Blog

There's a list of behaviours guaranteed to piss off your friends after you come back from a retreat. Being preachy is probably right at the top of it.

There's a weekend workshop coming up in couple of weeks at Spa Road on Presence and Dissociation.
I'm slightly regretting using such daunting words in the title, but the therapeutic concept of dissociation is such a powerful one that I couldn't resist.

I am just bustling around packing up my fleeces, walking boots, bells and notes for the 2012 Beingfulness retreat up on Holy Island. It's more than seven years now that we've been running retreats up on this gorgeous spot.

Last weekend we held a new workshop at Spa Road on the subject of Anxiety.

Running new courses is quite an anxiety-provoking task, so I was a little nervous when I met all the participants for the first time. But we were in the warm and gilded splendour of the Bermondsey Shrine room with its massive coloured Buddha beaming down on us, so I felt like we were working in a positive field of energy.

Anxiety is a ubiquitous human experience. As far as we know animals don't experience it because animals don't have an on-going sense of existence-through-time. It seems human beings are the only ones who have the capability to imagine ourselves in the past and the future. This is, of course, the most amazing thing. It allows us to plan ahead and build St. Paul's Cathedral and it allows us to think back and remember the beauty of the Renaissance. However, the sense of time has its down sides.

Animals seem to exist in a state of present moment awareness. They don't as far as we know, have a sense that in the future they will die. They live for the moment. Humans, in contrast, have the ability to project that fatal and terminal event, death, quite vividly. We also are able to plan to avoid it. And we remember the events of the past equally vividly.

This ability to imagine the past and the future and make assumptions about the present has profound consequences for us when we think about anxiety.

After weeks…and weeks…of rain, I had begun to question the wisdom of running a mindfulness weekend entitled "Sinking into Summer, Sinking into the Body". We were, however, to be blessed with plenty of warm sunshine and very little rain during our weekend of compassionate mindfulness at The Abbey – giving us ample opportunity to sink into our practice amidst roses in full bloom, freshly mown lawns, butterflies on the wing and the brilliant iridescence of the delicate wings of azure-blue damselflies. As night fell, the unnerving drone of particularly succulent mosquitoes made for a little more tension, but ….. "accepting what is, without preference" as the mantra of mindfulness gives us a freedom to embrace whatever is happening in our experience. Including all the feelings of antipathy or resistance that might be present: the humble mosquito is a great teacher. I fear one or two might not have survived the weekend……..

A friend of mine sent a wonderful article on the silence in a Trappist monastery.

You wait all year and then five come along at once.

Partly due to our organisational patterns, we've managed to secure five new courses over the next 10 months all on the same day...

Here they are in order of appearance:

Another weekend at the coal face of mindfulness.

That makes it sound hard, dirty work, which it wasn't. Infact Kim and Dylan showered us with culinary plenty (Sri Lankan Butternut Squash curry anyone?) and the water-meadow-flooding rain made everything in the Abbey gardens intensely green. We did have windows of sunshine too, which allowed us to wander/wonder at those incredible trees they have there: the most beautiful London Plane, cascading down those jig-jag branches heavy with doe-skin brown leaves and that massive beech with its bolus-bulging trunk and copper-green buds.

It was, however, a fruitful weekend in my thinking around mindfulness - which is ever-evolving.

I'm deep in the middle of a research project for my therapy training about the fascinating subject of dissocation and how it impacts our mindfulness.

We've posted two new podcasts up on the website. They are shorter extracts and guided meditations from the course that is happening at Spa Road in London at the moment.