A fallow time for deep reflection and planning

Spring 2020 marks 10 years of trainings and retreats run at the Ecodharma Centre. We’ve decided it’s the perfect moment to take a step back, reflect on what we’ve learned over the decade, and review what we can most usefully contribute in response to the challenges and opportunities of this historical moment.

Balancing action with reflection has always been a strong theme in our trainings. For Ecodharma, we think this is the perfect moment to pause, cultivate a space for deep receptivity, for questions rather than answers, and for listening to what is most needed now. We’re living at a critical moment in ecological and socio-political terms, making it crucial that we use our learning, our energy and our talents well. To do that it’s important to resist the temptation to just keep doing what we do, just because up to now it has worked. It’s important to take a step back and reflect, analyse and plan strategically – to ‘go slow to go far’, as they say.

So, that’s what we’re going to do. From summer 2020 we’re going to stop running trainings and retreats at the Ecodharma site for a while. We’ll begin a period of deeper reflection and inquiry. We’ll survey the terrain we operate within, carry out a deeper context analysis, looking at the current social, political, and environmental situation. We’ll review the strengths and weaknesses of the approach we’ve taken over the last decade. And we’ll ask questions about what we can most usefully offer and do with the learning and skills we and our colleagues have acquired.

We first launched our work in 2007, but it wasn’t until May 2010 when we really got going with a full programme of Ecodharma events, resident team and community. We’ve taken a highly innovative approach to integrating Buddhist dharma, ecology and activism for social transformation, leading to cutting edge educational work across three key strands: Engaged Buddhism, Activist Training, and Nature-based or Ecological Learning. The project strapline that informed our work has always been: Radical Ecology – Radical Dharma. To keep it radical requires creating space for deeper questions.

We’ll ask these questions together with close friends of the project and people in our wider network. We expect the process to lead to a renewed strategic vision that has continuity with our past, but that helps ensure our approach remains responsive and relevant into the future.

Our work and community has touched the lives of thousands of people and inspired similar centres and sanghas to take up the idea and practices of Ecodharma. When we started, the term Ecodharma was hardly known. Now there are books, essays, retreat centres and networks across the world using the term. From obscurity, Ecodharma has now become ‘a thing’.

A major development in our work was the birth, a few years ago, of the Ulex Project and its own training centre nearby. Ulex now runs an extensive programme of capacity building training for social movements across Europe – bringing transformational learning to activists and organisations. During Ecodharma’s fallow year for reflection, the Ulex Project programme will be continuing as usual. The fallow year only affects the Ecodharma site.

So, let’s see what emerges. Perhaps a fallow year every decade will become one of our ongoing practices. We’re keen to include our networks in reviewing our learning and assessing existing and future needs and opportunities. So, don’t be surprised if you receive a request to contribute to that in your inbox in the summer. We’re looking forwards to the creative possibilities that can emerge between us from this process.

Tierra, libertad y solidaridad – The Ecodharma Collective