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Natural World, 
Natural Mind.

7-14 October 2023

Naturalise your mind on Holy Isle this Autumn...

For the last 10 years or more, I have been gathering groups of more experienced meditators to Holy Isle to explore compassion and loving kindness. While October 2023 is still a compassion retreats of sorts, this year I wanted to do something different. 

Inspired by my year-long immersion in deep ecology and discovery of meditation out in the open air, I wanted this Mindsprings Autumn retreat to be a more radical retreat - in the sense of getting to the root of things. 

The wonderful biologist and indigenous writer, Robin Wall-Kimmerer asked a group of her undergraduate students if they loved the Earth. Naturally, almost all spoke about their passion for plants, rivers, mountains and ecology. But when she ask if they felt like the Earth loved them back, they all fell silent.

Why is it that we don’t feel the love of the planet all around us? Why do we often feel lonely and isolated in a landscape that is full of trees, grasses, insects, animals, birds and weather? Is it habit of mind? Does meditating inside silent halls make that habit more intense? 

Spending time outside in the glorious gardens, beaches and wild spaces of Holy Isle gives us the perfect space to explore different ways to receive this love. And I have discovered that a freer, more extended form of “meditation” helps that happen. 

“Sitting out” practice is a free-form meditation where you pick a spot in the natural world and stay there for an hour or two (or three!) without trying to control your mind but allowing it to be “wilded” by the natural world. 

Within the friendly, warm and curious Mindsprings group we can then sift through our findings and explore deeper and deeper ways of connecting to the natural mind and the natural world. But particularly allowing it to soften our nervous systems and sensitise us to the richness of the surround world. 

This retreat is open to everyone who has a passion for the natural world but also some experience of sitting with their minds. It’s probably not suitable for complete beginners. Do contact me if you are not sure if it’s for you. 

What is 'sitting out' practice?

Sitting out is a form of very simple but very profound mind-magic.  You stay put in a 2m x 2m spot in the natural world for long periods, simply watching the mind and watching the world.  There is no particular meditation instruction - everyone finds their own insight as the practice unfolds Traditionally done for 24 hours, this course is going to work with much more manageable chunks of 2-3 hours building up to longer sits if you feel inspired.  The practice is best done in the natural world with just a bottle of water for sustenance, so it requires wet-weather gear.  This retreat will be held as a group though the 'sitting out' sessions are done on your own. We will meet at the start and end of the day to compare notes and practice together.  This is a chance for more experienced practitioners to get back to the 'wild roots' of outdoor-living yogis. But with a warm meal and hot shower at the end of the day!  Please do consider coming but also recognise that it does involve long stretches of time practising outside! 

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

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 heading out on the Island to practice our 'sitting out' sessions. There will be a gathering at the end of the day after soup. .    Rough timetable: ​ On Saturday 22nd at 7.30 pm, we have a welcoming circle after soup and the beginning session of the retreat ending around 9pm.  Then from Sunday to Friday: 7am- 8am: Early morning yoga + silent sit   8am-9am: Breakfast break 9am-6pm: Practice (this will vary throughout the week) 6pm -7.30pm Supper time  7.30pm-8.30pm: Group practice

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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