Community and connection; a working retreat at the Centre for Alternative Technology
by Julia Wallond
For the third year running this June, DANCE / Sanghaseva collaborated with the Centre for Alternative Technology to run a meditation and service retreat at CAT’s centre of ecological excellence in beautiful mid Wales. Over five days, through our heads, hands and hearts, twelve of us combined volunteering in CAT’s gardens with daily meditation and group exercises inspired by Joanna Macy’s ‘Work that Reconnects’.
For me, coming from a busy period working in an inner city GP practice and participating in mass direct actions with ‘Reclaim the Power’ and ‘Time to Cycle’, it was a much-needed time to reconnect with the earth and with others on this journey.
CAT is an ecological flagship that has been pioneering creative experiments in sustainable technology for over forty years. In 2013, its Zero Carbon Britain team produced a report1 showing how the UK could become zero carbon by 2030 using existing technologies.
We had a taste of these technologies, staying in one of CAT’s eco-cabins, powered by renewable energy from its solar panels, wind turbine and wood stove. The centre showcases eco-building, gardening, and sustainable woodland management, all key ingredients of a zero carbon Britain.
I was inspired by CAT’s creative experiments and the beautiful landscape. We repaired woodland paths, scythed and bashed bracken, and worked in the garden to help produce food that will grace the restaurant’s tables. Working in mindful silence at times allowed a deeper sense of connection with the land and each other.
Of particular joy were the personal friendships that grew within the group and with CAT staff, who joined us for meditations and group exercises. In pairs, and as a group we explored themes such as: What we appreciate and love in the world, supporting us to turn to what we find difficult to face. The pain and anguish at what is happening around us at personal and collective levels, where often we feel powerless, can be a major barrier to change. The exercises gently helped us express some of this, enabling new energy to flow, even excitement for creative responses to live and love in line with our values.
I left with a renewed intention to live from this place of heartfulness and ethical concern, inspired by the way cultivating such supportive collaborative community can help us make the transformations needed in these troubled yet extraordinary times.
1 Centre for Alternative Technology. Zero Carbon Britain: Rethinking the Future. CAT Publications, 2013.
Green leaves are gently suspended from the tree outside my window.
Outside, the metallic sheen of a slow worm’s scales flash and turn into a cuttings pile.
Rough and wet, the toad’s back is discovered squatting in the mud.
I crumble and powder the warm earth through my fingers.
The surface of the pond is dark and clear.
Breathing the damp fresh air, another smiles.
We know this is a better world.