A Moment of Peace Amongst the Joyful Chaos

The wondrous, glorious, amazing, life affirming Buddhafield festival is almost upon us!!

The preparations are stepping up a gear espeically for the cafe crew who only have one week left to get any last mintue things done before we head off to Glastonbury Festival (they are all at Sunrise Festival this week making our third cafe gig of the season a spectacular success!).

I have just come back off retreat and my inspiration is flowing out of me. I learnt some valuable lessons whilst there. These lessons are about giving myself the time to do those things that bring me joy. I have learnt to cultivate more love for myself and more strength in my abilities; knowing that I am capable.

This has left me feeling so abundant in my skills and in seeing the abundance in nature that is all around me. Now whilst I am pottering around in an empty house, a moment (or couple of days) of peace amongst festival chaos, I have a contiuation of this space to expand my feelings of abundance, what that means to me and how to bring this feeling with me into the festival.

The theme doesn’t refer to material wealth or material possessions. It is not about that craving we all get for something shiny that costs an arm and a leg. It refers to celebrating the bountiful world around us, thanking the earth for her treasures, thanking each other for the love and support that we all receive in one form or another. It refers to the warm fuzzy feeling we get when we make someone laugh. Its about our inner goldness and not about desire for a lump of yellow rock!

We conducted a survey at the beginning of the year to get your opinions of the festival and one of the points that came up was that Buddhism had got lost inamongst everything else so this year we are putting more focus back onto our rituals. We are turning sound systems off in the Owl field during the main rituals which are: Opening Ceremony: Wednesday 6 – 6.45 pm, Saturday Ritual: 9.30 – 10.30 pm and the Closing Ceremony: Sunday 2 – 3.15 pm. Dayajoti is leading the Rituals team this year and is keen for us all to come together as one big community, to explore the festival theme as an expression of our shared values. To express our inner goldness the main symbol this year is gold, so the team are encouraging everyone, and you, to bring gold clothes to wear at any time during the festival but particularly during the rituals. If you have gold clothes then gold body paint will do!

So for this years festival, give up those material cravings, give up listening to the stories that go round and round about someone being better then you and come to Buddhafield festival, to explore and express yourself in a supportive community of wonderful people and where every person, tree, bee, blade of grass, bird and string of bunting is amazing!

I come with my raggedly loves dragging
into the sphere of your clear regard.
I praise friendship embarked on suddenly as a bus that arrives.
I praise friendship maturing like a tall beech tree.
I praise the differences that define us.
I love what I cannot be
as well as what I am.
From ‘The Homely War’ by Marge Piercy

>Coming Back to our Sangha.

>We have returned to our Sangha here in Devon.

Its good to be back.

On our 3 months away I was working in woodland in Norfolk, a place I love and have been to on a number of occasions. Ruth joined me there for a month and then moved onto Bristol and has become apart of a community project there.

So as Ruth is half in Bristol and half here in Devon and with our first cafe event in just a week and the festival in just over 3 months our blog posts will be less frequent then before Christmas but we will endeavor to post once a week to keep you up to date with the cafe and festival preparations!

Both Ruth and I arrived back at Trevince, for the first time in three months for a work retreat. A fortnight of coming together to prepare for the season with overriding theme being Metta.

And what a bubble of activity it was! We now have beautiful new bean bags for the cafe made from old cafe canvas, our ‘show’ yurt, for a new venture is being put together ready for the festival where it will house our inividual crafts for sale, our vans have been serviced and painted ready to hit the road for our first cafe event, Wildheart in Sussex. Trevince house has taken over the rent of Easterbrook veg garden which is a source of much delight and veg seeds were and still are being planted (our babies!), new cafe tables have been made and wonderfully painted by Nealey, Padmapani, Mumukshu and Helen Hatt from Magical Youth, Our canvases have been water-proofed, sauna and hot water system has had a once over, bikes have been fixed and domes have been checked. It was a productive fortnight and we are almost ready for the season to commence!

It was good to come back here to such a structured day. My meditation practise was non existent whilst living and working in the woods and it felt good to meditate daily again and with metta practise at the forefront of my mind instead of floating around in the background. Vidyadasi bought us some lovely evening activities in the first week and in the second week Siddhimala joined us for women’s study. Again with the theme of metta we spoke of our experiences and practise of this.

Metta is love and more than love. It is the recognition of ourselves in others and others in ourselves. It is to have patience, friendliness, kindness, empathy, generosity and understanding for all beings no matter how difficult they may be. It is to have all of these same qualities for yourself as well. It is a way of being not just an emotion to be felt occasionally but to actively care for others. It is to cultivate a positive interest in everything. Which in some cases is very easy and others is very challenging. I find it difficult to cultivate feelings of metta for myself and this fortnight made me face up to this which was quite a slap in the face in some cases!

It is a very beneficial practice though and I can see this benefit and I can feel the benefits a month on. We had a lovely closing ritual to the fortnight where we all rejoiced in each others merit via lovely little messages that were read out in front of the group. I really felt lucky to have returned to this sangha that holds each other so completely and although each day presents a new challenge I feel that we, cafe, retreats and the festival, will spread this metta to all that cross our paths!

Join us this year! go to www.buddhafield.com

Forest Garden/Woodland walkway Lottery Grant

I’m very happy to announce that Buddhafield has been awarded £10,000 by the Big Lottery Fund Awards For All and I’m not ashamed to admit to shedding a tear (or two!) when I opened the offer letter. The grant is specifically to create and develop a woodland walkway and a forest garden project at Broadhembury, one of the two pieces of land that Buddhafield owns in Devon. A Forest Garden is a way of planting that mimics young natural woodland. It is developing as an alternative means for producing food and as a method to restore bio diversity. The plants in a forest garden are all of use, directly for food, medicine, basketry, dye and indirectly for bees and nitrogen fixing. A forest garden requires very little upkeep, with the plants and shrubs working together to create the need for minimal human intervention. The woodland walkway will provide access through mature woodland that is best left unmanaged for nature conservation. It would create a nature trail through otherwise impenetrable, marshy land. Rupadarshin, Buddhafield’s craftsman extraordinaire will design and build a simple, low impact pathway, using alder and oak, relying on a method used on the Somerset levels 3,000 years ago.

The grant is based on us holding an event on the land next winter, for a week, with anyone who would like to come and help us very welcome. We are approaching the event from the angle of the ‘Green gym’ movement where good mental health has been proven to be supported and encouraged by exercising and working outside. It will be free for volunteers and we’re currently researching warm and snuggly places to stay nearby for those who don’t fancy sleeping in tents. The funding covers things such as buying two hundred trees, erecting a deer fence, hiring a tractor driver for a few days and buying materials and tools. There is also funding for a few weeks work before the event starts to prepare the land so that volunteers get to do as many of the ‘nice’ activities such as tree planting , as possible!

Buddhafield functions on a shoe string, with our retreats run on a dana system to ensure that as many people who want to are able to participate. It means that we don’t have any reserves for positive projects outside of our retreats/festival/cafe programme. This grant gives us the opportunity to put creative energy into a really meaningful project and to encourage all those who want to join in to come and be a part of it. Particularly during this time of economic hardship, it feels great to get funding for such a forward thinking and sustainable project. I hope the forest garden project will encourage lots of people to get involved and will be an inspiration for many years to come.

Hannah Phillips (Buddhafield retreats/fundraising)

Buddhafield Dharma by Lokabandu

Buddhafield Dharma — Series I Now Available

Lokabandhu writes from Glastonbury to say “I’m delighted to let you know we’ve just published Buddhafield Dharma — Series I”. This is a collection of essays by Buddhafield teachers in which they begin to articulate Buddhafield’s special approach to the Dharma; you’ll find it at www.issuu.com/buddhafield and hopefully on the “shelf” below:

There’s nine contributions in all, a rich feast of Dharma writing. First off is an introduction by Akasati, entitled ‘Ecology, Buddhism and Buddhafield’. That’s followed (in alphabetical order) by:

  • Akuppa, Strive On: Five ways to stay Sane and True and survive Global Meltdown
  • Dhiramati, Myth, Poetry and the Goddess
  • Kamalashila, The Living Elements’ and also Community, Nature, and Reality
  • Khemasuri, Building an Ethical Underworld’ (sub-titled “Lessons from the Mafia”!)
  • Lokabandhu, Shouting Out Beauty: Listening to the Wisdom of Nature
  • Maitrisara, Gracing the Earth: Buddhist Reflections on a Damaged Planet and finally
  • Paramananda, ‘On Retreat with Buddhafield

Most (not all) of them started life as talks for the Dharma Parlour on the 2009 or 2010 Buddhafield Festivals, but they’ve been extensively edited and reworked since then, mostly under Akasati’s watchful eye.

They’re published in a beautifully-designed on-line book format that both saves loads of paper and makes them easy to share with friends. It’s the first time we’ve tried this approach but it makes for a remarkably pleasant reading experience! The essays were originally envisaged as a book to be published by Triratna’s Windhorse Publications, but they pulled out due to other commitments and we decided to go down the on-line publishing route instead.

I hope you enjoy reading them and look out for more in the future!

Link Love

>And so here is another installment in the saga of my internet addiction! I am really trying to not just browse mindlessly, unaware of time passing by, but to search out subjects that I think will expand my mind and get my thoughts racing and jumping about, making new connections and helping me grow.

DharmaLife magazine was published and archived by the FWBO, and online has a selection of articles from each edition. Sadly it has stopped being published, which I am upset by as yesterday afternoon I devoured many of the articles they had online, and want to read more! Favourites include Sangharakshita talking about his current life and his legacy, I find it fascinating to think that I am part of a movement that is still in its early stages and that the guy who started it all is still alive! We can ask him questions and talk to him! It just makes it all seem so much more open and relevant, less intimidating and less rigid. I think I would quite like to meet Sangharakshita, but I have no idea what I would say or ask, I think maybe I want to meet him so that I know he’s real? I dont know. Anyway, my other favourite article is Lalitaraja’s piece on the links between dance and meditation – I love dance meditation with all my heart, it is a really good way into meditation for me, it really gets me going in a way no other meditation has done so…yet! I did Jewels Wingfield’s Ecstatic Dance at Buddhafield 2009 and then went to both of the ones she did at Buddhafield 2010, and more recently, the newly ordained Diajyoti held a dance meditation session at the Buddhafield Team Retreat at Easterbrook which was amazing! Hopfully she will be doing more of these!

Sewing as meditation. This site is a scrapbook/notebook/record of one woman’s creation of cloth, by hand from other scraps. She calls it ‘slowcloth’, where the process of making it is just as important as the finnished piece. Each cloth tells a story, has a story sewn into it, and this site beautifully tracks the process. I was taught to sew at an early age, and though I never really connected with it when I was younger, in the past year or so I have become closer to it, and find it very peaceful and meditative. This woman inspires me – I hope one day I will have a little studio in the woods just like her!

I love poetry. This woman writes a poem a day, and they are all so beautiful. They are full of space, and I find that after I read one I need to take a few minutes to be in the poem, to understand it, and take it in. A really meditative experience.

Here modern photos and archived photos of the Second World War are combined to, in the words of the creator, ‘show the horrors of war to people so that it can help prevent wars again’. These photos are fascinating and at the same time haunting and horrifying, showing, for example, the combination of laughing tourists taking photos of the Eiffel Tower, while a sepia tinted Adolf Hitler and officers pose malevelently in the background. It sends a shudder down my spine, but also brings me back to the idea that we need to be aware of what is happening, and not happening, in the world so that we can try to make sure nothing like that ever happens again.

Everything passes away, even art. This links to pictures of street art in Paris, taped to walls around the city these cardboard pieces are free to whoever wants to take them, be it the wind, rain or people. It’s a good lesson in letting go I think.

Hope there’s something there to interest you 🙂
Any recommendations?

Love Ruth

Retreat at TaraLoka: Self on the Page

>From the 19th to the 26th November I attended a writing retreat at the TaraLoka Women’s Retreat Centre near the north border of Wales, about an hour from Manchester. Having been on team retreats with Buddhafield, and a 10 day silent meditation course at the Vipassana Dharma Dhippa centre, experiences at either end of the spectrum – Team Retreats being quite relaxed, while Vipassana was very disciplined – I wasn’t sure what to expect. The retreat was led by Samantabhadhri, who lives at TaraLoka full time, Kavyasiddhi, a writer whose plays are often heard on Radio 4, and Mumukshu, who I live and work with in the Buddhafield Café. This review just scrapes the surface of my experience at TaraLoka, so many things happened which were truly wonderful, that there is no way I could write them all down. This is just an attempt to share my experience.

TaraLoka is a beautiful retreat centre on the Welsh/Shropshire boarder. In 1985, an old farm and its surrounding land was bought and gradually, a team of women converted it into the beautiful centre that is there today. There is a white community house  a way away from the retreat centre in which the retreat team live. The retreat centre itself consists of two buildings, one which contains the shrine room on the ground floor, and above that bedrooms, and the other contains the kitchen, dining room, living room, art room, more bedrooms and a solitary retreat suite. There is a sense of light and space throughout the centre, the room are painted bright colours, there are warm wooden floors and the kitchen is a delight! I wish we had one that size and that well equipped for Trevince! Retreatants all sit together to eat in the large dining room, and there are enough sofas for everyone in the cosy living room. There is a burner at one end which provides a really nice focal point, and we gathered round it every evening for different activities. The centre is surrounded by beautiful gardens which are seen through the windows that seem to be everywhere you look. I feel very privileged to have been there at the time I was, as over the week I was able to watch the change from autumn into winter – the first few days there was no frost, the sun was still really warm and I wandered around outside with no coat. On the third morning I woke to find the world white and silent, the grass was stiff under my feet as I walked to the Tara cabin for morning meditation, and my breath emerged as white smoke.

A typical day on retreat was as follows:
7am. I am woken up by another of the retreatants, Chloe, ringing a bell, outside my door which is above the shrine room. It is still dark so I and the other occupants of my room, slowly and sleepily dress and bumble downstairs, across the walkway, stopping to marvel at the stars that are still out, and into the warm dining room. There I make a cup of tea and sit on a sofa , slowly becoming fully coherent, while other retreatants do the same. Apart from the first morning, we are in silence until the first activity at 11am. I enjoy it, it gives me space to start the day and slowly come back to myself, without feeling guilty for ignoring others.
7.30am Morning meditation. I join the beginners meditation, led by Mumukshu, in the Tara Cabin, a small wooden panelled cabin in the grounds of the retreat centre. There is a beautiful shrine, and full length windows that look out onto fields with sheep and woodland. It is so cold that I run and leap across from the house to the cabin in an attempt to preserve my warmth, my feet leaving darker patches in the frozen grass. The other beginners and I leave our shoes outside, exchanging glances that say ‘Isn’t it cold today!’. Once in, we start the session by doing a quick warm up, tapping our bodies all over and shaking ourselves out to get the blood flowing. We sit, and Mumukshu talks about the day’s meditation, we do Mindfulness of Breathing and Metta Bhavana on alternate days. After spending about 40 minutes meditating we each talk about how the meditation went for us, and Mumukshu offers advice and suggestions. It is really good to speak to other beginners about their experiences and realise that I am not the only one to have the problems I do in meditation! About 8.45 we stop, silence resumes and we go back over to the main house. The sun has fully risen by now, and I, full of energy and joy at my beautiful surroundings, cartwheel back over to the house, to the amusement of the people looking out of windows at the right moment.
9.15am. Breakfast! Porridge is made each morning by a retreatant. For the week that we are on retreat we live as a community, meaning each of us signs up for a job every day to help keep the centre running. There is a volunteer cook, Kathy, who makes lovely food all week, but other jobs like cleaning, setting tables, washing up and making breakfast are our responsibility. People take these tasks on with joy, I am offered toast in silence with wide smiles and glints of laughter, and from the washing up area after lunch and dinner peals of laughter ring out. We are in silence until 11am when the writing workshop starts. I love this hour of silence, when people wander from room to room, looking at books, writing, or just sitting. It is so peaceful.
11am. We all gather, pens and paper in hand, in the living room, where Kavyasiddhi sits on  a chair, ready to tease out of us gems of poems and stories that we didn’t know were hidden inside us. The workshops consist of a number of timed writing exercises, in response to a title or phrase given, a walk outside, or a picture or set of words we choose from a random selection provided by Kavyasiddhi. At first she says we aren’t going to share, which makes it a lot easier to write, I’ve never shared my writing with anyone before, and it was this aspect of the retreat that I was most worried about. Kavyasiddhi works us into it slowly, only asking for volunteers to share after a few preliminary exercises.  At the start only a few of us share, reading out in small voices, heads buried in our papers, but by the end of the week we are all sharing our work, heads up, smiling round at the group that has held us all through the experience. We write on a wide variety of different subjects, yet the thing that surprises me is that, even if while writing I don’t think I’m writing about myself, when I read it back, I see exploration and sometimes resolution, of issues or ideas or problems I have been thinking about. 
1.15pm. Lunch is served, and we sit round the dining tables discussing the writing session, our respective lives outside the centre and a myriad of things in between. Everyone is so open and honest, understanding and supportive. After lunch we have free time until group meetings later on. Now is when closer relationships within the group are formed. The writing sessions and the openness within them serve to cement us as a group, but it is the walks together round the site, the washing up sessions that take all afternoon, the cups of tea shared on a sofa, the secret discovery of biscuits in a tin in the cupboard, that create closer bonds of friendships that will last beyond this retreat.
4.30pm. We each have signed up for one of three groups, each led by a retreat leader. I am in Samantabhadhri’s group, along with Linda, Helen, Janine and Amitashuri. It is a mix of people I know and don‘t know: Amitrashuri was a shift co-ordinator in the pancake tent at Buddhafield Festival 2010, as was I, and Janine worked on my shift at my first Buddhafield festival in 2009. It was a surprise to see her here, we became close at Buddhafield 2009, and then I got off the train at Whitstable to find her in the same taxi as me – what a lovely surprise! It really brought home to me how much everything has changed for me – when I first met her I was very unhappy, working a job I didn’t like, full of worry, closed up and wanting to change but not knowing how. In contrast, in the year and a half since I met her I’ve completely transformed my life and myself and am happier that I ever thought I could be.
In our group we use the time to have an extended check in. A check in is where you sit in a circle, and, after a few minutes of silence, go round the circle, each person saying a little bit about how they are feeling, what has gone on for them that day, if they have any problems that they would like to express, or anything they would like to rejoice in. Each morning at Trevince we do this, and it is a really useful tool when living in a community, it helps you act more compassionately towards yourself and others, and brings you closer together as a group. I really enjoyed our group, it was smaller than the others and I felt this helped us have a really safe, held space. I felt truly listened to and understood.  I am really grateful for the people in the group, for their strength and willingness to listen and accept everything each of us said. It was a really powerful experience for me.
6.30pm. Dinner is served, and again, people sit around after chatting and laughing.
7.45pm. Each night is something different: a couple of sessions consist of us sharing inspiring poetry that we or other have written, and in other sessions each retreat leader speaks. Mumukshu introduces a poem by Charles Bukowski called bluebird, which is about creativity, and suggests that we all use the art room to make a bluebird to use in the closing ritual at the end of the week. Kavyasiddhi tells us how she got into writing, and speaks compellingly about ‘the thread’ that is the path that we follow, that might be unknown and scary but that we can’t help following because we know it’s right. This really resonates with me, I feel really strongly that Buddhafield and Buddhism is my thread, I’ve never felt a pull this strong towards anything, and it has been something I’ve thought a lot about this summer. It’s good to hear someone else talking about it. Samantabhadhri also talks about her relationship with words, speaking about her ambitions to be a writer and sharing some of her writing with us.
8.30pm. Puja time! Having been brought up a Jehovah‘s Witness, and being told from a very early age that worshipping an image and participating in ritual  is completely utterly wrong, and something which will stop you from living forever in paradise on earth, I’ve had quite a struggle to be able to join in puja’s and appreciate them. It’s something I still struggle with. I’ve done very few puja’s before now, and never a seven fold puja every night for a week! It’s a very emotional experience for me, especially when I watch people making offerings, and recite the admittance of faults. The shrine space is really striking, and I felt a connection with the rupa, which I really enjoyed and was grateful for. Something clicked in my head to make it all make sense to me. I realised that the image of the Buddha is not an idol, we are not worshipping the image itself, which is what Jehovah’s Witnesses prohibit, but what it symbolises. It is symbolic of a state to aspire to. I look at the rupa and see someone to look up to, as I would look up to my parents, or a teacher, or someone I respect, I see someone who has set an example that I can strive to follow and be like. It’s so hard to put this all into words!
Hearing 30 or so women all chanting together, and listening to the Heart Sutra being recited was very moving and really affected me, each night it reduced me to tears. After the puja we went into silence over night. This was so good for me too, each puja had such an effect me that I wasn’t really capable of talking, I just needed to be alone with my thoughts, and feel the space inside me that the puja helped create.
On the last night as part of the closing ritual we all gave the blue birds we had made as offerings to the shrine, hanging them from a line draped across the shrine space. It was truly amazing to see this solid symbol of all our efforts to release our inner creativity and to use that in way to benefit ourselves and others.

 Photo with much thanks to Amitashuri

On the last morning, we all meditated together in the shrine room, doing a group Metta Bhavana. This was possibly the most intense experience of the retreat for me. We sat and did the first stage, and then, in turn Samantabhadhri, who led the meditation side of the retreat, named us all in turn, and as each person was named we concentrated our Metta on them. Going into it I felt quite blasé about it, I didn’t think that I would feel much as I find Metta Bhavana the hardest practise, but I really did! I felt so much love and warmth from everyone in the room, it really moved me. Afterwards I felt like Tigger! I had so much energy and love that I literally had to bounce around and do cartwheels to express it. I was sorry to leave, and to see the group of women who I felt such a connection with disperse, but I guess it’s another lesson in being able to let things go, and understanding that I can’t hold onto things because they will always fade and change. I came away from the retreat feeling renewed and refreshed and even more sure that following this thread is what I must, and will continue to do.

I’d like to thank Buddhafield for this chance to go on retreat, there is no way I could have gone on it without their help. I’d also like to thank Abbie for pointing it out to me and persuading me to go after I saw that I’d have to share my writing and immediately ran away from it! I’d like to thank Rosie and Mumukshu  for being there with me and last but not least, I’d like to thank all the wonderful amazing women who were part of the retreat – big sardu to you all guys!!

Love Ruth

Link Love

Late posting this week! Louise is on a work retreat at Broadhembury, with no phone signal or internet, and I have just returned from the depths of Wales (Aberystwyth to be precise) where I had no phone charger and no internet. Thus, Tuesday’s post was missed, and today’s post will be short but sweet.

I don’t know about any of you but I am an unashamed internet addict and I end up reading a lot of random websites, I thought I’d share a few that are of a more Buddhist nature. If anyone else has any gems they would like to spread the word about, send them to blog@buddhafield.com please, and this could become a bit more regular!

Be thankful for something, everyday! This website consists of notes of thanks to things in the author’s life, from irreverent notes to the plastic bag on the pavement to notes about facing the realities of life. I laugh out loud most times I read this!

Be mindful every second of every day. This website contains prompts on specific things to try to be mindful of each day, some are fairly obvious, but other tips have really made me think, such as ‘What would a day without competition be like for you? Spend a day with no competing with yourself or others.’. At school I was fairly competetive in sports, and I’ve never thought about it since leaving 6 years ago but reading that tip made me really understand that all the time, inside, I’m competing with an ideal of a perfect Ruth, and my self doubt and dislike come, partly at least, from that competativeness inside me. Something to work on I think!

It’s nice when science backs up what we know already! Scientists have carried out tests and now have evidence that meditating makes you happier, I could have told them that!

Finally, I’d like to share a picture I found which I really love. For me it really illustrates the idea of the many faces and aspects of the Buddha, and how though we are all different, we are also very much the same :-).

Hope you enjoyed this post, I’ll be posting again soon with a review of my retreat at Taraloka!

The Sacred Landscape appeal


* Stop Press* 

The are three exciting events coming up in aid of Buddhafield’s Sacred Landscape appeal. We only have around £15,000 before Frog Mill is fully paid off so if you can, support these events and have a great time whilst doing it.

Sat 4th Dec 2010 Yorkshire: Film and curry night near Hebden Bridge Call Karen on 07765 022702

Fri 10th Dec 2010 Sussex: Band on a Boat! Party on a house boat near Brighton www.justgiving.com/padma-pani0

Sat 11th Dec 2010 London: A musical night with Vilasamani at the West London Buddhist Center www.justgiving.com/DharmachariVilasamani

 Broadhembury: Dandelion/forget-me-not double exposure  Hannah Phillips

Buddhafield owns two pieces of land, both of them in Devon. One is is West Devon and is near the village of Broadhembury, the other, Frog Mill is in Dartmoor National Park. They are very different environments each with their own distinct qualities.

Broadhembury is a wild and beautiful 25 acres of woodland and wetland on a sloped hillside. There are natural springs, bluebell woods, ancient woodland, an ash plantation, a Douglas Fir plantation and gorse. At Broadhembury we are now integrating the magic of our retreats with the challenge of practicing sustainable land use in a real and long term way.
The dawn chorus in May is the loudest and most amazing I’ve ever heard in the UK and the tawny owls in February looking for mates, hooting and calling, landing on tree branches just above tents is simply stunning to witness- and be woken by! 
Buddhafield won 3 acres of land at Broadhembury in a competition about ten years ago and when the surrounding land came up for sale, the collective bought it and set about creating drainage ditches and flat spots for camping. It is a well loved piece of land that is often described as ‘challenging’- particularly when it is wet. The shrine tent is usually up in the woods which is a good ten minute hike from the ‘hearth’ area on the terraces where the kitchen and tea tents are so, if it’s wet, retreatants are pretty much guaranteed to experience the full extent of the changing British weather. It is what makes Broadhembury such a special place. Buddhafield’s own wilderness.

Broadhembury apple blossom and ash double exposure Hannah Phillips

Around Broadhembury cow double exposure Hannah Phillips
Broadhembury hot tub: Shantikara with Lomo fisheye lens Hannah Phillips

Trees planted at Broadhembury, Devon
Broadhembury new trees Vidyadasi

Frog Mill is a gentler site of 17 acres in Dartmoor National park. It consists of several fields with thick established hedgerows and trees and a river, the Blackaton Brook, dividing the site and has views of some of the craggy Tors of Dartmoor. The river is home to kingfisher, dippers and spawns salmon and is the life blood of the land. The children LOVE it and it is their watery playground when they come on retreat. The site is large enough, and has enough flat space to hold our larger retreat events, such as the Family Friendly retreat.

Our aim for this tranquil site is to develop a magical and safe environment, providing the opportunity for adults and children to experience connection 
with a beautiful piece of land, hopefully for many years into the future. We are looking into various kinds of tree planting, including an organic orchard, and coppice for fuel and wildlife habitat. Taking on this project has been a leap of faith for us: In 2006 we borrowed £85,000 to buy the land and we wish to wholeheartedly thank all who have contributed £65,000 to our Land Appeal so far.

Frog Mill and the Blackaton Brook Padmapani

The stream running through Frog Mill, Dartmoor
Frog Mill Padmapani

As part of the Buddhafield vision we are drawn to nature as the primary context for our life and practice — to the beauty of the natural world, to the living experience of interconnectedness it gives us, to the ancient sacred sites and landscapes around us.

Therefore we wish to create sanctuaries and shrines, for our own and others’ benefit; to live simply and to live lightly on the land, using appropriate technology and exemplifying best practice in all that we do.  Owning this land means that our larger retreats have a site that can be developed for their needs.

Work on the design for Broadhembury got underway during the winter of 2004, and continues. Work on the land will be an integral part of at least one 
Buddhafield Retreat each season. Out of a desire for the well being not only of humankind but also animals, birds and the earth itself, Buddhafield is taking a leading role in developing an eco-Buddhist culture in this country. 
In 2004 we employed the
permaculturalist Phil Corbett to carry out a survey at Broadhembury. Following this consultation Dharmamrta developed a permaculture design for the land, which includes planting trees for firewood and for fruit; creating terraces to provide flat land for camping, and planting hedges for shelter and privacy.

If anyone wants to help us to fully own Frog Mill in the next few months then ‘Be 1 of the 150! Contact me, Hannah on hannahaha15@hotmail.com or call me on 0781 449 6070.

Posted by Hannah Phillips

Announcement on a new monthly post!

“An Artist is not a special kind of person, every person is a special kind of Artist”
Pygmy Proverb

Do you wander with words or ponder with paint? Do you still your mind through music or dance? What do you find beautiful that stirs your imagination and devotion?

We are starting a monthly ‘Artist’s Corner’ post where we want to know about your creative practises and devotional inspirations.

It can be anything from carving to knitting, from writing to singing, or even just walking in the woods. We will post pictures or poems be they your own or someone elses as long as you write a few words to say why and how it is something that helps to bring on that stillness. Send you reviews, stories, inspirations to us at blog@buddhafield.com

The first official post will be at the end of December and then the end of each month from then after.

“Let the beauty we love be what we do”

Posted in Art

Men’s Study Weekend 29-31 October. Brought to you by Leif!

The weekend started with dinner on Friday night. The women had vacated the premises in order to do a gardening/study event down the hill.

After the meal, Shantikara – who would be leading the study sessions – gave us an introduction to the Sigalovada sutta. In it, the Buddha meets a young man engaged in the practice of venerating the six directions (the compass points plus up and down). He uses this as a framework to deliver a teaching, broadly on social responsibility.

We finished the day with a short dedication ceremony, to help set the focus for the weekend. The shrine room, it has to be said, is not terribly large. Fitting more then eight of us might have become a squeeze. But it was a good end to the day. And so dear reader, to bed – more or less.

The next day started at 7.00am with two 45 minute meditations in the shrine room, led by Satyajit – who facilitated all the meditations sessions. Then breakfast and a session of staring each other out until someone cracked and agreed to cook dinner.

10.30 saw us settling for a couple of hours study –  once we had gotten over Sean’s arrival in slinky lycra (he’d cycled in from home). Having fanned ourselves vigorously, we got down to looking at the sutta.

The first section covers the Buddha meeting Sigalaka while he’s worshipping the six directions and receiving his request to be instructed in the correct way to do it. The immediate point which Shantikara drew out of it was that the sutta is heavily imbued with the cultural context of that time and place (Northern India around 500BCE).

Moving on, the text listed four impure actions to be avoided-

  • Harming living beings
  • Taking what is not given
  • Sexual misconduct
  • False speech

The first four precepts in their traditional form and then another list of four causes of harmful deeds (also to be avoided)-

  • Desire
  • Hatred
  • Delusion
  • Fear

The first three form another traditional list called the three poisons.

A point came up around whether the Buddha was giving this teaching because he had recognised Sigalaka as someone in danger of falling into unskillful conduct. The basic teaching being, act in accordance with where you want to be. All familiar – but slippery – territory around karmic comsequences and conditionality (in its broadest sense, saying that phenomena arise dependent upon conditions). Suck on that.

Next the Buddhaa listed six ways of squandering wealth and then six dangers associated with each. This is where the cultural context really started kicking in – and that the suttas were orginally composed to be passed down orally (lists within lists are a common feature). This section caused a lot of smiles, but also serious questions about whether the Buddha meant only material wealth – and why – and how the lists related to our own experience.

Eventually, we drew the session to a close in order to have a short meditation before lunch.

After some free time in the afternoon, we reconvened for a couple of hours more study. The next section listed four kinds of true friends and four kinds of bad companion, and their characteristics. This had a lot in common with the earlier lists – hardly surprising. bearing in mind conditionality – covering the appropriate use of wealth and an exhortation to “gather wealth in harmless ways”.

Again stuff came up about cultural context, whether this was that actual word of the Buddha – texts were certainly added while passing down the centuries – and what which parts have a bearing on current circumstances. It’s all a bit academic, otherwise.

Another break for meditation, then dinner and a bit more free time. We ended the day with a puja – recitation of traditional verses and mantras in order to encourage devotional feeling (particularly in a group context). No music. Buddhafield is associated with wacky musical pujas but it isn’t par for the course when we are at home. I like them quiet, most of the time, anyway.

The next day followed the same routine. We spent both study sessions on the last part of the sutta. This is where the Buddha gives the teaching on the correct way to worship the six directions. Clearly he is using it to present the teaching which Sigalaka needs.

The Buddha identifies each direction with a particular relationship –

  • Parents
  • Secular teachers
  • Partner and children
  • Friends and colleagues
  • Workers and servants
  • Ascetics and Brahmins

For each, he lists five ways in which respect is shown toward them and five ways in which they respond positively to such treatment. Following this advice is presented as a path to happiness. Again, the material needs to be seen in the context of the time and place in which it was being given. The sutta ends with Sigalaka asking the Buddha to accept him as a lay-follower.

So dinner and a puja, then the weekend officially came to a close. The womenfolk arrived back sometime after I’d gone to bed – hardy souls.

Making time for single sex activities is held to be important within the movement and I have previously found it a helpful space to work with. Possibly because I was doing it at home this time, mostly with a group who also live here, my main impression around it was of the house being half empty. But this is not even a quibble. It was a pleasure to have the opportunity for intensive study – especially with material taken for the Pali canon.

I think we were unanimous in agreeing that we need to do it again. I expect that, next time, we’ll leave the house and the women will have the house for a bit. Camping in January anyone?