Green Earth Awakening 2013: Post-event Roundup

Buddhafield ran its Festival at The Gallops from 2001-2008. The site, a few miles north of Wellington, Somerset, features a couple of fields bordered by a hardcore track that was used at one time for exercising horses. I hadn’t been there since the last time we used the site for the Festival and was slightly apprehensive. Simon picked me up in town, but when we got to the crossroads near the site entrance, I have to confess to a mix of feelings as memory stirred.

There’s nothing quite like revisiting a place to be reminded that memory isn’t like a sort of movie I replay in my head. It plays itself out very physically. I was involved with running the Festival Steward Crew at the Gallops throughout our time at that site and each event was consistently, incredibly intense. That doesn’t mean it was painful (although there were acutely difficult moments), but the breadth of demands that had been on me personally mean that my relationship to those fields left me unsure about whether I could settle back quickly or easily.

Rocket and wood gas stove workshop with Jonathan Rouse

As we drove on site, my feeling was immediately drawn back to positive association. I was reminded of the many beautiful things about The Gallops, especially the bottom field which had been our main ‘arena’. The Buddhafield Café structure was being erected in the same spot it had been traditionally sited (Simon and I arrived just in time to help hoist the skeleton up), with it’s broad view, diagonally across and down the field. It’s bordered by a solid tree line, gradating into woodland to the north at the bottom of the slope, sheep pasture most of the year round, but in itself full of wildlife. There’re at least two substantial badger sets, and amongst the birds I even saw a woodpecker disappear into a nest hole in an old pine.

At the Green Earth Awakening (GEA) I’d agreed to help manage the Buddhafield Café alongside Ruth. We knew we were planning to run a slightly different format of Café to usual, with the shift pattern being shorter and focusing around fixed meal times (for the first time we’d offered pre-booked meals as an option on a ticket price). During setup, the Café was also anticipating inspection by Mid Devon County Council’s Environmental Health, so there was a certain extra sense of pressure. Being a field Café, and one that is fairly unique, we don’t easily fit an off-the-shelf food management model. There’s an ongoing process of reviewing how we do things, because our food handling practice requires ongoing refinement when we often don’t construct the same format of tent (we can’t guarantee the same workflow for dividing unprepared from ready-to-eat foods: it has to be redesigned each time). And of course at the GEA we’d had to take a the best part of our kit out of winter storage, so everything needed a very good scrub. Happily, our inspection went very well and the Buddhafield Café now has a very healthy five-star rating.

We had a very small team, mainly because we’d found it very difficult to recruit enough folk to help with setup. However the people who did arrive were a very easy bunch to work with and setup went remarkably well. It was a very harmonious week. We eat very well and an end-of-day sauna gave us that Ready Brek glow to counter some very cold nights. I think practically everyone was twitchy about weather, given how awful last summer had been and that we were still working around an ongoingly moody spring. In the end, daylight weather was actually mostly good, although the wind and cold on Friday was a bit punishing.

Making willow fish lanterns

Samashuri and Lila in the willow fish lantern making workshop led by Tasha Stevens-Vallecillo

But! What a lovely event weekend! Rosie’s workshop programme was a winner and there was plenty of opportunity to laze around in the sun.

I took quite a few photos and uploaded the best to a photo set under the Buddhafield Flickr account.

There were several talks given over the weekend. Lokabandhu spoke about A Buddhist Approach to Changing the World, Satyajit talked about Awakening to the Earth – An Inconceivably Vast Undertaking and Akasati gave a talk for Wesak on The Wisdom of Letting Go Revealed In the Story of the Buddha’s Enlightenment. (Thanks to The Buddhist Centre and Free Buddhist Audio for their support.)

Lokabandhu did a short interview with Rosie during the event which he’s posted to AudioBoo.

ThankYouThankYouThankYou to everyone who participated! This time next year Buddhafield expect’s to be helping organise the 2014 Triratna International Retreat at Adhisthana near Great Malvern, but we hope to run a second Green Earth Awakening in 2015.

Women’s Mitra Study Retreat 2013

I have been asked to write a blog to accompany the photos I sent of the ladies Mitra retreat! Well, I have never written a blog before so here goes…

I have been going on retreat with Buddhafield now for about 6 years and in the last few years I have been doing about 2 a year. I usually have one “for me” and one where I help on the team, this one was for me! I was particularly looking forward to this one as it was in a beautiful medieval farmhouse and had beds! As it turned it the farmhouse was simply amazing! Not only did it have beds but it had a dishwasher too!!! To any hardened camping retreat goer this was an unbelievable luxury that couldn’t quite be taken in!

Women's Study Week

Siddhimala and Lou

Gradually we all started to arrive, 9 wonderful ladies congregated and a community began to form. This was my first “study” retreat and the daily programme was quite full starting with meditation, breakfast, study period, lunch, reflection, led meditation, dinner, study period, evening puja/ritual/meditation. Phew! There were periods of silent reflection amongst this to constructively reflect on the material.

The study material was the four mind turning reflections which are the preciousness of this human life; death and impermanence; karma and its consequences and the defects of samsara. We listened together to the 5 talks by Order members which were an introduction talk and then one on each reflection and then were facilitated in often lively, hilarious discussions about the subject matter. I absolutely loved it! It is a very long time since I have been in a constructive study atmosphere (if ever!) and I found the mental exercise exhilarating, I learned a great deal and each day we had so much to absorb and reflect on. We were all a bit scrambled with overload of information at some stages and Siddhimala (our excellent teacher) was very skilful in directing our thought processes, she was a complete joy to be taught by! Siddhimala was supported by Varabadhri who has a wonderful sense of humour and a keen eye for ritual; she not only supported us all but organised wonderful ritual evenings in true Buddhafield style.

Women's Study Week

The retreatants (minus Lulu!)

After a week I was sad to leave but ready to come home to my busy life. I have brought these daily reflections with me (consciously and sub-consciously) and they have been seeping into my daily practice. The first action for me was to give up Facebook and playing annoyingly addictive computer games. I realised I spent too much of my “precious” time in this life trawling through this medium like a voyeur looking at the lives of others (some I don’t even know!!) and decided this had to stop! I am feeling quite refreshed by this decision and am finding pockets of time already to do things like write this blog which I wouldn’t have had “time” for before.

So from the bottom of my heart, thank you to the Buddhafield team for this wonderful week in Devon, I so hope it continues next year as I will definitely be coming back, if I am still in this precious life!

Lulu Robertson

Weekend Working Retreat

This photo set was taken on a Buddhafield Weekend Working Retreat held at our HQ Trevince House, near Crediton, Devon. From Friday evening to Sunday lunchtime of the last weekend of February 2013, 12 people did periods of practical work to help prepare for the coming season of camping activities.

Trevor took a party out to a barn to sort through our canvases, which were checked for damage.The team set aside those needing repair. Ratnarashi led a second team sorting through our store of 12v electric lighting, testing LEDs, switches and cables, then sorting and packing them in crates for later use.  Seán supervised the cleaning of our store of Hep2O plumbing joints: we have several hundred in several sizes, and they all needed scrubbing, sterilizing and collating into complete sets, packing and sealing each set into a bag ready for use. Rupadarshin, preparing new geodesic dome poles, led a coppicing team and Satyadarshin cooked (and took the photos).

We based the event around exploring a traditional Buddhist teaching, the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. Ratnarashi gave a short talk on the theme on Friday evening, and in between work periods he asked us to reflect on our experience of applying the teaching to the work.

We started Saturday and Sunday morning with a 40 minute collective meditation practice and had shorter sessions before lunch and dinner. We ended the event with a vegan roast Sunday lunch.

Photos by Satyadarshin.

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Festival 2012: Photographs by Mim Saxl

We were blessed by having two Official Photographer’s at this years’s Buddhafield Festival and I’d like to share the work of one of them, Mim Saxl. You can see a gallery of her 2012 Buddhafield Festival work on her website.

Mim is an Oxford based photographer who specialises in natural light work — no light rigs, no studios. She has a great sense for capturing the personality of a subject and especially in drawing out connection and the magic of the moment. Buddhafield Festival 2012 photographer Mim Saxl She’s caught the evolving warmth between people: people lost in a hug, sometimes a bit shy or curious. I particularly like those people caught in a playful moment: I remember watching the naked dash across the Long Field when I was having tea in Pachamamas on Saturday afternoon! Mim has captured what I recall of the joyous absurdity of the moment.

There are many fleeting details in her work — raindrops from bunting, huge bubbles, children leaping the labyrinth path — and lush colour in others — a family in bright raincoats and a evening inside Small World.

Mim says she took the image in this page just as they were leaving site. She asked her partner to hold his hands up to the sky: “It was how we felt, leaving such a wonderful and fulfilling weekend.”

Mim also has a blog and a Facebook page.

Photos from the Women’s weekend at Easterbrook


A selection of photos from our gardening weekend at Easterbrook.
Alice ponders the Polytunnel.


Women’s ‘mess’.


Our camp in the sewing loft, complete with shrine and library!
View from the Polytunnel, there is so much to do!


Lamb’s Lettuce.


Sunflowers and slugs trying to escape the Polytunnel



The beauteous, bountiful Kale!


More Kale…


And more Kale, the most abundant vegetable in the garden, we have it every night at Trevince!
Rocket flower.


Mixed salad in one hand and…
Freshly picked lettuce in the other!
All photos were taken by us and Liz, we will be uploading more soon.