Dzogchen Beara on tip of Beara Peninsula - celebrating 21 years
By Jackie Keogh
IT is 21 years since Dzogchen Beara, the retreat centre at the tip of the Beara Peninsula, was established as a charitable trust.
The story began when Peter and Harriet Cornish gifted the land and buildings to the newly formed trust in 1992.
It was a magnanimous gesture because the centre, which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, must surely be one of the most impressive locations in the country.
Since then, the centre has grown and developed thanks to the many more kind donations that followed; the hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers who turn up to do what they can to support the centre; and the ongoing support of the local community.
Founded and funded by goodwill, Dzogchen Beara – pronounced ‘Zogchen’ Beara – continues to offer daily guided meditation sessions that are open to the public free of charge.
It is in this spirit of generosity that the centre is now offering selected weekend programmes on a donation-only basis, including an introduction to the Buddha's teaching, and to meditation practice, called ‘The Essence of Buddhism’.
One of the other courses that is available on a donation basis is ‘Meditation as a Way of Being,’ which is specifically aimed at people over 50, who would like to explore how a meditation practice can help them face the challenges of ageing and enjoy a happy and meaningful life.
At each of these ‘Free Spirit’ events, participants will be asked to cover the costs of their food and accommodation only, but the retreat fee itself will be on a donation basis.
The manager at Dzogchen Beara, Matt Padwick, said: ‘inviting people to participate in our weekend courses without charging a fee is something we have always wanted to do, so we thought, “Why not do it in 2013?” as a way of marking our 21st anniversary.
‘It is our way of being positive in the face of the recession, and reaching out to people who might need the time and space to reflect. It is also our way of saying “thank you” for all the help we have received over the past 21 years.
‘In some respects it does feel like a leap of faith because there are many expenses involved in running a retreat centre like this, but we feel it is the right time to honour the spirit on which Dzogchen Beara was founded.
‘Generosity of spirit is also very much part of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, which has found a new home in the West. Sogyal Rinpoche, the spiritual director of Dzogchen Beara and author of the widely acclaimed The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, was educated in Tibet under the guidance of some of the most renowned meditation masters of that time including Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche who said: ‘the entire body of Buddhist teachings that was developed in Tibet remains intact to the present day.
‘Its foundation has not been undermined, nor has its pinnacle been destroyed. We think of our tradition of Buddhism as a gift we have to offer the world. And all that we, the teachers of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, would ask is that you accept our offering, enjoy it, make use of it, and benefit from it.’
Matt Padwick said: ‘his words describe the vision of Dzogchen Beara – a place where people of any age, social background, and faith can come to find their own inner peace and contentment.’
Guided meditation sessions are offered daily at 9am and loving kindness meditation sessions are held from Monday to Friday between 3 and 4pm, except, of course, when there are retreats in progress.
The ‘Free Spirit’ events, include ‘The Essence of Buddhism’ which is an introduction to Buddhism and meditation in a weekend retreat. The weekend retreats will be held from February 22nd to February 24th; March 29th to April 1st; June 1st to June 3rd; and July 19th to 21st.
The other courses: ‘Meditation as a Way of Being’, will take place from March 12th to 14th and from May 21st to 23rd; and ‘The Power of Compassion’ will run from May 4th to May 6th.
There is, of course, a full programme of retreats at Dzogchen Beara in 2013: check www.dzogchenbeara.
org, call the office on 027-73032, or email email@example.com.
When people are there, they will be invited to learn more about the Dechen Shying Care Centre, which is located on the cliff-top overlooking the Dzogchen Beara Meditation Retreat Centre and the Atlantic Ocean.
Matt Padwick explained that Dechen Shying is ‘a place of rest and renewal for people facing life challenges such as illness or disability, loss and bereavement.
‘Guests may attend one of the residential weeks or weekend seminars, or simply enjoy a period of rest and reflection in their own way in the company of their family, friends or carers.
‘At other times, support organisations bring their own groups for breaks, and to spend quality time together in a home-away-from-home environment.’
Throughout 2012, Dechen Shying received many such groups including visits from Cheshire Homes and the Irish Wheelchair Association, as well as support groups focussing on cancer care and bereavement, as well as those promoting independent living for people living with disability.
The Girls’ Club, a cancer support group from Cork, are regular visitors. Their co-ordinator Anne Dowley-Spillane, who herself is living with an inoperable cancer, describes Dechen Shying as her ‘little piece of heaven on earth.’
She said: ‘I had done some meditation before, and find it is the only thing that gets me through. It gives me the strength to move on. The great thing is, everyone can meditate. I would recommend it to anyone.’Sogyal Rinpoche's book, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, was one of the key inspirations for creating the care centre. The book reflected the wishes of the founders of Dzogchen Beara, and the testimonies of the many guests and friends, from Ireland and abroad, who have come to Dzogchen Beara over the past 21 years. It was their generosity that made it a reality.
Dechen Shying is open to people of all spiritual traditions, and those of none. Many of the guests have their stays subsidised by a bursary fund that has, for the past three years, been hugely supported by the Fastnet Charity Cycle – an annual cycling marathon that begins and ends in Castletownbere.
Last year, the hardy cyclists ventured to Dingle and back, and the year before they went to Wales. They are already planning their next outing – a return trip to Dingle during the June bank holiday weekend.
Other beneficiaries of the Fastnet Charity Cycle include: Beara Co-Action, Castletownbere Community Hospital, Castletownbere Day Care Centre and Castletownbere Lifeboat.