A wee update.

I guess I am due a bit of an update. Having written one blog last November on the eve of arriving in Plum Village Mindfulness Practice Centre/ Buddhist Monastery I mentioned I would write something else in the Spring. Well Spring has disappeared and mid Summer’s day has passed, but such is life. I’m writing this seated at the top of the hill town of Duras a bastille town in the South West of France in the Dordogne region. Looking out over the surrounding countryside I’m enjoying the tapestry of vineyards, fields of sunflowers and wheat, orchards and oak forests. It’s been over 8 months since I moved to Plum Village. Life has taken on a different rhythm and a different schedule than in my recent past in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Some news. I recently accepted the position of Farm Manager for the Plum Village ‘Happy Farm’. This is the two acre organic farm that grows a lot of the seasonal and organic food for the Plum Village community. I’m already engaged in my responsibilities and i have committed to this post until at least November 2017. I’ll be working with the support of my dear Brothesr Tif Eccles (County Clare, Ireland via Scotland) and Scott  Morris(Toronto, Canada).

happy farm seeds

When I decided to move from Ireland to Plum Village here in France I had one major reason for doing so. I moved to live as a part of the community here so that I could explore my aspiration to become a Monastic Brother in this spiritual tradition ( a Buddhist Monk in the Plum Village tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh). I have had this aspiration for many years. Whilst I am here I am living that question. To ordain or not? The aspiration is deep within me, in my blood and in my bones. However at present this monastic aspiration is not immediate. So I am taking my time and who knows if I will ever journey down that path. At present I am delighted to be participating and serving as part of what we call here the four fold Sangha (community)- Monastic Sisters, Monastic Brothers, Lay Sisters and Lay Brothers (I am a Lay Brother in case you were confused by this odd description- a lay friend living full time in the community).

So if not a Monk then what? I have the deep aspiration to live here in Plum Village alongside our teacher Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) and the Monastic and Lay Sanghas. I want to live together to study and learn, to serve and to practice together with my community, my Sangha. I want to be able to make a contribution whilst living here so I am delighted that after 8 months serving and working on the Happy Farm I am able to share my experience and expertise with the community and take on this role as Farm Manager. As mentioned this is not a role to be taken on alone and along with Tif and Scott I will have the help and brotherhood of our team of farm interns to depend on.

happy farm aerial

For all of my working life I was engaged in a 5 day working week, racking up the hours, mostly averaging around 35- 50 hours of work each week. Well the Happy Farm is a little different, yes I still work 5 days a week and some times more if needed. But my core hours will be less, somewhere around 25 hours a week, spread over mornings and evenings in the cooler parts of the day. This is my working week, but what else is on offer? Having worked in horticultural and environmental education circles since 2001 I can really say that this project: The Happy Farm, is globally unique. I have not discovered anywhere which has taken our practice of Mindfulness and Engaged Buddhism and mixed it together with this model of organic faming, engaged spiritual practice and education whilst offering a green oasis, a spiritual refuge for thousands of retreatants annually.

happy farm kids.jpg

The Happy Farm is amongst other things an experiment in bringing mindfulness into a working environment. We practice as a team, a group of friends and Brothers. Together we practice stepping over the threshold of the farm just as we would when entering the meditation hall. We bring a sense of gratitude, respect and reverence to the land and to the farm. So alongside our daily work of growing the best quality food you can ever eat (homegrown food!) we practice working mindfully together. Before each working session we take turns to offer a short silent sitting meditation and share quotations and practices from three core texts. Theses are the ancient Buddhist text: The Dhammapada and Thich Nhat Hanh’s books ‘Work’ and ‘Joyfully Together’. Together we hold a space of contemplation on the farm to develop our mindfulness and concentration as we work together. We support each other practicing periods of ‘noble quiet’ each working day where for an hour of each work session we limit conversation to to just the necessary practical words we need to share with each other. Just like in other parts of Plum Village we also have a beautiful Mindfulness Bell which hangs in the centre of the farm. We the team and our volunteers regularly invite the bell to sound every 15 minutes or so. When we hear the bell we practice stopping, laying down our work and enjoying our breath for a moment, reconnecting with our bodies, our friends and the beauty of nature on the Happy Farm. So the idea is that we are cultivating a working environment that can exist with minimal stress and anxiety and offer our service or working meditation joyfully and peacefully (when possible!).

harvest happy farm

This space is held throughout the year for the family of Happy Farm interns (of which there are 7), but also for those thousands of people who come to spend between one week and a few months each year on retreat and join us working and serving on the farm. We offer this space of practice on a weekly basis throughout the year and in mid August we will be at the peak of our period of Summer service when we welcome 400 retreatants onto the farm as part of the ‘Wake Up Earth’- retreat for young adults involved in the global Wake Up movement.
http://www.wkup.org

The practical contribution of the Happy Farm (when we put aside the spiritual space and service it provides) is that we grow and offer a huge amount of food for the community. In the 2015 season the Farm produced nearly 40,000 Euro’s worth of seasonal and organic food. All of this food is given to the community and cooked daily in the kitchen, feeding the four fold community. Last year the amount of organic vegetables and fruit offered to the community was equivalent to over 50,000 meals (we are a vegan community!). This model of farming is demonstrating that we can sustainably cultivate our food in a low impact manner that benefits the environment and our Mother Earth. There is no packaging involved and less than a kilometre to transport the food to the kitchens for cooking. Everyone knows the ‘local food is miles better’.

happy farm harvest 2.jpg

The Happy Farm is also a space for education. One concrete example of that is how we offer educational and entertaining visits for the Childrens Programme during the Summer Retreat (entertaining for the Happy Farmers as much as we hope for the kids!). By the end of next week we will have welcomed over 400 kids from all over planet Earth onto the Happy Farm for interactive, hands on sessions on organic farming. Education is not just for the kids but also for the retreatants who offer their help to us on the farm each year and lastly and significantly the team of annual Happy Farm interns. Many of these international interns will come with little or no experience in organic farming, we hope that by the end of their one year internship they will have learnt enough to go off and start their own small organic farming project, wherever that may be on this green planet.

The fact that I am able to slot into this role and to serve and offer so much to so many is only possible due to the fact that a few friends actually took the idea for this project under their wing four years ago and physically made it happen. I express my deep gratitude and thanks to my friends and Happy Farm ancestors Stuart Watson and Daniel Dermitzel. I wish them both the very best in the future on their individual projects where they are cultivating hearts and minds in the UK and Germany. Also huge thanks to this years team of Happy Farm Interns, Izzy, Eamon, Tif, Scott, Guilluame and our Monastic Farm Mentors Thay Phap Dung and Thay Phap Luu.

In the words of Satish Kumar, this small two acre green oasis is manifesting a new trinity for our times:
“Soil, Soul, Society” or my own take on this unique little farm… “Clay, Consciousness, Community”.

Explore more at
plum village.org/community/happy-farm/

http://www.facebook.com/pvhappyfarm/

Keeping my appointment with life

Dear friends,

some of you will know that I recently made the decision to quit my job and pack up my life in Belfast to travel to France with the intention of living, practising and working within the community or Sangha at Plum Village, Buddhist Monastery and Retreat Centre in the Dordogne region of the SW of France.

42.-Practising-mindful-movements-on-the-Buddha-Hill-in-Plum-Village

I am using this old blog site for the purpose of journaling and keeping in touch with family and friends.

In 2007 I realised I had what I describe as a ‘spiritual vacuum’ in my life. Life seemed to be filled with partying with friends, drink, drugs and unfortunately not enough….. sex (2 out of 3 eh!). It was then that I fell into my spiritual practice. The practice of Applied Buddhism and Mindfulness pioneered by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and the global Plum Village community/Sangha.

I have been very fortunate to have a beautiful group of friends in the Belfast Bonsai Sangha and other Sanghas across Ireland and the UK to practice with each week. I have also been very blessed to bring the practice of Mindfulness into my work in the Mindful Walks Belfast project and also regularly with therapeutic workshops in my organic gardening and cooking work. Whilst eternally grateful for these opportunities I have always been drawn to go a little deeper with my practice and now I am taking the plunge to live with the Sangha of Buddhist Monks, Nuns, Lay Friends and Retreatants who all call the practice centre in Plum Village home.

I have planned to live here for a year and it promises to be a deeply challenging, fun and joy filled year. It all kicks off tomorrow whenI leave behind my hotel in Bergerac and I arrive for the start of the 3 month Winter Retreat. Then in March I am so very lucky to join the team of organic gardeners/farmers working on the two acre organic ‘Happy Farm’.

P10306051

I’ll be practising with being off line for most of Winter retreat (with exception of Christmas, New Year and Tet celebrations-Lunar New Year celebrated in Vietnam). I’ll still be contactable but may not be back in touch as quickly as usual. You can email on a new email ( mickeymcevoy@icloud.com) or Facebook message me or follow this wee blog and message me via this. I’ll have no phone, which makes me smile already but I will have Skype/facetime etc so I’m not completely disappearing here.

In the words of Thay/ Thich Nhat Hanh, I am showing up to ‘keep my appointment with life’. I’m not running away to the retreat centre, but deciding to prioritise what I feel is really important, that being spending time with myself; with all my suffering and happiness and aiming to transform that suffering by befriending it and spending some quality time with it. No doubt there will be a lot of good times ahead in the next three months also.  I’ll also be spending a lot of time with practitioners from all over the world and some sagely wise Monastics.

Plum Village is a vibrant, active, open and engaged community and welcomes visitors nearly all year. Great times to visit are Christmas, Tet (Feb’), Spring Retreat, Summer Retreat and Autumn Retreat…any time really! So everyone is always welcome to come visit.

Some sites to explore:
http://www.plumvillage.org
http://www.plumvillage.org/community/happy-farm
May you all be happy and healthy,
With love, Mick.

Mindfully walking through the wildflowers

On Saturday August 8th I’ll be offering a FREE Mindful Walk with the Belfast Hills Partnership on the beautiful Slievnacloy Nature Reserve in West Belfast.

The walk is on Saturday morning at 10am-12pm. Slievenacloy Nature Reserve is a hidden retreat of species-rich grassland famous for its beautiful orchids in early summer.

Directions are on the link below.Tickets are free but must be booked in advance with the Belfast Hills Partnership.
http://belfasthills.org/events/mindfulness-walk/

This walk is part of the fantastic Heritage Festival. Check out the other great events on the Belfast Hills Partnership’s website.

http://belfasthills.org/visiting/events/

Belfast Hills Partnership Mindfulness walk

FREE Mindfulness workshops- Mindfulness of Gardening.

What is Mindfulness?

When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.”

“Mindfulness can be described as the energy of being aware of what is going on in us and around us. When we live with mindfulness, we have the capacity to touch life deeply, whether we are talking, taking our cup of tea, or walking.”
Thich Nhat Hanh

Happy farm

Being outdoors in nature and in the garden is deeply healing for us as humans. Reconnecting with the earth, with the soil, with the seasons is nourishing. and restoring for our well being

Peer reviewed science has now scientifically demonstrated what every gardener always knew. That having your hands in the soil is good for you. Tiny micro organisms and bacteria found naturally in the soil when in contact with our bodies act as natural anti depressants stimulating the production of serotonin. The natural chemical that makes us happy!

This FREE 3 hour Mindfulness workshop will be based in the new POP UP Organic Community food Garden in East Belfast, developed by Environmental and Well Being Charity- Groundwork NI.

No experience of Mindfulness or gardening is necessary, come only with an open mind (and not in your best clothes- as we will be gardening). An introduction to Mindfulness will be offered and then collectively we will undertake some therapeutic gardening activities undertaken slowly, joyfully and with the energy of MIndfulness.

There will be refreshing herbal teas and snacks offered using organic food grown in the garden.

Only 10 places are available on each workshop and booking is essential and must be done by emailing Mick at michaelmcevoy@groundworkni.co.uk to confirm your place

The Community Garden is just off the Newtownards Road on Connswater Street, opposite the McDonald’s at Connswater Shopping Centre. There is a big polytunnel- you can’t miss us.

http://www.facebook.com/IntheMEANWHILEcommunitygardensbelfast

Be well,

Mick

Walking on the EARTH is the real miracle.

Dear friends,

we have been offering these ‘Mindful Walks’ for nearly a year. The project was initially planned for one year and 80 walks. Our next walk will be number 80! However in a personal capacity I Mick McEvoy have the aspiration to continue to offer Mindful Walks across our beautiful city and countryside. These will be less frequent than before as my personal time allows.

Walk on earth

I am delighted to announce that we have two upcoming events for you to attend. On Friday March 6th I will be offering a mindful walk in partnership with Queen’s University Belfast. QUB are celebrating ‘Climate Week’ on this week. This mindful walk will begin with an introduction on how the practice of mindfulness and specifically mindful walking can help us reconnect with the earth beneath our feet. Mother Earth. I will also share how the practice of mindfulness can help us reconnect with how we choose to live our lives on this earth. How we live, how we consume has a direct impact on this earth, this planet we all share, this earth we call home.

We will meet in front of the Palm House in the Botanic Gardens at 1.10pm for a 30/40 minute walk. Please dress for all weathers (warm and waterproofed and have comfortable shoes/boots for walking on the grass).

The next planned mindful walk excites me very much. This is the first walk I will be offering independently for free in my own time. I always thought that a mindful walk in the Ulster Museum would be a great thing to do. Circumstances have come to together to enable me to do just that….offer you a chance to walk mindfully amongst the dinosaurs, mummies and world class art.

On Sunday 22nd March at 10.30am we will meet in the lobby of the Ulster Museum in Botanic Gardens. I will give an introduction to the practice of mindfulness and mindful walking. Then we will walk together, flowing as a river. Nowhere to go, nothing to do, no longer in a hurry. We will walk slowly together through some of the treasured artefacts, enjoying each step. We will visit some of the art galleries within the museum and stop, rest and enjoy these splendid works of art. Coming back to our breath, coming back to our body. When we enjoy the art we can look deeply and see the artist creating these beautiful pieces of art hanging on these walls now for us to enjoy.

This walk will end with us walking slowly out into the Botanic Gardens and enjoying (hopefully) the blue sky, the sunshine and the bird song. The Ulster Museum has kindly offered to provide us with tea and coffee for after the walk. I hope you can join me.

No experience of mindfulness is necessary for you to attend and all are welcome.

Every walk is offered in silence and we ask you to respect that.

Also another exciting announcement….Dear friends, I invite you to join me for a special FREE workshop where we will explore and practice the “Mindfulness of cooking and eating”. As many of you will know we can practice Mindfulness throughout our day bringing our mindful energy to the activity that we are engaged in. This can be washing our face, our teeth, showering or even using the toilet first thing in the morning. The practice of mindfulness can be very deep when we reconnect with our food. How the food is produced, how we prepare it and when we explore the practice of mindfulness with how we eat. We can reconnect with our bodies and the earth from which our food is produced in a nourishing and refreshing manner.

I invite you join me for a three hour workshop to explore our relationship with our food and how we eat all centred through the practice of mindfulness.

Saturday, March 7 and Saturday 21st March 2015
10:15 AM to 1:30 PM
Groundwork Northern Ireland
63-75 Duncairn Gardens, BT15 2GB, Belfast

Places are strictly limited and on a first come first served basis. Please email me to book a space at michaelmcevoy@groundworkni.co.uk

All food will be vegan.

Be well, Mick.

Saturday afternoon Mindful walks in January and February.

Mindfulness is good for your well-being. Combining the practices of walking, mindfulness and immersing ourselves in nature is very good for your well-being.

We’ll be taking part in Belfast City Council’s ‘Take 5′ campaign which is aimed at our emotional resilience, well-being and mental health. In January and February many of us suffer from the January blues. So why not join us on one of five special Mindful walks offered as part of the ‘Take 5′ campaign. Here are the details of walks covering all parts of Belfast and offered on Saturdays.

person-walking-snow

Date          Location                  Time

17/01/15        Falls Park (meet at the entrance on the Fall’s Road, opposite the Texaco garage) 12.00pm

24/01/15        Victoria Park  12.00pm (meet at the car park by the foot bridge).

31/01/15        Woodvale Park  12.00pm (meet at the main entrance to Woodvale Park on the Woodvale Road).

07/02/15        Ormeau Park     12.00pm

14/02/15        Waterworks Park 12.00pm

For more info on the ‘Take 5’ campaign follow the link:
http://www.makinglifebettertogether.com/

“Smile, breathe and go slowly”
Thich Nhat Hanh

Mindfulness is for life not just for Christmas.

Dear friends,

we wish you all a happy and healthy Christmas and new year. For many of us however the Christmas and New Year period can be challenging. Stress, anxiety and depression are common states of mind for many over this period. The practice of Mindfulness and Mindful Walking can be a real help when we experience such emotional suffering.

Make a pledge to yourself over these next few weeks to make space and time for yourself. Whenever these strong feelings arise take 5 and come back to your breath, come back to your body. Mindful breathing and enjoying our steps mindfully can be our anchor when we feel strong emotions. Even when we are walking from one room to the next or using the stairs at home we can practice mindful walking. Stopping, coming back to our breath, coming back to our body and being aware of every step that we take.

Please do take the time to go outdoors in some of our beautiful green parks, gardens and the great outdoors over the next few weeks and practice Mindful walking. Take time to appreciate the blue sky or maybe the snow, the frost or even the rain. Take time to practice gratitude for all that we do have at this time of year, becoming aware and mindful of the happiness and joy that we can experience at this time of years.

We’ll be taking part in Belfast City Council’s ‘Take 5’ campaign which is aimed at our emotional resilience, well-being and mental health. In January and February many of us suffer from the January blues. So why not join us on one of five special Mindful walks offered as part of the ‘Take 5’ campaign. Here are the details of walks covering all parts of Belfast and offered on Saturdays.

person-walking-snow

Date          Location                  Time

17/01/15        Whiterock Park  12.00pm

24/01/15        Victoria Park      12.00pm

31/01/15        Woodvale Park  12.00pm

07/02/15        Ormeau Park     12.00pm

14/02/15        Waterworks Park 12.00pm

Remember…..Mindfulness is for life not just for Christmas.

Winding down for Christmas

Dear friends we’ll be winding down for Christmas and as such we’ll only have one more walk before the Christmas holidays. Next Monday December 15th we’ll return to the Ormeau Park for the last Mindful Walk of 2014. We’ll meet at 10am at the main entrance to the Park by the Ormeau Bridge on the Ormeau Road. Wrap up warm and ideally wear walking boots or shoes. The woodland trails are beautiful at this time of year and what better way to escape the commercialism and mayhem of the retail side of contemporary Christmas than to take an hour for yourself to ‘stop, breathe and enjoy your steps in mindfulness outdoors in nature’.

We will return in the new year with a series of Saturday Mindful walks in parks all over Belfast in January and February. More details here next week.

For now “Smile, breathe and go slowly.” Thich Nhat Hanh.Go-slowly-quotes-by-Thich-Nhat-Hanh-Smile-breath-and-go-slowly

Dear friends here the details of this week’s walks beginning Monday 8th December.

Enjoy a Mindful walk along the river Lagan from Shaw’s Bridge to Minnowburn. This is a beautiful walk at a beautiful time of year. We’ll meet at Shaw’s Bridge on the actual bridge at 10am. From there we will walk along the River Lagan to the Minnowburn before winding our way up through native woodland to the secret Terrace Hill Garden with it’s magical views over Belfast. From there we’ll continue through the woods and return via the River Lagan Towpath to Shaw’s Bridge. This walk will take approx 1.5hours. Please wrap up warm and wear comfortable but stout and supportive footwear.

http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2012/may/12/giants-ring-trail-belfast-walk

When we practice Mindful Walking we are meditating together. We walk slowly as a group, following our guide. We choose to walk in silence. The silence can be nourishing. We come back to our bodies, our footsteps, our breath and we smile. Smiling to each other, smiling to the river, smiling to the birdsong, smiling to Mother Earth.

On Wednesday 10th December we have our weekly lunch time walk in Botanic Gardens. You are invited to join us for a shorter walk over lunchtime in the beautiful Belfast Botanic Gardens. We will enjoy walking solidly, in the present moment and enjoy the seasons changing. We will meet at 1pm in front of the Palm House and hope to enjoy the cool breeze, the birds singing and hopefully the blue skies and sunshine again!

‘Nowhere to go, nothing to do, no longer in a hurry’
Thich Nhat Hanh.

Barnetts Demesne 4

This weeks walks (beginning Monday December 1st).

Dear friends,

this week we will have plenty more opportunities to practice Mindfulness outdoors in Nature together. Together we practice walking meditation, mindfulness of walking, aware of our steps. Slow, solid and stable, in touch with the earth, in touch with our body, in touch with our breath.

On the morning of Monday 1st December at 10am we will meet at the main gate/ entrance to Ormeau Park (right beside the Ormeau bridge) and enjoy a Mindful walk the through this gem of a public park. There are lovely quiet and natural woodland trails in the park and we will follow these under the mature beech trees and meadows. This is a beautiful walk which will take approx’ 1.5 hours. Wear sturdy footwear and dress for the outdoors. There is plenty of free and stress free car parking behind the Ormeau library at Dunne Stores accessed off the Stranmillis embankment.

When we practice Mindful Walking we are meditating together. We walk slowly as a group, following our guide. We choose to walk in silence. The silence can be nourishing. We come back to our bodies, our footsteps, our breath and we smile. Smiling to each other, smiling to the river, smiling to the birdsong, smiling to Mother Earth.

On Tuesday 2nd December at 10am we will walk in the beautiful Orangefield Park. The Park has had lots of development work carried out including rerouting the Knock River so that it runs through the park. There are lovely pathways and wild flower plantings to enjoy. We’ll meet at the Dunraven Park entrance.

On Wednesday 3rd December we have our weekly lunch time walk in Botanic Gardens. You are invited to join us for a shorter walk over lunchtime in the beautiful Belfast Botanic Gardens. We will enjoy walking solidly, in the present moment and enjoy the seasons changing. We will meet at 1pm in front of the Palm House and hope to enjoy the cool breeze, the birds singing and hopefully the blue skies and sunshine again!

Then on Thursday 4th December we’re back at Belfast Castle for a wonderful walk in the beautiful Castle gardens. We’ll meet at 10:30am (meeting in Belfast Castle car park on the left, at the top of the castle driveway).

http://www.walkni.com/walks/75/belfast-castle-estate/

Smile, Breathe and go slowly.

john muir