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Wild Wisdom

6-13 October 2024

Let the Island illuminate your Mind

Explore the nature of consciousness on Scotland's Holy Isle

Mindsprings' Autumn retreats on Holy Island are aimed at practioners who have been meditating for a while and are looking to go a little deeper in their practice.

This October week is especially designed to appeal to those who are finding their practice a bit rigid and dry. In the friendly circle of the Mindsprings Meditation community, we will take our time to explore the very basic and free quality of our consciousness . The inspiration will come from the spontaneous songs of the Tibetan yogi Milarepa, though there no requirement for you to be a vajrayana practitioner.

Last year we spent the Autumn retreat sitting out for extended periods. This year will be a mix of practice and discussion in the Peace Hall and some opportunities to practice in the wilder elements of the Island. It is, however, not a "sitting out' retreat.

What is wild wisdom?

Wisdom or prajna in Sanskrit is a word with a specific intensity in Buddhist circles. It points to a deep and sometimes topsy turvy understanding of reality. 

From a Buddhist perspective all phenomena are empty of fixed, permanent existence. Instead they occupy a space of wild, interconnected freedom that is known as 'emptiness'

What does the wisdom of emptiness feel like though? What does it taste like in day-to-day existence? 

Direct experience of wisdom is the salt that can give our whole life more savour and depth. Meditators, particularly in the yogi tradition, have been drawn to wild places to explore this vivid quality of awareness. Seeing this empty, luminous quality not just in the things around them but also in their perceiving mind, often took place in mountains, caves and wild places. 

Holy Island also has a deep tradition of wild practitioners in different traditions and that is what we'll be plugging into. 

Some of the great meditators of the past expressed shatteringly beautiful insights about emptiness which have survived to this day. One of my favourites is the C11th Tibetan saint Milarepa and we'll be drawing on some of his inspired poetic utterances as jumping off points for our daily explorations.

About Holy Isle

Holy Island is a stunning granite outcrop in Lamlash Bay off the isle of Arran in West Scotland. It's been a holy site since the times of Celtic Christianity when St. Molaise lived in a cave here. In the last few decades, it's been a place of Buddhist-inspired contemplation under the auspices of Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche. But the World Centre for Peace and Health where this course takes place is open to all faiths or none. It's a uniquely nurturing place for practice and draws people from all over the world.

You can watch an aerial tour of the island here.

What to expect from a Mindsprings Retreat

  • Our first evening together on Sunday is a chance to arrive, enjoy some food and get to know one another. Most people are tired from travel and we'll have an early night after some relaxation.

  • The daily schedule for the Monday-Saturday is fairly similar

  • We start with some gentle stretching and a silent sit before breakfast. This is a great way to start the day.

  • Before our  delicious breakfast, Alistair will lead us in some t'ai chi on the beachfront which is optional. But does involve hugs - which everyone seems to love.

  • Throughout the week the schedule will vary as we build up our wild wisdom sessions.

  • After supper, there is a further chance to practice together and integrate what we have learned during the day.

  • Generally, it's light's out and silence after 9.30pm - so early nights, though you could go for a moonlight walk!

  • We often explore silence on the Island and one full day of silence somewhere in the middle. It's a very friendly silence and, again, many people love this element of the retreat.

About the teacher

Alistair is a broadcaster, psychotherapist and meditation teacher.


He's worked for the BBC for more than 20 years and works as a UKCP-accredited therapist in East Sussex. Since 2004, he's run Mindsprings, his therapeutic meditation organisation which teaches body-based and Buddhist solutions to many of our everyday problems.


Mindsprings offers popular meditation-based courses on many subjects:

  • helping people with anxiety, dissociation, stress.

  • working with mental health in the LGBTQ community.

  • exploring the growing field of embodiment and somatic practices.

  • teaching Buddhist practices for mental health and well-being


Alistair teaches in England, Wales, Scotland, Belgium, Ireland, Sweden, Iceland and the Netherlands.


Alistair will be leading this retreat supported by Kirsty. 

We will begin each day with some gentle embodiment practices and practice together communally before breakfast. 

There's then a chance to meet with the community and work together before we gather in the Peace Hall to explore various practices and take them out into the Island if it feels appropriate. 


On Sunday 6th at 7.30 pm, we have a welcoming circle after soup and the beginning session of the retreat ending around 9pm.  

Then from Monday to Saturday: 

7am- 8am: Early morning yoga + silent sit   

8am-9am: Breakfast break 

9am-10am: Community Work 

10am-6pm: Practice (this will vary throughout the week) 

6pm -7.30pm Supper time  

7.30pm-8.30pm: Group practice 

We'll wrap the retreat up on the Saturday Night (12th) and leave the Island early on the 13th to travel back home.

Team and schedule


Food, Accommodation and Pricing

One of the greatest joys of Holy Isle is the fantastic food harvested directly from the biodynamic and organic gardens that surround the centre. The resident kitchen team will be providing delicious vegetarian food throughout. There will be breakfast, lunch and supper and tea and snacks available throughout the day. Vegan and wheat-free diets are also catered for.

The cost of the retreat is £310 per person and then you will need to book your accommodation through the Holy Island office separately. They have single rooms, a couple of double rooms and male and female dorms. The dorms (and the doubles) have sea views! You will have to book the retreat AND then your room separately!

Please note that Holy Island is not taking accommodation bookings until the beginning of 2023. 

Don't let money stop you coming on retreat...


Mindsprings would like people to practice even if they are struggling financially, for whatever reason. We offer a limited number of partial bursaries for these retreats. 

Getting to Holy Isle

Reaching Holy Island is part of the experience of going on retreat there. It is a pilgrimage. 

Details can be found on the Holy Island site here. But in essence, you need to get to Lamlash pier by lunchtime on the arrival day. Ideally, you might want to come to Arran a day early to give yourself some time. Zangpo, the Island's director, has asked that guests don't try to get over to Holy Isle before the start date though. 


The little ferry from Lamlash to the Island is very weather sensitive so it's a good idea to speak to the Island closer to the retreat. Also you will need to book your ticket with Grant at this site

Please don't book homeward travel too early on the last day. Leave yourself time in case there are delays getting off because of weather. Giving yourself some breathing space makes the whole experience less stressful. 

A little bit of planning and double-checking never goes amiss!

Frequently Asked Questions

  • My login doesn't work anymore. Can you help?
    This new site needs a one-time signup. If you have a email/password combo from the Mindsprings School (Beingfulness, Anxiety courses etc.) then I suggest using the same one. But you will need to sign up one time only to access the site (use those same details if you like) and then you'll be able to access everything with that login the next time you visit!
  • Where have my online courses gone?
    All the online self-study courses are still on the Mindsprings School. You can access this under Courses > Self Study on the navigation bar. I'm trying to find a way to synchronise the school with the new site - but everything is safe and sound there for your perusal.
  • When are the live online classes starting again?
    I'm starting to teach online three times a week from the 20th October 2022. You can find out more and book your classes here.
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