Tuesday, September 21, 2010

EcoDharma Centre launches ‘Nature-Based Practice’ Series of retreats

Eagles soar on the cliffs above EcoDharma
 The task of translating the Dharma into the world of the 21st century is crucial to the practice of Western Buddhism. One Triratna retreat centre engaging whole-heartedly in this creative process is the EcoDharma Centre in the Catalan Pyrenees. Their latest initiative is the new ‘Nature Based Practice Series’, which take meditation retreats into the heart of wild nature.

“Perhaps the defining feature of this moment in history is the need for civilization to change course from its destructive path of industrial growth and consumption,” says centre director Guhyapati. “Contemporary Buddhism,” he continues, “is by definition Buddhism amidst ecological crisis. Buddhism has much to offer in facing that crisis, but to be truly relevant today Buddhism needs to take its potential role very seriously.” In their attempt to step up to this challenge, the EcoDharma Centre team has been addressing important questions - how their practice of meditation and Dharma can really support the development of an ecological sensibility and contribute towards a life-affirming future; what relevance ecological issues have to the practice of Dharma today; and more.

solar panels at EcoDharma
Their answers range from attempts to embed the Centre and community in sustainable ways of living which draw out the ecological implications of Buddhist ethics, to exploring the theoretical interface between the Dharma and ecology.

The “Nature Based Practice” series, which is launched this autumn, is another outcome of this exploration. This consists of a series of retreats, crafted by the EcoDharma team, which bring Dharma and meditation together with the transformative power of wilderness immersion. “Living as we often do today, entirely enveloped in the urban environment, it is easy to find ourselves cut off from our deeper nature,” points out Rob, one of the team involved in putting on the events. He explains that “these events support people to take their meditation practice out into wild nature, helping to heal alienating splits both in themselves and between themselves and the natural world we depend on.” The landscape around the centre is both awesome and intimate, and the team has spent many years getting to know it well. “For me,” adds Rob, “just wandering, living and meditating in these woods, meadows and caves is a deeply empowering and transformative experience.”

Contact with nature is being increasingly recognized as a key to opening people up to the importance of ecological concerns and empowering them to act to resolve the issues we face. But how does that tie in with dharma practice? “The foundational steps of Dharma practice are found in the process of healthy psychological integration,” explains Guhyapati. “The growing discipline of ecopsychology helps us see how crucial our connection with nature is in order to be healthy humans – especially living in such alienating times. ‘Nature Based Practice’ is a valuable tool in this process of integration. But it goes further than that. As we practice amidst the wild we begin to feel our embeddedness within nature in tangible ways. We begin to appreciate the profound interconnections which weave us into the rich web of life. Such insights and broadening of identity are core to the practice of Dharma.”

The team suggests that it is no coincidence that great yogis and sages have from time immemorial taken themselves off into the wilds to deepen their practice. “Taking mindful appreciation and meditation practice out into the wilds is a powerful and tested approach,” says Rob. The events in the series explore various ways to support people to test that out.

The first event in the series is “Meeting the Wild”, which runs in November. For more details of the events in the series or background to the “Nature Based Practice” approach, you can look at the centre´s website www.ecodharma.com.
Panorama showing EcoDharma in the distance - the small dot in the centre!

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