I always wanted to write about how I’ve got here and the importance of specific people along my journey. So a very good start is to talk about the Tao Tien.
It is some day of March, 2007. I am just resigning from my comfortable job in a mega multinational where I have worked for the last two years. All I want now is to go for a retreat for a few days before I move to France. A friend of mine remembers about this place, although he has never been there he’s heard exciting things about it.
This place is called Tien Tao, the retreat that I ended up coming back for many times, including to live for six months in the next year. Little do I know that I am about to meet the family that would become essential in my path.
I remember so clear: it is one sunny afternoon and I am at Perdizes Avenue in Sao Paulo, Brazil, when I make the call. Right there in the middle of the sidewalk waiting for the bus in between horns and the traffic I hear Tiffani’s sweet calm voice for the first time. I explain that I am interested in making a retreat for a few days, because very soon I am moving to another country and I want to take a break from all the hustle and bustle from the last years before starting a new cycle.
She tells me about the Easter Retreat and that I am more than welcome to participate.
On a Thursday of April I take the bus and go to Extrema, which is right on the border of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais. When I arrive, this woman full of tattoos and a face that expresses something like a little child that just made something wrong introduces herself in her high soft-hearted voice: she is Claudia, and she is there to pick me up.
In the car a beautiful black-haired woman with exotic Arabic features is awaiting. She is Natascha, Tiffani’s sister and eldest daughter of Manu, the owner of Tao Tien.
While driving the 18km that separates the retreat place from the nearby city we are having a energetic chat. They tell me about themselves, about the Tao Tien, about life.
The place is indeed beautiful. It lies high on the hill surrounded by greenery on all sides, with a breathtaking view over the valley, including the city we left behind, Extrema.
As soon as I get there I meet the owner of the sweet, calm voice: Tiffani does justice to the voice, her round face looks like a doll with almond blued eyes and small mouth. Titi is married to Kelsang, a Tibetan who arrived in Brazil just over a year ago. They met while she was in India learning Thangka, Tibetan sacred painting, and there they began a long romance. From this union a lot happened, and the most important thing was Arion, who is now less than a year old. Arion inherited a lot from his mother, he is also blue eyes and is blond. The slightly pulled Cat’s eyes are inherited from the father.
Arion has a cousin a few years older, Lucas, son of Natascha. Lucas has the stature of his mother, and he is a big boy for his young age.
Then I meet Marcio, Manu’s husband and spiritual partner, the two of them are the owners of the Tao Tien. And then I’m finally introduced to Manu, who has blue vivid eyes in a round face. She gives me a wide smile and warmly welcomes me.
They are all extremely welcoming. Those who know them recognize how special everyone is in this family.
At night I sit on the porch and watch all the bustle of the city with its dancing lights. The sound of all the city chaos does not disturb the tranquility of the Tao Tien. On the top of this hill all I can hear is the silence of the nature in its pure calm that relaxes the soul. Those who know the place understand how magical it is.
The next day some other people join the retreat, all old friends. The group is not big. Manu leads the retreat and the meditation, speaking about topics related to Easter: sacrifice, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Being essentially a Buddhist retreat I am surprised by the words and think how beautiful is it that we are all somehow connected and that in fact we are one. I feel happy.
At Easter it is a common practice to paint boiled eggs, decorating them with drawings and abstract shapes, a custom which is actually an allusion to ancient pagan rituals. So each one of us has now to think over and meditate about what do we want for the future and then sit down and paint the egg representing these thoughts on it, which would be eaten (the eggs, not the thoughts!) on Sunday.
Besides the boiled eggs on Sunday morning they also prepared something I have not done since my childhood: an “egg hunt”! I guess everybody feels like a child again, running joyfully across the lawn searching for the chocolate eggs… Purely fun!
On this last night from the balcony we witness this great magical magnetic storm, which brings the retreat to an end in a very mystic way.
I spent five wonderful days here, more than enough to stoke the flame burning inside me since a long time. It is like an extremely powerful energy that was just waiting patiently for me to finally be ready to receive it.
I really don’t want to leave but I have to. It is hard. It is time. I have no idea when I’m going to see them again. Any of them. Natascha is preparing to move to India; Claudia has a life almost nomadic, tattooing all over Brazil; Tiffani is about to move with Kelsang and Arion to the south, she was invited to paint the main temple of a Buddhist Centre in Viamão, the CEBB. Even I am moving to France…
But what I do not know by then is that in the near future I am going to cross paths with one of them again, in many diverse ways, from near or from far away, in distinct times and different places. Meeting this family was so striking that everything that was going to happen on my path in the following years is the result of this special Easter’s retreat at Tao Tien.