Published: 18 April 2016
Peter Mallard, The Barn's manager for the past 6 years, is retiring in September.
No-one wants to see him go! However, Peter tells us in his own words why it's time for him to move on.
His job is advertised on our Vacancies page here
Why are you leaving?
A good question! The Barn is still a truly magical place for me. Each morning as I approach the Barn I experience an arising joy, after riding my bike along the beautiful old Sharpham carriageway from Totnes. I spend each day amongst thoughtful stimulating people for whom caring is the first priority. Every day is varied, fulfilling and blissful.
So why? The decision crystallised last November whilst on a two week retreat: I am 64 and have another life ahead of me which I want to allow to evolve. My intention is to stay in touch with the Sharpham Trust, perhaps running retreats from the house, and also become involved with wider projects and interests such as Sanga Seva.
Where did you come from?
After a few years of various jobs I became a primary school teacher at 29. My whole career working with children who needed care and understanding was both challenging and fulfilling. Then, after 27 years I decided to throw myself to the wind and see what else might arise…
My meditation practice started in 1972 with transcendental meditation. Later I became involved with a path called Sant Mat using another form of mantra based meditation. My introduction into Buddhism was with a Tibetan group. However, I was uncomfortable with some of the doctrine. After reading Stephen Batchelor’s ‘Buddhism Without Beliefs’ I was drawn to the Insight tradition at Gaia House and Sharpham.
Insight meditation continues to have a huge impact on my life. It helps me understand how I meet the world, and to recognise and soften my reactivity. It has helped me not to take myself, or my position in society too seriously. Furthermore, a consistent practice in metta during my teaching days – grabbed in quiet moments throughout the day (e.g. waiting for difficult meetings to start) – infused love and compassion into my work, resourcing me to meet a multitude of human challenges.
What was the Barn like when you started?
I am the first non-residential manager at the Barn. Previously two paid managers had to hold everything: marketing, gardening, woodland work, and supporting the retreatants, etc. It had worked this way for a good while back in the days when retreatants stayed for longer and were able to support each other. However, as more and more people stayed for only one week there was a tremendous need to ‘hold the space’ – guiding people in the structure, routines and the practice.
This was all too much for just two people, so the Sharpham Trust decided to create a new model of manager and coordinators. When the first two coordinators Isla and Mark and I worked together with defined roles the Barn became a joyous place and started to blossom again.
What have been the highlights of your time at The Barn?
The first retreat was exciting and brimming with potential, even though there were only three retreatants. The Barn was beautifully secluded – cut off by snow for two weeks – they had to walk through the snow from the road to get to us. My sense of seclusion was enhanced when I walked into Totnes with a rucksack to buy food.
But the most memorable and moving highlights continue: watching the Barn play its magic, seeing people’s attitudes change over each week. Especially those who are stressed to start with, but persevere, soften, and by Friday feel a whole change in their view of the world.
What’s so good about the job?
Too much to list. And it has honestly become better and better over the six years. I am particularly well supported by the Trust team – director, finance team, marketing, programme and the trustees.
Over the last couple of years I have enjoyed my involvement working with the Sharpham development team and trustees in shaping a thriving retreat schedule at the House as well as the Barn.
What have you learnt?
I asked coordinator Mark this question. He was overwhelmingly surprised in realising how many people are carrying some form of emotional pain. I too have seen how bristly we can all be, the energy needed to hide these bristles, and the pain of turning them inward. And I have learnt that in the Barn’s safe environment people seem to be able to open up and find freedom in authenticity.
Mixed in with abundant compassion (which I really think is in the Sharpham water supply) people begin the process of self-healing.
What would you say to a potential candidate for your job?
This job is ideal for someone with experience of managing projects and people. It requires focus, compassion and equanimity, and full commitment to the Barn and Sharpham Trust vision. If you have these qualities and also wish to develop your own meditation practice and understanding of Buddhism; if you want to work in a joyous environment with beautiful caring people; if you want to feel the power of true purpose, and have a sense you are contributing to a more compassionate and sustainable world, then this job could change your life.