Retreat Rules & Regulations
Before coming here
It is important before coming here that you make a strong committment to stay for the full retreat even if it is difficult, emotions arise, you become unhappy or bored, or feel challenged and angry. Being isolated and alone can give rise to all these feelings and if it does it is important that you go through that stage to get to the higher meditational bliss and not leave. That means you must not have pressing distractions outside upon yourself, resolve these before booking. This is a place to go inside yourself with others who are here.
You must also commit to doing at least 15 minutes mediation a day and not eating meat, smoking, using drugs, alcohol, coffee from the time you make your booking or for two weeks before arrival whichever is the less. This will help prepare you for your retreat and purify your body.
Everyone who comes here needs to contribute to the running of the retreat by helping out.
Theology of UOCA
The foundation of the UOCA Ascension practice is a mixture of Yoga and Buddhism, even Christian Gnosis. Piety or Dharma or Sila: moral conduct provides a basis for the development of Samadhi or enlightenment by meditation : concentration of mind; and the purification of the mental process is achieved through Moksha or Panna or Gnosis: the wisdom of insight. UOCA considers enlightenment of the self in itself a false goal, but instead the goal is collective ascension of the planet. This puts UOCA most in line with Mahayana Buddhism, though it is not that and incorporates the best from all religions as UOCA does not believe any human can become perfectly enlightened on Earth. The Christian concept of humility by grace not works to attain divine truth and unity with Divine Consciousness is part of the UOCA system. Though the emptiness of dependent arising and null state of consciousness in Buddhism or anatma (non-self) in Yoga without God or a divine controlling being again aligns UOCA’s spiritual religion with Buddhism rather than Western Monotheism.
The precepts are based on the first 2 limbs, the Niyamas and Yamas, of the 8 Limbs of Patanjali's ancient yoga sutras.
All those who attend retreats must undertake to observe the following precepts for the duration of the retreat :
1. Ahimsa - To abstain from harm by negative thoughts, violence, killing or eating meat and abstain from abusive, violent books, entertainment, games, computers, tv, movies, etc.
2. Satya - To tell the truth and abstain from telling lies or misleading people
3. Asteya - To abstain from taking anything not offered
4. Brahmacharya - To channel the sexual energy to the divine at all times
5. Aparigraha - To not be selfish or possessive of things or feelings and help others with a view that everything belongs to everyone
6. Saucha - To keep yourself and the place clean
7. Santosha - To be content, happy and not complain
8. Tapas - To be disciplined, follow the schedule and abstain from all intoxicants, drugs and cigarettes.
9. Swadhiya - To study and learn here
10. Ishwara - To act in meditation at all times respecting the Divine in all and that we are all one
Patanjali, an Indian guru, developed the yoga system. There are 8 stages. Stage one is Niyama. What not to do. Outward restraint in actions in the world.
Ahimsa – don’t hurt anyone, including animals and the ecosystem so plants. Veganism is part of this. Including even in your thoughts be kind. Feeling revenge or anger even to yourself is harmful. Such thoughts need to be blocked. Negative karma is created by not doing this. Positive karma is created by doing this. This removes prior harmful actions you have done.
Satya – tell the truth even if it seems disadvantageous (that you may lose) but do so not to harm others. Not telling the truth creates deception and confusion in others and ultimately to you. So harms you. However, where it would needlessly hurt others to be truthful you must be considerate to their feelings in communicating this. This is a great art as truth is often relative and you need to balance it with the greater good to be achieved.
Asteya – don’t take what is not freely given to you or offered to you, in this be careful even asking for things that you know aren’t meant for you. The greater jewel of divine spirituality will come to you if you do this, offering far more than what you wanted to take to satisfy a temporary need. By letting go and flowing with the nectar of divine energy you will be propelled to the right place and bliss.
Brahmacharya – this means to control one’s sexual energy and not waste it, one should channel all thoughts to the divine and not indulge in sexual desires or fantasies. The whole base of yoga is the sexual energy that is pushed up the spinal cord to achieve meditation and bliss. This is important and sanctifies the sacred nature of sex; and it means when sex is entered into it is done in a divine way that is joyful and does good.
Aparigraha – not to grasp around trying to get things or get ahead of others. It is basically not being greedy but instead selfless. Not to be selfish but to consider and put others first and fit in with the group. It is not what you have, but the use that you put things to that is important. It is being considerate, acting promptly, helping others. Not putting oneself first. This is important as when you put others first, you see that they will respect you and help you; more than this you see how it fits in with the divine greater spiritual purpose.
Stage Two is Niyama.
This stage is further vows you take when doing yoga.
These are things that you need to do inwardly in your own life. And are basic morality or ethics of Yoga.
Saucha – purify – to be pure and clean in one’s actions and thoughts. This means to be tidy and organised. And hygienic. Hindus greet not with handshake but palms together to avoid contamination. The body is the temple. Many yogic practices are to keep the body clean and pure. It also means to keep away from impure people and places. And to avoid entertainment that is impure – violent, abusive, sex, etc.
Santosha – equanimous – being happy, pleased and content with things as they are Now. This is connected to detachment and being objective in viewing the world. Basically if things are good so be it. If things are bad so be it. Controlling the emotions to remain equal and unmoved regardless of good or bad. There are no mistakes everything is meant to be as it is and part of the grander spiritual plan. Our own little plans and not that important and we should be happy to change them to fit in with the grander plan. Any mistakes are necessary to learn so are accepted as part of the plan. Adrishta is the Sanskrit for this unseen element. Praptas is effortlessly accepting these illusions of error. There are no regrets and no expectations. No future or past, just the Now. Then blissful peace comes.
Tapas – self discipline. Controlling the senses to follow your yoga schedule. Doing the practices. Avoiding bad foods and overeating. Controlling the speech and thoughts. Controlling who you associate with.
Swadhyaya – study as divine knowledge. This is to read and learn the teachings of yoga. This includes the laws of nature such as science and other social areas. It is also studying self development and the inner nature of yourself. This can be done by observation, lectures, books, films, etc. It includes how you study so you treat everything as divine – so studying even a car engine can be this and needs to be done in a careful, methodical, correct, meditative and divine way.
Ishwara pranidhana – contemplation of the Divine. This is done through meditation. Ultimately in all your actions. Viewing the reality of the world as Heaven here and now. Showing that respect and gratitude to this Creation. By focusing on this through concentration then meditation, the Divine Plan becomes clear and the Truth obvious. Enlightenment is the fulfilment of this where you become immersed in the Divine as One. Ishwara is God. Unified with no separation. The Absolute Divine Presence is Known and its function is seen as the Perfection of Itself, being you.
Again the most important to follow is the first one. If there is conflict the higher prevails. The reason for this is human weakness. Although the Greatest attribute is the last, it is the most difficult so the others prevail in order to give you that control over your senses to achieve Nirvana or Muksha – Heaven.
If you can read the above and try and bring these ethics into your life and please do so when here. I know it is hard to do in the West, but please try and keep away from people and places that eat meat, alcohol and are violent, including violent entertainment like movies.
There are an additional two precepts that experienced students may like to observe:
To abstain from taking food after lunch
To abstain from using soft or luxurious beds or sitting in chairs. To sit in lotus where possible.
To observe this precept, experienced students should try to only take herb tea or a fruit drink at the evening break, whereas new students may take tea and some fruit or a light meal depending on their health and the retreat.
Patanjali other limbs
The other limbs of asana, pranayma, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi are taught to you while you are here to help you to meditate. Meditation is the goal of yoga, which gives complete liberation from suffering.
You take the precepts then follow the postures, breathing and concentration to be able to meditate and find inner true peace by balancing and adjusting the spinal energy - the sexual Kundalini. This is the Tantra.
a) Yogic silence during Meditation times
The practice of Yogic Silence during meditation helps you to gain more mindfulness and mind control. The teacher may guide you during meditation. This enables you to progress in meditation. Therefore, you should keep silence during the specific meditation class times on the retreat: talking to other meditators is not allowed then. However you should act as if you were meditating at all times on the retreat including during meals and concentrate on your own cultivation of mindfulness in all actions. During other times you should be fairly quiet and respectful to others and keep conversation to a minimum that is relevant to the retreat. Avoid discussing your problems emotional or otherwise with others unless it is in a specific session or class directed to that. It distracts them and will confuse you. Should any problems arise during the practice you can talk to assistant teachers or teachers.
Practising yoga is encouraged in private personal time anywhere in the ashram as long as others are not using the space. Classes are compulsory to attend unless due to injury. Be mindful of respecting others and their personal space as the room is small. Asanas are not just to look better or get fit, but to spiritually prepare for meditation.
Although this is a yoga retreat, bowing down three times to the Divine Intelligence or Buddhi in Sanskrit Yoga or Buddha image in Pali Buddhism within all of us is a normal and frequent practice in UOCA. We bow down three times to pay respect to the Buddha (Wisdom), Dhamma (Truth) and Sangha (Virtues). You can join in.
In spiritual development, acceptance of teachers and teachings (Saddha) is the very first step to achievement. However, you are not expected to practice bowing down on the floor during the retreat. You may simply fold your hands in prayer posture and bow your head, as a gesture of respect to the practices.
d) Sexual behaviour and Couples
You are free to have sexual relations as you wish here. However, it is important that people transcend their sexual drives during the retreat and engage sexually at the highest level of love. This allows the opening of the higher heart energy, liberation and bliss to develop without fear, competitive behaviour, imposing on others sexually, etc. It is important to act with love in all your actions and kindness and compassion.
e) Physical contact
This must always be with the other person’s clear permission. This may be part of a retreat process to engage in physical contact and this agreement gives your consent to such contact. Consent to be adjusted in yoga postures is agreed to by yourself unless you specifically say otherwise. In certain specified retreats such as Vipassana it is important that there should be no physical contact, between persons of the same or opposite sex for the entire retreat unless a staff member directs otherwise as part of the retreat process or gives permission for retreat students to do so. This is not a requirement for general or private retreats or visits to the ashram BUT you must act respectfully and with clear permission if you touch another and not do so to distract others on the retreat.
f) Religious objects, crystals, charms, rosaries, musical instruments etc.
People who bring such items should use them privately and not interfere with the quietness of the retreat.
g) Intoxicants, cigarettes and drugs
The retreat is strictly a smoke-free zone, as well as an alcohol and drug abuse free zone. No drugs, alcohol, cigarettes or other intoxicants should be brought to the site: this applies to tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and all other sedatives. Those taking medication on a doctor’s prescription should notify the staff when applying for the retreat.
The kitchen is open to all students and may be part of nutrition classes. This is to ensure the productivity, efficiency, hygiene, promptness and punctuality of staff and students in the preparation of food and all meals. Generally food is only taken during meal times, should you require any food from the kitchen, please ask UOCA staff before doing so. Students will be required to help prepare meals and clean up unless told otherwise.
One will find more progress in one’s own cultivation when living simply. Staff will supervise students in preparing all raw living vegetarian meals. All food is prepared with loving-kindness and strict hygiene levels. Students are ensured a plentiful and healthy diet, to promote peace of mind. However, if any student has allergies due to ill health, please inform staff in advance or at the time of application. Food must only be eaten during meal times. Do not bring food to the retreat for private consumption. This will damage the process. Hand in all private food on arrival and you will be asked to do so.
After eating, students must bring all dishes, cutlery, cups or anything to the dishwashing area. Students MUST wash your own plates, cutlery, cups, and teaspoons at the rear left sink located outside the kitchen. Please exercise mindfulness in queuing and washing your dishes. No cups, teaspoons, plates, cutlery, tissue, morsels of any kind are to be left lying around the grounds or any areas in the retreat, Do not take to your room or elsewhere unless directed. All food scraps are to be placed in the bins provided. If unsure, just ask the staff or retreat volunteer, please do not assume things.
j) Offering of Food to the Divine
Food from meals will be prayed for in a short silent prayer to the Divine Being in us all before each meal.
k) Sleeping Time
Lights out is 10:00 pm but generally 8.00 pm is quiet time. Students are encouraged to sleep earlv so as to have enough rest for the next day. No activities are to be conducted by any student after 10:00 pm. 5.00 am is time for getting up.
Dress should be simple, flexible and comfortable; otherwise there are no particular rules in relation to clothing but consult with the ashram manager first. In CERTAIN SPECIFIED retreats are Naturist/Nudist so clothing is not worn - but this is not the norm so enquire if interested – please check your retreat guidelines or check with ashram manager. Be prepared for cool evenings even in summer and hot tropical days. Shoes are not to be worn in the ashram and feet must be kept clean on entering.
Also bring old clothing and boots where you can work outside.
m) Fire & Security
This is a very high bushfire risk area in spring summer due to the forest and heat. No fire of any kind is permitted to be started within and throughout the area especially campfires except candles for light or incense. This is to ensure your safety and the safety of others.
Please place a towel on your yoga mat and wipe down the yoga mat after you have used it.
Cleaning the ashram bedrooms, lounge, studio, verandas, shower and toilet areas is the responsibility of everyone. Please keep these areas clean. Students must live and work in communal rooms, so it is essential that they wash regularly and keep their clothes clean.
As there is no laundry service, students will have to wash their own clothes or ask permission to use the washing machine and only use if full loads. Showering and laundry may be done only in the break periods and not during meditation hours. It is important to clean yourself after working in the garden – wash hands and change clothes, shower if very dirty and necessary only.
ELECTRICITY is solar and a small system so switch off lights and use the minimum electricity. Hot water is solar too, so keep showers to 3 minutes and only have hot baths if it is a sunny day and consult first if there is sufficient water and hot water to do so. On cloudy days restrict hot water usage further, don’t run hot taps and also reduce electricity further. Don’t use electric heaters or blankets. The water pump is also electric so our water depends on solar battery power.
WATER is limited. This is a dry area of a dry continent. There is limited rain tank water and dam water. Do not run taps. Showers 3 minutes. No bath without permission. Limit clothes washing to necessities. Use a basin in the sink to wash dishes.
Bring your own toiletries that are organic products and do not use other peoples. Keep them in your room or the guest shelf in the bathroom only if there is room. Minimise your use of toilet paper by using the jug in the bathroom to wash yourself Indian style with water. Minimise paper use by using the jug to wash yourself in the toilets, then wipe off with a small amount of paper. Half flush toilet or use garden for urinating on a fruit tree (they need it) or use the compost toilet by the shed veggie garden. Check if pooh has flushed down the toilets and use bucket if necessary in laundry to flush extra water. Wipe the toilet area clean after use with the sponges, mop there or in the laundry. Leave the bathrooms clean before you go.
o) Outside contact
Students must remain on the meditation site for the entire retreat. You are not allowed to leave the retreat at your own discretion. This is to ensure your own safety and well being in the event of emergency. You may leave only with the specific consent of the teacher or it is part of a retreat activity. No outside contact is allowed before the end of the retreat, including internet, letters, phone calls and contact with visitors. In the event of an emergency, a friend or relative may contact the management.
p) Mobile phones & other Communication tools
Please switch off all your mobile, communication tools during the duration of the retreat and hand in all mobiles, computers, tablets, games, ipods, etc and hand them in for safekeeping at the office. This is to minimize distraction, disturbance and also your mindfulness. Internet is available in emergencies only as are phones. Limited use of internet and phones is permitted in private, volunteer or casual retreats should you need to arrange travel or contact family or friends.
q) Music and Books and Writing
Satsang times are for music and people are encouraged to bring instruments for this. The playing of musical instruments, radios, computer games etc. is not permitted during the rest of the retreat unless staff say otherwise. In your own time you may play your musical instrument quietly away from other people unless they agreee.
Books, kindles, etc not of a spiritual nature should not be brought here or handed in on arrival. Spiritual books are encouraged. Please ask if unsure.
Diaries please write but be mindful of not being negative to avoid harm to you and others.
r) Serious mental disorders / drug addiction / psychiatric disorders
This is not the place to cure people with psychiatric disorders or drug addiction. If you have a minor problem then disclose it and we will work to try and help you here. People are welcome to attend special courses designed by experienced teachers or do a private retreat where more serious disorders are catered for.
s) Dogs and cats or other pets
No pets are allowed to stay except those belonging to the centre. This is because we have much native wildlife around the place, including wallabies, wombats and birds. To keep the place quiet and safe for these wild creatures, please don’t bring your pets.
t) Disclaimer and Media
UOCA is not responsible for any health problem, sickness, allergies, injury (internal or external) or death that may occur from any program that we offer or during the duration of your stay or visit including any injury arising from any adventure sport, yoga, diet, or meditation practice. The teachers are not representing themselves as qualified in anything but UOCA's system. If you have a serious health condition you should consult with a medical professional and any advice given here is based on the assumption that it is not medical advice and must be taken only in consultation with your treating doctor. Therefore, should any uneventful circumstances arise within the retreat and its vicinity or on activities organised by UOCA or its affiliates, UOCA is not and shall not be made responsible or liable in thought, action, words and writing or even legal proceedings/ actions. You are solely responsible for yourself. UOCA reserves the right to discharge any person/s found unruly or disobeying any rules. Signing or putting your name on this document binds you to this agreement and disclaimer.
Any photos or video or other media taken of you here is agreed by you to be used for any promotion purposes UOCA sees fit including social media unless prior to coming here you state otherwise.
In the event of any harm or injury occurring during the retreat you are obliged to inform staff immediately and desist from participating in further activities until the teacher has assessed you. You may be obliged to leave the retreat or to see a doctor by the teacher and you must agree to do this at your own expense. You may be reimbursed pro rata your costs of being here at our discretion.
Injury in Adventure Sports
Adventure sports done here is entirely at your risk and will not be considered part of UOCA's retreat week. Once you leave the retreat the duty is upon you and if we are participating as well it is as a friend and not a tour guide, mentor or advisor or coach or organiser - we take no responsibily for any event outside the retreat. Some risks are involved in adventure sports that may cause injury - do not do these activities unless you are insured and comfortable with what you are doing and in good fit health. If you are injured you bear that responsibility entirely including we are not liable for any first aid provided to you. Hospital is an hour away. Minimum two hours for an ambulance to get you there. Assess your ability and skill before agreeing to any Adventure Sport here. You are also liable for any equipment lost by yourself. And are subject to any rules of the hire or tour company involved.
v) Costs and Donations and Refunds
The cost of the retreat is by fixed donation per booking organisation. People with special circumstances can consult staff about paying less, but must have the teacher's approval to do so. People are encouraged to be generous and give with a good heart above the amount recommended as this is simply the minimum to pay for the retreat expenses. Volunteer work for those unable to do this is recommended.
A further donation is strongly suggested to be made at the end of the course and a recommended amount can be specified according to an income scale if you are uncertain what to give.Your donation should reflect your income and assets and what you have received. It is your opportunity to thank those who have taught and provided for you with love. It should neither be excessive nor mean, and should not put you in financial difficulties. Please contact the teacher if you have concerns over this before the end of the course.
The website booking fee donation must be paid prior to the course and is not refundable except as allowed by your booking terms. No donations will be refunded even if a student leaves the course or is directed to leave for whatever reason unless at the absolute discretion of UOCA a pro rata amount may be returned if there is no fault by the student and unforeseen circumstances.
If you are staying for longer periods not part of a retreat then it is suggested that you make arrangement with the ashram manager as to an amount you wish to donate per week and pay that in advance. Volunteer workers may have to make a contribution depending on what has been negotiated with them and their financial circumstances.
Once you have made a booking you are under the ethical constraints of UOCA's Sila or moral conduct. Therefore you must act honestly. You must have a firm intention of attending if you make a booking and if due to unforeseen circumstances you have to cancel you must contact UOCA immediately. UOCA can cancel your booking prior to your arrival for any reason and you will receive a full refund and you agree that you have no further claim other than your refund and that you will not post negative reviews or make complaints if this occurs. Your full donation should be made of the recommended amount when you book and will not be refunded if cancellation except according to your booking conditions unless there are special circumstances and this is notified 7 days prior to the retreat start date. We wish to operate by donation but it depends on others decency and sincerity. In this respect a 100% amount of the recommended booking fee donation is requested in advance unless there are certain special circumstances which need to be approved by the teacher. This can be paid by bank cheque or Paypal by credit card, or by a Bank Account transfer. Details will be provided of how to pay if necessary on booking.
x) Travel here
This is a remote area and not so easy to get to. We can make it easier for you by giving advice and coordinating with others. Free pick up from Grafton is only between 8 am and 6 pm on specified retreat start days. Arrange your arrival in those hours and also if you are coming by car. We will try and coordinate picking up all the guests for a retreat at the same time. If you requre a special pick up or drop off the cost is $100.
Flights from the cities to Coffs Harbour by Tiger Air are the cheapest (>$65) and a pick up from there can be arranged for a fee of $200 for all guests arriving. Or you can take a local bus to Grafton from Coffs for about $20, generally the bus leaves about 3 pm so arrange your flight well before that time. There is also an airport at Clarence Valley and free pick up from there, but flights are more expensive.
There is a Casino XPT train from Sydney everyday at about 8 am arriving about 5 pm in Grafton for $87. Greyhound from Brisbane leaves about 7 am and arrives about 1.30 pm in Grafton and picks up at the Gold Coast and Byron Bay.
You need to make your travel arrangements here very clear beforehand so we can coordinate pick ups with other guests.
INTERNATIONAL flights to the Gold Coast Airport then Greyhound bus to Grafton are best. You may need to spend the night in the Gold Coast as the bus leaves about 9 am. Otherwise fly to capital cities and then get local flights or transport as above.
DRIVING - you can locate on google maps. Drive to Grafton, then take the Armidale Road to Nymboida, this is a bumpy tarmac road 35 minutes, turn at Glen Creek Rd which has 10 kms of rough gravel road any car can take slowly for about 15 minutes. Turn right at Martin Road and drive to the gate at the end where the retreat is signposted. A rough track with drainage ditches takes you to the small retreat house so drive slowly over the humps in the track. If you have booked you do not need to ring again before entering as the sign asks you to do.
y) Karma Yoga
If you do not want to help out then do the ‘relax indulge’ retreat which is exempt from Karma Yoga work. Generally 2 hours helping out at the ashram is required a day and allows us to keep the costs down unless you are doing Volunteer Helping Out backpacker work exchange in which case hours are 6-8 hours a day. If you stay longer than a week then you get off one day a week. This can be all sorts of different chores, (everyday ashram cleaning and helping with food preparation and washing up is not included in these hours), gardening, maintenance. Work exchange may be doing path clearing, tree removal, renovation, building work and more strenuous labour. You are encouraged to do more than these hours as this will better connect you with the process here. Connecting with nature may be a part of some retreats and doing meditation work in the garden may be part of that. Private or casual retreats requires gardening activities to help maintain the ashram. If this poses a problem please contact us about this prior to booking. This activity is to benefit you as well as the ashram and it is not necessarily the quantity of what is done but the quality and meditational attitude in which it is done to bring peace and love to the ashram Buddha Field. EXEMPT: Some private or group retreats do not require helping out and an additional fee is paid by the guest.
z) Breaking the Rules
We want you to have a good safe time here where you learn a lot and have your peace respected. To protect everyone here then if you break a serious rule or behave abusively you will be asked to leave immediately, and must do so or the police may be called to help you leave. Continually breaking minor rules and you will also be asked to leave after a warning and must do so that day. There will be no refunds. If asked to leave for misbehaviour you must either get a taxi - $200 to Grafton, hitch out, or take your own vehicle. We are not obliged to drive you out. If you decide to leave for your own reasons or are asked to leave for any reason at all including that which is not your fault, you may be given a lift to Grafton but there is no obligation on us to do so and you may be charged $100 for the lift if it is not scheduled. You may at our discretion receive a pro rata refund for your stay.
This form is confidential and will not be released to any other party without your consent in writing and signed. If necessary for your health it may be discussed with other staff members. It is required to be kept as a record and will not be deleted even at your request for the protection of UOCA, guests and staff and will only be deleted at our discretion. This form may be submitted to the booking company, used in legal action, used to defend a negative review, given to any other person or body, should UOCA need to defend itself against negative behaviour or actions of yourself and to this extent is not confidential.
I acknowledge that I have read, understood the rules and regulations set down and agree to undertake and abide by them by having signed this application form.