Who are we?

Buddhafield is a group of practising Buddhists, an off shoot of the Triratna Community, who, along with volunteers, aim to bring the Dharma to the wider community. Buddhafield consists of 3 main strands: Buddhafield Festival, Buddhafield Cafe and Buddhafield Retreats. This blog is written primarily by volunteers Louise and Ruth, tracking their experience of working and living in a right livelihood situation based at Trevince House, in Devon, and also features contributions from the other members of the Buddhafield family around the country.

Monday, 24 January 2011

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)

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

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 http://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!

“Buddhafield Dharma - Series I” can be found at http://issuu.com/buddhafield.com

Thursday, 6 January 2011

My Creative Practise - Poetry. By Louise

I have always found it difficult to talk about my feelings, if there is something bothering me I will keep it as buried as possible. This is not a good habit of mine something that being with Buddhafield has foreced me to really try and change.

I always write, if you want any kind of insight into who I am and who I have been in my life read my poems. The are full of states of mind, feelings, actions, and words that I cannot speak out loud. I feel like a can understand my states of mind better when I watch my pen writing it down and turning it into imagery. There have been times, and I have written of it often, that my pen or pencil becomes separate from my being. As I watch the ink flow out onto paper my mind calms down. 

What I write is not about having some amazing epic poem at the end of it but of its process. I started writing as a teenager in college, and in my first year at Brighton University I went though a really creative stage. I wrote everything down and found mysef being inspired often. I love reading what I wrote then as I can see how much I have moved on. I have not written for such a long time, the odd pearl of wisdom came to me occasionally, but for a long while my state of mind was not at its best and I found writing to be frustrating more then anything. Nothing inspired me and if something did I couldn't find the words to express it properly. There was much of the same feelings going on, trying to break out of the cyclicar patterns I found myself in was really hard. This was not changed until I changed my environment last year. That was what I needed to leap out of the vortex that had me trapped.

Here are three of my poems.
Inspirational Stirrings
Interesting lines in need of attention
And many more to add to my collection.
A single tree in a far off hedgerow
Soft rain on my toes.
I will heat my body up to sweat
And cool it down on damp grass.
I will watch the shadows write these words
That come from depths or outer regions.
Tensions high and thoughts entangled
My work stunted. Stop.

Push the right buttons, write the right phrases.
To tease out the boundaries, over and out.
Nonsenical ramblings and half finished poems.
Wonderful compliments to expand on.
Inspiration stirrings don't come to fruition but get knocked out by numbness.
How to start after months or years of nothingness.
How to stop a battle raging and start again.
People who listen but do they hear,
A fear rising every time its my turn,
It's a choice between truth or tears or
Closing it off and smiling OK
Astrological charts, intuitive thining, intentions and guides.
So much to think apon, act apon.

Stunted again at first chance of expression, fall back inward
So rest it will take a while.
ljmh July 2010

I believe, I believe

No, there are no fairies in this woodland,
I believe, I believe.
But to see an old ash stump, covered in tiny tumbling mushrooms
Growing out of the soft green moss,
Like the ones that where there one day
On the great old black poplar tree.
Thoughts of fairy cities are conjured
And I take off in search of stories.

And though no fairies live in this garden
I believe in the majesty of nature.
I believe, I believe
That nature fills us with marvellous visions
And the glory of that is enough.
But still, the idea of fairies has its own faculty in my imagination.
A search for stories of magical beings
Float around its own little mushroom world.

Now my childlike joy of otherworld beings
Runs alongside my joy of nature.
The fascinating sights and sounds
That would usually pass most by
Have captured mine fully and I can tell you,
I believe. I believe
That I heard a hillside of bluebells
Closing up for the night to get some glorious rest.
(And that sound of gentle raindrops pattering on ancient oak leaves was actually bluebells snapping shut).
A rapturous round of applause at the end of a startling day.
And as my imagination is fed more by amazing reality,
My mind has more space.
In my stillness, one moment of clarity,
Sunshine through a green leaf is a pure light.
Amazing reality offers me more and more each day.
The subtle movements of a tree,
I believe, I believe,
Like a pair of lungs exhaling
And inhaling.

Grounds impermanent me.
ljmh nov 2010.

Talking Stick
Within a circle a purba was placed,
An impliment for killing off demons was explained
And off we went in fear or non committment,
To a hasty meditation to bring some clarity.
Eyes stayed shut to ignore the silence
Until sounds of a voice far off in the distance
Started to speak.
Awkwardly subjects raised, feelings said.
The purba clumsily passed and quickly discarded,
On what has already been a difficult day.

This day for me, a return to a state of younger years,
So familiar a feeling I took it happily and
Wallowed more and more, further removed from anything real.
I stopped for a bit to think it all through.
To write it all down and looking back
Over the things gone past, I see this cyclicar pattern
Revealed before my eyes off the pages of a blank writing book.
Familiar scenes unfold before me as I picture myself
alone and attempting to analyse a school of emotions,
And finding the only strong imagery written down
Was the nature of the sun or
The light touch of a raindrop.
A revealation strong but still no progress.

Talking stick continues,
I get handed the purba and asked a passive question:
Examples of cold life and warm life?
And fear bubbles to the surface.
My voice so seldom heard in matters of the heart
Attempts an answer, a trembling first word appears,
Then two tears,
Then a torrent.

Breath meets sob, a collision unmistakable.

A voice almost takes shape.

Hastily the purba leaves my shivering hands.
A blessed relief.

A few things stir in solidarity for
Words spoken about similar feelings and fears,
and allies.

My allay, just discovered, an elegant elastic figure,
With grace much unlike my own,
A green woman, imp like vision.
She gives me strength to feed my demons
delicious nectar.
I remember her simple words, all day forgotten,
Her reassurance and instruction.
And breathing deep and drawing her energy
All about my veins,
I hold my hope in my hands, something now textured,
And relief streams out in an exhale.
ljmh july 2010

Being involved in Buddhsim has had a really positive effect on how I write and why I write. I am at my most creative with the written word. I chose these three poems as I believe that signify a change in my thinking. To start with Inspirational Stirrings is about my realisation of the patterns that I fall into. I was feeling very unworthy back in August and very out of place so I went to the solitude of my van to think and I ended up reading everything I had written since I had left university in 2006. Aside from seeing on the page in front of me loads of very similar themes I could also see that I was not the same person, the poems I had written were full of sadness, anger and very little stength. I had changed and it was worthy of being written about.

There is something about writing when I am on my own that sends me to another world, a world of stories where I run alongside the words scrubing some out and squishing some in. The second poem here speaks of this, a lot of my earlier teenage poetry was about creating a story, creating characters and the oddest things I could dream up to happen to them. I still love dreaming up fairy tales but I dont find that very real anymore and the second poem here describes the shift in my thinking.

The last poem is an account of my first experience of a Buddhafield talking stick. I had been apart of a talking stick before but this was written a day or so after Inspirational Stirrings and my state of mind, as I said before was not the best. Buddhafield festival this year was my first Buddhafield festival and it had such a profound effect on me that I think that off the tail of this was why I was feeling a bit down. I was trying to work out what had happened and how I was to hold on to it. The most powerful thing I experienced at the festival was the Feeding your Demons meditation of which I was invloved in a more initimate group, being that I was apart of the decor and rituals team. I had forgotten about my allay and as I spoke in the talking stick I remembered her and felt such strength coming into me as the tears flowed out. I don't know if I portrayed that feeling as well I had hoped to but it was an enpowering thing! 

So that is my main creative practise, I have others but this is the most prolific and the one I feel most comfortable with. Next time you write, watch the ink or the graphite form the curling letters, watch the pen or pencil meet its shadow in a point on the page and listen to the scratch as the words get etched into the paper and see what comes of it.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Art Corner - Andy Goldsworthy by Ruth

For this first post in our 'Artist's Corner' series, I will be writing about the natural artist Andy Goldsworthy. I think his art is really relevant to us as Buddhists, as it is rooted in awareness of surroundings and the natural world. We strive all the time to be aware, of how we feel, what we are doing, what we are looking at, and Goldsworthy's outdoor natural sculptures are the product of such awareness. To create sculptures such as
the one below, named 'Rowan Leaves with Hole', takes hours of being in a constant state of meditative awareness, which is a state that we, as Buddhists, try to live within. Goldsworthy's work fills me with awe, also reminding me that the world is an achingly beautiful place, and if we work with it, in non-destructive ways, we can create things that are truly wonderous. This doesn't just apply to art, but to everything, from buildings, to festivals, to food, and strikes me as being intrinsic to mine and Lou's chosen way of life. His work also makes me think about the reality of change, the sculptures themselves decaying and changing along with the landscape that they are part of. His work brings back into the foreground of my mind how everything, including myself, is changing constantly, and how there is nothing I can do to stop that, and so the best thing I can do is embrace it, love the changes and keep going.
Here is a selection of his work, these pictures are a few of the ones that caught me most strongly, the ones that made me stop and catch my breath, the ones that made me feel, made me be in the moment.

Related links:
Interesting article in the Observer, another one in the Telegraph, part of the documentary on his work, called 'Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy working with Time', and the Online Digital Catalogue of his work. Go have a look! I bet you will find something that takes your breath away!