The Buddhist Retreat Centre
Ixopo, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
For people of all religions
BRC Newsflash: September 2021
|Image: Angela Shaw
On Facing Ourselves
How do we embrace the ineffability of what it means to be human without being overly seduced by the “bells and whistles” of mystical thinking? How do we address the struggles that we face without mistaking “self-help” for “self-critique”; without striving to always be better and more competitive labour in a free market? How do we ensure our survival in ways that consider the whole of humanity? I believe that, if we can avoid a Buddhism that serves as “spiritual materialism” (a form of escape from the reality of our lives) then Buddhism provides us with a beautiful existential method for facing life’s inexorable struggles and making the most of moments when it reveals its splendour.
This is perhaps why, twenty years later, I am still met with excited hesitation as the lane of Irises greet me as I enter the BRC. Attending a retreat can mean meeting that which arises, entrusting that there is something of value in the Dharma, and relinquishing habitual comforts. It takes courage. On the last retreat we hosted I was inspired by some ideas from European philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas. I asked retreatants to face each other and look into the face of the other as they meditated. It was a very moving experience for all and it left me wondering what we mean when we say that we need to “face” things? What does it mean when we look into ourselves and what is the best method for doing so?
In The Art of Solitude, Stephen Batchelor writes: “Look long and hard enough at yourself in isolation and suddenly you will see the rest of humanity staring back.” The retreat left me wondering that, if life has a “face”, what does it mean to look into that “face”? And, what happens when life starts to look back at you? Perhaps it means to stand accountable for these rare and transitory lives that we live? Our brief blips on the radar of human history as we hurtle our way to the inevitable end of the Holocene.
|Image: Angela Shaw
Many who visit the sanctity of the BRC are “face to face” with unfathomable and, I am sure at times, unbearable aspects of what it means to be alive. There are things that are simply just too hard to “face” sometimes. The retreat setting can hold us as we find the courage to look towards our struggles, turning in and away from the world for a few days in order to find a response. Meditation is not just an effective way of “stress reduction”; it can be the means through which we gaze into the eyes of life - into what it means to be more conscious - meeting life in all its beauty, banality and bewilderment.
The global pandemic has forced us to pause and take a deep collective breath, asking: “What are the things that really matter?” In attempting to answer this question, I take inspiration from R.D.Laing and quote: “As adults, we have forgotten most of our childhood, not only its contents but its flavour; as men of the world, we hardly know of the existence of the inner world: we barely remember our dreams, and make little sense of them when we do; as for our bodies, we retain just sufficient proprioceptive sensations to co-ordinate our movements and to ensure the minimal requirements for biosocial survival - to register fatigue, signals for food, sex, defecation, sleep; beyond that, little or nothing. Our capacity to think, except in service of what we are dangerously deluded in supposing is our self-interest, and in conformity with common sense, is pitifully limited: our capacity even to see, hear, touch, taste and smell is so shrouded in veils of mystification that an intensive discipline of unlearning is necessary for anyone before one can begin to experience the world afresh, with innocence, truth and love.” (from The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise, R.D Laing, 1967)
Thank you to the BRC for providing a place where I can remember to move, eat and sleep with consideration; contemplate my dreams; unlearn habitual ways of being; embrace the very fact that I am alive and bring awareness to how I respond to these uncertain times.
As writer and environmentalist Wendell Berry puts it: “When we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey.” May we all have the courage and curiosity to continue to face the journey.
|Image: Chantelle Flores
We have rescheduled two retreats:
To all those who kindly rolled over their deposits when retreats were cancelled due to adjusted level 4 restrictions and the unrest - THANK YOU! We are indebted to you. The BRC is a non-profit organisation that relies solely on income from accommodation to pay our staff wages and to meet our monthly running expenses. Without income, the Centre faces a fragile future.
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 in September to support you.
All health protocols and Covid-19 regulations are in place - with social distancing, sanitizing and masks - for your safety and well-being.
|Image: Chantelle Flores
There are a few spaces left on the following retreat:
A Yin Yoga Retreat: Restorative Yoga
Richard Ellis and Marc Kress | Weekend | 3-5 September
In this retreat we will learn basic drumming techniques and explore rhythmic creativity which will be combined with meditation practice and contemplation. A Sound Journey meditation using exotic instruments will also be included. The objective of this retreat is to find a balance between the hands-on experience of drumming and its more profound spiritual effects on the human psyche.
“You Can’t Fill The Hole In Your Heart With Food”…And Other Things - Jan Chozen Bays - Mindful Eating: The Hidden Gifts Of Our Compulsions
Xenia Ayiotis | Weekend | 10-12 September
Food and eating can be a source of great joy, but it can also be a source of great suffering and struggle. This retreat is based on a combination of the principles of Mindful Eating And Intuitive Eating. The intention of this retreat is to examine our relationship with food and to start the process to create a healthy relationship with food. Using a non-judgemental and compassionate approach to re-learning internal physical and emotional cues to guide us when, what and how much we eat, also examining our rules around food. Deborah Don, a qualified Self-Esteem Coach and massage therapist, will be offering healing therapies by appointment over this weekend.
Lisa Firer | Weekend | 17-19 September
Join Lisa for a weekend of somatic movement. Learn gentle, nourishing, soothing movements for well-being and release chronic tensions that underlie pain and stress. The retreat will offer some theory of somatic movement in general and Clinical Somatics specifically. Exploring the communication between the brain, nervous system and muscular system, we will learn about pandiculation, nature's way of releasing tension. You will leave the retreat with some tools and practices to become your own body worker.
Dorian Haarhoff | 3 days | 23-26 September
Looking at your image in a clear stream,
In this retreat we explore the connection between writing and meditation. We write and meditate on the many changes and transformations we experience as we journey along the river of our lives. We consider how creativity steadies the boat and how writing helps us dip the oars into dark water so we may navigate the river safely.
Dorian Haarhoff | 2 days | 26-28 September
The journal is a vehicle for my sense of selfhood. it does not simply record my actual, daily life but rather - in many cases - offers an alternative to it - Susan Sontag
Journals inform and support all genres - as a think book, as a non-think one, a plan book or an open-hearted one. Instants of inspiration. A home for the imagination, the cauldron of creativity. Moments of synchronicity. As William Blake says kissing the moment as it flies. So, come and kiss the moment.
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
|Images: Angela Shaw
There Is Nothing Humble About Vegetables
Puff pastry does not inspire greatness. It does, however, provide you with a blank canvas, that, with a little imagination, can be converted into a vegetable tart of beauty and flavour. Cookie-cut the pastry into round discs and place a medley of grilled courgettes, red onions, baby tomatoes, red pepper and mushrooms onto each round, topped with crumbled feta and basil pesto. Bake until golden. If you can’t attend one of our retreats, you can in your own home - 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.
|Tantric tarts from Plentiful
|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.
Recently, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife granted the BRC “Private Nature Reserve” for the conservation of the rare Blue Swallow and Mistbelt Grassland.
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, Monthly Patron 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.
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