Sunday, April 13, 2008

Retreats of all shapes and sizes on offer in 2008

Following Friday’s post on the FWBO International Retreat, FWBO News is pleased to present a short roundup of some of the more unusual retreats on offer this year around the FWBO and TBMSG. If you want to highlight others, send us a comment on this post…!

First to catch our eye was Dhanakosa’s ‘Clowning and Insight’ retreat, led by Tejananda (chairman of Vajraloka meditation centre) and Jayacitta, founder of Red Noses Unlimited. The connection between clowning and insight, once explained, is surprisingly obvious. As the Red Noses website puts it:

“A Clown is a being that steps into the world afresh. He or she is open to new experiences, meeting things, people, events with wonder, curiosity and a sense of pleasure. Quite different from our pragmatic and often routine way of being, a clown is forever discovering the new. She enjoys being just herself however she is - so being shy, awkward, grumpy, afraid, bossy, falling in love or falling over - all those have a place and can be experienced, seen and celebrated…”

Dhanakosa, in Scotland, have in many ways led the way in developing ‘Buddhism and…’ themes – this year they are offering Photography & Meditation, Hillwalking & Meditation, and Dance and Meditation, plus the more predictable yoga and shiatsu...

Buddhafield, in the South-West of England, focus more on Buddhism and the natural world: their retreats include Tree-Planting, the much-loved and very child-friendly “Germinal Eco-Arts Dharma School” on their land in Devon, and a green retreat where retreatants will “cook with fire, harvest food from the land and eat and drink only local produce”. A taste of things to come? They have also developed retreats on the 'Work that Reconnects', using practices and exercises from the American Buddhist teacher Joanna Macy. A close connection is developing between Buddhafield and Guhyapati’s new Eco-Dharma mountain retreat centre in Spain, where, they say, towards the end of the year, “Immersed in the teachings of wild nature, we will explore interconnectedness…”

Rivendell, the Croydon Buddhist centre’s well-loved retreat centre, runs a wide range of arts and creativity retreats, including the ‘Magic Heart Crucible’ and ‘Wolf at the Door Creative Writing retreats’. And if hill-walking on a Scottish mountain is too much, they offer Rambling - with Taravajra and Dharmavasita!

In Spain, Amitavati, another small and privately-owned retreat centre run by Suratna and Vidyasri, is also focussing on the elements with their ‘Deep Peace of the Quiet Earth: Meditating with the Elements’ retreat at the end of May. Over in the US, at Aryaloka Retreat Centre there’s a retreat coming up that “explores major world issues and how we might engage with them in ways that are informed by Buddhist wisdom and practice”, and if you’re in Australia, check Vijayaloka for its intensive meditation or Qi Gong retreats.

All these retreats are open to newcomers; but there are many more intensive retreats on offer as well. In the UK Padmaloka and Tiratanaloka specialise in retreats for either men or women who have requested Ordination into the Western Buddhist Order. Both have resident communities who worked for many years with candidates for ordination, and many of the Order’s Public Preceptors live at either one or the other. Back in Spain, Guhyaloka and Akasavana host annual long Ordination retreats; these have just started for the men and will begin soon for the women. Once they are complete, more open retreats are generally on offer.

If this seems a bit bewildering, it’s not surprising – the FWBO is a large and diverse community. In the UK the Going on Retreat will hopefully help cut through the many options and help you find the one you want.

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