Programs

Bixa Orellan RoucouThe programs of the Centre aim to teach us how to become guardians of our individual and collective spiritual evolution and growth by being attuned to the interweaving of the sacred in our daily lives. They will be based in Tobago and at two satellite locations: in Toronto, Canada at the Swami Vishnu Yoga Center and in Bainbridge, New York at Pangea Farm. The purpose of these activities is to call us to remember and to live our sacred connections to Mother Earth and to one another so as to strengthen our relationship with the Divine.

They include:

  • Daily devotion, meditation and yoga with opportunities for prolonged, intensive study and reflection;
  • Educational programs that include the cross-cultural study of sacred texts, accompanied by local and international residencies;
  • Various cyclical ceremonial and spiritual gatherings that are community-based, local and regional;
  • Sustainable cultivation of food and medicinal plants to root us to the Land and to teach us how to heal ourselves and our communities.

2017 Residency

For a description of the 2017 residency, please click here. Please open the Application Questionaire.  Complete the form and send it via email to the address indicated on the form.

Inaugural Project: The Spirit and The Garden

LemongrassThe Spirit and the Garden will serve as the inaugural project of the Tobago Centre. Its aim is to protect the biodiversity of the Main Ridge Forest Reserve by promoting sustainable medicinal plant agriculture that is anchored in the knowledge and wisdom of indigenous healers, elders and farmers. Among these wise ones are many women. The project includes three key points of focus:

  1. (Student) ethnographers will assemble oral histories that pay close attention to the medicinal uses of those plants that were in widespread use among elders and healers, but that are now threatened with extinction.
  2. Working as partners with the National Herbarium and Environment Tobago, the Center will undertake a biodiversity inventory of the existing Land.
  3. The biodiversity inventory, together with the community oral histories, will be used to select those species that are best suited for cultivation and are capable of creating economically viable enterprises that strengthen women’s livelihoods and that of their households and community.

Coming at a time when we most need to develop strategies and ways of being that are capacious enough to grow ourselves and our communities, women’s ancient medicinal knowledge will serve as a compass to catalyze those transformative synergies around healing and sustainability that are simultaneously ecological, economic, communal and spiritual. Healing ourselves is part and parcel of healing the planet. Tobago Center, as it works with the Tobago District Agricultural Society and the Mt. St. George/Mason Hall Farmer’s Association, will ensure that the value that is generated by the community circulates in the community of Mt. St. George and that its intellectual inheritance is safeguarded.

The Spirit and the Garden: Sowing Seeds on the Ground

2013 was a good year for the work of the Centre with two major accomplishments.  As part of the launch of the Spirit and the Garden project in Tobago, we completed the first phase of a biodiversity inventory at the start of the August rains.  And we began interviewing elders, herbalists and environmental activists about the challenges of climate change and their knowledge and use of medicinal plants.  We completed more than a dozen interviews; and began the search for medicinal plants in the wild.

With the guidance and support of  Yasmin S. Baksh-Comeau, (Director of The National Herbarium of Trinidad and Tobago and Lecturer, Plant Science Division, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine) and Davley-Ann Wilson (Lecturer at the University of the Southern Caribbean) an enthusiastic group of 7 students enlisted in a summer course in which the biodiversity inventory was their practicum:  Denelle Daniel-Louis, Chantal Amanda Harry, Chanece Hunte, Antonia Price, Samantha Roberts, Nadell Teesdale, and Colinie Walters.  They were trained by Dr. Shobha Maharaj in the use of the rapid botanical survey method,  which enabled them to collect over 70 species of herbs, shrubs and plants in Green Hill, Mt. St. George—the site of the Tobago Center.  They stored and dried those plants at facilities in Tobago, before transporting them to the Herbarium in Trinidad.  Plants are still being tagged and identified as part of the their ongoing coursework.  Charleston Thomas and Tikira Beresford joined the team in conducting the inventory, while Rae-Ann Henry served as our trusted guide, cutting a walking path through the bush and assuaging our fear of snakes.  We constantly had to remind ourselves that there are no poisonous snakes in Tobago!!! Annette Russell, “Leleti,” kept us fed and grounded; and Anna Barsan, our devoted documentarian, filmed the entire process.

The following videos provide an in-depth look at the biodiversity inventory process as well as some of the amazing folks involved!

 

 

To all who have generously gifted moral and financial support. . .

Some of these ideas are the outgrowth of a project which M. Jacqui Alexander has undertaken, probing the effects of dislocation and globalization on the lives of Aboriginal, African and African descendant women and examining  various spiritual technologies which women utilize to heal themselves and their communities.  The project, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) is titled Migrations of the Sacred: Gendered Spiritual Practices in an Era of Globalization.

Perpetual gratitude to our ancestors. . .and to all our relations…in whose footsteps we walk and who provide the spiritual grounding that makes this work possible.  May we be consistent in attuning ourselves to the teachings of Mother Earth and to the rhythms of Her breathing.

 

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