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from Tom Ruijterman:

WHEN I THINK ABOUT FAMILY
CAMP I IMMEDIATELY START SMILING
and feel excited and warm inside. Many pleasant memories come to mind. I remember sitting around the campfire all night as a teenager and watching the mist slowly drift away across the field as the sun rose. I think of some of the amazing friends I’ve met over the years and I remember the chaos and joy of the Pujas with us all singing our hearts out to the Camp songs we had written.

But mainly what comes up is the feeling of being there. There was always so much energy and warmth and joy and love. It felt as if my little family had been integrated into a huge family, and suddenly I had 50 brothers and sisters to play with and 50 adults gently caring while offering me the space and freedom to explore.


carving the wood block

When I was a little boy on the Camp I just played football, cricket and kiss chase. Then as I got into my teenage years I remember feeling incredibly at home both in the monastery and with the people on the Camp, the monks, nuns, parents and children. It was the place outside of my family where I could really be myself and where I felt accepted. The other people there felt ‘like me’ and I think many of us felt that. As a result many deep and lasting friendships came about.

We had Dhamma classes taught by the Sangha where I realized that the ways in which I was trying to become happy couldn’t really work, that true happiness wasn’t in being stimulated and excited, but that joyfulness and peacefulness were my natural state. In my later teenage years I began to feel that there was something happening in the monastery that was really worth exploring. The people seemed more open and warm and happy. I started doing Young Persons’ Retreats and getting into meditation and feeling that I was ‘a Buddhist’. At 19 I started going to stay at the main monastery.

leaf art

I’m now 28 and I’m very happy to see the Family Camp still going on. I see the kids of each successive generation on the Camp becoming adults and many staying friends with each other. Today is the first day of the three-month Winter Retreat at Amaravati. This will be the third full Winter Retreat that I’ve supported as a layperson. Staying in the monastery and meeting the people I’ve met here has been (along with my family) the greatest blessing of my life.


Family Camp moments (in no particular order) compiled by Tim

three girlstree boys

Sky meditation – we all chased the clouds away

Indian music around the bonfire

Teenagers’ Puja – hallelujah

Last night circumambulation. Incense, chanting, lanterns and silence in the Buddha Grove

Bruno’s percussion band playing in the dining hall amidst the merry chaos of lunch

Tibetan overtone chanting with family campers in the new Temple

Nick and Dan doing a 3-legged race around Amaravati field

Children building straw huts in the field from the cut grass

Japanese healers extending arms and helping us lift each other with our fingertips

Cutting our hair off and burning it together as a ‘make it up as you go along’ ceremony

Amaranatho’s delightful games in the shrine room

Amaranatho’s incomprehensible games in the shrine room

Indian Head Massage

Learning shiatsu and getting a shiatsu treatment

The time everyone had their hair shaved off

Fainting in the kitchen after a football accident and being rescued by the teenagers (thanks, Sammy)

Ajahn Kusalo walking barefoot on our long distant walk

Listening for the end of the bell

Laughter Yoga – ‘it’s the way I tell ‘em’ (that was funny)

5 rhythms dance in the marquee which ended with a thunderstorm finale.

Jeff banging on the window to tell children to clear off during metta meditation!

The 1000 piece mandala jigsaw finished in a day

painted facesparent games

Ajahn Kusalo talking for ages about the Dhamma and people just being patient

Buddha-Dhamma-Sangha rap by the teens

Ballet dancing children

Singing for my secret friend

Uncontrollable laughing as we sat waiting for Luang Por Sumedho to arrive in the Bodhinyana Hall – each new late arrival turned out to be just ‘one of us’

Sister Anandabodhi summoning the devas for our final blessing ceremony

Hearing the children sing Family Camp songs in the car

Ges on the guitar at the bonfire
Deborah singing her ‘tradition’ song in the shrine room with the teenagers

Alan breathing fire at the bonfire and also dressed as the devil and refereeing the football

Nick singing ‘Amore’ on his last Camp farewell

Jeff’s first night ‘getting to know you’ sessions in the marquee
  generations
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