The Buddhist Retreat Centre
Ixopo, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
For people of all religions
BRC Newsflash: February 2021
Buddha in the mist
|Image: Kazalette Kiepiel|
Tributes From Friends
It is said to be magical
But that description ignores the human and very real work and effort that went into, and continues to make the BRC what it is.
It was a person - not a sprite or a djinn - who had an idea, a vision and a plan to create a refuge for those in pain, lost, or those knowing the necessity to maintain contact with the spiritual self.
A plot of beautiful land on the edge of a green Ixopo hill giving onto a valley of more hills; trees, shrubs, foliage and flowers which in their green-ness, their extravagant abundance, create a protective armour that gives one the indisputable knowledge that one is supported, protected, nurtured whoever and whatever we may be.
That person with vision constructed spaces, round or symmetrical, all harmonious with rich wooden parquet, as in the meditation hall, balanced with 3x3 4x4 dimensions as in the dining hall, opening over and onto nature as in the chalets hanging over the void of the valley.
That person also conceived of and put into practice a way of being in the world, in that microcosm of a world, that was safe, nurturing, supportive, without caveats. The Buddhist philosophy, yes, reaching far back in time, and yet so right for our times. Eternal, universal.
The beauty of Nature has been harnessed, contracted with, so as to be brought into our, the retreat-ants daily and every need. Nature’s beauty and bounty, in its minutest manifestations have made the experience of being there even more spiritual, more profound. Epicurean. Flowers from the garden, simple, modest, beautiful because of that simplicity, are on the tables in the dining hall, in the studio, in the meditation hall, in rooms, in bird baths and even in the most lowly of places, the restrooms. The warm light of candles, with all its symbolism, along with the flowers and the soft, perfumed soaps and lotions in their elegant containers, transport one into the spiritual realm that is beauty: natural, mystical or created by persons.
And the meals! Food, so basic a need but also such a sensuous pleasure, is from the Centre’s vast vegetable garden, prepared with imagination and care, presented in simple Zen inspired bowls; the soup and the porridge from the huge metal pots of farm kitchens - such an inspired decision - beauty lies also in the most utilitarian of vessels. The pot along with the somewhat ungainly dining room chairs, makes each and everyone, whatever their home backgrounds, feel “at home” and the authenticity of the Centre is confirmed.
With all this, the people who work and live at the Centre, quietly welcoming, respectful to each other, to the surroundings and to us guests, reinforce the sense that we are each a member of a large family, supported and nurtured.
Thank you Louis, Chrisi, Lien, Mdu, Ngakheni, Pauline, Colin, Chris and Lungi
|In the verdant hills||Image: Marc Kornberger|
Where do I begin?
I have been receiving newsletters from the BRC for over a year and have been wanting to go but it’s “never been the right time” ; always “something going on.” Until I received an email about Shibuie: When Beauty Happens Accidentally : Seeing with deep seeing eyes. - Sumie and Raku: Japanese brush painting and pottery retreat. That was it for me, I was in; this retreat was made for me and it called me. I was literally looking for this. I have a deep love for everything Japanese, and now I got to learn the basics from Ingrid Adams, a very patient, encouraging and passionate teacher.
When she was demonstrating she made it look so easy. Granted, I wasn’t great at painting flowers and I wasn’t too bad at bamboo. It was a great learning experience about myself as I’m a perfectionist, but strangely enough an abstract artist. It was great to reflect on this.
Meditation with Jason made me realise that I can reflect on all these aspects of myself with love, kindness and compassion towards myself. He and his wife Fiona offered a lot of insight into my curiosity about meditation, Buddhism and spirituality which really enriched the experience for me.
I was introduced to qigong by Colin in the morning which was calming and centering.
Then came the Raku - something I’ve never done and had no idea what to expect or what it even was; I did zero research on it before I came. It was a most joyful, thrilling experience! I have every piece - created, decorated and scorched - proudly on display in my home on my shelf of gratitude among things that make me smile. One hundred percent of this experience and the joy came from Nina and Jesse’s team work.
The meals were honestly the most tasty, healthy, enriching food I’ve ever had. I’m regretting not buying the recipes books. Thank you to Lien and the lovely, friendly kitchen staff and chefs who always have a smile on their faces and run a tight, organised ship.
My first guided walk with Chris was awesome! He is so enthusiastic.
Pauline thank you for being kind and helpful. Chrisi, thank you so much for making me feel seen.
Oscar, always positive and helpful brings such a great energy to the centre. He is so friendly and really makes people feel comfortable, and of course, Lucky, his beautiful dog, is the most well behaved dog I’ve ever come across and she really brings character to the Centre. I loved having her in meditation sessions. ️
The gardens, location, trees, flowers, labyrinth, zen garden, hiking trails, the dam, the stupa, the amazing Buddha statue, just everything! The BRC is the most peaceful and beautiful place, it truly is, and it transported me into a world of tranquillity with silence in the evening to the morning.
I cannot wait to return.
|Sumie and Raku workshop||Image: Chris Herselman|
Reflections on Tsunma Tsondru's New Year Retreat
Gratitude, Contentment And Aviolence
These are the three (wo)mendicines Tsunma Tsondru added to our medicine belt for a Happy New Year. (In Tibetan, ‘men’ means medicine.) Gratitude, we learnt, is the unbounded, vast openness of heart. We are always enveloped in, but sometimes it hits us as a sudden effluence, and our attempts at finding its cause often narrow its scope because it is independent of any external reason. To remain unshaken no matter how the world is tilted is contentment, another door we can enter to stay in the present moment where the truth resides. These two (wo)mendicines are grounding and subversive, going against our industrial growth society’s impetus to only value endless growth (wealth, fame, reputation, praise etc), often obtained through aggressive and violent conduct. That is why it is important to cultivate aviolence - the complete absence of violence instead of ‘non-violence’, a term which entails the pre-existence of violence. Aviolence disarms the words we utter to ourselves, to those nearest and dearest to us and to every being and in everything we do in our skillful actions in the world.
Together with a consistent meditation practice, these (wo)mendicines are our subtle activism and help us to be at peace with ourselves. They provide a spiritual basis from which we can have hope even in the darkest times, aware that all situations are impermanent and therefore changeable. They allow us to push with a stubborn optimism through any barriers to our blessed unrest to limit or repair destruction or to prevent the destruction by changing the systematic structures that cause it in the world, but all this without attachment to the outcome.
We all have “one wild and precious life,” and in being only what we are, Tsondru reminded us, we give to the world only what we can give. The task is daunting, but each one of us has 14 billion years of authority to support our efforts (we were all in that Singularity). Everything we do has effects. But we start with what we have, and where we are, and then we offer the merit of all that we do as a benefit to all beings in the world who too long to lead a happy life free from suffering.
|Tsondru leading the loving kindness meditation at the Buddha Boma||Image: Chris Herselman|
We are delighted to share news about the Master Leaders Program founded by Anita Craig, a friend of the BRC Ixopo. The Master Leaders Program originated in South Africa at a time like no other when the planet and humanity as a whole needs this kind of education and offering, for a sustainable future.
Dr Ian Weinberg, who offers PNI retreat at the BRC and Lisa Firer, another of our long-standing teachers, are both teaching as wisdom teachers and faculty members on the inaugural Master Leader Program launching early this year.
The Master Leader Program is a nine-month open-edu online immersion program for a new breed of leader, entrepreneur, manager, employee, professional and life-long learner committed to shifting consciousness and becoming powerful influencers and enablers of positive, ethical change within their organisations, communities and the world at large.
For more information, and to register, please visit: https://masterleader.online or call +27 (87) 057 6834. Enrolments are now open.
|Dappled light over the labyrinth||Image: Chantelle Flores|
The rare blue swallow has been busy since first being spotted in early October - with two nests built, and two broods fledged and flown. Don’t miss the retreat from 15-17 January with Chris Dalzell and Steve Davis in Getting to know the birds and trees at the BRC: 160 birds of a feather and the opportunity to observe the magnificent blue swallows in their natural habitat.
Yes, we are open in Ixopo: Change The Tempo Of Your Life
There is no better place to reboot and rejuvenate and to get in touch with nature than in the beautiful, tranquil 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.
| A birder's paradise
||Images: Andrew Brown & Steve McKean|
There are still a few spaces left on the following retreats in January:
Mid-Week Yoga And Meditation
Marc Kress | Mid-Week | 11-22 January
Experience some serene “alone” time on a Self-Retreat in the beautiful, indigenous setting of the BRC with Marc who will lead daily sessions of hatha yoga and meditation.
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.
Jonathan Preboy and Anna Scharfenberg | Weekend | 22-24 January
Jonathan Preboy and Anna Scharfenberg | 4 days | 24-28 January
Vipassana Meditation Retreat In The Swartland, Cape Town
Jonathan Preboy and Anna Scharfenberg | 29 January-7 February
After teaching at the BRC, Anna and Jonathan, with the help of Paul Edmunds, will offer a 9-day retreat in the Swartland (1 hour outside Cape Town) at the beautiful Fynbos Estates. In addition to the longer retreat there will be two weekend retreats.
Long retreat. 29th January to 7th February. https://fb.me/e/1IjvfD5D5
For more information and booking contact Paul Edmunds email@example.com | 076 305 9836
Margot McMaster | Weekend | 29-31 January
Online Programme: January 2021
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.
|View to the centre||Image: Tsunma Tsondru|
Lucy Draper-Clarke and Felicity Hart | Weekend | 5-7 February
When you are busy judging people, you have no time to love them - Marshall Rosenberg
When interacting with others, we often find ourselves triggered and then communicate in ways that hurt or harm - ourselves, the other, or the relationship between us. Our conditioned ideas of what it means to communicate, especially during times of conflict, frequently results in a loss of connection. Judgement and defence, as well as the strategies of criticism, insults, blame or put-downs are commonly used in our attempt to be heard or to meet our need to be “right”, “good” or “winning”. Despite our best efforts and intentions, we habitually become “violent” with our words and then feel the pain of disconnection.
Paul Dorrian | 3 days | 12-15 February
Pa Tuan Chin (Eight Pieces of Brocade) Qigong was developed in the twelfth century by Marshal Yueh Fei, the great Chinese military strategist. It is a set of eight individual exercises designed to strengthen the body especially one’s legs, back, shoulders and neck. It also assists in balancing the vital functions of the body, toning the internal organs, developing a strong immune system and ridding the body of stagnant energy. In this retreat, Paul will teach Pa Tuan Chin in its original sequence, in order to assist each participant attain stillness and tranquillity in motion.
Margarita Celeste and Michelle Strybis | Weekend | 19-21 February
In this empowering weekend for women, gentle Yin-style yoga will be offered as an invitation to expand, open and release tightly-held emotions and stress, focusing on the hips and heart. Evening "Moon" themed meditations will help participants to get in touch with this powerful Lunar Body to connect with your inner Feminine. Included will be talks on the Astrological Moon which will help women to navigate their emotional styles, and that of others. Body and Mind will be nourished over a weekend that promises to be nurturing for women - mothers and daughters, sisters and best friends - in a moment by moment openness to each other.
Heike Sym | Weekend | 26-28 February
We all have inner guidance and knowledge, but we don't always know how to access it and use it. We are constantly trying to keep up with the ever-increasing pace and demands of our lives which leaves us with high stress levels and exhausted. On this retreat we will fortify our spirit, embrace our personal power, and allow our light to shine brightly again, the way the universe intended. Through talks, meditation, group work, transformational exercises, relaxation and conversation, we will journey back to our centre - to our most natural and balanced state of being.
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.
|Summer strawberries||Image: Wanda Hennig|
With summer in full swing in Ixopo, a dessert like the lemon and ginger cheesecake - a light and breezy fridge-cake with a refreshing zing of lemon and ginger - is appreciated by all. Summer Layers of sliced mango topped with yoghurt, cinnamon and vanilla is also summer stunner. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Lemony ray||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.
Recently, we installed 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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