Join us for a weekend residential retreat in the heart of Donegal Gaeltacht region, north-western Ireland.
The retreat will offer an immersion into spiritual ecology through a programme of activities including: teaching input, group discussion, storytelling, nature connection, solo reflection and practice.
“We are talking only to ourselves. We are not talking to the rivers, we are not listening to the wind and stars. We have broken the great conversation. By breaking that conversation we have shattered the universe. All the disasters that are happening now are a consequence of that spiritual brokenness” – Thomas Berry
At the present time of ecological unravelling and ecocide, there is an increasing recognition that the roots of our crisis run far deeper than politics or economics.
Our current civilisation is destroying the very fabric of life upon which we depend, and this outer situation is connected to an inner crisis, caused by our fundamental worldview and attitudes towards the living earth.
We treat our forests as timber, rather than as sacred groves; our rivers as irrigation water, rather than the veins of the land; and other species as resources, rather than our relations.
In a culture transfixed by a story of materialism, individualism and human progress, we have broken our conversation with the rest of life, and to anything greater than ourselves. This story of separation is an illusion.
Therefore, for real change to emerge, a deeper shift is required. We need a spiritual revolution that can bring about a fundamental regeneration in our relationship to Earth.
“There is a revolution that needs to happen and it starts from inside each of us. We need to wake up and fall in love with the earth. Our personal and collective survival depends on it.” – Thich Naht Hanh
Spiritual ecology tells the ancient story that we do not live in a dead world, we inhabit a living world. We live upon an earth that is alive, that is suffused with soul, that is one interconnected and sacred being, to which we belong.
But what would it be like to live in this relationship of oneness with the rest of life once again? What would it be like for us to shift from domination, separation and greed, into reverence, stewardship and reciprocity? How do we step back into the circle of life?
Spiritual ecology is both an ancient and newly emerging field, based on the simple truth that life is sacred and interconnected. This understanding of the connection between spirituality and ecology, of our interdependence in the circle of life, is nothing new. These are ancient and timeless truths known to many cultures, to our ancestors, and are still alive and practiced today in some traditions in parts of the world.
Irish indigenous culture and mythology is deeply rooted in a connection to land as sacred. County Donegal, a widely Irish speaking region is situated in between both the wild and expansive Atlantic sea, and the majestic Derryveagh mountains. It is a place rich in Irish history, indigenous spirituality and a thread of remembrance of spiritual ecology.
“Tenalach” is a newly coined Irish word that describes this ancient relationship with the land, air and water: a deep connection that allows one to literally ‘hear the earth sing’.
Over three days together, we will take the time to cultivate this ancient and newly emerging understanding of spiritual ecology. We will learn to listen to the earth once again, explore together how we can respond from a place that is real and transformative, and contribute to reigniting a spiritual ecology of time and place.
This retreat welcomes people of all ages, genders, sexual orientations, races, religions and spiritualities, abilities and backgrounds, and requires no prerequisite knowledge or training. We will do some light hiking through the national park, and will do our best to support anyone requiring assistance.
The weekend may be particularly relevant to environmental activists, change makers, peace-workers, young people and anyone interested in the transition to a world based on values of interconnectedness and reverence for life.
We have a number of bursary spaces available, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to apply.
Amrita Bhohi is a spiritual ecology facilitator and educator. Her work offers experiences to reconnect people, the living world and the sacred. She co-founded the spiritual ecology programme at St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation & Peace in London, including an innovative leadership training for millennials. She holds an MA in ecological economics from Schumacher College.
Jenny O’Hare is an ecologist, writer and facilitator originally from Ireland, currently residing in Berlin, Germany. With a background in Natural and Earth Sciences, and a lifetime love of nature and the living world, she has a deeply felt spiritual connection to both. In recent years, current events and a change in landscape have inspired a personal enquiry which has lead her to explore other ways of interacting with and experiencing these essential relationships. Drawing on the fields of Deep Ecology, Eco-Psychology and trainings in Nature Resonance, she has been leading workshops that focus on reconnecting people to their true nature, both inner and outer. Reciprocity is her guiding ethos, and exploring the ways in which we can exist in right relationship in a living animate world.
Ciara Parsons grew up on the west coast of Ireland, in a native speaking and ecologically diverse village. In recent years, she has begun to reconnect with the land in an attempt to understand the indigenous knowledge and ancient magic it holds, hoping that an understanding of this knowledge can help us in the current ecological crisis.
She is qualified in Sustainable Horticulture and Permaculture from Kinsale College and has a passion for biodiversity conservation. This is reflected in her garden designs, where earth care comes first and the overarching aim is to help people reignite their appreciation and fascination with the natural world.
She is currently studying Social and Therapeutic Horticulture with Coventry University,where her research has shown her the myriad of health and well-being benefits of nature connection for vulnerable people within society.
Nádúr Naofa (meaning sacred nature in the irish language), is the name of her nature connection workshops series which she runs periodically, each one looking at a different aspect of our connection with nature.
Brian Lacey studied Celtic Archaeology and Early Irish History at UCD and received a PhD from the Ulster University for interdisciplinary work on the legacy of St Colum Cille. He lectured at Magee College, Derry (1974-86), and later set up Derry’s Heritage and Museum Service. In the mid-1970s he directed a series of salvage excavations at sites relating to plantation Londonderry, and in 1980-3 the archaeological survey of Co. Donegal. From 1998 to 2012 he headed the Discovery Programme, an institute in Dublin for advanced research in Irish archaeology. He is the author of about 14 books – including Siege City: the story of Derry and Londonderry – and many research papers dealing mainly with the early history and archaeology of Cos Donegal and Derry: St Columba: His Life and Legacy and Medieval and monastic Derry: sixth century to 1600 were published in 2013. In 2016 he edited a book for Coiste Dhoire 1916-2016 on the revolutionary period in Derry city.
The retreat will be held at the beautiful retreat centre known as ‘The Song House’, situated in between the wild and expansive Atlantic sandy beaches on one side, and the Derryveagh mountain range on the other.
Participants are responsible for organising their own transport to and from the retreat centre. We will do our best to help you to coordinate your travel.
Arrival and departure times
Please arrive from 4pm on Friday, a welcome dinner will be served at 6:00pm.
The retreat finishes at 12:00pm on Monday.
Clonbara, Falcarragh, Co. Donegal, Republic of Ireland F92 D4EX
The Song House is a 20 minute walk or short car ride away from the village of Falcarragh.
Dublin airport, city centre and ferry
Daily Coaches from Dublin to Falcarragh (4 hours). The coach picks up at Dublin airport, and Dublin city centre.
Easy transport from ferry terminal to city centre.
Belfast airport, city centre and ferry
Daily Coaches from Belfast to Falcarragh (2 ¾ hours).
The coach doesn’t stop at the airport, but if you phone them, they’ll arrange for a taxi to drop you from the airport to meet the coach on the main road.
Easy transport from ferry terminal to city centre
Hourly minibus from Belfast airport to Derry. Local buses will get you from Derry to Letterkenny, then on to Falcarragh.
Regular flights from London Stansted to Derry (Ryanair). Local buses to Letterkenny (line 234), and then to Falcarragh (line 64). You can make the journey much faster by taking a taxi from Derry airport to Letterkenny (c.€40), then catch local bus to Falcarragh.
Regular flights from Glasgow and Dublin to Donegal airport. 30 min drive from Song House. The car hire at Donegal airport is more expensive. If there’s a group of you, I can book you a minibus, coach or taxi to pick you up.
Walking from the coach stop-off in Falcarragh
The Song House is 20 mins walk. At crossroads, take the southerly road signposted Muckish mountain and Glenveagh National Park. Song House is 1 mile up that road. Pass Maura’s house on left, a bright yellow/white chalet type bungalow. Road curves slightly to right, and drops down a little. Just round the bend you will see Song House , a long white traditional looking house, on left, next to road. Just after, road takes a sharp curve to left.
From Letterkenny, take N56 towards Dunfanaghy, then turn left onto R251 at Termon- signposted Glenveagh National Park. Just after Glenveagh National Park, turn right onto R256, to Falcarragh (an Falcarrach). The road ascends up to the side of Muckish mountain, and down the other side. You will start to see the sea and Falcarragh in the distance. Keep on same road for about 15 mins after Muckish. At a fork in the road, keep to left, but you will see Song House, a long white house, set up on the hill ahead of you. 100 yards on, when the road takes a sharp turning to the right, Song House is directly after the bend, on the right. (The Song House is 18.2km from the turning onto R256) Either park on the steep short drive, or you can also park opposite in a small layby.
The retreat is limited to 25 participants.
Accommodation options are: single room, shared room or camping.
The Song House provides simple accommodation and sleeps 12-15 guests, all in shared rooms. Single rooms are also available at a local B&B, five minutes away from the house. Camping on site at The Song House is available for up to 5 people.
Prices include full cost of food, accommodation and participation.
We would like to make this retreat as accessible as possible. If you feel passionate about attending, but price is a hinderance, then please get in touch to apply for a bursary. Please email email@example.com to discuss.
Spiritual ecology is both an ancient and newly emerging field, and an aspect of our work that we are exploring in relation to building a global culture of peace, which includes learning to live in peace with the Earth.
It brings together ecology and environmentalism with a deeper awareness of nature as alive, as animate, and as sacred. It is not based upon any single religion or spiritual path, but rather points to the primary and universal recognition of the sacred nature within creation. It calls for a spiritual response to our present ecological crisis, proposing that spiritual values and practice have the potential to provide the foundation from which to respond and rebuild.
Over the coming decades much of the work needed to support ecological renewal will fall on millennials and younger generations. Spiritual Ecology can help support and inspire young people who recognize the need to create a future that is not driven by materialism and greed, but rooted in the spiritual values of reverence for nature, interconnectedness, stewardship, compassion and service.
Find out more about our spiritual ecology programme here.
St Ethelburga’s is a ‘maker of peace-makers’. We inspire and equip individuals and communities to contribute, in their own particular contexts, to activating a global culture of peace.