Diversity Ecology Ethics Practice
Cedar Retreat is situated at 9,500 ft. in the northern Aberdares in the heart of old growth forest. For this reason it is an ideal location for a nature retreat. The air is cool at nights, and even in the hot season Jan- March the forest provides cool shade set amidst streams, rock pools and waterfalls that within the precincts of the retreat centre offer the options of solitary meditation spots within the heart of this ancient forest ecology.
Walking in silence through the forest in the early morning dawn light one quickly becomes attuned to a very special ambience. It is no exaggeration then to call these woodlands an Enchanted Forest with their mixture of red cedar, olive, and rosewood, their branches hung with hanging moss.
The nearby moorland is accessible within 30 minutes drive for walks that can be planned for varying periods of two hours to four hours that take you through landscapes dominated by the Dragons Teeth and Pyramid Rock Formations, or a longer 6-7 hours walk (up and down) to Le Satima Summit.
The forest, nearby mountains, open moors, the river and waterfalls naturally provide a spaciousness inwardly and outwardly that settles the mind, while living, walking and practicing meditation in nature creates personal connections and mutual support.
The retreat is grounded in the practice of Mindfulness Meditation: the natural capacity we all have to be present to ourselves and our environment. Participants will be guided in scheduled formal practice sessions to bring this receptive presence to develop a contemplative relationship with nature.
In wisdom traditions this corresponds to opening the mind and heart, and the nurturing of awareness that allows for these two modalities to work in symbiosis, acknowledging the primacy of the heart-mind as the field of relationality that gives rise to compassion and to an ecology of love.
Silence is our natural habitat, and the work of silence is, as it were, a process of returning to the wild. Maggie Ross
The two day retreats commence at 12pm on the first day and finish after lunch around 2 pm on the last day.
Transport for those not driving themselves will leave Nairobi 0700 from the car park of Muthaiga Minimarket (Onn The Way Supermarket) Limuru Road. Use of the minibus is recommended as it makes a long journey (5 hours) affordable.
14.30 Silent meditation. Introduction to the retreat.
16.00 Afternoon river or forest walk
1800 Mindfulness practice. Nurturing a contemplative relationship with nature.
20.30 Silent sitting.
0700-0730 - Silent Sitting Meditation on the Deck above waterhole.
0800-0900 - Breakfast
1030-1230 - Nature Meditation and Silent Forest or Moorland Nature Walk. Various walking options are available. Moorland walks require vehicle transport (approx 30. mins) to access.
1300-1400 - Lunch
1500-1600 - Option: Solitary Practice - Being Alone in Nature.
1800-1900 - Mindfulness practice. The intuitive mind and relationship.
1930-2030 - Dinner
0700-0800 - Silent Sitting Meditation on the deck above waterhole.
0800-0900 - Breakfast Dining Room
1000-1200 - Forest Walk upstream along river into forest.
1300-1400 - Lunch in the Dining Room or on main deck.
1400 - Depart for Nairobi.
RETREAT PRICE 2 nights 30,000 KES Full Board sharing double/twin bedded log cabin. Five log cabins available for this retreat. Single occupancy please inquire by contacting this website or calling 0722 599187.
Park fees not included. Transport by minibus can be arranged - see information below.
Meals throughout will be vegetarian. Vegans should notify their preferences well in advance of the retreat as the retreat is remote from shops and supplies. No alcohol will be served during the retreat.
Facilitation at meditation sessions, guided nature meditations, talks or presentations are offered on a gift economy basis, known as dana in the tradition. The venue full board charges do not include anything for the facilitator, so donations at the end of the retreat may be offered. Each log cabin has en suite bathrooms and wood burning stoves.
Those who wish a vegan diet will they please notify me when they request a booking. Given the remoteness of the location this cannot be arranged at the last minute.
If transport is required to Cedar Retreat from Nairobi please indicate this when you book. We try and encourage participants on retreats to make use of this to avoid multiple vehicles burning fuel and to lessen the carbon footprint of the retreat experience. It is roughly a five hour drive to the retreat, and not easy to find. Park fees are additional payable to KWS at Shamata Gate. Depending on how many make use of the 8 seater minibus the cost to and from Nairobi (roughly a four hour drive one way) is roughly between 3,000-6,000 (3-6 persons) per person depending on the numbers.
The Retreat is set amidst old growth forest of mixed species, mainly cedar, rosewood, podo and olive at an altitude of 9,500 feet. Within the precincts of the retreat there is a small river with rock pools that are fed by waterfalls. These provide tranquil places for solitary meditation and connecting with nature and its healing qualities. There is an abundance of bird life and near the main house there is a wooden deck built around a tree overlooking a waterhole where animals can sometimes be seen in the early morning, or evening and at night.
A silent retreat refers to the effortless attunement of our nature in its capacity to resonate to the natural world and its sound and sense scapes and their deeply healing qualities when our minds are no longer distracted by a proliferation of electronic devices and urban-generated anxieties.
Awakening to the wild means shifting attention to establish a coherent balance that arises when you are awake to your own deepest nature. It is a process of ungrasping or unclenching, as simple as opening the hand. It also entails deep listening inwardly and outwardly. By cultivating an inner quiet and curious spirit we can learn from nature as a perennial teacher.
Participants will also discover how meditative time outdoors leads to beautiful states of joy, peace, wonder, love and connection with oneself, each other and the larger web of life. Thus the work of silence is a journey into the heart of being and sharing that being with others.
The work of silence is the source of healthy community, for the health and character of community is dependent on the quality of solitudes that make it up; the reconciling character of shared silence is formed in the deep mind of each person. Maggie Ross
There will be guided nature-based meditations, mindful walks, talks on meditation and nature and opportunities for one-to-one meetings with the facilitator. There will be time to savour the forest and to explore the nearby wilderness of the Aberdares both in solitude and as part of the group.
Forests have been shown to have a natural healing effect. Professor Yoshifumi Miyazaki in Japan has conducted extensive studies of urbanites that demonstrated exposure to forest environments enhanced immune functions and lowered the activity of stress factors. Anti-cancer cell activity was enhanced by 56%. Forests won't on their own cure illness, but act as a preventive medicine as genetically we are attuned to a natural preference for 'silence'.
This retreat is appropriate for beginners as well as experienced meditators who are curious about meditation, mindfulness and how to deepen your insight practice and open your connection to the mystery of the natural world. Be prepared for unexpected delight, mystery, silence and illumination.
The following walks are available both within the retreat centre precincts and beyond on the open moorland. Transportation to the moorland walks can be arranged for drop off and pick up points, with picnic lunches if required.
1. River Walk. This is within the immediate retreat environment and takes approximately one hour over 2 1/2 kms.Starting along the river you pass a rock pool with a waterfall, then the track diverts up into the forest and finishes back at the retreat centre.
2. Hygenia. A new track walks upriver from the old pumping station. It is approximately 3 kms, parts of the walk alongside the river. There is a clearing under a Hygenia tree, from where the track proceeds back through the forest to Cedar Retreat.
3. Chabuswa Hill. Trekkers can be transported to this walk in the park. The climb to the top of Chabuswa Hill takes approx. 50 minutes.
4. Dragon Teeth and Moorlands. This is an interesting and flexible walk that can be organised to take between two to four hours. The starting point is about 30 mins drive from the Retreat out of the forest onto the open moorlands. There are a variety of different walks towards Dragons Teeth outcrop, the Pyramid and other rock formations.
5. Le Satima Summit. This is a six to seven hour walk both ways, up and down.
How sometimes it happens,
when your listening inclines towards the earth
after the long days of rain,
walking into the woods in the stillness of that hour,
hardly a breeze stirring these trees
festooned with silvery-green moss,
raindrops diamantine in the late light
slanting through the hushed aftermath of a storm,
it happens that deep within the felt sense
of a word taking shape on the tongue
comes as a sound searching to be heard
hesitating to give it voice while registering
the tread of your feet on the path
winding slowly through trees steeped in shadow,
when the unbroken sound of it arrives,
suddenly whole and complete in its sense,
there in the liminal pause between breaths,
at the threshold between fear of loss
and joy in the silent disclosure of a new path
that opens ahead at once taking you back
to where the long memory of trees began,
the songs of the wind you listened to
through the dark falls and the river of leaves,
the path now climbing up towards the night,
following your lengthening shadow
that stretches as tall as the trees and their years,
arriving in time to witness in the last of the light
an emerald sea of meadow grass
sun-lit against the cedars' towering mountain dark.
And then you turn to follow the downward slope
where the tumbling stream cuts a mercurial path
as faint as a moonbeam,
the source running deep as a seam in the earth,
answering to the inner calling of that voice,
now following it down to the silent pool,
secret wellspring at the heart of the forest,
the day now dropping to a mere whisper of light,
and the trees closing around you
with the encroaching intimacy of the night,
even as the water still carries within it
the dying embers of the sky’s burnished fires,
yet how cold it feels to your touch
as your hand reaches down through the surface
finding suddenly, reflected there in the sky above,
a long flight of birds migrating west.
And in the lingering afterbeat of their vanishing
in that sacred hour between day and night,
when at last your voice falls silent
at the beckoning edge of the sheltering night,
when the first stars of evening return to you in secret
the tangible nearness of each precious moment,
when behind the transparent breath of these words,
from beneath the hidden depths of the forest floor,
you hear that unmistakable sound
at the rapturous heart of the world-turning earth,
which is the sound of silence after the rain,
the ever-unfolding living presence,
that arrives unannounced even at the very cusp of night,
beyond which words could not take you.
David Beatty 2021