Sharing some of the cherished moments of shared gratitude, pain, renewal and transformation that we experienced during our 2-day annual retreat at the end of October.
On the first morning, we call upon many sacred rituals to truly and fully land in our bodies, in the space and in the group. Rev Tass Two Crows Flying consecrates us and the altar where we have placed our tokens of reverence for the elements through smudging with burned herbs. Tass calls in the directions and reads the Haudenosaunee Prayer from the Iroquoi first Nation.
The “lapa” room at Monkey Valley is a beautiful wooden hall with large windows overlooking the beach and surrounded by trees, and the perfect setting for our morning free flow dance. We free our bodies and focus only our ears on the songs of artists that Joanna Tomkins has selected, singing praise to our connection to nature and our journey of transformation in the present times. Rachael Millson leads us through connection rituals, adapted from the Work that Reconnects “milling” formats, where we repeatedly and spontaneously meet in a casual walk through the space, meeting each other through our name and the name of our immediate ancestors, honouring our lineage. May their strength be present in ourselves in support of these tasks.
After a more formal introduction to the programme for the weekend and a grounding meditation, we dedicate the work ahead to the Great Turning and we move together into the first stage of the Spiral of the Work That Reconnects: Gratitude.
Gratitude is embodied in a silent walk to the beach, harvesting items that nature has left on the ground and building a “Gratitude Circle” on the immense and windswept expanse of Noordhoek Beach. On our silent walk back we return the elements to nature and we choose a spot in the milkwood forest where we will do our solo nature immersion the next day.
In the afternoon the screeches of joy of children splashing in the pool nearby served as a reminder that, as Kahlil Gibran said:
“Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.”
In the afternoon, after the buoyant experience of gratitude in our heart-minds, is dedicated to the second stage of the Spiral: Pain for the World. Practices around honouring our pain for the world include the wonderful meditation “Breathing Through” by Joanna Macy and the always powerful ritual of the “Truth Mandala”. We empty our hearts and share with complete vulnerability around feelings of Anger, Emptiness, Sorrow and Fear. This is transformative. We all feel the togetherness, we all feel how the energetic shift inside us and around the room as we move now into the depth of the retreat. With the pain still throbbing within, we move into a spontaneous writing session where our souls free-write through our pens and we release what needs to be freed.
It’s time to introduce the third stage of the spiral and to call in the Beings of the Three Times to remind us of the dimensions of time that we are working across here. This is the stage called Seeing with New Eyes. After a brief for the Nature Immersion the next day, we sing some “songs” from the collection of Songs that Reconnect with Rachael and Joanna on guitar and drum.
Find “that place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” (Frederick Buechner)
The next day is the one hour nature quest. In stillness and alone, yet held in the knowing of our group, we become present to the sound of the sea, the lives of insects and birds speaking to us, the ripples through the leaves. Deep feelings within us start to surface, framed by this magnificence, where everything is as it should be, in trust and surrender… After we return, still in noble silence, our sharing is rich and diverse and it takes the shape of a story telling workshop. We scatter into three pods of three around the beautiful setting of the Fountain on the Monkey Valley land, fed by the living pure waters pouring from the fynbos covered mountain of Chapman’s Peak that overlooks us. Here we each in turn pour our soul into a story. We then weave that story into a collective thread that is shared with the others as we stand together in our pods, finally back in the hall.
After we eat the foods that we have brought from our homes to share today, what a blessing it is to move again to the free flow of our bodies on the soundtrack woven together by Rachael to accompany the words of wisdom of the “Calling in the Gifts of the Ancestors” meditation!
We end the afternoon, held, grounded, inspired, resourced…,with a renewed sense of purpose, ready to formulate a blueprint of the active hope that wants to be expressed through us. Therefore, after Joanna leads us through the dimensions of the Great Turning, we write in our journals what are the actions we wish to take whilst we Go Forth, in this fourth and last stage of the spiral. And we share lengthly about what we wish to do in a month, and what we actively and collectively hope to be engaged in in a year’s time. We give names to the concrete parts we wish to play in this great transformation we are seeing around us and of which we are part and whole. And Tass closes the directions.
And we know that this spiral does not end, as it is fractal. With the support of this work and strengthened by the increased awareness of the collective energy that supports our ecological beings, we are more prepared now to weave spirals of reawakening into our lives and into the web of life.
Gaia is Speaking, Listen.
Photos credits ©Fiona Hare and ©Tass Two Crows Flying. Big thanks!
More about this past retreat on the Events tab