The Buddhist Retreat Centre
Ixopo, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
For people of all religions
BRC Newsflash: September/October 2020
In the labyrith
|Image: Angela Buckland|
We have been so touched and inspired by all your messages of appreciation and support since we opened our doors in Ixopo. We are grateful to all those teachers who have stepped in at short notice to fill the void left by those who could not travel to host their retreats. Visiting retreatants have been particularly inspired by the light, but invigorating, touch of retreats offered so far with a gentle mix of yoga, qigong, meditation - and sacred drumming - with a sound journey meditation. After months of ‘incarceration’ people just want to relax and recover which is exactly what the BRC is offering: space, fresh air, a nurturing environment and good food! Midweek, Colin Kemery is offering two qigong sessions a day, and June Atkinson is offering meditation at noon. We are pleased to announce that Marc Kress will be offering gentle yoga and meditation, daily, from Monday to Friday, from 5 to 20 October. A yoga teacher and percussionist living in Durban, he was attracted to the yoga path while travelling through India in 2003. He has practised and studied in India and South Africa with various teachers in different styles of yoga, including Hatha, Vinyāsa, Astanga, Iyengar and Sivananda. We are so fortunate to have him on board then.
|A deer in the garden||Image: Andrew Brown|
The new BRC programme from 1 January to 18 July 2021 has been published on our website. Do take a look. It is an interesting range of retreats with something for everyone, from bird-watching and creative writing to yoga and introspective meditation retreats.
The Blue Swallows are already back navigating the Stupa hills, preparing their nest in one of the ant-bear burrows. With the recent soft Spring rains, the gardens have greened up against a background of colour - azalea bushes flowering in pink and orange and the Erythrinas ablaze in red. Deer have been spotted lingering in the gardens and the Chorister Robin is in full song. It is a time for new beginnings……
Recently, we received a letter from Jason Ross, friend and teacher, which moved me to tears. I would like to share it with you……
Wishing you peace,
|Forest tulips||Image: Jason Ross|
A Forest Needs No Rake
Lately I have been thinking of meditation as “mise en place” - French for “preparing a place”. Apparently, in French cuisine, the chef will make sure that she has everything in place before she cooks. Perhaps meditation is a form of finding things in their original place through a more direct experience of things as they are? Or it is a means of preparing the mind for the profundity of what it means to be alive in our times? At the very least, it helps the meditator to have things “in place” in order to find the relative quiet and solitude needed to develop one’s practice.
While on a self-retreat in Ixopo recently when Fiona and I were raking in the rain, a phrase kept on passing through my mind, “a forest needs no rake”. Our brief chat with Chrisi earlier in the day was still with me. Fiona and I were marvelling at how busy she was around the property, keeping it alive, keeping everything in its place. Fiona said, “If you think about how consumed I get by keeping our small property going, can you just imagine how consumed Chrisi must get”. “Yes”, I replied, “she even apologised for the condition of the forest”. To which Fiona replied at the time - “The forest will do what forests do.”
We had spent the morning walking and meditating in the forest. A comment Rob Nairn had made during one of his online sessions about “effortless awareness” revisited me. It struck me how I am so busy looking that I don’t really see what is right there in front of me. I found myself obsessing about the structure of my upcoming retreat at the BRC in November - realising how we are so busy planning our next destination that we hardly take time to appreciate the step we are taking right here and now. Even, as a therapist, I sometimes find myself listening so hard that I don’t really hear what is being said. I stop and look around me, realising the forest is there to greet me.
I was struck by the texture of everything. New life celebrating the BRC’s survival of a global pandemic, paying homage to all the effort Louis must have put into the land so many years ago, reminding us not only of inevitable death, but of the inevitable, effortless, life in things. A forest doing what forests do. Nature always wins in the end, I thought. I took some photos to try and fully appreciate such seemingly effortless beauty.
As we raked, I thought of how raking “clears a path”. I thought of the weekly effort that the BRC team must put into clearing paths for guests to arrive. I thought of how Louis has cleared a path for us and how we owe it to him to keep that path well-trodden: To always go down to the forest and find out what it has to show us.
It is a wonderful privilege to arrive here, everything in its place, worrying about nothing, but remembering to breathe. I can only imagine how much worrying actually goes on in trying to provide this for us. So here I sit, in the luxury of what Louis and the team have provided, finding myself wishing that they too get to have moments when there is simply nothing to be done.
|Fern forest||Image: Jason Ross|
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.
We are thrilled that Ken Holmes will be joining us on Zoom from La Ciotat in Provence, France, in September and October for 2 sessions on Karma: What is it and what can we do about it?
A friend, poet and musician, he has been teaching in Ixopo and in Africa for many years. He is an internationally-respected dharma teacher and translator of ancient Tibetan texts. Former Director of Studies of the Samye Ling group of centres, he shares his fifty years of experience studying under many of the most famous Tibetan masters of the 20th century. The way he presents the teachings is deeply-informed yet very accessible and often with a light and humorous touch. We hope that you will join him online.
|Misty path||Image: Angela Buckland|
Forthcoming Retreats: September/October 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.
|Forest path||Image: Steve McCurrach|
Conducted Retreats in Ixopo: September/October 2020
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.
Kugan Naidoo | Weekend | 2-4 October
Marc Kress | 5-20 October | Mid-Week - Monday to Friday
Richard-John Chippindall | Weekend | 9-11 October
Roger O’Neil | Weekend | 16-18 October
Di Franklin | Weekend | 23-25 October
Deepening Your Emotional Intelligence Through Mindfulness: Gaining insights into your emotional intelligence for resonant relationships
Shanil Haricharan | Weekend | 30 October- 1 November
Cultivating Mindful Leadership For The 21st Century Through Deepening Your Emotional Intelligence: Leading with compassion, hope and mindfulness in the 21st century
Shanil Haricharan | 2 days | 1-3 November 2020
This retreat recognizes the challenges in leading effectively in the 21st century VUCA world: volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. The goal of this interactive retreat is to support retreatants’ personal development journey through gaining insights into their emotional intelligence and cultivating leadership competence that positively impact their relationships, organisations, and society. The retreat focuses on two components: firstly, personal and interpersonal change that equips managers/leaders with the skills, practices and concepts needed to be authentic, adaptive and transformational leaders; secondly, explores organisational change and renewal. The retreat introduces participants to a range of theories, conceptual frameworks, case studies, practices, and tools in emotional intelligence, mindfulness, coaching, social neuroscience and leadership models and styles to understand their leadership behaviours and gain insights into their organisation’s culture and climate. The interactive practices are designed to support managers/leaders’ ongoing development in improving self-awareness, communication and listening skills, enabling them to understand - through direct personal experience - the impact of leadership and management behaviours on organisational culture and climate. For more information and the course fee, please contact Shanil Haricharan: or 0823773459.
|BRC in bloom||Image: Nhlakanipho Nkomo|
Online Programme: September/October 2020
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.
26 September | Ken Holmes | Donation
This first talk explores the Buddhist understanding of why life happens to each person in the way it does and how the way we deal with our karma is all-important, for both the present moment and the long-term future. Ken will concentrate on the overview and a deeper understanding of being embodied in this world rather than lists and details of karma that can be found in books.
3 October | Ken Holmes | Donation
The karma we inherit from our past forms the raw material of each moment, from which we can make either treasures or disasters. Words such as ‘acceptance’, ‘purification’ and ‘transformation’ are readily said but often misunderstood or poorly understood. It is joyful to be able to live well-equipped to face whatever karma life brings. Dharma gives us the tools.
Transition Online: Would You Like To Transition Beyond Current Challenges Into A Better Place Than You Were Before?
4;11;18 October | 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? 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?
Transition Online is designed to support you in a way that resolves even age-old trauma and transforms not only your present, but your future. 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!
With this in mind, Monique is offering Part 1 of her 3 Part Transition Online Programme.
24 October | Despina Forbes | Donation
Yin yoga and meditation can be experienced as a practice of cultivating well-being. Combining the practices of Yin yoga and mindfulness meditation creates powerful possibilities for insight, transformation and healing on all layers of being - body, mind, and heart. Yin yoga combines aspects of Hatha yoga, the concept of the modern meridian theory in Chinese medicine, Taoism and mindfulness meditation practice. It is designed to improve the flow of chi/prana (the vital energy of the body) through the energetic channels (or meridians) to improve overall emotional well-being, joint mobility, immunity and organ health. Yin yoga supports a quiet, slow, nourishing and grounded practice. When we cultivate the skill of awareness during meditation with an attitude of kind curiosity and notice the experience for what it is, we can pause, acknowledge and respond in an appropriate way. Cultivating the skill of awareness opens us to possibility, conscious choice and space to create paths for growth, insight and joy.
|Rain iris||Image: Al Nicoll|
Mist In The Wattles
Those of you who have experienced the thick mist in the hills of Ixopo know how cold it can get at the same time. I think this may have prompted our chef at the time to conjure up Mist In The Wattles - a delicious spinach, potato and sweetcorn soup, often served on cold nights. Its earthy potato taste with spinach comfort always feels nourishing, and welcoming, especially for those who have driven through the misty timber plantations that line the last stretch of road leading to the Centre. The combination of white and green pays homage to the tranquil Ixopo environment. “What about the sweetcorn?” you ask. It is a promise that the sun will come out again! If you would like to buy the The Cake The Buddha Ate , Plentiful and Quiet Food we are able to courier the books to your door Please email: .
|The Cake The Buddha Ate||Images: Angela Shaw|
The Art Of Expansion
Last week my husband Vis and I had the opportunity to spend the weekend at the Buddhist Retreat Centre in Ixopo.
The location is beyond spectacular. The Centre is located atop the rolling hills of Ixopo. These rolling hills were made famous by Alan Paton in his book Cry The Beloved Country.
I had no idea when I read that book all those years ago that the rolling hills of Ixopo would become a place of reconnection and expansion for me.
The beautiful story about how the founder of BRC, Louis Van Loon, acquired the property in 1970 and the development of the Centre is a remarkable one which I will leave for another time.
When I stood on the hills near the stupa, (a Buddhist commemorative monument) I felt unstoppable.
Just three days at the BRC helped me reconnect to my mission and higher calling. With all that has been happening around the world, I got pulled into the swirl of the discourse and felt a bit scattered and ungrounded.
I left the BRC with a sense of peace that I'm unable to describe in words. Practising noble silence, eating beautifully prepared meals, meditating, walking in nature, connecting with other beautiful souls, walking in the labyrinth, doing yoga and qigong (a Chinese system of physical exercises and breathing control related to tai chi), reading, journaling, laughing, listening to the birds sing, watching the monkeys play and just listening to the silence was exactly what my soul needed for my next level of expansion.
|Meditation hall||Image: Mona Naidoo|
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.
|Stupa on the hill||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 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.
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