With Kindly Curiosity: Rupert Marques
Published: 23 February 2023
Rupert Marques has a deep Insight Meditation practice spanning 25 years and leads retreats at Sharpham, as well as at various retreat centres in Europe and beyond.
He lived and worked at Ecodharma, a contemplative retreat community in the Spanish Pyrenees dedicated to exploring the role of the Dharma in the movements for social justice and ecological sustainability. Whilst there, he directed the nature-based practice strand of their work that marries contemplative practice with a range of approaches within the field of experiential ecopsychology in a wilderness setting.
He has recently contributed a chapter to the book Wilder Journeys, and as we launch our new Wildlife Discovery retreats, we ask Rupert about his practice and his inspirations.
1. How did you come to practice mindfulness?
I first came to contemplative practice in my youth.
Having left my culture for a while to listen for direction in life I travelled to India on an interfaith peace pilgrimage. Here I walked with Buddhist monastics, people from the Gandhian foundation and a few Westerners – listening to the land and learning from a culture outside my own. It was refreshing to meet a people whose contentment seemed to be more bound up with community and a simplicity of life rather than material acquisition and the busyness I witnessed in my own culture.
It was a beautiful way to meet India, walking from village to village through the landscape, being hosted and fed by each small community we travelled through, as is still the tradition of Pilgrimage in India. At the end of the pilgrimage I was invited to attend a meditation retreat in Bodh Gaya.
PICTURE: Andrew Moore, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license
I had no idea of what a retreat was at that time, I was simply told it involved sitting still, walking slowly and resting, which after walking over a thousand miles through Southern India seemed most welcome.
I was in for a shock, my body wasn’t used to sitting for hours throughout the day and my mind was even more rebellious – I wanted to go home every day. But being in rural India I couldn’t just get on a train back home!
The retreat lasted 20 days and toward the end of that time my mind opened to itself. I saw that I didn’t have to be identified with every thought the mind happened to chuck out, in particular the thoughts of self-criticism that I had struggled with for years did not have to define me. It was such a liberating understanding that I knew that I would be following that path for the rest of my life.
2. What does your daily practice look like?
I am still seeking to live into that insight from over 25 years ago. My practice these days invites me to make time to simply stop and attend to the moment in front of me. To actually do this is not so hard. What is hard is to remember to do this.
It is an invitation to let go of the habitual momentum that drives me to be rushing through my life on the way to somewhere else, as if some future life is where I could find fulfilment.
3. Who or what is inspiring you currently?
What continues to inspire me in this path of awareness is the deepening sensitivity that directly contributes to the relief of both inner and outer suffering. This is the great possibility of the emergence of awareness on this planet.
It is not an easy path: as we become more sensitive we are more opened to be pierced by life, to the pains and the joys both, yet this has the power to cut away the complacency so common in our times.
4. Tell us about a book/film/story/artwork that's inspired you
Someone I find very inspiring in this exploration is Robin Wall Kimmerer, from the Citizen Potawatomi Nation in North America.
Her work (see for example her book Braiding Sweetgrass) is a beautiful synthesis of Indigenous knowledge with a ecological understanding that invites a conscious inclusion of the wider natural world as the larger ground of our belonging.
This would be the very same sentiment as expressed by Dogen when he remarks, “The whole Earth is the true human body”.
In this way our own practice belongs not just to us, but rather is an expression of the universe itself coming to touch its own face, coming to care for itself through our very life.
Rupert co-leads our Burnout retreat at The Coach House on March 7, Our 3-night silent retreat in Sharpham House on March 25, Our 5-night Woodland Retreat on 26 August and our 3-night Woodland Retreat on 17 September.
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