A YOUNG woman from Northern Ireland hopes to open what is believed to be Ireland’s first independent meditation centre in Donegal.
Ms Aoife Valley, who has been teaching mindfulness here for five years, plans to purchase a 25-acre estate near Glenties.
However, she has set herself a sixty day target in order to raise the €300,000 necessary to acquire and convert the 19th century house and outbuildings. Last Sunday a ‘crowd funding’ campaign was launched and Ms Valley said the response to date has been “amazing.”
Speaking to the Donegal News this week, she explained that the not-for-profit ‘The Haven’ will be open to everyone and will also double as a honeybee and nature sanctuary.
“More and more, I have recognised the need for a safe, tranquil and meditative space in which people can enjoy presence in harmony with the natural living world,” she said.
“The Haven is a place that has been growing in my mind for many years. It combines my love of teaching meditation with my guardianship for honeybees. The idea of every place and every moment being sacred is very, very important. One reason we are caught up in stress and worry is that we forget that every little moment has the potential for peace, wherever we are.”
The proposed centre will have accommodation for up to ten people, as well as space for a further 20 who want to come on daily retreats. It includes a mature woodland and a new native forest, young and mature orchards, an organic garden, a river and streams.
The Haven will hold regular mindfulness retreats and classes and offer one-to-one support as well as nature awareness courses.
Invited local and international teachers from Buddhist, nature-based, Christian and other traditions and Ecologists will also hold special themed retreats there.
Ms Valley said the centre will be ‘sustainable’ as it has solar power, its own water and wood supply for heating and that the classes, retreats and workshops will provide an income for the running of the centre.
She explained that she chose to go down the crowd funding route instead of applying for government and other grants.
“I chose crowd funding because it is a more democratic process. There is a 60-day window and I’m very positive about that. The fund-raising only started on Sunday night and the feedback has been amazing. There have been lots of small donations, and hopefully I will get larger ones from around Ireland, the UK and America. It is very empowering to realise what you want and then go and ask for it. I feel this is a win-win situation for everyone.”
Stressing the independent nature of the centre, Ms Valley said it will be open to people from all traditions and not be bound by any particular religious or secular mindfulness structure.
“As The Haven develops, there will also be a council in the Native American style to keep the place running smoothly. I see my role as guardian and director within a democratic structure.”
She said she has been working behind the scenes for months and, as a result, this will mean an “easy transition” if and when all the money is raised.
Ms Valley currently holds weekly classes, gives one-to-one tuition as well as residential retreats in a practice which has grown hugely in popularity.
Her own background includes ten years practicing mindfulness with five of those years teaching it in a way which is very respectful of people’s religions.