The Buddhist Retreat Centre
Ixopo, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
For people of all religions
BRC Newsflash: July 2021
|Image: Angela Shaw
"As we work to heal the earth, the earth heals us"
I remember the desolation of Holland after the war had ended in 1945. As children we used to play soccer with an old tennis ball outside in the street, a lamp-post as our goalpost. The trick was to hit the lamp-post to score a goal. This required great skill.
Nature had been banished over that destructive time: there was not a blade of grass nor a tree in sight - the trees were nice to look at, but served a better purpose then - as firewood. These were my early impressions of the environment - there was nothing natural about it.
So, imagine my delight in experiencing the expansiveness and grandeur of the natural environment when I landed in beautiful Cape Town in 1955. I felt the same energy and excitement when I decided to settle in tropical Natal - and much later again - when I discovered Ixopo. Even though the farmland had been badly degraded by years of neglect, I recognised instinctively the opportunity and the potential to bring nature back to those ravaged hills.
Over the last 50 years, many people have contributed to the flourishing of these hills into the natural paradise they have become, and I pay tribute to my wife, Chrisi, whose interest in birds and all things indigenous has fuelled my own interest; Mervyn Croft who helped to transform the wattle stands into indigenous forests; Gordon Maclean who always encouraged us to plant indigenous and protect the Blue Swallow; Enrico Gerber, June Atkinson and Jenny Cowey who have helped to establish the indigenous gardens; Chris Dalzell whose passion for restoring the land’s biodiversity has resulted in the pristine mistbelt grasslands and indigenous parks, and Steve McKean, Director of Conservation Outcomes, who has played a pivotal role in preserving the endangered Blue Swallow along with Mdu Zikode, our Induna.
Their collective efforts in resuscitating an abandoned piece of farmland and in helping to protect the Blue Swallow have recently resulted in our being granted Private Nature Reserve status by Ezimvelo KZN Wildlife.
I feel deeply moved by this accolade and by the fact that I have played a small part - along with so many friends - in restoring the ecosystem in Ixopo: the grasslands, the waterways, the wildflowers, the birds and wildlife. It is a crowning of my early vision that one’s actions can bring about transformation in an environment that will endure and outlive us.
|The grass(land) is greener
|Image: Angela Shaw
Do not try to save
|A buck in the clearing
|Image: Andrew Brown
We are thrilled to announce that Choden, a South African born Buddhist monk, will offer “Mindfulness Skills For Challenging Times” to help us navigate these times of insecurity, turbulence and uncertainty. He will draw on the Tibetan Mahamudra teachings as a context for his teachings. There will be a three-fold focus on Embodiment, Acceptance and Self-kindness. Choden will introduce some simple yet profound methods; we will practice them together and share any insights. He will strike a balance between teaching, guided practice, sharing and inquiry, along with some periods of silent sitting and walking meditation.
Choden (aka Sean Mc Govern) completed a three-year, three-month retreat in 1997 and has been a practising Buddhist since 1985. He is originally from South Africa where he trained as a lawyer and learned meditation under the guidance of Rob Nairn, an internationally renowned Buddhist teacher. He is now involved in developing secular mindfulness and compassion programmes drawing upon the wisdom and methods of the Buddhist tradition, as well as contemporary insights from psychology and neuroscience. He is an honorary fellow of the University of Aberdeen and teaches on their Postgraduate Study Programme in Mindfulness (MSc) that is the first of its kind to include compassion in its curriculum. He co-wrote a book with Paul Gilbert in 2013, entitled Mindful Compassion that explores the interface between Buddhist and Evolutionary approaches to compassion training. He is also the co-author of two other books: Mindfulness Based Living Course (2018) and From Mindfulness to Insight (2019). In 2016 he completed a one-year retreat focused on the foundation practices of Tibetan Buddhism.
Don’t miss this opportunity. Book early.
Dates: 2-4 July 2021
Now And Zen: Reboot, Recharge And Retreat In Ixopo
There is no better place to reboot and get in touch with nature than in the beautiful, tranquil spaces of the BRC. We have a selection of retreats for June and July to support you in your well-being.
All health protocols and Covid-19 regulations are in place - with social distancing, sanitizing and masks - for your safety and well-being.
|Image: Nhlakanipho Nkomo
There are still a few spaces left on the following June retreats:
Radical Acceptance - Exploring The First Fetter In The Buddha's Teaching: Personality Or Identity View
In this meditation retreat, we will explore some of the ways that we identify with various facets of our experience. We can take our body, our feelings, our perceptions, our thoughts to be who we are. The Buddha called this “I-making, mine-making”. So what happens when we drop this identification and let go of these constructions of our self? How do we relax into a radical acceptance of the sufficiency of pure presence? We will explore these questions in the light of the Buddha’s teaching on untying this first fetter that keeps us bound in a state of agitation. In this deeply uncertain time, through these teachings, we can find a refuge - an island in the midst of the storm.
Writing To Move On: An Experiential Writing Workshop For Those In Need Of New Ways Of Being, Seeing And Doing
This is not a writing course in the usual sense, but an experiment in using the insights and creative techniques of narrative-writing to bring into being a new and more fulfilling story for ourselves. For many of us, the Covid winds of 2020 have left us feeling shaken, stirred and vulnerable - exposing the dissatisfactions in our lives as never before. But with the doors of possibility standing wide open, there has never been a better time to detach from old discomfort zones, and set sail for the life that is waiting.
Iyengar Yoga: Deepening Your Practice
For those who wish to consolidate and deepen their yoga practice, this 5-day intensive retreat is highly recommended. Apart from increased levels of fitness and vitality, you will reap the benefits of being in the tranquil, natural environment of Ixopo. You will leave feeling stretched, relaxed and fit for life.
|Meditation hall set amongst the trees
|Image: Andrew Brown
Choden | Weekend | 2-4 July
Anisha Maharaj | 3 days | 5-8 July
Christopher Dalzell | Weekend | 9-11 July
Richard Ellis and Marc Kress | Weekend | 16-18 July
Georgie Carter | 3 days | 20-23 July
Graham Williams | Weekend | 23-25 July
Brett Vallis | Weekend | 30 July-1 August
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.
| From Plentiful: Holy Cannelloni
|Images: Angela Shaw
This butternut and goat’s cheese melt-in-the-mouth dish with its pops of colour makes a perfect winter meal. It may seem like a chore, but the longest time spent on this dish is when it is in the oven! Lungi Mbona confirms that retreatants love it. All it takes is filling the pasta tubes with a mixture of fried onions, cooked butternut, some goat’s cheese and a dollop of cream, blended together and cooled. Smother the cannelloni in a hearty tomato sauce and bake! (From ‘Plentiful’)
If you cannot visit us for one of our retreats, you can - with our recipe books - get the flavour of the place. We are able to courier the books to your door. Please email: . if you would like to order our recipe books: The Cake The Buddha Ate, Plentiful and Quiet Food.
|Lungi Mbona - cook extraordinaire
|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-one 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. The Woza Moya Crafters are local women who receive ongoing training and support to enable them to create these unique and charming best sellers.
Please continue to support the BRC 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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