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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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Floating around in Cork - a premonition on my Intuitive Vision Board

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I have a £800 Nikon strung over my shoulder and a JVC camcorder around my neck and I’m prayin’ to Mary that I don’t slip on the cobbled stones of Penrose Quay into the Atlantic waters while I'm here to make a video.

 Those colourful boats on my Intuitive Vision Board (top left) have been working their Irish magic again.  Only a few months ago they took me on an all-expenses paid trip to a rural suburb of Dublin as a visiting “tour guide”. This time they've led me to Cork for a week.

I’m working on a building site in a cleverly reclaimed wharf, accompanied by two engineers.  It was never supposed to be a building site but work is so far behind schedule that I’m surrounded by men of all trades doing their thing.  It’s dirty, noisy and fascinating.
 
I've never worked alongside men who use their bodies and hands each day. I'll be honest and say I held a prejudice there would be a lot of testosterone flying around and vying for position in the hierarchy.  What struck me more was the courtesy and respect shown by the men towards each other. 

The only firework moment was when a man pasting vinyl didn’t realise the touch-activated shower on the wall behind it was switched on - and it drenched him.  His swearing in a Cork accent, incomprehensible at the best of times, was really more entertaining than scarey.

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I was on my feet for 8-9 hour days filming.  So were the engineers I was accompanying to install the two float rooms.

 It went through my mind how satisfying it must be to make something and see it materialise before your very eyes, channelling all that masculine energy into it rather than just being sat behind a desk every day.  

Meanwhile I was very grateful to be able to retire to a comfortable, elegant spa hotel and peel off my dusty clothes to relax and freshen up.

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This is a float room (right) by the way.  It's a private, ambient bath tub where you lay on your back in silence, darkness too if you prefer, suspended on a dense Epsom Salt solution - a bit like floating in the Dead Sea. 

For the past three years I’ve worked part-time for the market leader selling their float rooms around the world. The UK, Holland, Canada, USA, New Zealand and Australia are the biggest markets.  I even attended a Float Conference in Oregon last year; it's a growing industry.

The people who gravitate to this business are inclined to be spiritual by nature and have a desire to foster that in others.  I enjoy encouraging them to establish their havens of floating tranquility where they can let go of all the stresses, tensions and worries of life for an hour at least. For those of you who've worked with me will know how well this sits alongside my own modus operandi.
 
How did my floating life transpire?   Just over three years ago my practice was fledgling while I was slowly emerging from the roughest, toughest period in Mary Nondé recorded history.  At that time I attended a Tango dance lesson and found myself paired with an Aussie.  When I heard he was a business owner, I asked whether he knew of anyone who could offer me part-time work.  He wasn’t looking but he liked the sound of what I could do.  No CV, no interview.  Just a month’s trial - and I've been working for them ever since. 
 
Yes, there's a woman floating on my Intuitive Vision Board below!    I made this board before the floatation company came on my scene six months later.  Up until then I'd only floated once at a Spa.  She was a premonition for sure,  alongside the three photos of the ocean and including the bed-on-the-rocks beside the sea (to dream for), and Daniel Craig walking towards me.   

So here's the craic. The floatation company I've been working for is called Ocean Float Rooms.  It's like having a bed by the sea.
And the owner has the body and stature of Daniel Craig, as far as I can tell.
 
Warm and ambient wishes, Mary

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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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