The Future of Network

Dunderry Park

Network Magazine has been a fundamental part of the Irish holistic scene for two decades. During this time it has become a hub for news and information, and a solid resource for events and courses nationwide. Where do we go from here?

The September sun shines warmly through the front office window as I sit to interview Martin about the future of Network. 'We've been stocking Network magazine here at Dunderry Park for many years, and one of the reasons why we stocked it was because I felt a strong connection to its message and its goal. The work we have been doing with the Oaktree Charitable Trust has been about promoting holistic healing, and being part of an emerging global consciousness movement. I felt that Network was very closely linked to that. I think that Ruth has done a tremendous job over the years, putting together the magazine, and building up this community around it; and I was concerned about the loss of this valuable resource. When I saw she was looking for people to get involved and take over the management of the magazine, I thought, we have to step up and do this'. 

Over the past 14 years, Martin and his team have worked to build Dunderry Park into a community networking space that encourages healing and growth. The Park is owned by the Oaktree Charitable Trust, a body which Martin helped establish in 1997 – this means that the house and lands cannot be bought or sold, but must be preserved to run as a charitable centre which aims to help people suffering from stress and trauma. 'Looking forward...', begins Martin, 'well we have always been advocates of positive mental health; and we would like to see a focus on working with youth and young people. We are also moving forward into creating community support groups for people suffering from stress, anxiety, depression, and suicide (SADS). There are a lot of problems being caused by the economic climate, and not a lot being done to address them. We want to make sure that people that are financially challenged have access and support, and we can do that by offering bursaries and reduced rates to the courses on offer here'.

Martin Duffy has been working as a mental health care professional with the HSE for the past 35 years. His work in community mental health has focused on the areas of depression, psychosis, bipolar disorder, and suicide prevention; alongside a broad range of general mental health and psychiatric issues. He has done fieldwork with indigenous Shamans from Mongolia, Mexico, the Amazon, Andes, and Africa and also has trained in core Shamanism with the Foundation of Shamanic Studies (U.S.A.) and the Scandinavian Centre for Shamanic Studies. Martin has also trained in counselling, Transpersonal Psychology, and Jungian psychotherapy; which have led him to explore and train in various forms of consciousness raising methods including Holotropic Breathwork, Dreamwork, Trance Dancing, and Firewalking. He is currently in the process of retiring from the HSE and devoting himself full-time to the Oaktree Charitable Trust.

Community is one core element of Martin's vision – 'if we fast forward another ten to fifteen years from here, I want to see things like a spiritual emergence centre, where people could come to stay for periods of time to recover, recuperate, and grow. A place where they can work through their issues in a residential setting. I want to move towards permaculture, creating organic gardens and farms here where people can work therepeutically to reconnect to the land. We need to work towards sustainability'.

Hand in hand with this idea of a living community, is the notion of expression. This is what attracted Martin to training in Shamanic Studies and Transpersonal Psychology. 'In the traditional medical model of psychiatry, it was suppression. Suppressing symptoms, suppressing emotions, suppressing feeling, through the use of medication, ECT, incarcaration in hospital. There was no real space for the person to express what was happening to them on a deeper, human level...on a soul level'.

'The Shamanic work came in because there was a real dearth of spirituality in psychiatry, psychology, and even psychotherapy. I found that going back to our indigenous roots in Shamanism helped relieve many of the ailments that people were suffering from in our culture. With a lot of people I was seeing a feeling of hopelessness – a loss of faith, a loss of energy, a loss of enthusiasm for life.

Shamanism is a way of connecting people back to themselves, and connecting them to one other, and connecting to the natural world, and connecting to the spirit world. I saw the possibility to  develop a new model of treatment which connected disparate elements of psychiatry, psychology, shamanic, and transpersonal approaches into one holistic approach'. 

The Oaktree Charitable Trust runs Dunderry Park, and provides free or reduced rates to organisations with similar goals. Our mission and vision is to provide a non-denominational, safe, healing environment for caring communities to grow and nurture their members as well as to encourage sustainable health and fitness of body and mind. In the past, we have worked with the Rape Crisis Centre, and in co-operation with the Tara Centre, victims of the Omagh Bombing. We also provide reduced rates and bursary positions on the courses and workshops run in Dunderry Park.

It's evident that community and expression aren't just ideals. Outside the window, the grounds are buzzing with people getting things ready for the inaugural Spirit of Folk festival. 'All of this work, the courses we run here, the Spirit in the City nights we run in Dublin, the is all about rebuilding a community. Network is going to be a big part of this – it is a wider medium for people to come together, share ideas, and express themselves. Today's medium is different, much of it is happening online, and we are ready to embrace that. I want to see Network continue to fulfil its role in the holistic community, and I want to see it grow and expand and evolve'.

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