The Buddhist Retreat Centre
Ixopo, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
For people of all religions
BRC Newsflash: January 2021
Blue swallow magnificence in Ixopo
|Image: Steve McKean
New Beginnings - 2021
To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh.
In the past we have always tried to introduce new perspectives on the Buddha’s teachings as we approach a new year and make our resolutions, but this can be a contrivance, because it is in each individual’s life that a uniquely fresh version of the Dhamma is unfolding every moment as we grapple to find ways of applying the teachings.
|Image: Andrew Brown
Our 2021 BRC programme approaches this kernel of the dhamma in a variety of ways in retreats such Vipassana ( Insight) Meditation which help one to develop a deeper sense of knowing, and, indeed, wisdom to enable one to live a more informed, heartfelt, meaningful life in a constantly changing world. Other retreats in the spectrum which interface Buddhist philosophy with contemporary Western psychology invite one to be more intellectually curious about the nature of change and the interdependence of all things. The yoga, art, qigong and tai chi retreats provide additional avenues to discover the more deep-seated nature of things and to give us handle on the many issues that we face in our convoluted lives.
As has always been the emphasis in our programme, our retreats offer participants the tools to create a healthy psychological backdrop to our lives.
|Image: Chantelle Flores
The Zen Of Listening - during walking meditation
The Buddha smiled at me
|Christmas hydrangeas in bloom
|Image: Nhlakanipho Nkomo
I enclose Dorian Haarhof’s poem below.
Wishing you peace.
today for a change
| The BRC bread... loved by everyone
|Photo: Chantelle Flores
Yes, we are open in Ixopo and it is time to put that spring back into your step
There is no better place to reboot and rejuvenate and to get in touch with nature than in the beautiful, tranquil surroundings and open spaces of the BRC.
All health protocols and Covid-19 regulations are in place - with social distancing, sanitizing and masks - for your safety and well-being.
There are still a few spaces left on the following retreats in December:
Ari Michaeli | 1 day |15 December | 10:30 - 12:30
Ari Michaeli, MSc PT, MCMT, a clinical physiotherapist and lecturer will conduct a demonstration on treating spine pain based on the latest evidence and his 30 years of clinical experience treating back problems.
Ingrid Adams and Georgina Calder | 4 days | 17-21 December.
|Image: Chantelle Flores
Awakening The Writer In You: A 3-Day Inspirational Retreat For Those With A Story To Write But Who Need Help Finding The Fire Starter
Elana Bregin | 3 days | 4-7 January
The creative act of writing involves much more than plotting a good storyline and putting the right words together. It is a process of reflection, mindful observation - an engagement with yourself and the world around you at the deepest and most satisfying levels of awareness. It is also a potent healing tool that can give you the objective distance to detach yourself from your over-familiar internal script and see your life in different and wider perspective. This writing workshop will suit anyone with a creative itch to scratch, even if you don't have an actual story in mind. Whether your intention is to write a memoir, novel or simply to renew your creative fire, the retreat is designed to offer support and give you the tools and insights to accomplish your writing goal. It will explore both the practical strategies of getting your story written and the inspirational aspects that fuel it. In the beautiful setting of BRC hills, sky, birds, trees, wind chimes and stars, overseen by the untroubled serenity of the Buddha statue, we will open our senses - and heart chakras - and start the conversation with our deeper selves that silent attention enables. We will begin the process of finding, clarifying and shaping the story we really want to tell and learn how to use the different stages of the writing process to our advantage. There will be periods of silent reflection, group sharing, active writing, and individual consultation slots for those who are feeling stuck. For more information and cost of the course contact Elana Bregin: 0714930791 or
Alex Lister-James, Colin Kemery, Deborah Don, Jeremy Lister-James and Marc Kress | Weekend | 8 -10 January
Chris Dalzell and Steve Davis | Weekend | 15-17 January
Join Chris and Steve for an enjoyable weekend of identifying some of the BRC’s 160 species of birds (including the summer residents, the rare Blue Swallow, Knysna Turaco and Emerald Cuckoo) and getting to know the indigenous trees, wild flowers and butterflies. You will also have a chance to expand the indigenous forests by planting your own tree. The weekend includes learning how to identify the most common trees in KwaZulu Natal, how to plant a tree, how to maintain it, and what butterflies and birds are attracted to these trees for nectar or fruit. Walk the verdant hills and meadows close to where the Blue Swallows nest, enjoy the rare orchids, tree ferns and yellowwoods and admire the pink watsonias (Watsonia Borbonica) and the orange Christmas bells (Sandersonia Aurantiatica) in their summer bloom. Included will be talks, slide shows, chi kung, meditation and some quiet time communing with nature. Bring your binoculars and a sunhat.
Jonathan Preboy and Anna Scharfenberg | Weekend | 22-24 January
Vipassana (Insight) meditation is based on mindfulness, which is always available, everywhere, without limit or cost. The challenge is how to realise it. The answer was provided by the Buddha. He taught ways to cultivate mindfulness that lead to insight and awakening. This retreat is an invitation for beginners and experienced meditators to practise Vipassana using the traditional Buddhist method of Ajahn Tong. For beginners it is a simple and direct technique to start meditating and for experienced meditators, it is a skilful method to deepen their insight. Mindfulness is developed by regular walking and sitting practice, by maintaining awareness during normal activities, such as eating, showering, dressing and supported by talks and daily interviews with a teacher. The weekend will be held in silence. Retreatants are welcome to join the subsequent 4-day meditation retreat.
Jonathan Preboy and Anna Scharfenberg | 4 days | 24-28 January
Margot McMaster | Weekend | 29-31 January
People often yearn for an opportunity to recalibrate their lives and to spend some time in quiet reflection among like-minded people. The BRC provides such a refuge - where silence is a precious commodity. Treat yourself to a personal retreat where you can wake up to bird song, walk in the morning mist, rake the sand garden, listen to the wind chimes and meditate in the company of the mossy Buddha.
|A dip in the dam
|Image: Angela Shaw
Online Programme: January 2021
Transition Online For Women: Would You Like To Transition Beyond Current Challenges Into A Better Place Than You Were Before?
2 hours | 2 January | 10:30- 12:30pm
“ If you bring forth that which is within you, what you bring forth, will save you...."
Have you been feeling lost, blocked or stuck?
Transition online is designed to support you through the effects of the emotional and mental challenges you have experienced during 2020 in a way that resolves even age old trauma and transforms not only your present, but also your future.
'To have what you do not yet have, you have to go where you have not been. There is no other way.’
With this in mind, we are thrilled to bring you Transition Online to deeply and profoundly resolve relevant and related issues.
Beginner's Mind: A Zoom(erang) Collage And Writing Mini-Retreat: To Take Us Through The Gate Of The Year
You share your rich knowledge and insights. You emanate a field of creativity in which we are inspired and gladly participate - Evette Weyers, Sculptor
As we light the 2021 candle, we create a collage to bid the new year welcome. Beginner writers are welcome. Writing is about beginner’s mind.
Collages open us to the patterns, themes and rhythms of our lives. They can be made simply with pictures cut out from magazines and pasted on a large sheet. They offer us insights and surprises. And access the deep self.
Explore your creativity and imagination and write about the emerging images in your collage - around the theme that chooses you. Through this ritual of beginnings, we become playfully present. We set intention, possibility and evoke courage.
There is no pressure to share. You can be a silent listener if you are more comfortable with that.
Preparation: assemble some 21 magazine pictures (remove any words). Have the A2 (or 2 x A3 stuck together) size sheet/board, glue and scissors ready. We’ll take it from there.
Zoomerang? We hurl our words across oceans and stars. They return to us with images hidden in the curve-like a boomerang. Folks respond positively to these zoom wordshops. They connect, enjoy the company and experience and discover their hidden writer inside.
I create a space that is safe, supportive and encouraging
This mini-retreat will help you:
Xenia Ayiotes | Donation
Food and eating can be a source of great joy, but it can also be a source of suffering. The pandemic has brought up challenges and many people have been turning to food for comfort. Mindful Eating increases our awareness around why, what, when and how we eat in a curious and non-judgemental way. The intention is to use a non-judgemental and compassionate approach to re-learning internal physical and emotional cues to guide us to why we eat and how we eat.
In "A Morning of Mindful Eating”, we will look at:
What exactly is Mindful Eating?
09:00 - 09:30 Arrival, Introduction and meditation
Join us on Zoom for a mini introduction to Mindful Eating and gently explore your relationship with food and eating.
Please bring raisins and a piece of bread to be used as part of the practices.
|Grinding stone and bowl
|Image: Fanele Dube
Dressing Up For Dinner
People often tell us that our vegetarian cuisine is big on flavour, versatile and delicious. Even the humble potato is elevated to another level in Dinner Jacket: Baked Potatoes as we twice-bake the ‘jacket’ to form a golden, crispy shell which is then filled with a delicious cheese, tomato and chive stuffing. If you would like go vegetarian the BRC way, try our recipe books: The Cake The Buddha Ate, Plentiful and Quiet Food. We are able to courier the books to your door. Please email: .
|Image: Angela Shaw
About the BRC
Perched on a ridge at the head of a valley in the Umkomaas river system in KwaZulu-Natal, the Buddhist Retreat Centre looks out on a vista of indigenous valleys, forests and rolling hills receding like waves in the blue distance. Here, for thirty-nine years, people of all religions and none have come to experience peace and tranquillity. It is a gentle, sympathetic space where one can be still and get in touch with oneself and reflect on the things that crowd one's life.
The BRC was voted by CNN as one of the ten best meditation centres in the world.
CNN Travel awarded another feather in the BRC’s cap by voting it as one of the ten best spiritual centres in South Africa, recently.
The BRC was awarded Natural Heritage status in 1995 under the auspices of the Department of Environmental Affairs and received a certificate to that effect signed by President Nelson Mandela for turning an eroded farm into the natural paradise it has become - thousands of indigenous trees were planted by retreatants under the supervision of Mervyn Croft - with 160 species of birds, including the Blue Swallow, otter, deer, antbear and indigenous forests. The Centre was also given the special status of “Custodian of the Blue Swallow” for its work in preserving the breeding areas of this endangered bird.
The BRC facilitated the founding of Woza Moya, the community-based NGO, located in Ufafa Valley, twenty years ago, on the estate. Their vision is for all people in the community to be healthy and productive, to live in a safe and clean environment, with good access to services and social justice. The Centre continues to support the organisation by showcasing their crafts in the shop such as the sock monkeys, cushions, bags, scarves, beanies and greeting cards. The Woza Moya Crafters are local women who receive ongoing training and support to enable them to create these unique and charming best sellers. As a result of retreatants' generosity in 2019/20, the BRC was able to donate R 24,000 to Woza Moya to further enable their good work among the community.
Recently, we were forced to install a new borehole and pump - at enormous cost - when we ran out of water, despite the continuous summer rainfall. Please continue to support the BRC to get back on its Dharma feet by becoming a friend of the Buddhist Retreat Centre (a non-profit organisation) and find out more about the BRC's Paid-Up-Yogi and Sangha Friends’ projects.
We have been very touched by your appreciative letters, emails, support and friendship towards the BRC - your spiritual home from home.
Visit our website for further information, directions, image gallery etc.
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