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Sangha Community Noticeboard

zafusFurther news, notices and events from Gaia House and the wider Buddhist community:

If you have any events, news or reports from a Meditation Group connected to Gaia House or about any Sangha community activity, please email the details to comms@gaiahouse.co.uk and we will publish it here.

NEWS, NOTICES & EVENTS

Dharma and Civil Disobedience

This November Gaia House teachers Yanai Postelnik, Catherine McGee, Rob Burbea, and Kirsten Kratz, along with many Dharma practitioners from the wider Gaia House community, participated in a series of planned actions of non-violent civil disobedience in London, part of an attempt to galvanize the UK government to urgently implement a truly appropriate response to the emergencies of climate change and mass species extinction. Despite dozens of participants being arrested (including Yanai and a number of senior Dharma practitioners), the days were pervaded by a beautiful and peaceful spirit. While their decision to be involved and to risk arrest, and to continue to do so, does not represent an official Gaia House stance – they choose as individuals to act in this way – each feels called by their own sense of the meaning of the Buddha’s teachings for our times, by their own conscience and sense of ethical duty.

We are all asked to wake up to the severity of the situation and to see through the dangerous delusion that ‘business as usual’ is still an option. Responding to this wake-up call is the task of our times. But it can be truly heart-breaking, for so much has already been lost, so much is at stake. Rooting ourselves deeply in the heart’s capacity of care, compassion, and joy can be a powerful antidote to despair, grief, and overwhelm. So too can joining forces with others; we can’t do this on our own. And no matter what the outcome, can we view this as an invitation to step up, trust and bring forth the very best in ourselves?”  ~ Kirsten Kratz

 

“The abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, the U.S Civil Rights Movement – there are issues which in their time can be portrayed as if they are debatable or just political or economic questions. A little while later it is clear to all that they are moral issues, on which human beings have a moral duty to act and take a stand. Carrying fundamental moral obligations, they make a claim on us more primary than any other. Climate change and mass species extinction are such issues. And since, for me, the Dharma is above all else about values – including and especially moral values – this is simply part of the commitment of my Dharma practice.”   ~ Rob Burbea

“My heart is breaking and my conscience is calling to me, saying, ‘Stand up and take a risk. What else makes sense now?’ We are risking tipping into catastrophic climate breakdown if current policy trends continue, with terrible effects already being experienced by many, mostly worse off and less privileged than myself. And so I act this way because I can, and because the usual lobbying pathways are not working. And I act this way because a force in my body demands that I must do my part. As a member of society I feel I have a responsibility to put pressure on my government to fulfil their side of the social contract and act swiftly in the light of the IPCC report.”  ~ Catherine McGee

 

 

“We face an undeclared emergency and I feel compelled by my conscience to stand up for our sacred, fragile planetary ecology, on behalf of our children and all living things who have no voice. I am called to risk my comfort, my privilege, and even my liberty, in responding to the ecological and spiritual devastation that confronts us, if we do not act together and act now, with courageous hearts.”   ~ Yanai Postelnik

To read more about the background of this action you can visit this page on the DANCE website.

http://www.thedancewebsite.org/networks/dharma-and-civil-disobedience/


One of the first western ordained bhikkhunis at Gaia House

You may have seen Venerable Canda during one of her stays at Gaia House while she has been supporting personal and work retreatants as well as our staff team. We feel very privileged to have Ven. Canda with us at Gaia House; apart from her wise teachings and joyous presence, our temporary resident teacher represents a historic shift in the evolution of the Dharma. For historical reasons, fully ordained nuns- ‘bhikkhunis’- are very rare.

Ancient texts record that the Buddha, Gautama ordained the first bhikkhunis 2600 years ago, and to preserve their autonomy, made a provision for other ordained women to ordain new bhikkhunis. However, sometime between the 11th and 13th century, the lineage in the Theravada tradition died out. With no bhikkhunis to continue the lineage of ordination, for nearly a thousand years, it has been widely believed that women are no longer able to assume the same status and thus receive the same training opportunities as male practitioners in the Theravada tradition.

However, since the 1990s, a handful of senior bhikkhus (monks), many of whom are renowned scholars and meditation teachers, have pioneered the full ordination of women to re-ignite the flame of women’s monastic service and contribution. Experts on the Buddhist monastic code (such as Bhikkhu Bodhi, Bhante Analayo, and Ajahn Brahm) have pointed out that not only did the Buddha make an allowance for monks or ‘bhikkhus’ to ordain women without the presence of bhikkhunis- likely with foresight and compassion for future generations- historical evidence suggests that Dharmaguptaka (Mahayana) bhikkhunis are also descended from the Theravada lineage, and so bhikkhuni ordinations performed by that lineage of Mahayana bhikkhunis are valid.

Though women’s full ordination has been strongly resisted by Buddhist authorities in Burma and Thailand, it hasn’t stopped the march of progress toward equity, allowing women to once again devote their lives to practice as renunciants in this most ancient of Buddhist traditions.

Gaia House has a long history of support from the Theravada Buddhist tradition, with many of our teachers coming from or being trained by this community. We see Gaia House having an important role in making Buddhist teaching and practice accessible in the modern world and supporting this progressive reform of the Theravada school seems a natural response to bring Buddhism – as the Buddha intended it, with full equity for women – squarely into the 21st century.

A student of the Australian monk Ajahn Brahm, Ven. Canda is one of the very few western women who have received bhikkhuni ordination, and she has come to the UK to establish a community of practitioners that aspire to support the training and ordination of women in Britain. She is now looking for supporters and benefactors to fund the development of their project and provide a place (preferably with good transport links to, or on the outskirts of, London) where she can initially live and base her activities.

If you can offer support and/or would like to know more, please visit the website or Facebook page of Anukampa Bhikkhuni Project:

https://anukampaproject.org/

Fb Anukampa Bhikkhuni Project

Email: team@anukampaproject.org


Dharma Action Network for Climate Change (DANCE):
Sixth All-night vigil (2 December 2017)
An account from Anne Cockcroft

“Such a beautiful experience: sitting through the night, with a group of people. I was moved and touched by many things throughout the night and the flavour of the experience is hard to put into words. There was something about sitting with a group of people with a shared intention, and a deep wish to see change in the world, that opened my heart and I was moved to feel and express movements of love, pain, sadness, joy, difficulty and desire at times within the sits – all these expressions entering the circle.

I was deeply moved by the opening ritual of lighting candles, and all night long they flickered and danced in the middle, representing to me the unwavering heart of the earth, underneath the suffering. Kirsten’s invitation at the opening to allow oneself to be softly led through the night, rather than to sit with a force of determination and battle against the tiredness, spoke to me as a beautiful intention to start the night. In actuality, I wandered, and struggled at times, between the two states of seeming to open and softly enter layers of otherworldly feeling in the deep realms of tiredness, and at other moments I was aware of a fierce resistance fighting the urge to let the body drop into the welcoming arms of unconsciousness and healing sleep.

It is as if, in a way, you squash a whole week’s retreat into the journey through the night: sit by sit, breath by breath. The sittings interspersed with reviving, warming, spicy chai; walks through the dark trees in the Gaia grounds becoming a space for the calls of the owls and the rustlings of the nocturnal animals; gazing at the beauty of the full moon that shone with a rainbow halo through the clouded sky.

My body welcomed the soft, yielding moves of the yoga in the early hours, reminding me of my very real animal nature. The haunting, melodic cries of the whale voices, played during a sit, brought the world of the deep oceans into the night space and this resonated somewhere deep within me.

To end, the image that was evoked by Kirsten, of holding the world in the middle of the circle and weaving, with the passing of a feather, threads of connection, love and healing around the earth as the night came close to dawn, was particularly poignant for me. In the passing of the feather around the circle, I felt the love from my neighbour come through their eyes. And allowing myself to let go to a deeper flow, I sensed the deep wishes for peace, love and healing passing from person to person and around the earth.

Thank you to all those who sat in the night, and to Kirsten for guiding the journey.”


The UK's first iBme retreat for young people
An account from Ella Titman Tamari

“I was lucky to have an opportunity to support the first UK iBme retreat – a young adults retreat – in August 2017 and felt moved to share something about my experience with the Gaia House community.

iBme stands for Inward Bound Mindful Education and is pronounced I be me. When I was asked if I wanted to be on staff I read through the US iBme site and came across amazing testimonials from past participants – statements like “after a couple of days my whole outlook on life was changed”. As someone that spent years re-parenting herself I didn’t get very far in my reading before I knew I was committed to supporting iBme. Then, in August 2017, when the young adults started arriving for the retreat I heard myself thinking “there is no way we are going to change their lives in less than a week” but we did. End of retreat replies to a question about self-knowledge gained during the retreat included answers like: “That I don’t need drugs to be happy”, “How many feelings one can have; my inner capacity for love and kindness”, “Going out of my comfort zone with things and eventually being comfortable with it” and “Surprised by how much fun I had!”

There is a high adults to young adults ratio on iBme retreats. One of the staff’s responsibilities is to make sure all the young people show up for all the sessions – it is called sweeping. Most of the time the young adults show up because the group creates its own motivation and because so much happens in the relational fields, nobody wants to miss out on anything. When the occasional drop of energy occurs, an adult will help a teen rekindle their enthusiasm through conversation and enquiry.

Another staff responsibility is to role-model through participation. For example, one of the self-enquiry practices used during the week is completing the statement ‘if you really knew me…’. On the first evening of the retreat all the staff got up and shared an ‘if you really knew me’ as a way of introducing themselves to the group. I still do ‘if you really knew me’ enquiries when I want to explore deeper into my experience and I imagine this is one of the self-enquiry skills the young people took home with them. Of course, loads more happens on an iBme retreat, much more than I could write about here. In 2017 a mother and daughter and an adult-cousin and teen-cousin participated in the retreat at the same time. One way to find out more is to encourage your teenage friends and relations to enrol and tell you all about their experience when they get back home and/or to volunteer as staff.

I want to close this testimonial by mentioning that the programme’s organisers have gone out of their way to make the programme affordable and inclusive. The cost is 1% of annual household income. Families reliant on income support pay £35 per teen and there is a £600 cap for teenagers from affluent backgrounds. Teens registered on the first UK iBme represented the full family income range including two teens that were enrolled by their headteacher and one enrolled by their case worker. Furthermore, the programme models an ethos of sexual, gender and ethnic origin inclusivity. iBme endeavours to have a diverse staff and on arrival, when staff and young adults write their name on a sticker they are invited to describe themselves as they/their, she/hers, he/his. I’ve been involved in whole group and small group Q&As in which teens brought up sexuality for discussion and am sure those labels, written during registration, help to set the field for mature and respectful enquiry of sexuality that is often not available in daily life.

In 2018 there will be two iBme retreats in the UK: a young adults retreat (18 – 23 August) and a retreat for teachers and other adults who work with young people (8 – 10 June).”

Further Information

iBme UK

Research summary report on the impact of iBme Mindfulness Retreats for teenagers

Research paper on the impact of mindfulness and self-compassion on emotional well-being in adolescents

For recordings from past retreats visit the US site

Contact: If you have any questions, please contact Jem Shackleford: jem@ibme.org.uk [/expa


Rachel Davies, our Outreach Development Officer and a former Coordinator, offers an account of her experience of the coordinator role at Gaia House:

“Having worked as a coordinator, I can attest to many joyful aspects of living and offering service at Gaia House, and a central part of the experience was the opportunity to deepen in practice. Being immersed in a community where there are so many wholesome shared intentions is a rare blessing, and can’t be overstated as a support on this path. In Buddhist teachings, there are three ‘jewels’: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and whilst it’s possible to interpret these jewels in a variety of ways, there is certainly great recognition that, in walking this path, we need Sangha in some form – we need to walk side-by-side with others who also hold dear that which we hold dear.

In coming to Gaia House as a coordinator, one comes into an intentional Sangha which, as well as serving the awakening of all those who come to practise at Gaia House, also serves the awakening of each coordinator team member.

Life in community certainly has its challenges, and the work can sometimes be demanding. Running a large retreat centre asks a lot at times. However, I would like to take a moment to describe the many structures in place at Gaia House which support the coordinators in deepening and widening in practice, and which make the coordinator role a wonderful opportunity to prioritise Dharma practice.

As well as having resources like the meditation hall and library immediately to hand, there is also the opportunity to sign up for regular interviews with local teachers and develop an ongoing student/teacher relationship, which is something of a unique opportunity. There are fortnightly ‘Dharma Discussions’ where coordinators explore Dharma themes together with a teacher. These themes might be study-related, a form of inquiry, or an exploration of a particular Dharma theme and how it relates to living in community or being in relationship, for example. There is the opportunity to join in with retreats during time off, and also an annual coordinator retreat where the coordinator community all retreats together in the midst of the November Solitary month. In addition, there is of course the ongoing opportunity for discussion and learning from the wise community around you – fellow Dharma practitioners, visiting teachers. And, if this wasn’t enough…after a period of service, coordinators are given ‘Free Sitting Time’ – approximately eight weeks of retreat time at Gaia House for every year of service. The practice support therefore continues well after the end of a period of service.

Speaking for myself, the coordinator experience was deeply supportive and nourishing for practice. The work itself, my relationships with people, the challenges, daily life in fact, all became part of my practice and of equal importance to sitting on a cushion. I was able to join in with a number of retreats with visiting teachers in my time off, and I also found that framing the whole thing as an offering of service was a practice in itself, revealing layers of teachings. I learnt so much during that time, and carry the learnings with me still. And as well as making many sustaining Dharma friendships along the way, I was also able to do an extended period of retreat afterwards.

If you have an interest in awakening, if you are interested in finding ways for Dharma practice to both deepen and become central in the midst of daily living, and if you are interested in forging a relationship with Gaia House and becoming part of a Dharma community offering service then this is truly a golden opportunity.”

Find out more about becoming a coordinator.


Some feedback from those that participated in Creating Community – Creating Change: A Climate Change Engagement Retreat

organised by Gaia House in conjunction with Dharma Action Network for Climate Engagement (DANCE) and held at Hill End, near Oxford in autumn 2015.”]

“The Hill End retreat was rather special – a definite sense of a community coming together and being nurtured.” Rufus Wondre

“I had such an uplifting time on this retreat. I felt like so much space was created for reflecting on all of the difficult feelings and sadness that come with the destruction of our world. I understand how switched off from this we can be, and how if we can get in touch with and allow these feelings, we can become completely engaged, acting with power and truth. Thank you so much for all of your love, organisation and everything else that went into this!” Lauren Goodey

“We were all glowing by the end of the weekend with great joy and gratitude for our time together.” Brigid Avison

“What a great retreat! Of all the great activities that took place that weekend, I’d only like to give feedback about Lindsay’s question: “If you give everything you have and it’s never enough; what can you do?” Each of us paired up with another retreatant to take turns asking our partner this question three times. Our first answer was to be a straightforward verbal response. Our 2nd answer was a nonverbal response, and the 3rd answer was to be nonverbal again but allowing the question to go deeper into our quiet. I still think about this question and I realise that my answer is full of negatives!

I will not quit!
I will not be angry and violent
I will not be depressed
I will not feel loss of hope
I will not lose my energy
I will not stop listening to others who do not agree with me
I will not make people ‘others’

What a beautiful primal question!” Gregory Ricks

“One great thing about the retreat was the rather improvisatory nature of its structure, and I did agree with what Suvaco (a facilitator) said about the importance of encouraging us all, even the ones of us who don’t consider ourselves leaders, to step up and start to organise for the first time. Often I’m the one who hangs back and lets others do the organising. But we all need to be leaders in these times. I felt on this retreat that the line between participant and facilitator was more permeable, which was great.”

“I had some very deep conversations with participants on the retreat. It’s great that there was space for that to happen. Often on Gaia House retreats, when silence breaks at the end, I don’t feel like engaging in conversation at that point. But as this retreat wasn’t silent, these conversations could happen – even if one could occasionally wish for more silence. Please organise more of these.” Kate Honey


Mindful Nation UK Report

The Mindful Nation UK Report was launched on 20 October 2015 by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on mindfulness.

The report is the result of a 12-month inquiry by the APPG on mindfulness into how mindfulness training can benefit UK services and institutions.

The report’s recommendations include:
– Commissioning Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) in the NHS for the 580,000 adults at risk of recurrent depression each year, in line with National Institute For Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines
– Creating three mindfulness Teaching Schools (to be selected by the Department of Education) to pioneer mindfulness teaching in schools
– Training government staff in mindfulness, especially in the health, education and criminal justice sectors
– Researching the use of mindfulness training for offender populations in the criminal justice system

Click here to view the report.


A new website for Rob Burbea

As many of you will be aware Rob Burbea, our resident teacher, is currently unwell.

We wanted to share the news that a website for Rob has now gone up – via one of our lovely former coordinators, Mark Ovland – for messages of support to be shared: www.robburbea.com

The website is a lovely way to offer support to Rob, stay updated as his situation unfolds and connect with each other.

The site also includes details of a daily and weekly sit to bring Rob into our thoughts and prayers, which you can join wherever you are in the world.


Offering Dana to Gaia House

A message from Stephen Batchelor about our Retreatant Support and General Funds.

From time to time Gaia House receives a particularly generous donation to support its ongoing activities and development. Recently, an anonymous donor gave us a significant sum, half of which was allocated to our Financial Assistance and Bursaries Fund, and half for our General Fund. Although our retreats are often full these days, we endeavour to keep our prices as low as we can in order to enable as many of you as possible to attend them. Donations to the Financial Assistance and Bursaries Fund help people who would otherwise be prevented from coming here because of financial hardship.

Having a full house also means that we incur extra costs in order to keep the place running smoothly and efficiently. In addition to supporting others to do retreats, your help by donating to our General Fund also enables us to plan more confidently for the future. At present, we are considering a number of long-term projects to improve the quality of our facilities and expand our outreach activities. We are therefore extremely grateful for whatever support, both financial and otherwise, you are able to offer. It makes a great difference.

Thank you.

Stephen Batchelor, Gaia House Trustee and Teacher.


SanghaSeva Retreats

SanghaSeva offers retreats that bring together meditation and positive action in the UK and around the world. For more info on all forthcoming retreats visit sanghaseva.org

Freely Given Retreats


Freely Given Retreats is a newly formed charity run by a group of dedicated long-term practitioners, most of whom have worked as coordinators at Gaia House. Our vision is to make insight meditation retreats available to everyone regardless of their financial situation. We aim to do this by drawing on the generosity of the insight meditation sangha and by utilising the skills of teachers who lead retreats at Gaia House.

Further details at Freely Given Retreats.


Bodhi Tree Brighton

Bodhi Tree Brighton is a charity that has its roots in the teachings of the Buddha and we are committed to supporting Buddhist practices and teachings.

For details of upcoming events, please see Bodhi Tree Brighton.


Sheffield Insight Meditation Retreats

Sheffield Insight Meditation offers retreats led by teachers associated with Gaia House, and regular groups for meditation practice and discussion. Sheffield Insight website for more information.