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#mindfulness

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Shed a skin and make a fisherman friend

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Shed a skin and make a fisherman's friend

Descending the causeway that declines steeply to the pebbled beach, I encounter the remains of Beer’s fishing fleet that still braces the sea every day. Past charming Lillie May, bearing the same name as my grandmother and about the same age too I imagine, I admire her colourful beach garden.  

I’m in Dorset here for a weekend of Sumara meditation and dance-movement in the landscape.  The plan is to spend the mornings in the studio awakening our bodies and preparing them to move outdoors in less familiar terrains.  We round off the day seated in meditation.

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 I'm now toggled up in outdoor clothing expecting to roll, glide, slither, crawl over damp rocks revealed by the rapidly retreating shoreline.  The sun has already broken through the patchy clouds and the temperature is rising.  I reach for the zip of my jacket that’s sealed around my neckline and find it won’t budge an inch.  I’m trapped inside this waterproof, windproof skin and I've already broken into a sweat on the inside.  If this continues I’ll be throwing myself into the cold sea.

And then I remembered the fisherman … sitting outside his stone hut selling the catch of the day.  Surely he’d have a knife to cut me loose! 

As so it was Alan, captain of the fleet, who came to my rescue but using a large pair of scissors.  Quite an intimate operation it was.  And thankfully I was saved the large knife that removes the heads and tails of fishes and splits their guts open.  In all his years Alan admitted he'd never had to perform this procedure before and alas my jacket didn’t survive the surgery.

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Once liberated I join the rest of the group to crunch across the pebbled beach.  I gaze longingly at the tea drinkers sitting sedately under umbrellas in the afternoon sun, past Barbara Ann who’s hanging out with the bad boys having clearly thrown in her lot with the pirate boats.  Arriving at the far side of the beach, under cliffs strewn with fallen rocks worn smooth as a baby’s bottom, I drapes myself over a sugar loaf mountain wait for the moment when the urge to move arises from within, led by my body and not my head.

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At the tail end of the afternoon I wind through a verdant valley of wild flowers towards neighbouring Branscombe.  This village is enchanting and quintessentially English.  It would seem that thatched roof cottages be-speckled with flowers aren't just reserved for chocolate box covers.

I round off the day with Sumara, the Javanese meditation.  Nothing special about how I should to sit in the chair or on the floor - just not lying down.  Giving my body plenty of time to settle and come to stillness, feeling my weight drop down through my bones, supported by the chair.  I feel like I'm shedding a little more of life's debris. 

No need to follow my breath, a sound, or a mantra.  Thoughts and feelings come and go as I sit here like this for 45 minutes.  If I need to move, cough, mutter, shift position I do so.   My mind wants to dance me around but I reign it back in to where I am seated on the chair with my friends around me, accompanied by birdsong.  The ordinariness of this is completely luxurious. 

On the drive back to Beer I track a deer slowly down the lane until he finds a suitable gap in the hedge.  I then  encounter an out-of-control bonfire threatening to take the hedgerow with it. I summon a rather drunken homeowner from his deck chair and hope he'll succeed in extinguishing it with his pitchfork without falling into the firey inferno.  

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If you’ve yet to discover the rural delights of Jurassic East Devon I highly recommend you do so.  It’s the perfect place to make a fisherman friend and shed a skin or too.

 

 

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A woman's journey to wholeness...

A woman's journey to wholeness...

I describe here the inner journey undertaken by one woman.  How it began by her 'selfishly' risking to take timeout for herself.  How this investment fortified her body and soul for the subsequent years of transition that lay ahead. How the moral of this story is especially important if you’re a person who juggles a number of different - and sometimes competing - responsibilities and rarely enjoys a moment totally to herself.

 
Three summers ago Viktoria came on the Soul Alive Retreat – that year in Istria.  She was working full-time in financial services yet it wasn’t nurturing a single bone in her body, let alone making use of her natural creativity.  But she had two sons to raise and a husband to care for and domestic life was full on.  She came on the retreat to explore what she might do to change this state of affairs using the creative processes I offer.
 
The following year she joined me again for Soul Alive - that year in the Algarve.  She’d already reduced the hours she was working in financial services to give herself time to teach young children again. This was important progress.

Two weeks before the start of the retreat her mother died suddenly.  Viktoria chose to join us anyway, using this time to be with herself without having to be overly concerned about her family.  The weight of loss rested heavily on her and, at the same time, brought into sharp focus the things in life that were most important to her. 

Cooking, healthy food, love of nature and art where the themes that consistently emerged, no longer to be side-lined, yet Viktoria was left wondering how she might combine all three.

A few weeks after she returned home, however, her grandmother passed away too.  
 


I kept in touch with Viktoria during her time of grieving and a year later received a wonderful surprise.  The financial services job had gone for good.  Still teaching one day a week, she had taken a part-time job as a commercial cook - for the first time ever.  The hours were long but she wisely regarded them as the training ground to prepare her for a more corporate setting. That was her vision.

 

A year later I heard from Viktoria again.  It's so interesting to see how her story is evolving and to appreciate how organic transitions are.  When we stop trying to engineer everything, the right time and the best way forward presents itself, in ways we could never have dreamed of.  In her words:

 

“I´m so happy with my new job!  I´m now working at a treatment centre for people with drug and alcoholic problems. I´m employed in the kitchen where we also take care of the various trades people who support the centre. It is a good mixture of working with food and working with people, combining my passion for both.”

 

“The centre is situated on an island which you can only reach by boat. I work one week on, staying over, and then I have one week off. It's been a smooth start and this is my first whole week away from home - then I’m free entirely for a whole week.  Time flies by and I’m having a great time in a wonderful environment.”  

“I think this job will give me a lot more opportunity to do the other things with my life that I love when I’m not working - including art. The nature out here is fantastic.  I work in full view of the sea and also enjoy this view from my bedroom – you know how much I love the sea!”

I wish you a quiet moment now to reflect on what this story might mean for you.


I wish you a quiet moment now to reflect on what this story might mean for you.  

#retreat #somatic #imagination #sensoryplay#presence #embodiment #phenomenology #kinaesthetic #engagement #relationship #responsive #sensuous #standyourground #gettingcreative #confidence #connection #beherenow


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Sunflowers, bullfrogs and no Costa   

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I never grow tired of flying into the beautiful city of Toulouse.   It's aptly known as La Ville Rose because of the pink terracotta bricks used in many of its buildings.  It's a wonderful place to explore on foot - for a romantic weekend perhaps - with the majestic river Garonne coursing through it.  The boutiques, restaurants and cafés are decidedly chic and it's very easy to part with your euros.
 
Toulouse is also the landing spot for my Soul Alive Retreat.  There are flights here from all over the UK but I favour British Airways from Heathrow Terminal 5; it's easy and accessible.  Then it's only a 45-minute drive to the villa in this lesser known department of SW France where you can quickly feel as if you're stepping back in time.

I host two Retreats a year - in the late Spring and early fall.  In June, everything is bursting forth with new life.  In September the weather is still glorious and the grapes just harvested to make the delicious Gaillac wines for which this region is famous.  

The Retreats take place in the tiny village of Vieux, which means 'old' if your French is a bit rusty.  You won't hear a plane passing overhead but you may hear a tractor passing through or a busy bullfrog if it's the mating season.

Our home from home for six days is the 14th century property called Le Presbytere and we have the exclusive use of it.  It sounds a bit 'churchy' doesn't it and that's because it was once the home of the village pastor who took in weary travellers on the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage trail, which passes right outside the door.  

The solid wooden door of Le Presbytere stands opposite the old church built at the same time.  It's the perfect location for head-weary folk to take time-out from their uber-busy lifestyle to rest and regroup. We use the villa and its charming gardens in the mornings for creative contemplation using the somatic arts and mindfulness practice as starting points.

Not confined to the walls of villa, however, we venture forth to a different restaurant each day for lunch. The afternoons are spent exploring the Tarn Valley with its picturesque Bastide hill towns and countryside peppered with sunflowers and vines.  A suitable balm for the nervous system and the opportunity to stop ‘thinking’ and ‘doing’ and to absorb the riches that life offers so naturally and abundantly.

You won't find Costa on every corner here, not even in the city.  I take my hat off to the French for honouring their traditions and preserving their history so tastefully.

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With your own en-suite double room, this is a rare opportunity to take time-out to muse and to linger on whatever you fancy and to escape the need to be on call to anyone. 

I encourage people to switch off their mobiles and not access the internet for these 6 days for their own benefit  - but I don't forbid it!  Out of respect for others I ask that any connection with the outside world is made quietly and discreetly from your own room.

 

Maybe September suits you better the weather is still glorious and the grapes just harvested to make the delicious Gaillac wines for which this region is famous.  Just let me know.

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If you've hit a metaphorical brick wall or know someone who is rather jaded and in need of a break, this all-inclusive Soul Alive Retreat might fit the bill.

 We can always talk it through by phone on 0782 7017188.  

Or I'm happy to meet for a coffee if that's practical.

A toute a l'heure, Mary

 

One participant from Sweden recounts her experience:

"I enjoyed Mary's week-long retreat very much.  A beautiful place to stay and beautiful places to visit.  I particularly liked the combination of inner work in the morning and exploring the surroundings in the afternoon.  The silence before breakfast worked well for me and the writing, drawing, and sharing activities gave me a lot of useful insight and inspiration." 

"I've continued writing and drawing since arriving back home.  I've also been out into the woods gathering mushrooms and into the garden to pick apples for baking and juicing.  A lot of creativity was aroused in me during the week and this has helped me find my way through a career change soon after my return".  

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#retreat #humanspirit #self-reflection #contemplation #timeout #sensuous #possibilities #mindfulness #sensoryplay #intentions #creativity #mindset #goals #hope #passion #motivation #inspiring #inspired #somuchlove #supported #encouraged #motivation #thelittlethings #progress #gettingcreative   

 

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Being comfortable in your own skin is worth more than the bigger house.

A personal epiphany that began 8 years ago ...

My relationship with Catherine began when she attended my weekly dance-movement class. What a great class it was too! Both men and women lapping up that liberating feeling that moving freely to music gives you.

Catherine arrived without expectations.

Since she’d never done any dance-movement improvisation or expressive art before, she anticipated Moving with Mindfulness would open her up to new experiences and she was ready to bring them on.  

After these classes she came along to make a Vision Board with me.  

Then she joined me for two Soul Alive Retreats in a row.  

More recently she returned to the studio for a Moving with Mindfulness workshop. 

“My creativity has snow-balled," she says.

And finally Catherine is now embracing Feng Shui & Decluttering as a valuable mainstay for living an authentic life.  As a person inclined to hold on than let go, she would never have believed she'd find herself getting into that at the outset!

I remember Catherine in her first class.  She had a big smile on her face throughout the movement section.  But when it came to capturing on paper what was alive and moving through her in that moment, she declared that she might skip this because she had trouble drawing anything beyond matchstick men.  I gently told her it was not about being artistic but giving her inner creativity a voice .... and so she continued to draw.

Reflecting back on this 8 years later, she recognises the limiting beliefs operating and had been in place since her childhood.  But working with expressive creativity over time has helped her to salve these wounds – not that this was visibly top of her agenda at the outset because she wasn’t aware she was holding those beliefs.

As the only child growing up in the early 50s, her mother worked in the home while her father was the breadwinner.  She remembers with fondness her mother encouraging her to cut out images from greetings cards and sticking them into scrapbooks. Colouring in was also very popular and she enjoyed that too. She cannot remember being encouraged to do any freestyle drawing.  “You simply weren’t allowed to unless you evidently had a talent for it.” How curious is it that artistic talent is expected to descend on us from the heavens without any cultivation while other subjects like Maths, say, don't carry this expectation. 

When it came to writing, the pressure for Catherine to get it right, "i-dotting and t-crossing" she recalls, removed any joy for her and burdened the task with perfection.  This was before the days of computers; writing was long-hand - and in pencil - and you were only allowed a rubber if you were lucky. In using a typewriter, any mistake required you to rip out the paper and start all over again.

Hardly surprising Catherine developed a creative block – a fear of committing pen to paper in case she got it wrong and was reprimanded.  Coupled with the fact that she was the youngest in her year group, resulted in her repeatedly finding herself near the bottom of the class which was tough on her self-esteem.

She remembers her mother as the grounding force in her life, consistently encouraging Catherine in all her extra-curricula developments including amateur dramatics and Scottish dancing.  Then suddenly age 10, her mother died.

Catherine’s first thought as she watched her mother being wheeled into an ambulance from an upstairs window was: “Oh no, there’s going to be lots of letter-writing now!” 

Catherine was left alone with her father and dog.  After 10 months of being shunted between relatives, Catherine arrived at a Royal Masonic boarding school at the other end of the country.  To her horror she’s learned that she would be required to write home every week.  From school she went to catering college and from there took a job as an au-pair girl in the South of France.  Returning to the UK for a holiday, she stayed with a friend in High Wycombe and has lived and worked there for 40 years since - and still thinks of herself as a Lancashire lass at heart!

"I am convinced that the creative journey enabled me to become fully myself for the first time ever."   What a profound realisation!  Catherine believes that by eradicating her fear of not needing to be perfect restored her confidence in herself. And with my encouragement, she came to realise it was more than ok to just do it – move, write, draw, make – and not have to worry for one moment about the end result because the transformational power was in the process itself.  

"It could be make-believe, abstract, representational – whatever.  My creative expression didn’t need to be anything in particular.  I came to trust that it was only and always about me being authentic with whatever I was feeling, sensing or imagining at the time.  This enabled me to become unstuck from my old story, which was most liberating.

Her journaling and freehand drawing has continued in spurts.  Over time Catherine has clearly observed themes emerging in her writing as she reflected on issues she was working through at the time.  

“Journaling slowed me down and allowed me to look over my own shoulder so I became much more self-aware.  In the beginning, the theme of 'time' was very evident in my creative work, particularly during the first retreat; what I was doing and how I was spending my days preoccupied me.  

I’ve now moved into a ‘sifting and sorting’ mode that comes out in my journalling too.  It also compels me to condense, clear and clarify all my belongings and this focuses my mind and body in the home.  It's highly creative and productive work yet demands a lot of my energy so I can only get stuck-in on my days off.”

With only 12 months to go before retirement, Catherine’s creativity is clearly preparing her for this major life transition and will guide her in deciding “what next?”  The sorting helps her prioritise what is truly important and how best to arrange her life for easy access to this – and to ditch the rest.  

“What began as an exercise in ordering my material things has turned out to be all about sorting me out - and it’s very satisfying.”  "I am now very clear what my life is about and what I truly enjoy.  As a young woman I needed to be accommodating in order to survive.  I've now released the need to do so and I only accommodate what is right for me." 

"I can see how the creative process opens doors to different people in different ways depending on where they are in their life.  For me it’s been all about my giving myself permission to be authentically me.”

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#humanspirit #self-reflection #contemplation #timeout #sensuous #possibilities #mindfulness #sensoryplay #intentions #creativity #mindset #goals #hope #passion #motivation #inspiring #inspired #somuchlove #supported #encouraged #motivation #thelittlethings #progress #gettingcreative

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