Young people with Lion hearts – Ziji news from Europe

Young people with Lion hearts,

dechen-cho%cc%88ling-summer-retreat-2017Although it may take a little time before this will reach you, I am writing this on the last day of the year, at Schloss Heinsheim in Germany. Here the Winter Youth Retreat is in full swing for the tenth time. 100 people are living, laughing, crying, singing and meditating together in a beautiful castle that is also a hotel. Tonight we will have a celebration to mark the end of the year and the beginning of the new one.

It has been an amazing year for us as young meditators. Against the backdrop of cataclysmic world events we are still able somehow to help each other and to practise meditation together. In September in Berlin we hosted the third global Ziji summit. It was an unbelievable five days and the waves of inspiration that were generated will be felt for some time. To my delight, while we were there, Lia Duggan and Angela Valencia Rubio both spontaneously offered to work together to try to help gather, connect and advocate for the youth activity that is happening in Europe. That allows me to step back from some of what I have been trying to do and therefore this is the last of these emails that I will send!

One of the greatest obstacles we have as a global community is finding ways to communicate with each other and keep everyone informed about what is happening. This newsletter that I started is one of the less than perfect, but hopefully good enough, ways that we have found to do this. From now on Angela and Lia will be taking charge of it. I am relieved that it will develop and change into something more beautiful under their guidance. I hope also that we can start to make sure that a copy of each newsletter is accessible somewhere online, either on the bodhicheetah website or the zijicollective website so that people always have a way of accessing this information if they need. I have asked them that we will keep this as a fairly intermittent thing, sending no more than four or so each year so as not to overwhelm people.

Nevertheless, for my last email I am very happy to say  there is a great deal of good news to announce!

The Ziji Gar

The Summer Youth Retreat at Dechen Choling has run for about ten years. This year we are taking the Summer Youth Retreat outdoors and turning it into a Gar which is a Tibetan word that translates loosely as camp. It will happen between the 2nd and 10th of July near Limoges, France.

In Lia’s words: ‘A group of young inspired people will gather this summer to create a temporary outdoor community in a field near Dechen Choling, the Dharma Place of Great Bliss. With the inspiration to explore creating an enlightened society through setting up our own simple microcosm, we look at the idea that we as human beings inherently possess wisdom, compassion and goodness. There will be camping, cooking, meditation, yoga, singing, participant led workshops, socially engaged practices and lots and lots of fun.’

There will be more information coming soon and in the meantime keep an eye on the Dechen Choling website or drop us a line to to register your interest. The cost for the retreat is 360 euros. As always we will do everything we can to help if that is too much for you, so please let us know. Because the retreat is in it’s first year and we don’t want to overstretch ourselves, there will only be 50 places, which we expect will fill up very quickly, so please do book early!

Although most of the key staff positions are filled, we are still looking for a machen or head cook to help plan how the kitchen will work, and also a chief engineer who will help us design the structures that we need to build, as well as lead the team putting them up. Both these roles will need to start working with us as soon as possible as there is lots to prepare in advance. It will be hard work but also super fun and rewarding and we will support you in your role completely so please get in touch if you’re interested, it would be great to have you on board.

The Youth Dathun

The Youth Dathun is happening! I am so happy to say this as it has been something I have been longing to make happen for a long time. It will take place from November 3rd until December 1st this year at the gorgeous Bleddfa centre in Wales. Sarah Coleman will be leading the retreat, and there is likely to be another teacher as well, yet to be announced.

A dathun is a traditional 30 day retreat with a strong emphasis on meditation practice. Parts of the retreat will be in silence and meals will be eaten using the Japanese Zen form of Oryoki. There will be talks and discussion groups as well.

Most importantly there are only 18 places and almost all of these have already been taken. Priority will be given to those who would like to stay for the full 30 days. The cost for the whole month is £800. However, if that is still too much for you, I intend to turn no one away because of finance. If you get in touch with me early I am sure we can work together to find a way to support you to attend, either through doing fundraising or applying for grants. It goes without saying that I won’t be making a profit, I just need to be sure I can cover my back!

There are also still two spaces for two cooks (who won’t have to pay to attend) who will share the cooking throughout the retreat. They will be supported by me and the other participants who will help with chopping vegetables and so forth, as well as taking part in the retreat as much as possible. If you are interested in being a cook then please let me know.

To secure your place I need a £100 deposit, and you can send me an email to to find out more information about the retreat or for bank details to make the deposit. Those of you who have already registered interest with me over the past year will hopefully have received a separate email from me this week, if you haven’t due to my own disorganisation then please drop me another email as I don’t want to miss anyone out!

The landscape of Ziji

Following on from the Ziji Summit in Berlin there have been some powerful developments. The Ziji council was dissolved and a more decentralised situation of work groups created. There is still a great deal of conversation around what Ziji is, and one step towards clarifying this has been a carefully redrafted mission statement that you can find here.

The next global Ziji Summit will be in Nashville in November this year. There is also planned a regional summit at Karma Choling in Vermont. You can find out more about both of these events by keeping an eye on the Ziji Collective website or the Ziji Collective facebook page.

In essence Ziji is a collaborative venture to help us empower and support each other to bring the projects we want to see into the world. There is always more that we can do and this is one of the best ways that I have found personally to channel my energy into real concrete work. Please don’t be shy to get in touch with Lia and Angela at and respectively, if you have ideas for things, would like to find a local group, or would like to help with projects already underway both locally and globally. You can also email or just shout up on the facebook page.

Many thanks for reading.
May we be kind and strong with ourselves and with others.

Lots of love,
Llew Watkins 

Originally published in


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