Inner and Outer Nature – part 1: Ecodharma Training and Nature Retreat
With Johann Robbins and David Loy
July 24 - August 2, 2020
Ecodharma Training and Nature Retreat, July 24-August 2
Safe and Comfortable Camping Retreat at RMERC*
The ecological crisis is the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. And now it has spawned the Coronavirus. Are you feeling overwhelmed? How does modern dharma help us understand and engage with all of this? How can it help us heal and grow into a new relationship with ourselves and the earth, bringing a sense of belonging into us. New teachings and practices are now emerging in response to the realities of the current situation: ecodharma.
This is a ten-day experiential immersion into ecodharma, specifically for dedicated practitioners, dharma teachers and leaders. Our sense of separation from nature is at the root of the ecological crises our civilization faces (and a surprising amount of personal suffering), and ecodharma is a path of deconstructing that separation, reuniting our inner nature with outer nature. Ecodharma practice is about healing our relationship with the rest of the natural world, so that an appropriate and authentic response can arise, which unifies our personal and spiritual transformation with social engagement. In this time of pandemic, and ecological and social crisis, the earth calls upon us to do what we can in response.
In the first few days we will connect deeply with the natural world, grounding ourselves in the joys of being and practicing outside, while building a supportive but safe sangha. Then we will begin to explore the more difficult side of our relationship with nature: the grief, fear, anger, and guilt we feel while watching the earth’s climate and ecosystems deteriorate, along with increasing social, economic and political unraveling. Together we will touch into eco-trauma and eco-grief, including the trauma and grief of the pandemic; working with them while supported by deepening nature practice and sangha relationships. Then, after detailed preparation, there will be a two and a half day/two-night solo, in which solitude and silence increase our individual capacity to see, hear, and feel the connections between our inner and outer nature. Afterwards we gather together again for integration and finding our ways forward.
This training retreat is not about teaching or learning a prescribed method. In fact, with the pandemic and social distancing, a lot of the program and forms will be experimental and flexible. Both individually and collectively, we will respond appropriately to the situation at the time we gather. Our goal is to support and catalyze deep personal learning that you can apply to your own dharma practice, leadership and teaching, in order to develop ecodharma in your own way. The uniqueness and authenticity of our own experience shapes how each of us practices, leads and teaches dharma, and this training will incorporate into that process as well. Our hope is that this experience informs, motivates, and empowers you to bring ecodharma into your dharma and your life, as well as leading to personal growth and healing.
The daily schedule will include instruction and practice in both sitting and walking meditation in nature, Q&A, discussion and sharing, a dharma talk, individual one-to-one meetings with the teachers, and open practice time as well. The intention is to co-create an ecodharma lab, where we are all experientially learning together and discovering the best ways to do this crucial work.
It is recommended that Ecodharma Training Retreat participants stay for the second week, if possible, so that you have more time to integrate and deepen your experience. People attending the entire two weeks will continue camping on a supported self-retreat from Sunday, August 2 to Thursday August 6. This time will include individual meetings with the teachers, and some group interaction. The weekend nature retreat (Aug 6-9) will be much quieter and simpler than the training retreat, making it an ideal space to let the training’s potent energy continue transforming in its own way and time.
- Guidance and instruction for meditation in nature (both sitting and walking) to deepen our experience of connection with nature, while dissolving the sense of a fixed and separate self.
- Sitting and walking in beautiful wild settings
- Free time for meditation and/or rest
- Evening campfire dharma talks
- One on one discussions with the teachers
- Simple vegetarian meals, including all food for solos
- Camp site
The solo is a time to heal, connect, explore and relax: opening deeply to the power and beauty of the environment, with the freedom that solitude provides. Over time, the elements, plants and animals become our teachers, the land our home, and silence our cherished companion. There is ample instruction, preparation, support, and flexibility for the solo, so each participant can benefit fully from their experience. Everyone chooses their solo campsite from a variety of locations, anywhere from nearby the lodge to deep in the wilderness. Most past participants have found the solo a highlight – sometimes the highlight – of their retreat.
General Retreat Guidelines
–The retreats are designed to be enjoyable, not rigorous, but participants are expected to have a willingness to maintain silence, to help with yogi jobs, and to cooperate with the group structure.
— Some camping experience (car camping or backpacking) is helpful for the solo, but not necessary.
— Having the necessary clothing and equipment to enjoy being outdoors in a variety of conditions. We will be living and practicing outdoors, under the barn or another shelter in case of bad weather, including meditating, eating and walking.
*New at RMERC for Safe and Comfortable Camping Retreats
If you are not sure about any of this, please inquire.
Time and Transportation
Both retreats begin at 4:00pm on the first day, and end about 1:00pm after lunch on the last day. Everyone should plan on coming in your own car, or with someone you live with. If you are flying into Denver, the airport is about 90 minutes from the center, so you should plan on your flight arriving no later than 1:30pm to reach the retreat center on time. Return flights departing from the Denver airport should leave no earlier than 4pm, so you can get to the airport on time. Please do not plan on leaving the retreat early. As everyone will be camping, you might want to allow some extra time to set up your tent before the retreat starts.
Please note that the center is at 8500 feet, similar to most Colorado ski towns. If you are concerned about acclimating from sea level, you might consider arriving a day or two in the Denver/Boulder area before the retreat.
You will be out of contact with no internet access or cellphone service during the retreat. Please complete all personal business before you arrive. The staff will have the ability to make and receive emergency calls or emails on your behalf, but phone and internet are not available for personal use.
Approximate Daily Schedule
We awaken at first light, hot water and coffee are available, and we meditate outside. Then breakfast is put out, and everyone eats and then packs their lunch. Daily activities include being out on the land doing sitting, walking, and hiking meditation, including meditation instruction, with teacher support including individual and small group practice discussions. After dinner there is an evening meditation, followed by a dharma talk around the campfire, and then bedtime or optional practice when it gets dark.
Every effort is made to support a deep and fruitful retreat, and noble silence is a valuable part of the process. With exceptions for dharma talks and other modes of support, and the special discussions and exercises the first week, we will be in silence.
Cost and Dana
The cost of the retreat is set as low as possible and only covers expenses: renting the center, food, cooks, insurance, and staff travel. The teachers and manager are not paid, and are supported with dana.
It is our intention that cost not be an impediment to practice, and scholarships (up to $400 for the first week) are available. If you cannot afford to attend without a fee reduction, you can ask for a scholarship on the registration web site, and then just pay the remaining amount.
Cancellations after June 1 will not be refunded unless your spot is filled, in which case you will receive a 50% refund.
If you are a dedicated full-time activist and cannot afford any of the retreat cost, you may be eligible for a special scholarship, which can cover up to 100% of the retreat cost. Please contact us for details.
None of this cost share goes to the teachers or to the manager, who are solely supported by the dana (generosity) of the participants. In the tradition of the Buddha, teachings are offered without a set fee, keeping costs as low as possible, so no one is excluded due to finances. In turn, we ask that your donation be as generous as possible within your means. You might consider that a similar camping retreat with paid teachers would charge two to three times what this one costs. Please bring a check or cash. We are grateful for your support.
Special Coronavirus Conditions
The situation with Covid (CV) is changing and full of unknowns, so to keep ourselves and everyone else safe, you need to follow the following conditions and protocols to participate in this retreat:
For the two weeks before the retreat staying very safe and maintaining distance, wearing a mask when around other people indoors, or outdoors within 6 feet, and washing your hands frequently.
Not attending the retreat, or leaving immediately if already in attendance, if experiencing any CV or CV like symptoms, such as dry cough, shortness of breath, fever, muscle pain, loss of taste or smell, fatigue, headache, sore throat, nausea, or diarrhea. We will be taking everyone’s temperature upon arrival as well.
When travelling to RMERC, not carpooling with people one is not sheltering in place with, and if using any taxi or public transportation always keeping a mask on, staying as far from others as possible, and frequently washing your hands or using hand sanitizer. If you are coming from afar, please purchase several N95 or KN95 masks for your journey; they are many times more protective of you than a cloth or paper mask, and are now readily available if you order online in advance. (Staples.com and OfficeDepot.com have them, as well as many others.) Please carry hand sanitizer with you and keep your mask on, do not eat inside, and use public bathrooms as infrequently as you can.
*If you are thinking of flying, please reconsider or use great caution. Flying is not exactly safe for you or anyone you are exposed to afterwards. You will need to purchase several N95 or KN95 masks for your journey; they are many times more protective of you than a cloth or paper mask, and are now readily available if you order online in advance. (Staples.com and OfficeDepot.com have them, as well as many others.) Please carry hand sanitizer with you and keep your mask on, do not eat on a plane or bus, and use public and airplane bathrooms as infrequently as you can. If you absolutely must fly, pease be extremely careful, including not taking off your N95 or KN95 mask on the plane or other transport.
Camping out using your own equipment, and being the only one to use, touch and wash the plate, bowl, mug, and other eating utensils you bring.
Washing your hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer before and after you touch things others may also have touched or will touch.
Keeping at least 8 feet away from others and wearing a mask when that might not be possible.
Following any other written or oral instructions/guidelines that the retreat leaders make to help keep everyone safe.
While we have every intention of holding this retreat as planned, if Boulder County or the State of Colorado impose new restrictions pertaining to it, we will have to cancel it, perhaps on very short notice. You will be offered a refund if that happens.
Food and Meals
Three simple vegetarian meals a day will be provided from dinner the first day through lunch of the last, including solo food which does not require cooking. If you want a snack between meals, or supplemental protein such as jerky or packaged fish, you can bring a small quantity of packaged unrefrigerated food. Tea and coffee along with milk and sweeteners are available before and during breakfast. Please do not bring anything that needs refrigeration (medicine excepted). Excessive snacks are unnecessary: if you need a boost, a little gorp or an energy bar is sufficient for most people.
To allow us to be out on the land we will be taking packed lunches after breakfast. Please bring a plastic container or two with tight fitting lids to carry your lunch in.
Figuring menus and quantities, shopping, organizing, and cooking are complex and crucial tasks for a retreat. We provide simple, wholesome, natural, predominantly organic, vegetarian meals. We can accommodate common food allergies such as gluten, soy or dairy, but not preferences. Make sure to include on the registration form full details of any special allergy or health needs you have beyond basic vegetarian, and we will contact you if they require discussion.
Helper (Yogi) Jobs
Some of the work necessary to support the group will be handled by participants during the retreat. You will be able to choose your yogi job, and will keep it throughout the retreat. Most participants find serving others in this way quite enjoyable, and a great opportunity for practice in action.
Johann teaches Dharma and Insight Meditation using contemporary language. He has been meditating since 1974 and was asked to begin teaching in 2008. His primary teachers are Shinzen Young, Eric Kolvig, and Adyashanti. He is the director of Rocky Mountain Ecodharma Retreat Center and teaches there frequently.
Learn more about Johann Robbins
David Loy (http://www.davidloy.org) is a professor, writer, and Zen teacher in the Sanbo Zen tradition of Japanese Buddhism. He is a prolific author, whose essays and books have been translated into many languages. His articles regularly appear in the pages of Buddhist magazines, including Tricycle, Lion’s Roar, and Buddhadharma, as well as in a variety of scholarly journals. David’s most recent book is Ecodharma: Buddhist Teachings for the Ecological Crisis (Wisdom publications, 2019). He teaches nationally and internationally on various topics, focusing primarily on the encounter between Buddhism and modernity: what each can learn from the other. He is especially concerned about social and ecological issues.
Learn more about David Loy