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Changing the world and changing ourselves: activist sustainability and engaged Buddhism

17 May 2016 - 22 May 2016

A joint event between Macalla Farm and the MA in Community Education, Equality and Social Activism at Maynooth

Social movements and communities can seem to be up against overwhelming odds at times. Personal burnout, organisational collapse and movement decline are all familiar experiences – taking energy, skills, networks and whole communities out of the fight. How can we sustain ourselves and our movements so as to bring about the really big transformations that are needed? And how can we bring more creativity, solidarity and liberation to our relationships with others who are struggling for change?

This six-day event explores sustainability in how we relate to our bodies, minds and emotions; in how we relate to each other in our movements, networks and communities; and in how we relate to the wider social and natural world. It draws on activist and community learning about personal and collective sustainability in action; the radical tools developed by engaged Buddhists in Asia and the west; and the practical experience of sustaining an organic farm with a broad ecological perspective. New campaigners facing the wall, experienced activists looking for inspiration and a bigger picture, and spiritual practitioners committed to change in the wider world will all benefit from this event.

A typical day will start with yoga and meditation (suitable for all levels from complete beginner). The morning will be workshop-style explorations of the theme of the day. In the afternoon there will be some free time as well as time spent getting more physical – helping with different aspects of the food cycle and spending time with our horses. Evening sessions around sunset will help us go deeper emotionally. There will be some periods of gentle silence and only limited Internet access, so the retreat will offer a bit of space from the busyness of our everyday lives. All of this in the wild and beautiful setting of Clare Island, with our delicious organic food to nourish both body and soul.

This course starts on Tuesday evening 17th May and ends on Sunday 22nd May before lunch.
This course is run on donation. Suggested contribution €250 to €750 (euros) to cover all meals (delicious organic vegetarian food, most vegetables grown on our farm), tuition / group sessions and five nights accommodation (sharing in twin/double rooms). Additional accommodation options are camping or a single room in a local airBnB.

We are happy to provide receipt and certification of course completion for those who are being funded to attend.

To apply for this course, click here.  If your application is successful, we will let you know within two weeks, and contact you with booking instructions.

Laurence Cox

Laurence has been active in social movements for over 30 years, including peace movements, anti-apartheid, ecological campaigns, community education, global justice struggles and alternative education projects and the Grassroots Gatherings networking between bottom-up movements in Ireland. He co-directs the activist MA at Maynooth, co-edits the open-access movement journal Interface and has written widely about different dimensions of community activism, social movements and counter-cultures in Ireland and elsewhere, as well as co-editing the last letters of Ken Saro-Wiwa.

He has been a practicing Buddhist for over 20 years with the Dublin Buddhist Centre (Triratna) and has taught meditation and given Dharma talks to many different audiences, as well as running retreats and local groups. As a researcher, he has also written the history of Buddhism and Ireland and is working on re-discovering the radical history of early Irish Buddhists in colonial Asia, particularly U Dhammaloka, an ex-hobo and ex-sailor who became an anti-colonial activist and Buddhist monk in Burma around 1900.

Laurence has been exploring the challenges of activist sustainability and engaged Buddhism from many different angles over the years. He is involved with the Buddhafield ecological Buddhism network and is inspired by Ecodharma’s work in sustaining resistance. He has taught, run workshops and written about sustainable activism and is currently working on a book about activist burnout.

Ciara has been teaching  yoga since 1999. Over the last ten years both her own practice and her teaching approach has evolved into a deep, slow mindful integration of asana, breath work and meditation inspired by Rossella Baroncini, a direct student of Vanya Scaravelli, with whom Ciara has been studying since 2005. She is a qualified mindfulness teacher, with accrediation from the Mindfulness Insitute in 2014 under the tutelage of Martin Aylward and Mark Coleman and is taking part in a two year long Secular Dharma course run by the Bodhi College. She is particularly interested in how to integrate formal yoga and meditation practice into everyday life.  Macalla Farm which she runs with her partner Christophe has been evolving alongside her’s and Christophe’s practice:  how can we follow a path of sustainability in terms of what we grow and eat, our relationship to our surroundings and to our animals, while integrating the wisdom of the dharma and the yamas and niyamas of classical yoga? Through our volunteer/apprentice schemes over the last 15 years, more than 100 people from 23 different countries have shared in and helped to influence the evolution of Macalla Farm.  Ciara has been active in local community work since the 1980’s and has been engaged in social justice issues, often from a distance, due to her island demographics.

Christophe has been studying and practicing yoga since 1994 and teaching since 1999. He sat his first meditation retreat in 1995 in a Thibetan Buddhist monastery in Scotland. He then started to study Vipassana in 1996, first in the Goenka tradition, and more recently in the Insight meditation tradition, mostly  in Gaia house in Devon. He finds Buddhist teachings on ethics and meditation complement his hatha yoga practice and he regularly practices mindfulness of breathing, insight and loving kindness meditation and attends retreats in various traditions of Buddhist meditation.
Christophe is also a very experienced horseman and a trained Equine Assisted Learning facilitator with EAGALA.
At Macalla f.arm, his favourite jobs include looking after the horses, cooking and planting trees, as well, of course, as teaching yoga.

Tuesday *
5.30 pm Depart Roonagh Pier for Clare Island (time to be confirmed)
6.30 pm Arrival at Macalla Farm, settle into accommodation
7.00 pm Dinner followed by introductory talk
8.30 am Evening meditation

Wednesday to Saturday
7.30 am Mindfulness meditation and morning yoga
9.30 am Breakfast
10.30 pm Morning session
13.30 pm Lunch, then free time for walking, reading, etc.
4.00 pm Walking meditation
4.30 pm Afternoon session
7.00 pm Dinner
8.30 am Evening session followed by sitting meditation

Sunday *
7.30 am Mindfulness meditation and morning yoga
9.30 am Breakfast
10.30 am Closing session
12.30 pm Departure from the centre for 1 pm ferry

*timetable for first and last days subject to change as they depend on ferry times.


17 May 2016
22 May 2016
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Macalla farm