Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Buddhist Retreat Centre, Ixopo, KZN.


Be mindful that the journey from main road to the center might take longer than you think...it almost sound like something that Buddha might have said!
And in this case my wife spoke these words as we completed kilometer after kilometer with no signboard pointing us in the direction of Ixopo and the retreat.

The first inkling that our destination was close was when we spotted three chalets clinging to the side of a cliff, and shortly thereafter we found the entrance to the centre.

As we checked in for our conducted retreat 'Tuning the body-stilling the mind’ weekend we were informed that it was to be a “noble silence” retreat...which neither of us was expecting!
There are unstructured retreat options on offer like self-retreats or day visits.
Although not all the retreats are ‘silent’, breakfast always is. Even without talking, the magnified sounds of the crockery and cutlery were suddenly overpowering and extremely noisy.


Beatrice Kidd and Jeanne Smith who were our teachers were allowed to talk, but for the rest of us it was to be 'zipped lips’ from Friday night till Sunday mid-day... certainly in the public spaces,like the studio and the meditation hall. This was not easy for me as I am known to be rather garrulous at the best of times. But I was prepared to accept the challenge and try to maintain the silence even when I had questions to ask
The centre, which has been awarded a National Heritage status, has converted a derelict and eroded farm into an explosion of cycads, tree ferns, rare orchids and a dam.

A series of meandering pathways lead to a variety interesting spaces and buildings like the Kuti which are used for private meditation and the Stupa, a dome-shaped monument, used to commemorate significant facts of Buddhism.

Our accommodation turned out to be one of the chalets that we had seen as we arrived. It offered us the most stunning view out over the huts and houses of the settlement in the valley.

When the early morning mist rolled in the valley and its inhabitants seemed to vanish before our eyes.
The retreat activities consisted of talks, yoga and guided meditations. For my wife, who does both yoga and meditation it was easy, but for me it was a different story. Although I exercise regularly, I do not have the flexibility to even attempt certain of the yoga postures...but I did try!
The meditation turned out to be more difficult than I thought as trying to calm my mind and focus was certainly not as easy as I thought it would be.


I found that the Zen garden and  walking through the labyrinth as this space allowed me to focus and still my over-active mind.

In the centre of the property sits a 7,5m statue of Buddha, 
 designed and built by Louis Van Loon

Our meals were all lacto-ovo-vegetarian and as a meat eater I was concerned, but the meals turned out to be tasty, nourishing and very filling.
Each of the conducted retreats has a different theme and it seems that none of them are repeated during the year, so if you are keen to join one of these retreats, check their web-site for topics now.


With no electronic contact the peace and quiet allows individuals to utilize their time in a more constructive and focused way...certainly a plus for both my wife and I.

Contact details:
Telephone: +27 [0]39 8341 863

After our still and quiet weekend we stopped off at Caversham Mill in the Midlands Meander.
Enjoying a cup of coffee and a scone we watched as the river flowed past the front of the deck we were sitting on

We also paid another visit to Ardmore pottery 
and we added another piece to our growing collection.

While there we got to watch one of the show jumpers training for an event.


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

stunning pictures, thanks Dave it brought back wonderful memories for me of times spent there in silence and beauty