Interview: Rosie Lancaster

Rosie Lancaster is Green Earth Awakening Workshops Co-ordinator. Interview by Satyadarshin

 This is our second GEA; what have you changed this year?
I think last year worked quite well having spaces in the programme where people could be together outside of the workshops. But I’d like to see more of that: last year it was still quite tight; lunch was a narrow window in relation to time slots for the programme. I want more crafts, more independent spaces, more transferable skills; someone should be able learn something at the GEA, go home and do it. That feels like more of a life changing experience: they have that wow! moment, where they walk away and feel that they’ve accomplished something. People could feel that they’re going on a journey through the event, rather than “Oh! I’ve got a slot now; lets get to the blacksmith!” I’m aiming to pull it all together with a bit more of an emphasis on the theme. The Dharma talks are what will underpin it, really good speakers that embrace the theme.

rosieTractor

Rosie, GEA Workshops Co-ordinator

What do you see the difference between the Buddhafield Festival’s Permaculture Area, and the GEA?
I’m actually trying to make a connection more obvious. At the Buddhafield Festival we have the Dharma Parlour over there and Permaculture over here. In my view they should be in the same space. So trying to to get that link in, that it’s not about doing your green crafts, then trying to get your meditation in. The two are so fundamentally linked, that the only way change can happen in the future is that people recognise that we are so fundamentally linked.

We’ve talked about linking the theme to this year’s Triratna International Retreat: The Bodhisattva’s Reply; I suppose we’re training our Bodhisattvas aren’t we?
Yes, yes I think so. Individual input into the world, so to speak, in relation to other individuals. It links in with the prophecy of the Shambhala Warrior: “The Shambhala workers go into the corridors of power armed with the only tools that the barbarians don’t understand, and for which there is no defence. The tools of the Shambhala workers are compassion for all, and knowledge of the connectedness of all things. Both are necessary.” The Bodhisattva vow came up quite a lot last year and just hit the spot for me: this is about all of us standing up and facing the world for each other, that it’s all our responsibility. One person can make a difference; believe in that. It’s not a question of feeling a horror of what’s going on in the world and needing to do something about it, of feeling responsible and therefore we “should”. It’s to do with the sense of deep ecology, that we’re so interconnected that there’s no way of standing outside from it, we are part of it. You’re breathing, so you have to do something. And that was the root of it for me, the notion of deep ecology , of it being so obviously Dharmic.

Horrified anxiety isn’t the fuel for the future, then?
No. A love and a compassion, and a will, and a “wow! I’m part of this!”. Protests, activism and the need for social change, can really emphasise the devastation … but the connection, that’s got to be the compassion of moving forward. So that’s why the Dharma Parlour and Permaculture Areas are moving forward together. In the Buddhafield Festival Permaculture Area, we’ve got Green Crafts and we’ve got Social Change, so in a sense the GEA is an extension of that, but a lot more in depth.

The GEA is increasing the sense of intimacy?
Yes, at the Buddhafield Festival people do become ships passing in the night; you’ve got your timetable, you jot your workshops down on the back of your hand, you’re running to the next thing. Whereas with a structured timetable, you’re eating together, you have a chance to network and I think that’s really important; like-minded people, people who feel the way you do, get into groups together and that brings a sense of community. You’re doing it together. You go to one workshop and feel really moved, go to the next one and it might be the same group of people. And I think in that sense you’re not alone. I think that can be quite powerful. So I’m hoping that that’s different from a Permaculture Area at the Festival.

Interview: Ratnadeva

Ratnadeva was ordained by Kamalashila at Guhyaloka retreat centre, Spain, in the summer of 2013 .

So, the 2014 season is upon us. How’s it going so far?
Well, we’ve got a full retreats programme, ten events, and we’ve also got the exciting Triratna International Retreat. This year we’re collaborating with Adhisthana for the first time. It’ll be fun trying out a new site, having got used to working with Taraloka, which was a delight. It’s also going to be a delight working with Adhisthana because there’s a sense that we’re very much at the centre of Triratna when we collaborate on this event. For us it’s an opportunity to get better known throughout the movement. It’s kind of a shop window for Buddhafield.

ratnadevaFor me, one of the big flavours of the coming year is the word “change”. We’ve got a lot changing within Buddhafield in terms of people involved and we are in the process of reorganising, so as to make the best use of the limited resources. I suppose it’s a challenge and an exciting opportunity this coming year in terms of reorganising, finding a structure and a way of working that means we can put the events on that we have planned and people don’t get worn out. People don’t have to overdo it. And that probably means trying to involve the circles of people that are interested in Buddhafield and have been helping us over the years … I think we need to reach out more. That’s one of the main themes of the coming year, find ways to reach out; tell people that we need them and provide the opportunities for the people out there to get involved. I have this sense, this image in my head, of concentric circles around Buddhafield, of different levels of involvement, it may be hundreds, it may be over a thousand of people that, at some point in the last few years have been involved, been inspired by their involvement with Buddhafield. And that’s a resource, their interest in helping us, their interest in getting involved is what we need to tap into.

What is it that we need to do to keep people involved and motivated?
I think what we put on is inspiring in itself. We don’t really need to go outside of that because it’s already quite versatile. It’s versatile from the point of view of the events themselves; you look at the range we have in any given year. We don’t have a Yatra this year, but for several years now we’ve had a walking retreat; such a different experience to, say, the Total Immersion where we’ve had experienced meditators going deeper over four weeks, in silence. And then a very different event is of course the Family Friendly Village Retreat for up to 260 people, a third of them children, experiencing retreat-like conditions on a beautiful piece of land.

But having said that, there are alternative projects that might also inspire people, a bit leftfield. For example, this year we’re looking at the possibility of a co-housing project. Now that is perhaps an inspiring project that might attract people who otherwise might not try a camping retreat. But essentially I think what we put on is a very attractive package. The concept of getting close to nature, spending time, if you like, with yourself in a beautiful environment, being inspired by the Buddha’s teachings and having time out from your normal routine … experiencing oneself anew. I think that is in itself an incredibly inspiring prospect. And in fact I think that’s the core; for me that’s what inspired me to be involved with Buddhafield in the first place — an organisation that puts that sort of event on. I enjoy all the other events, like the Festival, but as far as I’m concerned they’re in service to putting on retreats. I come form a background where Im trying to get more immersed in nature, because I see that as a key expression of my own spiritual life. And I think it can be a key theme within the Buddhist tradition, breaking down that sense of separateness from the natural world.

It’s very related to your involvement with Druid culture?
Yes. I see it as quite seamless in fact. I think that immersing in nature can teach so much about impermanence. If you walk out on a bed of autumn leaf litter, and if you’re really aware when you’re doing that, that can be a lesson in impermanence. Better than any books about impermanence. If you’re involved with setting up a forest garden, or really into connecting with trees, even if its on a mystical level, that can teach us so much about interconnectedness, which is not that far away from non-self. The book of nature is so central to Buddhist teaching. For a lot of Buddhists who live in urban or sub-urban environments it’s not so much the case and I do think that’s a problem. And that is what Buddhafield is offering par excellence: offering people in those sorts of situations to escape and find a connection with nature that they don’t normally get, even if it’s only for a week.

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).

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.

Skill Sharing at EcoDharma

The EcoDharma community are looking for skill-sharers to help develop resilience in:
• Food growing.
• Wild food foraging and preservation.
• Traditional stone building.

They are looking for people to go and stay at their community in the Catalunyan Pyrenees in Spain for up to 3 months. They are particularly interested in people with experience and/or interest in skill-sharing. In return for helping them develop these aspects of their land-based learning centre and community you will benefit from the opportunity to learn new skills and be nourished by spending time living in our wild and remote community setting.

They are hoping to be able to cover your travel costs and some pocket money (and additional finance is negotiable for skilled builders) — pending funding.

Traditional Stone Building

When? September—November 2013, or end of March—July 2014.

What? They are looking for up to 8 skill-sharers to join their building team to renovate a traditional Catalan stone building. The work will be focused at Cal Victor, an old peasant Catalan farmhouse abandoned since the early part of the last century.

This is a vital piece of work in terms of the future of the Ecodharma community as it will provide the main communal space for the community including; a living area, kitchen, office, herb drying room and accommodation.

The project will involve renovation using traditional building techniques and materials, integrated with eco-building and other contemporary elements.

Who? We are looking for people who either:
• have general building experience, or
• are experienced or interested in learning about building with stone, or
• are experienced with carpentry.

Food Growing

When? Mid-August to mid-November 2013 or April—July 2014.

What? They are looking for 3 skill-sharers to support Liam who has held responsibility for growing our food since autumn 2013.

EcoDharma’s organic annual garden was established as four raised beds (each some 30 metres long) four years ago. The long term vision is for it to become a perennial system with vegetables growing below the existing fruit trees. Their forest garden was very recently planted by a wonderful team of volunteers who planted 100 fruit and nut trees this March.

You will be supporting Liam to produce as much food as possible from the annual garden using organic techniques and permaculture principles. There will also be work helping to establish and maintain the fruit and nut trees in the forest garden.

Who? We are looking for people who:
• have plenty of practical common sense
• have some basic gardening skills and experience
• are physically able.

Wild Food Foraging and Preservation, Bread Making and Creative Cooking

When? Mid-August to mid-November 2013 or May to July 2014.

What? They are looking for 2 skill-sharers to join them foraging for and preserving the abundance of wild foods growing in their wild and remote mountain valley.

Throughout the summer and autumn they are blessed with a wide variety of wild fruits, berries and herbs as well as the food they are cultivating ourselves. They need help to preserve as much as they can for the coming year, which will include:
• Harvesting and transforming an abundance of damsons, mulberries, elderberries, figs, pomegranates and blackberries into jams, chunteys and other culinary delights and medicinal tinctures
• Foraging for, for example, rosemary, thyme, sage, yarrow, nettles, lavender and savoury to make teas.
• Baking sour dough bread and experimenting with other baking
• Using produce in the garden creatively, for example green tomato chutneys, pickling vegetables for saur craut etc.

You will join Claire and Nikki who have been wandering the valley discovering the rhythms of the land and turning them into culinary and medicinal delights; and Lou who has held responsibility for the kitchen, food preservation and baking for past 3 years.

Life at Ecodharma

Life at Ecodharma is very communally spirited and is largely shaped by a collective yearning to move more and more towards simplicity, low impact living and just being with the land. All this provides the context for a rich and nourishing learning environment and a strong sense of being very much alive …

Funding

Depending on your skills, experience and/or future aspirations you may be eligible to apply for funding to pay for your travel and some pocket money and to reimburse Ecodharma for your food and accommodation costs. There may also be scope for additional finance for skilled builders. We will discuss possible funding with you on receiving your application.

How to apply

Please email claire@ecodharma.com for more information and to request an application form. Please state which role/s you are interested in and please be sure to meet the deadlines below. These deadlines have been set to ensure you are able to meet external deadlines for funders in good time – which vary depending on the placement period.

Deadlines

30 April 2013 for placements starting in August.
30 May 2013 for placements from September 2013-July 2014.