarded the boat to leave. As the island receeded into the distance, Marie’s glowing smile said it all. “I’ve barely left the place and I’m already planning to come back”.


Spring Volunteer Working Holiday

March 28, 2010

Home. That is what returning to Holy Isle feels like for many people, especially so during the Spring Volunteer Working Holiday.

As I’m sat here in the dining room, I am surrounded by Spring-like fervour, as the residents and volunteers scrub, plant, clean and launder their way into the new season, and with a quiet yet pervasive mindfulness, respect and tranquility which seems to seep its way into every soul that visits the island.

This year promises to be another busy year – several courses are fully booked, and the island will again be welcoming new and not-so-new visitors to its shores.

Today, the sun is shining after the wind and rain yesterday, which put a bit of a damper on the tree-planting and prevented the new poly tunnel from being erected – But spirits were not dampened by this; peoples’ flustered red faces laughing about the conditions of their first albeit wet day of work as they returned.

Everywhere you go today on the island, there are smiling faces to be found as people get stuck wholeheartedly into their chosen tasks – And there truly is something for everyone either as part of a practice or simply as a welcome break from their busy lives.

Yesterday evening, we participated in Earth Hour for the second year running; extinguishing our lights for 60 minutes as a sign of respect and solidarity for the earth; and to highlight our continued dependance on it’s natural resources, especially at a time as we strive on the island for it to become a model for self-sufficiency.

Earth Hour was a huge success both this and last year; proving that you don’t always need electricity for entertainment; but instead a comfortable settee, a hot drink and to be surrounded by friends and like minded individuals. This year’s Earth Hour took place in the freshly-reopened Boat House, with a joyeous mixed bag of poetry, jokes and a hearty sing along with music provided by the wonderful David and Alice.

The Peace Blanket for the Wisdom wing stairwell is nearing completion – It has taken almost two years to complete, with many intricate designs and patterns being woven by individuals in little squares which are now ready to be mindfully stiched together to create a beautiful piece of artwork; helping reflect not only the individuals’ creativity, but that they are part of a thriving community here on the island.

Posted by: Soen

Kevins Curtis Photo Gallery

Team Work




"If it wizny fir yer wheel barras where wid ye be!"

.....and time to relax

Big thank you to Kevin Curtis for his professional eye on these photos.

Posted by June in June!


Christmas and New Year on Holy Isle 08/09

February 9, 2009




As usual a BIG family Christmas and New Year on Holy Isle with lots of old friends and new faces. Profiteroles and alcohol-free champagne, Chenrezig and silence, dancing and laughter, knitting and mask making, walking and soaking up the winter sun.

On New Year’s Eve we each made a boat – and there never before was seen such an extravagant variety of boat designs – with symbols or words on them to express wishes and intentions for 2009. We floated the boats out to sea from the jetty one by one and they formed a long fleet of hopes and dreams, gently bobbing towards Arran.

Happy 2009 to all!




December 13, 2008

We had more snow than any of the resident islanders can remember at the end of November. The isle turned starkly white and magical. The crystal-like snow stunned us all, but especially the unsuspecting Mindfulness Scotland party who were staying at the time. After a snowfall of several inches on the first day, we had more freezing weather which meant that walking became very hazardous over the next 48 hours; the snow had frozen solid and icy.

Bleak and stunning; stupa, snow and evening glow
our resident baby seal on the jetty
All the while we had a lone baby seal keeping us company on the jetty, completely fearless and serene…until the boat turned up on Sunday to pick up the guests.

our garden path
Mindfulness course surprised by a white island
We became concerned for the animals: the ponies, sheep and goats and began to make plans to import hay from Arran when on the third day the north end finally thawed out. As it did so rumbling avalanches of snow kept falling off the rooves of the Centre into the courtyard, shaking the buildings as they went.

Hungry and fearless robin
Magical Holy Isle white with snow

Many thanks to Tara Dakini for her photography.

Posted by: Fay