Abhayajit on The Soul and the Solstice

Monday 16 June—Sunday 22 June 2014 led by Abhayajit and Khemajala

More information and booking on the main Buddhafield website.

This is the latest in a series of retreats led by me along with various friends and following on thematically from previous years’ Land, Body and Soul events. During the Soul and the Solstice, we’ll be doing something a little different from last time, although we’ll be developing themes we touched on last year. The main difference is that we will spend at least a couple of hours each day in a group process facilitated by Khemajala and myself who are both qualified Counsellors. Of course The event will also feature activities familiar to Buddhafield regulars such as meditation and ritual, along with great organic food and a friendly atmosphere.

So I guess some of you are thinking, what’s a group process? Well in this context it will involve led excercises, perhaps involving a combination of Meditation and Visualisation and often culminating in sharing our experiences in small groups — or we might do something completelly different; expect the unexpected! The general point of all the excercises is to bring us into closer contact with our own experience which may at times be challenging, but also I hope fun.

When I realised the dates for this event coincided with the Solstice, it seemed obvious to take the summer light as our inspiration and explore what it really means to feel fully alive and paradoxically the connection of that experience to darkness and death (the moment the summer light and it’s associated energy and abundance peaks, we begin the slow descent into darkness). This is of course a cyclical way of viewing things and from this perspective we can see our own lives as a cycle moving through periods of light and dark much like the seasons. The more linear way of looking at our lives is that of a progression that moves out of the dark and into the light, leaving despair behind us as we move ever upwards towards our goals and dreams. Yet how would it be if we accepted that darkness and the so called dark emotions must always play a part in our lives and if we do not pay them due respect they will pull down the edifices we have built around them.

We come from a society where everything is about change, transformation and self improvement, the youngster experimenting with drugs, the athlete training to their limit or the middle classes moving up the property ladder are all seeking to improve or change their experience and we might wonder about these routes to happiness. Yet in a culture dominated by these transcendent values, do we really need more of the same when we come to making meaning of our lives? Throughout time mankind has been overcoming itself and as valuable and necessary as that has been, the more feminine yet equally important values of self-acceptance and self-forgiveness have often been lost sight of. So the emphasis on this retreat will be less about overcoming the darkness and moving towards the light and more about accepting that both light and darkness, joy and despair will enter into our lives at various times.

So I suppose I am talking about how we learn to accept and make meaning of the uncertainty that impermanance bestows upon us and say yes to all our experience. For many saying yes to the joy of life might be easier than saying yes to the depths of despair! yet at the heart of Buddhist practice lies the practice of equanimity which means being open to all our experience. I guess the key to a lot of this stuff is openess to who we are and that often involves loosening our identities and suspending some of our bigger ideas for a while whilst we start exploring what is really close to us.

As David White says in the first verse of a Poem entitled Start close in:

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

That last line is significant to me as we often resist doing things that invite us to ”start close in“ yet time and time again find that’s where the gold is. So if this appeals you are very welcome to come and join us at Beautiful Broadhembury and ‘start close in’.

Activities will be tailored to allow people to work at a pace that is comfortable for them and there will of course be plenty of time for relaxing in the long and hopefully warm days leading up to the Summer Solstice.

We’ll also have three sessions of led dance during the retreat, which I’m sure will be very pleasurable and help to bring us more into our bodies.

The interactive nature of this event will allow plenty of fun, as well as at times being challenging: it will not suit everyone and if you have concerns (about your mental Health for example) please contact me by email or 01363 772939.


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Total Immersion 2014: The Teaching Team

Vajrapriya, Maitridevi and Kamalashila have all worked together before on this retreat in different guises, and it promises to be a lively and substantial team. Introductions to the team below, but there’s  more about the retreat, it’s theme — The Foundations of Mindfulness — and booking on the main Buddhafield website.

Vajrapriya was ordained in 2002 and has lived in Cambridge ever since, but last year he went on retreat for a whole year. He’s been on a number of Total Immersion retreats, finds them elemental, and this time is looking forward to co-leading. That elemental quality suits his meditation style — embodied, direct and non-competitive. He has a very active mind and has to work to incorporate its energy without over-identifying with it.

Talk by Vajrapriya on Vimeo: Living a Meaningful Life

Vajrapriya takes the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path – rebranding it as the Meaningful Eightfold Path – and considers how it’s eight areas contribute to a meaningful life, and how following it eventually eliminates the whole problem of meaninglessness. Second of three talks in the series “Reality and what to do about it”, given at the Cambridge Buddhist Centre in November 2010.

Maitridevi, who co-led last year’s Total Immersion, is presently a homeless spiritual adventurer, having until recently been Finance Director at Windhorse:Evolution in Cambridge. She has a love of meditating in nature, yoga, swimming in rivers and hiding in forests, and her passion is exploring how to engage the imagination in her practice. She responds to exemplification far more than theory.

Talk by Maitridevi on YouTube: The Tender Gravity of Kindness

How to find depth in a superficial world — a talk about love and longing and the way that they pull us deeper into life. Given at Buddhafield Festival 2013 in the Dharma Parlour.

Kamalashila has been leading the Total Immersion retreat every other year. He’s in London nowadays, though for some years he lived as part of the Buddhafield collective in Devon. He enjoys more than anything else communicating his experience of Buddhism, meditation and mindfulness — something he’s done over many years. He has founded Dharma centres in London and Wales, written a best selling book on meditation, and lived four years in Wales as a hermit.

Talk by Kamalashila on YouTube: Mind full of passion

“Shouldn’t you be passionate in all you do? Probably, but how to distinguish between that and self-centred craving? A look at the issue of what we want.” Given at the Buddhafield Festival 2011 in the Dharma Parlour.


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Buddhism and the Natural World: Deep Ecology, Deep Dharma

Kamalashila lives in West Hampstead, London, with Dharmacharini Yashobodhi. In 1974 he was ordained into the Triratna Buddhist Order by Urgyen Sangharakshita who gave him his Dharma name, “Kamalashila” — “He whose conduct (śila, Sanskrit) is like a red lotus (kamala)”. He’s the author of Buddhist Meditation: Tranquillity, Imagination and Insight (Windhorse Publications, 3rd Revised edition edition 2012) and leading this year’s Buddhafield Total Immersion Retreat, a month-long, silent meditation camping retreat in Devon.

He is by temperament rather shy, quiet and thoughtful, but he has been active for forty years teaching meditation, establishing communities, writing and leading Dharma study. In 1976 he founded the West London Buddhist Centre near Earls Court; he moved to Wales in 1979 and became a founder of Vajraloka Meditation Centre and later Vajrakuta, Triratna’s first residential Dharma study centre. He also has longstanding connections with Buddhafield and EcoDharma.

This is a talk he gave to members of the Triratna Buddhist Order (then still known as the Western Buddhist Order) in 2005. Some of the themes he covers are very relevant to Buddhafield’s Green Earth Awakening Camp (May 16–21 2014).

You can find this and many other talks by Kamalashila on Free Buddhist Audio.

1. Parami: introduction (3:15).

2. Kamalashila: environmentalism in the early days of the FWBO; Vajraloka; reactions in ’80s & ’90s; a contemporary shift (2:47).

3. A personal experience of participation in nature; nature and Buddha Nature; alienation from the natural world (4:52).

4. Deep ecology as a way to insight; changing our sense of identity and ownership; deep ecology and ethics (4:26).

5. Aldo Leopold; owning beings and land as unethical; the experience of being in the countryside; meditation and the “Four Great Elements” — “Mahabhutas”; nature and seeing beyond ego (8:40).

6. Transcending self & other; our limited idea of “all beings” and the experience of other creatures (3:07).

7. Not dismissing non-humans; relative separation from the natural world; anthropocentrism versus ecocentrism; awareness of non-human beings and ethics (5:33).

8. Communal living; single sex; the underside of the development of communities; mixed communities and the benefits of other mixed environments (4:31).

9. Sangharakshita’s book review on DH Lawrence and the Spiritual Community — four principles of spiritual community; sexual relationships and community living (7:17).

10. A personal vision of mixed communities; deep ecology and community living (2:27).


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GEA 2014: First Look at the Programme

Programme Headlines

We’re delighted to let you know that this year’s programme is coming together and the highlights so far are:

Green Crafts

  • Blacksmithing and Copper Repousse, Oak Clan Forge.
  • Spoon carving and pole lathe, Waynes Woods.
  • Blacksmithing and Copper Bowls, Windy Smithy.
  • Build a Rocket Stove, Wildstoves.
  • Pegloom Tuffet, The Travelling Tuffeteer.
  • Stone Carving.
  • Bicycle repair and recycling, Milly Peds.
  • Build a Cob Oven, Rik Midgeley.
  • Healing Hedgerow, Sonny .

Social Change

  • Ecodharma and NEB, Ecodharma Centre.
  • Rainwater Harvesting, Clive Dragon.
  • Reading the Landscape, Patrick Whitefield.
  • Healing Ourselves and the Planet through Heart Centred Awareness, Cathy Melissa Whitefield.
  • Community and Sustainability,Tinkers Bubble.
  • Forest Gardening, Sagaravajra.
  • Eyes of Gaia, Nicola Peel.
  • Wild Food Forage, Patch Tucker.
  • Eco-psychology and The Work that Reconnects, Dearbhaile.
  • Wild Writing, Lauren Coulson.
  • Frack Free Somerset.
  • Permaculture Association.

And …

  • Songwriting, Matt Sage.
  • Earthdances.
  • Kundalini Yoga.
  • Tai Chi.

Booking is open, but check out options for volunteers. You can email us about the GEA or call us on 07780 461 221.

If you would like to offer a workshop or talk at the Green Earth Awakening Camp 2014, please download the application form and email it to Rosie, the GEA Workhops Co-ordinator.

Looking forward to seeing you there!


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GEA 2014: Booking Opens

Buddhafield welcomes you to the Green Earth Awakening Camp

Engage Now, Change the Future: 16–20 July 2014

This unique event is a wonderful opportunity to come together on a Buddhafield camp for up to 500 people, at our old Buddhafield Festival site on the glorious Blackdown Hills. We will have the chance to connect with the land, to re-learn forgotten skills and to explore pathways towards a sustainable future. A child and a woman weaving willowThe Camp will feature a workshop programme of green crafts, offering the chance to make something beautiful with our own hands and learn new but traditional skills; social change workshops and ecology talks, helping us to face difficult truths about ourselves and the world; Meditation, Rituals and Dharma talks giving us the spiritual context in which to explore those truths and help us grow and change together. We all can become what the world needs now — alive, aware, in touch with the earth, connected.

A child and a woman weaving willow

  • Adults £80
  • Adult Concession £60
  • Teens (12-17) £40
  • Children (3-11) £20
  • Babies (0-2) £10
  • All inclusive meals for Adults & Teens £45 each
  • All inclusive meals for under 12s £25 each

More information and booking on the dedicated GEA webpage.


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Buddhafield Café Fundraiser

The Buddhafield Café tent has been to many festivals and seen many things. It’s housed and sheltered many people, been a safe and secure space holding the wide breadth of experience that working for Buddhafield encompasses. It’s got a bit battered in over 10 years of adventures; over the last couple of years holes have started appearing, and more and more spots of rain are getting through.

Some our distinction decor, wrapped around the counter. You can see a nice bit hole has appeared in the canvas, bottom left

So, on the 25th January 2014, 6pm–10pm, the Buddhafield Café will be holding a fundraiser at Hamilton House, on Stokes Croft in Bristol to raise money to pay for a new canvas to be sewn, and hopefully for some new décor as well. We will be running a Dharma Dance session featuring DJ Floatijo, cutting an upbeat groove in world beats and reggae / dub. at 8.30pm we’ll have an auction where you will be able to bid on a range of items including:

Buddhist Hamper 2

  • A pair of full price tickets for each of the remaining events of the Lovedance Chakra Series 15 February / 15 March / 19 April. Worth £120!
  • 2lbs of Mayan Lavalove Guatemalan Cacao hand selected by Keith Wilson the chocolate shaman. Worth £40!
  • One 2 hour Deep Shift shiatsu session with Matthew Greenwood (studied with Bristol School of Shiatsu, with over 10 years experience). Worth £50/ph!
  • A night and breakfast at Shekinashram, Bhakti Yoga Ashram and Holistic Retreat Centre in Glastonbury.
  • 3 hours gardening from Cath Dixon.
  • A hamper of homemade goodies from Alison.
  • Two Buddhist hampers: one has some books, a ceramic rupa, a blanket, some candles and holders and incense; the other has a 12“ high wooden rupa, some books and candle holders.
  • massage sessions from Cassi and Lina.
  • Shiatsu seesion from Alix.
  • A wooden spoon carved by Lief.
  • A sculpture by Lisa Kingham.
  • A set of signed, sycamore tea-light holders, hand turned on a pole lathe by John Crosbie. (Tea-lights included!)
  • 2 Original woodland landscape drawings by Satyadarshin.

Drawing by Satyadarshin

Doors open at 6pm; dancing your heart out starts about 6.30; 8.30 auction starts. Café open all evening for cake and chai. Any questions? Fire off an email, or check out the Facebook event and the Buddhafield Café Facebook page.


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2014 Retreats and Events Programme

Dreaming the New

“Experiences are preceded by mind, led by mind, produced by mind.”
The Buddha

Buddhism teaches that all experience originates in the mind and that our skilful intentions lead to positive change. The image of the Buddha itself is a vision of the positive intention to awaken. To find new sustainable models for living, rooted in an ancient relationship with the natural world, we must first envisage the world we wish to see. Together, we must dream the new.

Buddhafield Retreats Programme 2014
Event Dates Venue
Book online through on the website. More about Buddhafield Retreats.
Spring Ashdown Forest Retreat Friday 2nd – Friday 9th May
Long weekend option Friday 2nd – Monday 5th May
Windy Ridge, Ashdown Forest, Sussex
Women’s Retreat Monday 9th – Sunday 15th June Broadhembury, Devon
The Soul and the Solstice Monday 16th – Sunday 22nd June Broadhumbury, Devon
Buddhafield Village Retreat Phase I Saturday 2nd – Thursday 7th August Frog Mill, Devon
Village Retreat Phase 2 Saturday 9th – Saturday 16th August Frog Mill, Devon
Village Retreat Phase 3 Sunday 17th – Friday 22nd August Frog Mill, Devon
Autumn Ashdown Forest Retreat Friday 19th – Friday 26th September, with family friendly option from Friday 19th – Sunday 21st September This event is TBC
The Total Immersion Retreat 2014 Friday 5th September – Friday 3rd October, with a two week option that ends on Friday 19th September Easterbrook, Hittisleigh, Devon
If you are interested in attending either of the team retreats, please contact the manager of the area of Buddhafield with which you are involved
Spring Team Retreat 24th – 30th April Windy Ridge, Ashdown Forest, Sussex
Autumn Team Retreat 7th – 13th October Easterbrook, Devon

Go Confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.

Henry David Thoreau


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You Shall go to the Ball

Worthy Farm is a town-sized Cinderella whose glamour does indeed start to slip on the stroke of midnight. For a few nights she’s an edgy fairytale princess, but in the wee small hours of Monday morning, the last acts barely having left the main stages, the magic is obviously wearing thin. Within twelve more hours she’s obviously just an otherwise innocuous Somerset dairy farm, a bit worse for the wear and now with few extra chores to do.

At Festival end I’m always left with a set of multi-hued feelings: shades of disappointment for experience I’ve missed out on (I never did get to Hell in Shangri-la); a flush of loss over adventures past (I successfully conspired to meet two friends in the sardine-compressed Pyramid Stage field for The Rolling Stones); not a little relief in being forced to let go of the anxiety that one is missing out on something spectacular, somewhere else on site, at all times of the day and night.

A true Glastonbury veteran is aware that it’s a spectacle that one can never truly, completely consume. Even if one wasn’t working (we do one six-hour shift per day in the Buddhafield Café), one could never investigate every nook or cranny, visit every themed dance space, try every craft workshop, watch every cabaret or circus act, see all the bands … or even sample every cafe, for that matter.

I started writing this on the Buddhafield Festival site, which we rolled onto directly from Pilton (the village that actually homes the Glastonbury Festival). Ostensibly a pole away from the end of a festival spectrum that includes The Rolling Stones, both events actually share a common heritage. (For a time Buddhafield even rented a field from Michael Eavis in its early days over at Shepton Mallet.) But even only a day after we left, it’s a bit difficult to believe that the absurdly demanding world of Glasto really existed. I was sat in the private, core-crew only camping space I dubbed “The Squirrels” (a wood well at the back of our site), sitting surrounded by a carpet of leaves and twigs, enjoying the still, cool air, listening to a stream chattering away to the dusk and sketching out this post on my smartphone. Fighting off the rather insistent midges was only the dimmest echo of the seagulls that were even then circling for tit-bits to scavenge from amongst the detritus in those Pilton fields.

Just like Glastonbury, people wax lyrical about the early days of Buddhafield. There were in fact many incredible things that came about as a result of our innocence and naïveté, but one can’t remain artificially innocent: the wilful blindness to learning from experience slowly turns toxic in the face of change. There have been ongoing difficulties at a management level in Buddhafield as we’ve skidded to a rather bruised end of a natural cycle in our collective’s life. We’re trying to rediscover who we are and what we’re about. But ironically, on the ground, it’s been a very successful team experience for me so far this year.

At Glastonbury in the Buddhafield Café, I had the pleasure of working with a shift of twelve people who’ve been capable, conscientious and harmonious. This is worth remarking on when working in an environment like Glastonbury, which can be quite so physically and emotionally demanding. Even if one isn’t a party animal (and some of us are well up for seeing a couple of dawns in), nothing is simple: one has to balance out a strategy for actually getting to a loo, even before the hygiene situation prods ones boundaries.

In this context, a personal fulcrum of inspiration off of which to hinge Dharma practice is essential. For me it’s cultivating the quality of equanimity, the value of which is probably best highlighted by temporarily living and working in such an intense environment. Upeksha (Pali: upekkha) is the word we usually translate as “equanimity”. It’s the fourth of the Brahma Viharas family of meditation practices, all of which revolve around dimensions of metta (loving-kindness).

Sometimes I like to think of equanimity as being rather like a perfectly reflective ball sat on a flat plane. regardless of the forces exerted on it, the ball remains at rest, mirroring the demands on its attention, but not commanded by them. it also remains a sphere, not pressured out of shape and therefore into distorted reflection. I think a non-equanimous mind is often very distorted: it perceives the world rather like a hall of mirrors, where it moves from a stretched, to a squashed, to a twisted perception without pause or much awareness.

This metaphor is useful in a context where attractive stimulus is so pervasive, especially for those of us with a “butterfly mind”, alighting only briefly on the next in an arbitrary series of experiences, never resting long enough to fully engage. An equanimous mind is paradoxically both active, because it’s flexible and creative, but also at rest, because it’s not grasping or hungry. It’s a mind that is a completely engaged one, moving in the flow and rhythm of full awareness rather than a spastic staccato.

This implies that upeksha isn’t the aloof state that the English translation usually connotes. Because its completely receptive and non-judgemental, maintaining equanimity is a very broad and solid base from which to engage with the world.

If we consider it in the light of working in the Buddhafield Café, we can say that an equanimous state implies being aware of the whole length of the queue at the counter, pacing every interaction accordingly, whilst at the same time giving each customer the fullest attention. The opposite mental state would probably be anxiety, where one is more caught up with imputing frustrations at the back of the queue than offering the person at the front an efficient service.

Anxiety is rather like running with a leaky bucket. It doesn’t actually address the problem and likely as not makes spillage worse. Ones attention is placed on the future and on conditions over which one may have little or no control. Anxiety is an example of awareness – the reflective ball of my earlier metaphor – twisted out of shape, thus distorting ones response to the flow of conditions.

In equanimity we’re actually always at the Ball because we’re alive to the wonder that’s going on around us all the time. We’re not grasping after adventure, novelty, distraction or amusement. We’re not pushing away the unpleasant, unwanted, pedestrian or routine. Equanimity is in fact our glass slipper.


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Back in the Midst of Blood Sweat and Tears

Buddhafield seems to exist as a separate entity, a thing of beauty that no matter how much the people that work for her fall apart, she still manages to appear before our very eyes to provide people with an inspiring context in which to meet like minded people and forge connections that will last a life time. It is now that the few people that arrived on empty fields start to swell and expand to welcome more bodies who want to help create our own little temporary community, with its own little lovely niche.

I have come back to my mum’s house to rest my body after working in the Cafe at Glastonbury Festival and catch up with computer work. Glastonbury was the first event that I have worked this year and it was delightful! I have realised that it doesn’t matter how much or little I do for Buddhafield in a year, Buddhafield still requires my blood, sweat and tears and I give these things without a fight because I know that Buddhafield will provide me with compost, warmth, inspiration, love and this year fingers-crossed, some glorious sunshine in which to lay on the grass and gaze upwards to the heavens.. allowing it’s love to permeate my being.

Because essentially that is what we all need right now, I know for myself and for many others upheavals are abound. The Buddhafield team agreed to announce that there will be no festival next year which breaks my heart but I believe it is necessary. Buddhafield is at this time a very frail thing that needs much nourishment from it’s core and all it’s core need to be nourished by the love and appreciation that so many people have for this slightly large and cumbersome child. To strip something back to its core and see what its looks, sounds, smells, tastes and feels like.

That doesn’t take away from the celebration of the lives we have been given and the choices that we make within this time we have all been allocated. I know that regardless of how much I cry, how much I sweat and bleed I am glad that my year rotates around the Buddhafield festival. Going back onto site tomorrow will be a blissful experience and I will watch with a curious awe how it all grows, how I grow, shrink and expand and how everyone moves around each other.

So to my dear Buddahfield sangha, I am glad to be home with you again and I eagerly await with open arms the sharing of magnicient and tender stories.

 

 


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A Break in the Cycle

Buddhafield has been able to continually reinvent itself because it’s a collective. We’ve been able to seamlessly adapt to changes in personnel because, as one person’s inspiration has naturally moved on, another’s has flowed towards us. This has led to a series of cycles in the shape of the collective that have occurred naturally and steadily, keeping the project fresh and fluid.

We’re now at the end of one of the biggest cycles in our evolution, but this time the transition can’t be seamless. For the first time in 17 Festival years, we feel the need pause, get back in touch with who we are and what we’re about, and from within that space invite a new generation to join the collective. In order to achieve that, we think the wisest move is to not run our Festival in 2014.

Buddhafield only exists and functions because of the ongoing generosity of hundreds of people. Many of the Festival organising team annually give up considerable amounts of their spare time to plan and organise their Area, even going so far as to work at the Festival in their own holiday time.

Clearly this is done from a great love – a fire in the heart – for Buddhafield and we’d like to thank everyone who’s given so much, especially the crew and workshop leaders. This year’s programme of workshops and music is a terrific one, so if you’re at all moved or inspired by Buddhafield, want to know what we’re about, maybe get involved in the future, please come and join us at this year’s Buddhafield Festival.


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