#Staying the Course

Isa Luque Alvarez & Humphrey Matthey

Have led since young years and until today a life committed to social justice and inner truth, which knew neither fear nor laziness. – Even a synopsis of their vitae can hardly be summarized on one page; nothing, therefore, for the weary in reading, which may be forgiven. t.a. —–

His parents separated at birth and Humphrey spent the first nine years more in foster care than with his mum.

At age nine caught meningitis and was declared terminal but the father arranged treatment with an untested option in Switzerland available from America. It seems to have worked… He also became ward of state at that point until the age of 20 and went to live remotely in the mountains in Valais until age 14, when he rejoined his father, having remarried and built a real family.

At the age of 14 was admitted in a very good school in Geneva, Florimont, where he spent the next five years, before terminating his Mathematics Baccalaureate in France.

Subsequently having an interest in Astronomy, enrolled at Geneva University, where he got hooked on bridge card game and unfortunately had to change directions and went into Sociology, having Jean Ziegler as main tutor. In parallel was Mathematics and Physics teacher in the local state college for the 14-15 years old in order to make a living.

At 25 having stopped teaching went into specialized education, for youths with social and criminal issues, this allowed him to get a formal training to become a licensed specialized educator, equivalent to a university degree.

In the summer of 1982, was hired by Terre des Hommes to go and work in Lebanon, at the height of the “Events” (Lebanon war) there. Spent about six months, then back to base and off to Ethiopia as logistics man in an Emergency Medical Team of six people. Spent over eight months there with some very interesting times: driving through deserts, visiting the Danakil depression thanks to the TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front) who decided to take ten of these expats hostage for 29 days, negotiating with some really dubious characters, and trying to assist those in need during hard times.

Over the winter of 1983-4 a friend requested that Humphrey went to Sikkim to deliver some medicine, mainly ten full protocols for TB. At the same time got a request to carry out a feasibility study to build a hospital in Rumtek (Sikkim), for the Swiss DDA to see if they would take part in it.

Having accomplished both tasks Humphrey went to Sherabling to see Kenting Tai Situpa on the advice of Jamgon Kongtrull Rinpoche from Rumtek. There he met with Isa who would become his partner in life and with whom two sons were born.

At the end of 1984 it was deemed safer to give birth in Switzerland so they found themselves back in Geneva.

Luckily after a year and a half an opportunity presented itself to go and live on a small mountain top across the border in France. It was a private estate and offered a fantastic quality of life for the young family.

It was in 1986 that Humphrey entered the Deaf World. First working with children for a year and a half, then with the adults for the next nine. At one point their Teacher, Situ Rinpoche, was coming to Scotland to teach an important text, Mahamudra, during a period of seven years. Due to the logistics involved to go every year it was deemed more practical to move the family to Scotland. So in February 1996 the family moved to Glasgow where Humphrey became the Council Social Worker for the Deaf for the East of Glasgow for the next ten years. Work was in a part of the city notorious for its rough living – however ‘the man with the Deaf’ was never threatened, nor the rest of the family… In time the two boys being at University and living semi independently the family moved to Argyll, on the West Coast of Scotland where Humphrey became the Social Worker for the Deaf for Argyll and Bute Council for the next five years.

By now the two had been together for some 25 plus years and were not the youngest anymore. So they decided to embark on their final project: open Buddhist Retreat Center under the guidance of their monastery Palpung in Isas home country, Spain. By serendipity they found a beautiful location in the Alpujarras, high up with three excellent springs and a building in place which was suitable to be transformed into a small temple with adjacent kitchen, storage etc. as well as living area above. They were able to buy the place at a decent, affordable price and set out to work. Their guru (Kenting Tai Situpa) from Sherabling came and was delighted with the place, while being in Europe, had a definite resemblance to the home ground in North India. He inaugurated Palpung Sera Nevada.

The couple and many a helper continued to work tirelessly and transformed the place into a complete oasis with its walnut plantation, fruit-, herbs- and vegetable gardens plus horse stable for six beautiful animals, not to forget the chicken cats and dogs. Another standalone cortijito has been completed and consecrated in a perfect fashion; various ritual monuments dot the area….

And the project is growing further with another 60 acres of land, springs and fields a few km down a small side track, where an old cortijo (dry wall mountain hut) is restored as ‘Milarepas Cortijito’, a perfect place for quiet retreats in real solitude…

Friends and practitioners from all over the world are coming for shorter or longer retreats to Palpung Sera Nevada today. Anyone who has a need and sense for the quiet call of nature and the spiritual vibrancy of lived commitment may enjoy the hospitality of Isa’s and Humphrey’s. Meaningful work against food and accommodation is offered for those who just want to participate.

But how did all that start for Isa?

As a late teenager she joined the anti-Franco leftist party which led to a rift in her family as her father was working for the regime. She left home and married her love in arms – a relationship which didn’t last long and ended rather tragic. In the 70ties she moved to Denmark to live in the alternative communities of Balloon Park and for a longer period in Christiana: high time of absolute freedom after the escape from fascist Spain of that time.

It happened there that a friend invited her to visit a ceremony by a Tibetan Lama who was on tour in Denmark. At the time she was just struck by the aura of that personality…

Subsequently, while her friends planned a trip to India delivering a donated Mercedes truck to a Tibetan community in Himachal Pradesh, Isa somehow got the idea to go to Peru. She got as far as Hierro in the Canarias, but then there was no boat. One night, contemplating the waters under a full moon, it occurred to her that she had much more reason to join the friends on the trip to India than to go on her own to Peru. She started back the following day and managed under rather adventurous conditions to catch up with the crew in Greece. They managed to deliver the truck successfully via Iran to India, Sherabling, where she met with the community of her teacher to be … Learning English and Tibetan at the same time – her languages before were Spanish and French only – she delved into the practice of the Sherabling curriculum and perfected herself over the coming decade. By the time she met with Humphrey she knew her mission which she pursued in a dedicated way ever since: live up to the challenge of non-duality in life and provide an open refuge to all those who share that cause.

HM and t.a., Palpung/Basel, Nov. ‘22