Two holy islands, a beautiful contrast

Earlier this summer I visited Lindisfarne Island, Holy Island, on the east coast of Scotland/England, a place of pilgrimage for Christians related to the Isle of Iona by a common heritage of Christian evangelism. In the last few days I have visited Holy Island, just off the village of Lamlash on the Island of Arran off the west coast of Scotland. This island is privately owned by a Buddhist community and is used for a Center of World Peace and Health, courses, retreats and general hiking and site seeing. Both places are beautiful and compelling, and with completely different atmospheres.
Lindisfarne is accessible only at low tide, but does have a causeway to allow motorized access. The Pilgrims causeway is the traditional path that pilgrims walk across the tidal plane. It is both a holy and commercial site, with loads of B&B’s and retreat houses. There are holy and historical sites on the island, and the hustle and bustle wains when the tide comes up and access is shut off. People were friendly, warm and receptive. There was, at least to me, a sense of openness. Community.
In comparison, and perhaps contrast, Holy Island is accessible by ferry, a small 10 passenger ferry. There is no commercial establishment on the island itself, except for a community shop, which was not open because there were no volunteers available to operate the shop. We were met on the dock by Adam a volunteer administrator, who outlined for us the walking paths of the island, the gardens, the wildlife, and importantly the areas where we could not go. There was a course beginning later in the day for yoga, in which 30 women were coming to the island for a week of yoga. There were also 20-25 women on the north end of the island who were in seclusion retreat for THREE years. It was a silent retreat, and stunningly for me no access for technology, for THREE years. And while beautiful, there was no sense of community. These people were here. Those people were there. And please don’t mingle with them, thank you very much. No community.
Different places, different styles, thin places all.


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