View of Kirinyaga at dawn

Old Growth Forest at 9,500 ft Northern Aberdares




Facilitated by David Beatty

The Old Growth Forest

The old growth forest we shall visit is of mixed species, mainly cedar, rosewood, podo and olive at an altitude of 9,500 feet. It is a natural forest where fallen trees or tree limbs decay naturally on the ground enriching the soil beneath where networks of mycelium fungi create a self-sustaining system of nutrition for all the tree species.

On this retreat periods of silence refer to the effortless attunement of our nature in its capacity to resonate to the natural world, and its sound and sense scapes, and to be open to their deeply healing qualities when our minds are no longer distracted by a proliferation of electronic devices and urban-generated anxieties.

Wilderness treks on the Moors

The following walks are available on the open moorland. Transportation to the forest and moorlands walks are included in the retreat price with a picnic lunch.

1. Chabuswa Hill. Trekkers can be transported to this walk in the park. The climb to the top of Chabuswa Hill takes approx. 50 minutes.

2. Dragon Teeth and Moorlands. This is an interesting and flexible walk that can be organised to take between two to four hours. The starting point is about 30 mins drive from the Retreat out of the forest onto the open moorlands. There are a variety of different walks towards Dragons Teeth outcrop, the Pyramid and other rock formations.

3. Le Satima Summit. This is a six to seven hour walk both ways, up and down.


How sometimes it happens

when your listening inclines towards the earth

after the long days of rain,

walking into the woods in the stillness of that hour,

hardly a breeze stirring these trees

festooned with silvery-green moss,

raindrops diamantine in the late light

slanting through the hushed aftermath of a storm,

it happens that deep within the felt sense

of a word taking shape on the tongue

comes as a sound searching to be heard

hesitating to give it voice while registering

the tread of your feet on the path

winding slowly through trees steeped in shadow,

when the unbroken sound of it arrives,

suddenly whole and complete in its sense,

there in the liminal pause between breaths,

at the threshold between fear of loss

and joy in the silent disclosure of a new path

that opens ahead at once taking you back

to where the long memory of trees began,

the songs of the wind you listened to

through the dark falls and the river of leaves,

the path now climbing up towards the night,

following your lengthening shadow

that stretches as tall as the trees and their years,

arriving in time to witness in the last of the light

an emerald sea of meadow grass

sun-lit against the cedars' towering mountain dark.

And then you turn to follow the downward slope

where the tumbling stream cuts a mercurial path

as faint as a moonbeam,

the source running deep as a seam in the earth,

answering to the inner calling of that voice,

now following it down to the silent pool,

secret wellspring at the heart of the forest,

the day now dropping to a mere whisper of light,

and the trees closing around you

Awakening to the wild means shifting attention to establish a coherent balance that arises when you are awake to your own deepest nature. It is a process of ungrasping or unclenching, as simple as opening the hand. It also entails deep listening inwardly and outwardly. By cultivating an inner quiet and curious spirit we can learn from nature as a perennial teacher. 

We can learn from Nature enough to be enlightened.
~Ajahn Chah

Participants will also discover how meditative time outdoors leads to beautiful states of joy, peace, wonder, love and connection with oneself, each other and the larger web of life. Thus the work of silence is a journey into the heart of being and sharing that being with others.

The work of silence is the source of healthy community, for the health and character of community is dependent on the quality of solitudes that make it up; the reconciling character of shared silence is formed in the deep mind of each person. Maggie Ross

There will be guided nature-based meditations, mindful walks, talks on meditation and nature and opportunities to share and connect through a deep experience of nature. There will be time to savour the forest and to explore the nearby wilderness of the Aberdares both in solitude and as part of the group.

Forests have been shown to have a natural healing effect. Professor Yoshifumi Miyazaki in Japan has conducted extensive studies of urbanites that demonstrated exposure to forest environments enhanced immune functions and lowered the activity of stress factors. Anti-cancer cell activity was enhanced by 56%. Forests won't on their own cure illness, but act as a preventive medicine as genetically we are attuned to a natural preference for 'silence'.

This retreat is appropriate for beginners as well as experienced meditators who are curious about meditation, mindfulness and how to deepen your insight practice and open your connection to the mystery of the natural world.  Be prepared for unexpected delight, mystery, silence and illumination.


with the encroaching intimacy of the night,

even as the water still carries within it

the dying embers of the sky’s burnished fires,

yet how cold it feels to your touch

as your hand reaches down through the surface

finding suddenly, reflected there in the sky above,

a long flight of birds migrating west.

And in the lingering afterbeat of their vanishing

in that sacred hour between day and night,

when at last your voice falls silent

at the beckoning edge of the sheltering night,

when the first stars of evening return to you in secret

the tangible nearness of each precious moment,

when behind the transparent breath of these words,

from beneath the hidden depths of the forest floor,

you hear that unmistakable sound

at the rapturous heart of the world-turning earth,

which is the sound of silence after the rain,

the ever-unfolding living presence,

that arrives unannounced even at the very cusp of night,

    beyond which words could not take you.

Northern Aberdares David Beatty 2021