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Moving with Mindfulness in the Landscape

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I walk along a near-empty beach and find my way to a black rock revealed by the receding tide.  Tenderly I lie down on my side and edge backwards so that the length of my spine rests against its face.

My body is laid on damp sand, my knees curled up in front of me and my head resting on my hands.  I drift into sleep under the watchful eye of Golden Cap, the highest point on this coastal section of Jurassic Dorset.

 

The density and stillness of the rock engenders a corresponding stillness in me so that when I awaken I am alert yet my mind is empty.  No instructions were given; the wisdom of my kinaesthetic body led me to this and it is nourishing to both my body and soul.

The harsh gaunt cliffs are like sentinels behind me, slumping their mass of black clay into the sea while fossil hunters risk their lives at the foot of them.

Rivulets of clay emerge from the base of the cliffs like molten lava coursing across the sand towards the sea. Shards of sunlight pierce the clouds and spotlight my dance across this rocky tide line.  I feel at home here.

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This is what Moving in the Landscape means for me.  A time when I experience myself most physically alive.  A time when I give my body permission to move in response to the immediate natural environment, in this instance the beach.  I have three glorious days of this ahead of me, the mornings spent in the studio in preparation for the afternoons when I am moving outdoors.

As my body finds ways to move naturally and organically in this unfamiliar terrain, I discover ways of moving I'm not accustomed to.  It’s a terrific workout for my whole body while my mind takes a break from an overloaded routine.

As my rib case expands my breathing deepens and this has a calming effect on my nervous system. My headache has cleared and my movements are no longer dictated by thoughts running through my head. I move with a new-found freedom and vitality.  I am present, centred in the very ground of my being and at one with nature.

 

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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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