21st to 29th April 2018

‘I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and to see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.’ – Thoreau

This immersion experience offers the opportunity for a deepening sensitivity and receptivity to the wider natural world, exploring how the natural world offers itself as refuge, guide, mirror and larger ground of our identity. We will draw on practices from the fields of nature connection, experiential ecopsychology and Buddhist meditation to support an enriching and transformative relationship with the natural world, each other and our own deeper nature.

The course takes us out into the mountains and woodlands in the remote ecodharma valley, where we will set up and live in a wild camp. We will sleep beneath the stars or in simple bivouacs, living in intimate connection with the land, gathering water from a local spring, cooking together on our campfire, and practicing together in close community. Living together as a small temporary community is one of the most heartfelt aspects of this program; imagine sitting around the fire in the evening after supper, sharing stories and listening to the sounds of people whittling and one may get a feel for the intimacy of camp and why community is such an essential feature. Our days will be lived in accord with the rising and setting of the sun and our needs will be simple and modest, affording us the opportunity to taste the fruits of a rhythm of life that is simple, yet deliberate and enriching, as Thoreau remarked.
In support of this we will share practices from the fields of experiential ecopsychology and nature connection, drawing on some of the “core routines” (as developed by John Young and others of the Wilderness Awareness School). Some of the practices and experiences we will explore include:

• Learning to broaden our sphere of awareness and minimise our sphere of disturbance, so that we can learn from our natural surroundings.
• Training in techniques for observation and understanding of the natural systems we will be camping in.
• Discovering the language of birds and how this can give us insights into the life of the woods.
• Experientially re-membering how ecological consciousness arises through relationship, as an emergent property between humans and the wider natural world.
• Explore how to read the landscape and understand its stories, revealing the deep-time processes which connect us with a vast evolutionary journey and reflecting on the human story and our own individual place in the unique times we are living though.
• Working with natural crafts such as: fire by friction, natural cordage, crafting with wood through whittling and coal burning around the fire.
• Learning to live simply and sensitively in the wild with an intimate respect for the natural world.
• A Solo day on the land and learning from the ‘mirror’ of nature.
• Exploring the role of earth based ceremony in contemporary times.
With the practices of Buddhist meditation (which are offered in a way that doesn’t require a specific religious commitment) we will:
• Apply techniques which lead to a clear and brighter awareness, enriching both our sensory experience and our self-awareness.
• Find ways to help the mind to settle into quiet open receptivity.
• Open up to our capacity for curiosity, empathy and heartfelt respect, which underlies intimate connection with ourselves, with each other and with the more than human world.

The nature connection practices will help us to develop skills for observation and understanding of the non-human natural world. The ecopsychology dimension will help us to explore our identity as part of the evolving system of life and ecology of our world, inviting us to reflect upon our unique place both as a species and as individuals, particularly in these challenging times. Buddhist meditation will equip us with the mindful awareness and empathy to come into intimate relationship with the wild around us and within ourselves – bringing us closer to both the difficulties and joys of our lives, as well as the mystery and wonder of life itself. Ultimately, both of these threads of practice are mutually supportive and converge in the exploration of a conscious human life on planet Earth. It is an exciting addition to the Ecodharma Centre’s Nature Based Practice and Learning series.

The course will be guided by a team of experienced facilitators with skills in wilderness living, bushcraft, applied ecopsychology and the contemplative arts of the Buddhist tradition. We will also support you to integrate the skills you learn within the rest of your life, leading to an ongoing practice of self-inquiry and deepening nature connection. These practices can help you to find the nourishment and inspiration for living a life affirming existence.

Suggested contribution in the Dana Economy is between €200 and €650. Make a booking.

The team:

Rupert Marques has worked within the field of experiential environmental education for the past fifteen years with an emphasis in outdoor education. He trained extensively and subsequently worked as a guide with the School of Lost borders in the U.S. offering contemporary wilderness rites of passage.
A practitioner in the Insight meditation tradition for over 20 years, he is interested in how experiences in wild places can serve to open the mind and remind us of what we belong to. “I am interested in how we come to find our place, our sense of belonging in the times we are living through, how we meet the magnitude of the challenges we face in a manner that calls forth our integrity and even our gratitude.”

Amy Clarkson explores themes of belonging, wilderness and human relationship with the earth through writing and group work. Combining practical training in bushcraft, wilderness skills and permaculture alongside academic studies of ecopoetics, environmental ethics and communication; Amy most recently completed her master’s thesis on the connective and creative potency that the act of foraging for wild food and medicine holds for people, plants and place.
Working as a co-creative ecology practitioner for the past decade, Amy has facilitated many group experiences in woodlands and is consistently awed by the inherent medicine held within a wild camp experience. “To be held by the land and by the intimate relationships created through the gathering of food and making of fire, is to peel back the layers of contemporary existence, revealing and tending to our own earthly core of connection and creativity.”

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