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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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Moving with Mindfulness close up

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Have you heard the line from James Joyce's 'The Dubliners'?  "Mr Duffy lived a short distance from his body."  It sums up this state of affairs perfectly and I chuckle every time I read it.

There isn't anywhere we can go without our body goes too.  It is an essential part of our humanity yet so many of us can forget this as we trundle along with a disembodied head perched on a stick (our spine) which bears no relation to the rest of our anatomy.

I run movement workshops to rectify this.  I am on a mission to create more awareness of the kinaesthetic body because when we become dissociated from our it, we are weakened physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. 

 

 

My meditative movement practice is called Moving with Mindfulness.  I draw on natural movement, which everyone is capable of to encourage our bodily experience of relationship and connection to ourselves, each other and the environment, which is all most empowering.

It's only when we inhabit our body to the same degree we can occupy our minds that we can appreciate what wholeness means.  

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We spend the morning widening our movement vocabulary and exploring beyond our habitual patterns of motion. We gain confidence in extending our boundaries to occupy the whole studio space and avoid becoming glued to the spot as you do when dancing in a club. This brings a sense of freedom and possibility as we claim new ground for ourselves.
 
“I enjoyed connecting with the group and a chance to explore my feelings and myself physically.  I love Mary’s movement courses and I feel alive and enriched by the experience I have.  It fills a need in me to move creatively and with meaning.  I leave feeling both grounded and uplifted which is quite an achievement.”   Debbie, Adult Dyslexia Specialist.
 
With our bodies enlivened and attentive through the movement preparation, we take to lying on the floor.  In turn and with care, we outline a full-size body print for each other.  While inhabiting these body-scapes, Doreen Gowing, Hypnotherapist, leads a guided visualisation to help us let go and drop deeper into our bodies.
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We allow plenty of time to colour in our body prints in whichever way we feel fit, intuitively not logically because there is no right or wrong way to do this.  The room quickly fills with body portraits and after lunch we tour the gallery together. 

In pairs, we take turns to dance for our partner the energy of the body portrait we have created. 

“How do I do this?” the head protests while the body knows exactly what dance is needed and how to do it with our partner as our witness.   

"The Body Portrait process is unique for gently revealing and reminding me of my inner self.  Working with a partner magnified what I knew already as well as throw a light on parts I had forgotten or hidden.”  Doreen, Hypnotherapist

Then it is our partner's turn to give their movement response to what they had seen so that when the dance baton was returned to the original dancer, they were inspired to continue moving with it further.  What had been resting just below the surface immediately became visible, both in the body portrait and the dance that accompanied it.  It was a joy to see and a wonder to be shared and celebrated.

Please check my Events page for the next public Moving with Mindfulness workshop.  I'm also available to facilitate this process to any private peer groups.  Or if you’d like to explore Moving with Mindfulness with me one-to-one, you can always join me in the studio.

“It was a beautiful and powerful process.  Moving together with a partner and having my movement reflected back then interpreting the movement and the body drawing I’d created was very valuable.”  C. Barnes, Business Consultant.
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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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A single women's heart's desire

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Most single women who make a Vision Board have in the back of their mind the desire for a partner to share their life with.  I often see images of couples in an embrace or enjoying each other’s company.  It’s rare the vision board maker is so brazen as to pick an image of a couple quite blatantly getting married.  But on Anne’s board there were two!

Anne was in a long-term relationship of 16-year duration.  During this time her partner had proposed a couple of times but Anne hadn’t been ready for it.  Her hands were full running a family business, which she’d taken over from her parents, and she’d been raising two children too.  Because she couldn’t see her way beyond these commitments, her partner had dropped it.  So when the images of wedding couples first appeared, she assumed it was to do with her son getting married.

Five months later it was a different story.  She had now sold the family business and shed the all-consuming identity that went with it.  She was entering a new phase of her life with a different set of needs and values emerging.  Not surprisingly, marriage seemed entirely appropriate to her now and it was she who popped the question to her partner - who readily accepted.  It was only after this she remembered the images of the two wedding couples on her Vision Board.

When people are making their Vision Boards I always encourage them not to plan in advance what images should appear.  The creator begins their exploration with an empty mind and a blank sheet of paper. And I continue to go to great lengths to ensure their cognitive mind is occupied in order to give their intuitive intelligence the chance to have a voice. 

If a single woman desires a relationship - yet an obvious representation does not fall into her hands on the day of the workshop - then I encourage her to leave it alone.  It's safer to assume it’s not part of her programme for the foreseeable future and she has other priorities.. 

Obviously she can still willfully find a picture and stick it in the centre.  However, in the grander scheme of things, this might be a distraction and cause her to miss out on something important beckoning to her, if she'd stayed out of her own way.

I speak from experience.  For four years the only images of men I found were either in the distance or with their backs towards me!  I had to accept for whatever reason I needed time alone and kept following the signs to learn what was required of me in the interim.  In retrospect I can see that what I’d been doing would have been quite difficult had I also been developing a relationship as well.  C’est la vie.

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Diamonds are forever.  There's one final twist to Anne's tale.  Within a month of completing her Vision Board, Anne came across a craftsmen and fell in love with a stunning pair of his earrings.  She told her ‘James Bond’ partner about them who gallantly purchased them for her. 

 

Now take a closer look at her Vision Board above.  Can you see how Anne had already pictured a pair of earrings next to the couple getting married – and next to the same couple, a picture of daisies in a similar shape and style to the diamond earrings?  Magic! 

So here’s to a woman’s heart’s desire and to the James Bond’s of this world willing to meet it, warm wishes Mary.

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#visionboard #arttherapy #imagination #family #craft #crafting

 

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