The 2021 programme of retreats at The Orchard

Dear Sangha friends,

With so much uncertainty it will be difficult to know for sure what The Orchard will be able to offer this year in terms of retreats.

I have nevertheless put together a programme of practice weekends and longer retreats as well as a t’ai-ji retreat.

As it stands there is of course no guarantee that these events can be materialised, especially the ones in March and April.
Hopefully though the situation will have brightened up sufficiently come May.
I will keep you updated throughout the year.

Further details will become available soon on The Orchard website.

Wishing that all beings be safe and well and that soon we will be able again to have that all important face-to-face human contact where we can touch and hug each other again.

There has been much suffering over the last year and there will be more to follow.
Let’s though not add the 2nd arrow of fear, anxiety, anger or despair but walk in the wisdom of the Dharma.
I cannot say it any better than Catherine Pawasarat Sensei - founding-teacher of the Clear Sky Center, Canada:

"When things get hard, rely on your practice. When there’s widespread unrest, focus on helping other beings. This is the importance of the Bodhisattva vow - to be a lifesaver when things get really hard.
It is so easy to get pulled into the ocean of samsara, but that's we have to truly commit to our practice and to helping others.
So put your energy into being a light in the darkness and a sanity touchstone to those seeking it."

A special healing practice you may find helpful is that of Tonglen:

“breathe in the suffering as black smoke, let it transform in your heart, breathe-out white light”

This can be done with the suffering of others as well as with your own pains. 

I will continue with my regular e-mails, sharing that which I found nourishing, supportive and/or simply joyful.
I am grateful for the feedback many of you have given me and am happy to know that it has been meaningful and supportive for you as well.

For the coming year I will add an extra dimension to it by offering weekly meditation sessions via zoom. They will be held on Sundays from 6 – 6.30pm (UK time), starting on Sunday 24th of January.
I will weekly send you the necessary details (ID/Password) for you to link in.

In this way I trust we can continue to maintain a strong sense of sangha in this time of so much isolation and separation. In the ultimate sense however separation does not exist.
Whatever the external situation we inter-are with each other and all other forms of life as well as with the earth itself.
Opening up to the wider picture will give us solace and a sense of “all is well”, as John Garrie Roshi always used to say.

May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May all beings be free from sorrow and the causes of sorrow.
May all beings never be separated from the sacred happiness that is sorrow-less.
Without loving dear ones only or being unfriendly to another,
may I live more peacefully and know each being is born unique.

With love, Ad

January 2021

Dear sangha friends,

May the coming festivities be a time of healing, of finding happiness and joy in the ordinary.

May 2021 bless you with well-being and happiness.

May the coming year bring light and ease where we can meet again face to face, hug each other and enjoy being human together.

Wishing you all well and happy and free from fear.

With deep gratitude and appreciation for your support and being there.
I felt deeply connected with you and enjoyed sharing the dharma.

I also include the "Ancient Blessing on Wayfarers" as was received from John Garrie Roshi.

With love, Ad


The Ancient Blessing on Wayfarers

That on your way your skin may know
the touch of the thread of a thousand silkworms.
That in your nostrils there will rise
the perfume of jasmine,
and in your mouth the taste of honey.
That your ears may hear
the rush of the eagle’s wing,
and the rustling of bamboo.
That your eyes may behold
the elephant walking through the rainbow
and that in your consciousness
there may rise the bright diamond point
of the Dhamma-Kaya, of clear pure mind.

Dear Sangha Friends,

“Wanting to grasp the ungraspable you exhaust yourself in vain.
As soon as you relax this grasping, there is space
– open, inviting and comfortable”

Looking back on a very fulfilling year and towards the as yet wide open year of 2020, I would like to share a few reflections with you.

The Practice Weekends and the longer retreats have been well attended and given us much joy and nourishment, times of learning, grounding and ease.
The t’ai-ji classes have equally offered much joy and friendship.

I am immensely grateful to all of you who, each in your own way - by joining us in retreats, through practical help, financial support or by just being part of the sangha - have made all of this possible. Thank you!

At the heart of all the suffering we see around us lies craving, the cause of dukkha as taught by the Buddha. In one of the suttas the Buddha taught his son, Rahula to reflect on his actions of body, speech and mind and to be fully aware of the intention behind them. To know “where you are coming from” as John Garrie Roshi used to say.
For this year’s retreats, I wish to bring the awareness of intention, one of the factors of the Eightfold Path, more into focus.

All the joy the world contains
Has come through wishing happiness for others.
All the misery the world contains
Has come through wanting pleasure for oneself.

Seeing then the faults that come from cherishing myself,
The oceanic qualities that come from loving others,
I shall lay aside all love of self
And gain the habit of adopting others. (Shantideva)

In September last year, I introduced a new format inspired by my own experience on retreats with Ashin Tejaniya. It gives less structure and more space for participants to explore how to allow awareness and wisdom to grow naturally, emphasising the importance of non-doing; “to be still and know” (Thich Nhat Hanh).

I intend to continue with this approach for the retreats in 2020.

With many others, I believe that we are at a crucial cross-road for our human and planetary future that will challenge us in many ways, both physically and mentally. We will need the resources to be able to respond in an appropriate manner, grounded in wisdom and kindness.
Our practise will have to play a central role as not to feel overwhelmed, depressed or powerless in the face of those challenges.
In our actions of body, speech and mind, it is the motivation we bring, the vision we hold, the compass setting we choose to follow, that either leads to ease and happiness or to discomfort and conflict for self and others.

In this context, a small group of us will participate in the 2020 Clear Vison Project as launched by the Wangapeka Retreat Centre in NZ:

“This will be year-long exploration focussed on what “clear vision” implies for dharma practitioners and others. The disruption and uneasiness of changing climate, social instability, fundamentalism and political/economic reactivity affect all living beings now.  
Developing clear vision implies willingness, on both a personal and collective level, to look deeply into what is, taking responsibility for our own responses. Sharing deeply with others will create a synergy from which aspiration, support, compassion, creativity, bravery and practical action flows.”

If you are interested in joining this project, there is still place for one or two more people. Just contact me. It will require though a firm commitment to meet monthly at The Orchard. Our first meeting will be on Saturday 1st Feb.

Accepting the radical uncertainty of our time, I am confident that with the support of the sangha The Orchard will be there for another year to offer us an external place of refuge, of comfort and ease where we can practise in safety and cultivate the skilful means we will need to be able to move in the world with equanimity and kindness.

May you be well and happy and free from fear.
May you be protected from ill-will and wrong-doing.
May you be at ease with yourself and with others.
May you respond to the world with kindness, compassion and generosity.

I am looking forward to another year of sharing the practice with you.

May 2020 open the gates for you towards new possibilities, increasing wisdom and loving- kindness.
With love, Ad


January 2020

New year Message

Dear Sangha friends,

Looking back over this last year, so much has been received.

I am deeply grateful for all the support I received in 2018, both in the form of manpower and financially, enabling The Orchard to continue with offering retreats and being a place of refuge.

Because of that support, much needed repairs could be carried out.
The kuti’s were refreshed with new paint, change of curtains and carpets.
The room next to the kitchen is now an inviting reading space with comfortable chairs.
A new floor was laid in the entrance of the zendo.
The outside of zendo and kuti’s received a fresh coat of paint.
A gardener could be employed to help with its maintenance.

Above all there was the precious gift of dharma friends joining the retreats, practice weekends and the t’ai-ji classes, supporting each other in their practice.

There were the gifts of a beautiful summer and a rich harvest of fruits. The quince tree next to the zendo was laden as not seen before.
The gift of this beautiful environment
The gift of good health and the opportunities of going on retreats myself.
The gift of friendships and of the sangha.
The gift of life.

In his Doha Gendun Rinpoche tells us that “ Happiness cannot be found through great effort and will-power but is already there in relaxation and letting-go”, addressing the very essence of the practice.
Too often we focus on what we did not get rather than on all we are and have been given.
Gratitude is a practice of letting-go of “what I want” that leads to a sense of ease and joy.
Gratitude is a form of generosity, of giving rather than taking.

Gratitude relates to the 3rd of the Four Brahma Viharas, Sympathetic Joy, to be happy for the good fortune and happiness of others, for the gifts life bestows on others.

May 2019 bring you good health, inner peace and contentment, and may there be more gratitude, respect, loving kindness and peace for our troubled planet and all its inhabitants.

May all beings be well and happy and free from fear and at ease with themselves and others.

With love, Ad

May all places be held sacred.

May all beings be cherished.

May all injustices of enslavement, oppression and devaluation be righted, remedied and healed.

May those captured by hatred be freed to the love that is their birth right.

May those bound by fear be released to the safety of understanding.

May those weighed down by grief be given over to the joy of being.

May those lost in delusion find relief in the path of wisdom.

May all wounds to forests, rivers, deserts, oceans, all wounds to Mother Earth be lovingly restored to bountiful health.

May all beings everywhere delight in birdsong and blue sky.

May all beings abide in peace and well-being, awaken and be free.

(Copied from the ecosattva website)



“Happiness cannot be found through great effort and willpower, but is already there in relaxation and letting-go”

“Wanting to grasp the ungraspable you exhaust yourself in vain.
As soon as you relax this grasping, there is space
– open, inviting and comfortable”

(Gendun Rinpoche)

Dear Sangha friends,

Another fruitful year is nearing its end.

The departure of Jane and John heralds a new phase in the life of The Orchard.
I would like to thank them again for their much-appreciated contribution over the years to the sangha, The Orchard and myself.
Their humanity and presence made all visitors feel supported and welcomed. It also allowed for a smooth transition period after Sonia’s death and made the development of a new format for the retreats possible.

The Two-week Retreats were a deeply nourishing and a joyful experience.
The Zen teachings on the practice of mind training (lojong) and compassion proved an inspiring and supportive guide for our practice and application in daily life.
The benefits and preciousness of that time together are indeed immeasurable.

The Practice Weekends have seen an increasing number of participants and enabling new students to join our sangha. They provided a welcome opportunity for a regular sharing of the practice.

As the Buddha once said to Ananda, his attendant, having sangha friends is most important of all on our path towards a life of less stress and more ease.

All the signs are that The Orchard is in a healthy shape with a positive energy providing a clear function in an uncertain world.

I am immensely grateful to all of you who have each in your own way made all this possible for the benefit of many!

Since the announcement of Jane’s and John’s departure, I have already received several offers for practical support with running The Orchard and with their help I am committed to continue with it as a place of practice and refuge.

Please use the menu at the top of the page for information on the meditation and t’ai-ji events in 2018.

I am looking forward to sharing the coming year with you.
May you all be well and happy and free from suffering and fear.

With love, Ad

Buddha head pic


Buddha head pic

Wisdom and Loving-Kindness
New Year message from Ad, December 2016

Dear Dharma friends,

A Three Months retreat at the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, MA mirrors the 3 months of the rainy season during which since the Buddha’s time, monks and nuns stop wandering and stay at one place for intensive practice.
The retreat at IMS was such a time of practice of sitting and walking meditation, maintaining silence throughout with a daily one hour Dharma talk in the evening.
One day a week focused on the practice of Metta - Loving-Kindness and each day finished with the chanting of the Metta Sutta.

It is said that a formal retreat covers only half of the actual retreat period with the second part of an equal length for integration. So, I have still 3 months to go. It is indeed difficult at this early stage to fully realise what changes have been set into motion and what is still waiting to unfold.

It was an intensive and rich time, inspiring, educative, with its highs and lows and its challenges. The job at hand was to meet whatever arose with open spacious awareness and experience its true nature of un-satisfactoriness, impermanence and uncontrollability. It was a beautiful time of being immersed in the simplicity and power of mindfulness and silence, shared with about 100 others. There were many moments where I felt this is the only thing I truly wish to do, for it to last forever. It was such a natural and sane thing to be doing compared with what we generally keep ourselves busy with.

Apart from my personal integration I am also having the privilege of putting together a programme of retreats at The Orchard for the coming year with Wisdom and Loving-Kindness as the chosen theme.

Let me start with expressing my deepest wish: the benefits of a long retreat are precious and immeasurable and I would like to provide such an opportunity here at The Orchard. No, not a three months retreat, but a couple of two-week retreats, one in May and one in September.
I am fully aware that it will not possible for many to attend for such lengths of time and you could therefore also participate for just the first 3 or 5 days instead.
As is the tradition at The Orchard, our practice will be grounded in the way of mindfulness as taught by the Buddha in the Satipatthana Sutta.

I also wish to continue with the monthly practice weekends, offering an integrated whole of mindfulness and the Brahma Viharas at its core.

It is natural and common to stay with our practice within our comfort zone and for it to become another habit pattern of going through the motions without the energy and curiosity necessary for the progress on the path.
I benefited greatly from the practical meditation instructions given during the retreat at IMS. They brought to light where my practice had become somewhat stale, lazy and without sufficient clarity of mind. It helped sharpen my mind and energize my practice. It also made clear the need for support in my practice, for being stretched, extending the boundaries of my comfort zone and receive teaching on a regular basis; such is the nature of being human.
It is my aim to provide a similar structure at The Orchard and give you all the support I can for your practice to blossom and find more ease and happiness and that despite all the ups and downs we will experience in our practice, our trust and confidence in it will only grow.

Equally I want to put more emphasis on the insight/wisdom aspect within the practice of mindfulness and to deepen our powers of concentration, wisdom and loving kindness. Ultimately, these are the only reliable refuges.

I will continue with the weekly t’ai-ji classes and give a 5-day t’ai-ji seminar in August.

Details of the programme for 2017 will come to you in the beginning of the new year.

Jane and John have offered to continue with their support for the coming year. I am very grateful for what they have given us all over the last few years and am looking forward to working with them for another year to come.
While they will continue with offering classes in mindfulness and t’ai-ji at The Orchard, I am happy with the fact that they are finding other ways of sharing their expertise outside the boundaries of The Orchard and I am wishing them success and happiness with that.

For now, I wish you all well and happy and may you be free from suffering and fear.
May 2017 become a year where you will be the receiver and giver of loving kindness, where you will find refuge in wisdom and compassion and experience joy and happiness.

With loving kindness, Ad

Newsletter 2016 & Programme of events

2015 has been an inspiring and fulfilling year full of wholesome energy and with new people joining us.

We finished on a high note with the celebration of The Orchard’s 30th anniversary. Twenty of us reflected on those past years, what they had meant for us and also how The Orchard still holds a dear place in our lives as a sanctuary, providing a place of practice and peace in a world of turmoil.

Though the absence of Sonia was strongly felt, she was very much part of the day guiding us in the Loving Kindness meditation.

I felt deeply nourished by reminiscing about those 30 years with its various phases, about the large number of people who have passed through and benefited from it and by the presence of a still very alive sangha. As one person remarked, it felt ‘so warm, safe and at ease’.

With the ongoing indispensable support of Jane and John it remains my intention to keep offering such a much needed sanctuary. I feel blessed to be able to do that while it also gives me inspiration and support in my own practice. As clearly stated in a Chinese saying: “a meeting between teacher and student is like two stones rubbing on each other; they change each other without one being more important than the other”.

For that I would like to thank all of you who are part of this, through your multifaceted support and by joining us on retreats and personal practice times.

Though each retreat has been a highlight in its own way, the long sati retreat in August has to stand out as a very enriching experience, deepening our understanding and practice of Satipatthana as taught by the Buddha in his discourse on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. As this is such a central and complete teaching, I have again planned a long sati retreat for the summer that may well become an annual feature in our programme.

The Buddha taught us that the main causes of the suffering in this world are greed, hatred and delusion. As long as they are not eliminated the world will not be at peace. This past year has given us more than sufficient proof of this and the pain it has caused for numerous innocent people. Yes, we can help in many different ways, but ultimately we have to start with ourselves: “we have to be the change that we want in the world” (Gandhi). In the coming year I will therefore put a strong emphasis on the practice of Loving Kindness and Compassion and with the cultivation of wisdom as its necessary foundation.

The monthly Sati and Medicine Buddha days have become an established part of our practice and we will continue offering those over the coming year.

Several retreats will give you the option to attend for either three or five days. I fully understand that for many of you it is simply not possible to be away from home/work for that length of time and without taking anything away from the benefits of a three days retreat, I recommend the 5 days if you can.

The visit in September of the Ven. Khemadhammo was warmly received and we will invite him again to bless us with his teaching. I also have also approached John Peacock, a well known and respected Buddhist scholar and teacher to come and give a talk. We may even have the opportunity to welcome Ringu Tulku Rinpooche.

I will keep you posted about these events..

Tim Jones will open the new year activities with a weekend of voice work, emphasising the art of listening.

See the relevant pages on this website for full details of all events.

As mentioned in an earlier letter, I will go on a three months insight meditation retreat at the Barre Insight Meditation centre in Massachusetts from September until December during which period there will be no guided retreats at The Orchard.

However, The Orchard will remain open and be taken care of by Jane and John. During my absence they will continue running their weekly classes, the monthly MB and Sati days and support anyone who would like to stay for personal retreat time.

Further details about that period will be given nearer the time.

May the wholesome activities at The Orchard be for the benefit and uplifting of all beings.

With loving kindness, Ad