The Buddhist Retreat Centre
Ixopo, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
For people of all religions
BRC Newsflash: August/September 2020
|Image: Hugh Bland|
We are happy to announce that Antony and Margie Osler of Poplar Grove will be offering a virtual retreat from 8-10 August. Please join them on Zoom to celebrate the BRC’s fortieth birthday of grounding the Buddha Dharma in South Africa from where it has moved to other parts of Africa.
Antony Osler, my Dharma brother, joined me in Ixopo forty years ago, and helped me establish the Centre. He became our first resident teacher. I have been fortunate to witness the great depth of humanity in his life as a Zen teacher, a writer and poet and a human rights lawyer - a great friend, who is always with you in times of adversity and joy - a companion along life’s way. So it seems so opportune that he and Margie should be with us - albeit apart - celebrating this milestone.
His retreat will touch on how “Our world has changed and our practice is to change with it. We will still do nothing special together but now we will do it in our kitchens and bedrooms, in our robes, pyjamas, long-johns and slippers. This is still Zen as the practice of friendship, but now we can broaden our idea of what this means to us. We will explore the intimacy of being geographically remote, the intimacy of meeting on screen, the intimacy of just listening, and the intimacy of finding our seat on our own. We will look at how to sit upright in an upside down world.”
|Louis van Loon and Rob Nairn||Image: Chrisi van Loon|
We are thrilled that Rob Nairn will be joining our online programme in early September to lead 3 sessions entitled “From Mindfulness To Insight”.
I first met Rob at the University of Cape Town 45 years ago when I was giving lectures on Buddhist philosophy and Rob was a professor of criminology. In our exploration of the Buddha Dharma, Rob was attracted to the more flamboyant nature of Tibetan Buddhism, while I was drawn to the earlier form of Theravada. Our friendship deepened and endured as we each explored the different traditions of Buddhism. I have always admired Rob’s penetrating intellect and mind-set, his incisive grasp of the teachings and his ground-breaking exploration of Mindfulness.
“What is meditation? It is you and me, it is us! Our inner journey, our business, our effort. Nobody can do it for us. Meditation is a method of gaining access to our inner wisdom and compassion - and resolving our inner problems in the process” - Rob Nairn Diamond Mind
Those who have been so patient in accepting rollovers in lieu of deposits for cancelled retreats in circumstances beyond our control - our Sangha Friends - who care about preserving the BRC as a sanctuary for posterity, thank you for your consideration. We have been humbled by your generosity and kindness all round. For the forty years in its operation, the BRC has always honoured its cancellation and refund policy, so rest reassured we will honour your deposits as revenue starts to trickle in. With your patience, we are able to keep the lights on and to pay our resident staff who are doing their best to maintain the 300 acre property for you to return to in new horizons. To put it plainly, if everyone claims their refunds now, the BRC will find itself in financial straits - beyond a point of no return. Please bear with us if you care about the future of the BRC until we are back on our Dharma feet, financially.
The BRC offers open spaces, trails and walks; the chance to sit at Nalanda Rocks overlooking the valley feeling the breeze on your face; to reflect and refocus at the dam or at the Stupa, to sit quietly in the Zendo; to take a step out of lockdown into fresh air and healing, tranquil surroundings after months of enforced isolation.
There is a song on the wind we can’t quite catch. To hear it, we have to stop. We have to set ourselves aside. And Listen. - Antony Osler
|You and the sky are one||Image: Lambro Koutsoyianis|
In conclusion, I thought I would share this beautiful poem on Mindfulness composed by a friend from Sikkim:
Sitting Instructions To A Friend On Mindfulness
Sit silently on a cushion
The hum of the refrigerator
Straighten your spine,
Memories and anxieties
Feel the sensation of breath
Let the expansive sky
You and the sky are one,
Everything you see,
With dignity but without judgment
Wishing you peace and harmony,
|Peace and tranquility||Image: Chantelle Flores|
Peace And Tranquility In Times Of Turmoil
Life is “… a lot like walking into the ocean, and a big wave comes and knocks you over. And you find yourself lying on the bottom with sand in your nose and in your mouth. And you are lying there, and you have a choice. You can either lie there, or you can stand up and keep walking out to sea. So the waves keep coming … and you keep cultivating your courage and bravery and sense of humour to relate to this situation of the waves, and you keep getting up and going forward”. (Chödrön, P. 2016)
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted this existential suffering in the form of:
All of us have had to dig deep. Some sink, some struggle to survive, others accept and manage to stay afloat, and yet others learn to swim and grow during the pandemic.
Shifting our worries and concerns to obstacle-overcoming steps is the challenge. A free, confidential online assessment is available. As author and spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle reminds us, “You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level”.
As you journey during this time you may discover a lot about yourself, others, and the world we inhabit:
As we become present to this moment, gain perspective, and learn to allow in curiosity, courage, creativity, compassion (for self and others), our lives will surely be enhanced.
May you be safe
Forthcoming Retreats: August/September 2020
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. Choose practices such as yoga, qigong and meditation to live with more meaning, purpose and joy. 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.
|Nature is flourishing in Ixopo||Image: Angela Shaw|
Conducted Retreats in Ixopo: August/September 2020
Elizabeth Gaywood | Weekend | 14-16 August
The weekend will be adjusted to suit everyone; if you want to go hiking - that is an option - if you want to be silent, catch up with your reading and breathe in the restorative air - that’s OK too. Meditation sessions will be available (either guided or silent). We are sure many of you need a break and this is an ideal opportunity to be kind to yourself, for friends to reconnect and enjoy the peace and healing energy that the BRC offers…. It will be lovely to see you (in person).
Dawn Garisch | 5 days | 21-26 August
Here I am once again, disguised as myself - from About Death and Other Things - Alexander Ristovic
Life writing is not only about developing technical skills. It is also a way to reflect and grow awareness. The tools we need to write about what we know best are tools we need to live more creatively, less anxiously. Whether you are writing fiction or poetry, life writing skills can help to deepen observation. We each have life motifs or themes that are more or less unconscious. Yet an evolving pattern binds our journey from birth to death into a whole coherent piece. Getting to know more about the story we are living helps us to ride our stories, rather than our stories riding us.
Dawn Garisch | Weekend | 28-30 August
and traces of feeling to make new tracks.
This course will help you to connect with themes and images that need expression and exploration. Learning to condense or distil your inquiry can help with insight and clarity. Working with rhythm and rhyme, off-and-half-rhymes, and with antonyms and synonyms, can break open meaning in new and unexpected ways. Please bring a thesaurus and a rhyming dictionary if you have one. I will bring mine to share.
Margot McMaster | Weekend | 4-6 September
Using yin yoga, kundalini yoga, trauma release and vinyasa flow, we will slowly unlock, unblock, re-energise and re-connect to each one of these energy centres in our body. The retreat will begin with a Chakra CheckTM so you can discover where you are currently blocked, locked or limited and you will learn techniques to help you shift back to strength, vitality and serenity.
Richard Ellis and Marc Kress | Weekend | 11-13 September
Brett Vallis | Weekend | 18-20 September
Dorian Haarhoff | Weekend | 25-27 September
Who is the 'who' that Rumi alludes to? There is something deeply fictional about us human beings. We are the stories we tell about ourselves. Rediscover the lost art of story-telling. Experience the joy, presence, mindfulness and transformation that arrive when we engage with a tale, learn how to craft it and inhabit it.
Dorian Haarhoff | 2 days | 27-29 September
Do you love reading poetry? Do you yearn to write poems? Poetry is a way of paying attention, listening, being in the moment and observing the world. We enter the world of images, rhythm, sound and subtle rhyme. We open to our creativity and imagination. As we cultivate a sense of belonging, our words offer us relationship, presence and healing.
Enjoy some serene “alone” time on a Self-Retreat in the beautiful, indigenous setting of the BRC with chi kung, meditation, communing with nature, enjoying the vistas of the velvet Ixopo hills, and relishing the delicious vegetarian food for which the BRC is justly renowned.
|On the path to the kuti||Image: Lennart Eriksson|
Online Programme: August/September/October 2020
8;9;10 August | Antony and Margie Osler | Donation
‘To celebrate the BRC’s 40th birthday, we will do nothing special and we will do it together.’
This was the beginning of the pre-lockdown write-up for the BRC August 2020 Stoep Zen retreat.
Since then our world has changed and our practice is to change with it. We will still do nothing special together but now we will do so in our kitchens, lounges, and bedrooms, in our robes, pyjamas, long-johns and slippers.
This is still Zen as the practice of friendship, but now we can broaden our idea of what this means to us. So, we will explore the intimacy of being geographically remote, the intimacy of meeting on screen, the intimacy of just listening, and the intimacy of turning off our screens and finding our seat. We will look at how to sit upright in an upside-down world.
8 August | Lucy Draper-Clarke and Felicity Hart | R450
“When you are busy judging people, you have no time to love them.” Marshall Rosenberg
We will practice both intra-personal and inter-personal mindfulness in order to cultivate skills of empathy, compassion and a better understanding of self and other.
Transition Online: Would You Like To Transition Beyond Current Challenges Into A Better Place Than You Were Before?
15;22;29 August | Monique Beekman | Donation
“If you bring forth, that which is within you, what you bring forth, will save you....If you do not bring forth that which is within you....What you do not bring forth, will destroy you”
Are you feeling lost, blocked or stuck? We are thrilled to bring you Transition Online to resolve these and related issues,
For many people, this period has been a roller coaster of emotions and for some this has included unexpected changes in circumstance. Perhaps you sometimes feel that you are coping well, but at other times not so much. You may be feeling a bit shell-shocked, lost or in need of finding a new meaning in life? Maybe it's just an urge to re-centre and align with your core, or a need for a different perspective, or even a desire for an entirely new direction?
To have what you want but do not yet have, you have to go where you haven’t yet been. There is no other way!
Monique will guide you beyond what is and has been, to a place of divine peace, joy and direction as you reconnect with your own all powerful inner compass. Transition Online is designed to support you through the effects of the emotional and mental challenges you have experienced during the past few months in a way that resolves even age-old trauma and transforms your present and future. By liberating the current of your inner being and thus allowing it a clear path to lead and guide you into your present and future, you will find a new openness and ease to follow the powerful calling of your all-knowing guide within.
Within this intimate group: We will find ourselves moving through inner obstacles together, by using an approach that resolves their origins. We heal and integrate parts of ourselves that have been isolated in pain for far too long and heal our recently troubled selves. We experience a new peace as they reunite in wholeness.
From this foundation of oneness, everything flows into place as we move beyond where we were, through where we are going, into where we have always wanted to be. This is a time of immense potential power and global momentum for those who know how to use it. As a group, we tap into this unprecedented surge of energy to transcend together into a life of greater abundance on all levels.
Transition Online is a process designed for an intimate group of 10, who get together for Part 1: that is 3 consecutive Saturday mornings for 90-120 minutes. Thereafter, the group can choose to continue privately with Monique for Part 2 & 3, also 3 sessions each, and on a donation basis to Monique.
16 August | Xenia Ayiotes | Donation
24; 31 August; 7;14;21,29 September | Corinna Botoulas | Donation
We are part of the greater cycles of nature, bound to the ever-changing seasons of life. As within, so without, as above, so below.
Beginners are most welcome, and encouraged.
4;5;6 September | Rob Nairn | Donation
Mindfulness is the fundamental component of all forms of mind-training, and can be mastered by anyone who is prepared to put in a little effort. The main aspect is learning to bring the mind knowingly into the moment, allowing thoughts to appear and pass without interference, and becoming the impartial witness of the tendency to engage, without compulsively following through on it.
We learn to be present, respond with compassion and see deeply into our thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Because the training is quite demanding, beginners find it helpful to have guided sessions until they establish enough confidence to continue by themselves.
17 September | Lisa Firer and Craig Henen | Donation
During this online retreat we will introduce you to Mindfulness: the development of moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness. We will taste different practices together and explore ways to bring this powerful way of being into our daily lives.
Mindfulness practice enables us to relate with more centeredness to whatever is unfolding and makes it possible to work creatively with the stresses and demands of daily living, especially at this time we find ourselves in. This retreat will be based on the work of Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programme.
Cry The Beloved Crunchies
The famous, mouth-watering crunchies have become a staple treat at weekend tea-times, so much so that when we don’t offer them, there is some ‘crying’. These feature in our newly printed “The Cake”. For those who would like to buy the “The Cake The Buddha Ate” or “Plentiful” and “Quiet Food” we are able to courier the books to your door. Please call the office on 0878901687 or email: .
|Cake and crunchies||Images: Angela Shaw|
Psychoneuroimmunology With Dr Ian Weinberg - In Your Home
Ian Weinberg, a neurosurgeon and pioneer in PNI, has led his renowned retreat “A neurosurgeon probes wellness and performance: Psychoneuroimmunology: PNI” for 12 years, twice a year, at the BRC. His retreats are hugely popular and always fully subscribed to.
In these uncomfortable times in which we are challenged at every level of our being - physical, psychological and emotional - Ian’s expertise and insights will provide one with practical tools to explore optimal, integrated wellness, and to understand how our thoughts inform our immune system - and how by reframing the way we react to the world around us, we can completely alter our health and quality of life.
Ian is offering to assist the BRC to raise funds to ensure its continuity. He has uploaded his full, comprehensive, PNI weekend retreat onto his website in 5 edited modules: See www.neuronostic.com under COURSES – ONLINE MENTORING COURSES. The programme includes slides in PDF format, an online diagnostic and workbook.
If you would like to support this fund-raising venture, please consider purchasing his online programme through the BRC at a significantly discounted price (R1,500) relative to the online listed price (R5,500). Proceeds will go to the BRC.
|Blooms in the mist||Image: Peter Kloppers|
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 tranquility. 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 in a variety of ways by contributing Dana, sponsoring their Directors, trainers and visitors' accommodation, and showcasing and promoting their wonderful crafts in the shop such as the sock monkeys, cushions, bags, scarves, beanies and stationery. 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' Dana (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 and to help support the 50 children who attend the Woza Moya play school.
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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