WHY A MEDITATION RETREAT CENTER?
You withdraw from your regular life, pulling in all the energy that’s otherwise spread out in multiple directions. You gather your forces to focus them on healing and peace. From this place, you get a new perspective, you regroup and re-energize. You find inspiration. Then you put inspiration into action. Inspiration translates as “to breathe into.” So, you breathe life and love into your world.
You step out of your structured scheduled day-to-day routine. Time on retreat is different, fluid. There’s no more rush, and you get to listen to the beautiful sounds of nature of course, but more importantly, to that quiet inside your own heart.
You leave a retreat lightened, clearer, recharged, refreshed, and more present. This new perspective can guide you to make changes in your life that you know you need to make.
Many people live part of every single day wound up and ready for confrontation. Our retreat will be a safe space, literally and figuratively. Society wants us to be the mother, father, sister, wife, husband, friend, lover. On retreat you can drop all the roles. You can just be you.
Trying to squeeze time into an already full schedule and creating conditions at home for a regular practice can take years. Establishing them on a retreat is easier. You go back home and re-engineer your life in a new way.
WHY IS THE N.A.T.U.R.E. CENTER PRIMARILY FOCUSED ON SERVING BLACK AMERICANS?
The yoga community neglects those who are not from the dominant group in our society, ironically, the very people who need healing the most. Wellness is a right, but is viewed (and marketed) as a luxury. N.A.T.U.R.E. will offer a sliding-scale model whereby at least 50% of the participants at any given retreat will be offered a residency at no cost.
Studies have shown that people from marginalized communities who regularly experience discrimination are much more stressed out than the majority population. And it’s the kind of stress that has long-lasting physical and mental effects. For example, the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) estimated that Black women are 7.5 years biologically older than white women, and 27 percent of that difference arises from the stress and poverty that comes with being a Black woman in America.
A study in Sociological Inquiry also found that people of color generally experience more stress. In a survey of over 30,000 people, it was found that 18.2 percent of Black people experience emotional stress and 9.8 percent constantly live with physical stress; the same was only true for 3.5 and 1.6 percent of whites, respectively. Harvard research shows that meditating regularly alleviates most psychosomatic symptoms that arise from stress such as migraines, back pain, anxiety, depression, constipation, weight gain and much, much more. It can lower your risk of heart disease and give practitioners a sense of calm in a sea of chaos.
There are also no meditation retreats owned or facilitated by non-dominant groups in America. Culturally competent leadership is untarnished by the stereotypes, biases and cultural disconnects that fuel inequality and injustice that exists even within the spiritual communities. Teachers from non-dominant groups will be familiar with the world that the majority of our guests inhabit. They will be aware of their triumphs, and their challenges.
It is also just as important for those from the dominant societal groups that visit us to be taught by those that look and live differently from themselves. In the wellness world, non-white teachers are often dismissed and de-legitimized. It is rare that white people encounter yoga teachers or studio owners that look different from themselves.
Achieving maximum ecological sustainability is a primary goal for the Center. Growing some of our own food, building eco-friendly lodges, using solar energy and harvesting water fosters an intimate relationship to the earth.
The lodging will be constructed from cob and other sustainable and recyclable materials. After the Industrial Age began, earth as a building material began to be considered as inferior, and the product of poverty. It fell out of fashion due to social reorganization – not because it was less durable than the new modern materials.
Mud has been used to create dwellings and structures since human beings first created shelter. It can be found in the simple shelters made of woven sticks covered in clay, the remains of which were discovered on the Nile Delta in Africa from 5,000 BC, to the rammed earth sections of the great wall of China, the majestic mud brick mosques of Djenne and Mopti in Mali, and the humble cob cottages of the British Isles. The people making these buildings were (and in some societies continue to be) the children, women and men of the rural communities around the world. They were also the finest craftspeople of the world’s most ancient civilizations. Mud has always been, and continues to be, the most available, democratic and adaptive building material on the planet.
Earth-constructed dwellings, or vernacular buildings, can be thought of as the equivalent to folk speech, local dialects, folk art and folk music – they are unique, specific, and their beauty lies in their simplicity, functionality, humility, and the fact that they respond intricately to the world in which people live. Much of modern housing – often necessarily erected hastily as a response to the need to house an ever-increasing population – is lacking in this sensitivity.
Each structure in the facility will be designed in the circular shape. Why? The circle is one of the great primordial images of mankind. In considering the symbol of the circle, we are analyzing the Self. Most indigenous cultures use some form of the circle as a teaching tool to help them to understand the natural forces, not only around them, but also within them.
Straight lines, on the other hand, measure; they are static, and they separate and divide. Cob is more dynamic. Cob is transforming, flexible, forgiving, empowering, practical, democratic, simple, inherently linked to the natural world, accessible, sustainable, renewable, beautiful and highly relevant to these interesting times in which we live.
Hehaka Sapa, or Black Elk, a member of the Oglala Tribe of the Lakota writes:
“You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round. In the old days when we were a strong and happy people, all our power came to us from the sacred hoop of the nation and so long as the hoop was unbroken the people flourished. The flowering tree was the living centre of the hoop, and the circle of the four quarters nourished it. The east gave peace and light, the south gave warmth, the west gave rain, and the north with its cold and mighty wind gave strength and endurance. This knowledge came to us from the outer world with our religion. Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle. The Sky is round and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same, and both are round.
“Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of man is a circle from childhood to childhood and so it is in everything where power moves. Our tipis were round like the nests of birds and these were always set in a circle, the nation’s hoop, a nest of many nests where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children.”