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A Message From The Gods...

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In Greek mythology, Asclepius, son of Apollo, is the God of healing and medicine with his daughters, Hygiea and Panacea, as cohorts.  The remains of his largest healing sanctuary is at Epidaurus in the Peloponnese and there’s another accessible site on the island of Kos.

In ancient Greece when a person had lost their way and their health was out of sorts, friends and family packed them off to one of these sacred Ascelpion sites.  Exhausted, bored, grieving, discouraged... whatever their symptoms the underlying motivation was always the same: take time-out or burnout.

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By night, resting in the innermost temple of Asclepius, the seeker would await the transformational dream that would change their life.  Non-venomous snakes also shared this sacred space with them and that's how the two entwined serpents has become our symbol for medicine.

I like to think there are similarities between the Asclepion experience and my Soul Alive Retreat which also gives people space to regroup and re-balance. I use creativity, mindfulness and somatic arts to awaken the active dream state and we don’t wait until nightfall to receive messages from the gods. Oh, and I leave out the snakes!

Why enter this dream state anyway?  Because this is where we gain new perspectives, innovative answers to insoluble problems, and can dislodge habitual behaviours.  By accessing this right side of the brain we avoid our over-dependence on the rational mind, which keeps churning out the same-old ideas ad infinitum hoping this time around they'll provide the answer. 

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I've secured the exclusive use of a beautiful villa near the sea for next year's Soul Alive.  It's situated on the southernmost tip of the Iberian peninsula, where the Mediterranean sea meets the Atlantic, in the lovely Andalusian fishing village of Tarifa. 

Take a look at the Tarifa slide show and I hope you'll be as enthused as I am. Besides the fully-facilitated retreat, the facilities include both indoor and outdoor studios and both indoor and outdoor swimming pools.  Get your body moving, what!  But if rest is what you need most then there's plenty of time and space for that too.

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The 6-day retreat starts Sunday 6 May 2018 in the morning and finishes Saturday 12th May 2018. The weather should be perfect then for both inner and outer exploration and the hillsides covered with wild flowers while the beaches will be empty.  

I like to host small group retreats to ensure everyone receives plenty of personal attention to help bring about the necessary shifts this time-out together can deliver. Here's one woman's experience of Soul Alive this year: 
 

"I had no idea how deeply exhausted I was when I went on Mary’s retreat. At the beginning of the 6 days I actually felt stressed-out at the thought of being away for so long, it was hard to let go. By the end of the week I was feeling very different."
 
"I really enjoyed the combination of self-awareness work and having trips out to the surrounding beautiful areas, somewhere different every day. The fact that all the tours, the workshop facilitation, accommodation, food and transfers were included in the price made it feel like great value."

"Mary had a light touch in all this and spending part of each day out and about meant it never got intense. Nevertheless all of us did go deep; like me the others led busy lives and never gave ourselves time to take stock and reflect.  Mary’s experience and training in dealing with the strong but helpful emotions that sometimes came up meant we all felt safe.  It was a very supportive group, with a lot of wisdom and solidarity."

What you get for your money:

* A beautiful en-suite private room or shared en-suite room - your choice

* All meals including some dining out in Spanish restaurants 

* Airport transfers to and from Gibraltar airport 

* 5 movement sessions before breakfast (optional)

* 5 mornings of somatic arts workshops with group/peer coaching

* 5 afternoon excursions to explore the natural beauty of the area and absorb the Moorish/Andalusian culture (optional)

* On-site massage available as an extra

* Dolphin/whale watching is an optional extra.

* Pre- and post-retreat coaching check-ins to prepare for and integrate the retreat.

The retreat package is £1,700 (private room) or £1,500 (shared room). Flights, UK transfers, and travel insurance are on top.  

If you're feeling adventurous you might tag on some extra days to visit wonderful nearby towns like Seville, Cadiz, Jerez, Malaga, Granada - or hop on a 30-minute ferry to Tangiers.
 
I’m taking reservations for Soul Alive already so please indicate if you might be interested.  Email mary@marynonde.com or text/call me on 0782 7017188.
 
Hasta la vista…. Mary

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Vive l'amour

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I bade a silent farewell to Le Presbytere - the 15th century property that seems always to welcome us with open arms, located as it is on the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage trail.  This year's Retreat received a good omen even before I left Heathrow.  In ordering breakfast at Pret a manger, I distracted the server by chatting to her and she forgot to include the coffee.  When I came to pay she said "there's no charge".  Bemused I sat down and looked at my receipt which said:  "Joy giveaway".  Whether she was called Joy or it was the name given to this discretionary giveaway, my admiration for the brand went up a notch.

This year in the Tarn valley the weather was unseasonable HOT for June.  The swimming pool provided a welcome respite after a morning of reflective practice through somatic movement, creative arts and writing, enjoyed under the trees in the garden with the air full of the fragrance of roses in full bloom. Here's one woman's experience who is an HR Manager:

"Mary did a great job to try and meet everyone's individual needs.  The surroundings were just fantastic and I loved being with such wonderful, wise women.  I will never forget my time there.  What it has done for me, to coin an awful phrase, was to lance a boil.  And boy, oh boy did that boil need to be lanced! "

 

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 "When I got back I felt totally and utterly overwhelmed with everything - my grief for the recent loss of my partner, my son's long-term illness, other losses and also everything that's happened at work.  I realised I was so stressed that I went to see a Doctor and, for the first time in my life, have been signed off for two weeks with "stress and bereavement reaction".  

"I am giving myself time now to really heal.  I do meditation, my writing first thing in the morning as I did on the Retreat.  I'm seeing friends occasionally but mainly giving myself the space that's so needed.  The Retreat therefore was the tipping point for me to really focus on healing me."

During one of our daily late-afternoon excursions (this one to beautiful Albi), I sat in the palace grounds overlooking the river while the group visited the Toulouse Lautrec museum. 

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I was gobsmacked because that's exactly what we were doing on this Retreat as adults and delighted to learn this reflective practice is already embraced by young students across the pond.

A young American student came to sit beside me and got out a small watercolour set and started to paint. She had been given 40 minutes downtime to sit in silence and to reflect on what engaged her attention in the moment and to capture the essence of this on paper. She was from a special creative school in Boston and this was normal. 

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After six days of this heavenly lifestyle, I put the last remaining guests on the little train back to England (lol) and headed directly for the Languedoc coast in the black 'limousine', now a little over-sized for one person

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Once I spied the sparkling sea, I took a sharp right turn onto the A9 and headed for Collioure close to the Spanish border.  It's a very picturesque, historic harbour town encircled by a ring of mountains with a beautifully preserved castle and church, both on the waterfront. All the beaches are within walking distance, plenty of very good cafes and restaurants to choose from, and there's an abundance of artist and artisan shops to browse. 

As I sat sipping my cold beer in a beach bar on the first evening, I watched as a woman in her mid 70s arrived on the sand.  She was wearing full bikini briefs and a lacy bra, which restrained her copious breasts.  In full view of cocktail hour drinkers she took delight in spraying herself with water, graceful in the way she moved while her flesh bore all the marks and veins of a life well-lived.

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She wasn't the only older person enjoying the sea at this time of day.  The hours before sunset seem to attract all those for whom the sun is too bright during the day yet the water now at it's warmest.  It was a delight to behold.


She was however the only older woman to be photographed as she gracefully emerged from the sea.  A man in his 40's had also appeared on the beach brandishing a camera.  "Oh", I thought, "how lovely he's doing a photographic study of the older woman's body!" Then he put a towel around her shoulders and patted her dry.  "Oh, it's his mother", I thought "what a tender gesture that is!" And then they kissed on the lips...."Oh, ....!"

It was his turn to strip off, his body virgin-like in comparison to hers.  She held his camera as he hobbled over the stones to the sea, shivering as he took infant steps into the water, meeting the sea with resistance whereas she had met it with joy.  He lasted three minutes and she was waiting for him with the same towel to pat him dry. 

There must have 30 years between them and they were obviously in love.  Vive la France for being so liberal-minded in matters of love.  Vive l'amour.  Perhaps I should move to France to increase my chances.  

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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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 Too much to do and not enough time? Five good reasons to favour a Retreat

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A client was musing-out-loud recently and touched on something that resonated with me and possibly is true for many of us.

"I have too much to do and not enough time.”
“But when I get time, like on holiday, I can’t sit still for long because I want to explore where I am."
  

“It's just occurred to me the kind of ‘free time’ I really need is contemplative time just to be still and with my own thoughts and to take more notice of what's going on around me."

"I'd need a specific environment and particular conditions to provide me with this kind of free time.”
“So a holiday is not the ‘free’ time I need.  It's something else... like your Retreat!”

 

Yes, there is a big difference between taking a holiday and all the joys and pleasures it brings versus the virtues of taking contemplative time-out just for you.  

I've been running the Soul Alive Retreat  for five years now for the purpose of giving people time to themselves because:

1. You have too many plates spinning and it feels relentless  

While you’re busy spinning the plates, it’s impossible to decide which ones to drop.  Yet continuing to spin them - and more - is exhausting, especially if you’re being pulled in different directions at the same time.  

Recognising that you have a choice and deciding what changes to make is impossible when you’re in full spin  Taking time-out on a Retreat allows your head to clear and the better, alternative options become evident.

2. You're starting to snap at 'nearest and dearest'  

In fact, they may be part of the problem!  No kidding, I’ve often thought I should rename the Soul Alive Retreat “Escaping Housewives” - not that they’re exclusively for women.  It’s just that typically women leave it too long, giving so much of themselves to others; we forget to balance this with receiving - until we’re so replete and desperate to leave 'them' all to it.  

When you go on holiday with your partner, children, or friends – delightful as it is – they naturally want a piece of you so you’re still on call 24/7.  There’s no time to switch off completely and be idle and daydream with your thoughts and feelings.  On a Retreat you can.

3. You need to take stock of where you are in life because it’s been too long

Trundling along in the daily routine, there’s very little time to rise above it all and get a hot-air balloon perspective of what’s going on below.  Continuing as is, you could end up at the wrong destination before you know it.  Much better to get that higher perspective and make any adjustments now before it's too late.  

Not that any course is irreversible. It may just take a little longer to get back on track, beginning again where you are and at whatever age you’re at.  I know that one.
 
4. You've had a recent loss or change in circumstances

Hitting a wall can happen to any of us at any time – whether through health issues, bereavement, relationship problems, a career change – this is life.  The difficulty arises when you can't address this properly  because you’re so preoccupied with it, sat right in the middle of the situation.  

You cannot figure out a way through when you’re knee-deep in.   You must step back from the wall in order to come to terms with it and to receive the inner guidance you need to determine the next step… and the next.  This is the grace a Retreat offers you.

5. You have a ‘dream’ that won’t go away.  

It keeps nibbling at your ankles to get your attention and you keep pushing it to one side because it’s not convenient.  

The truth is that there’s never a perfect time to begin so why not start now.  The mind will always come up with very good reasons for you not to pursue the dream  - or to delay its start.  By going off-duty on Retreat you can see a way to begin.  You’ll also gain the support, energy and motivation to keep going.  Remember providence can move with you only after you’ve taken the first step. 

If any of these 5 reasons resonates with you, a Retreat will serve you well.  

There are many types of Retreat you can choose from but whatever the focus, its ultimate value is to restore balance, repair your sanity and improve your well-being – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.  When you stop being swept along by the agendas of others and start favouring your own, it's life-promoting.  

This requires longer time-out than an hour’s therapeutic or coaching session, valuable though they all are.  To make a deeper, sustainable connection to your self and to receive the powerful guidance this can provide, requires you to slow things down and slip into a more spacious experience of time and rest there for a while.  

A Retreat isn’t a selfish activity.  Returning home feeling good about yourself, empowered and confident, you have more to offer your loved ones, your work, and the world in general.  You are making a  solid investment in yourself, your happiness and well-being - and this is priceless.

If the promise of six unadulterated days to yourself lights your fire, consider joining me and other ‘blazing’ women.  

Please RSVP below or email mary@marynonde.com.   I’ll send you details about the Soul Alive Retreat in SW France, which rolls twice a year.  Set in beautiful sunshine and countryside bursting with life, this is an opportunity to be still, take stock of where you are, and arrive at what needs to happen next.

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#humanspirit #self-reflection #contemplation #timeout #sensuous #possibilities #mindfulness

 

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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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