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" A good traveller has no fixed plans,

and is not intent on arriving "

Lao Tzu

2018 & 2019 Autumn Retreats at Fintry House

Dear Retreat Participant,

The poetry and meditations were substantially the same in both the 2018 and 2019 retreats, so here is the resource page I prepared for the 2018 retreat, with the extra poems I used in 2019.
If you want to go further into Sophrology see this website: The Sophrology Institute. Since the nidra meditations are very powerful and are sequenced too, please do not share these recordings. They are here just for your use.
Thank you for coming on the retreat. I hope you are feeling refreshed and nourished by the experience! There will be a break next year, but I hope to hold another one at Fintry in Autumn 2021.
Warm wishes,
Philip

These were the poems you heard:

Our first evening:

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

~ ‘Love after Love’ by Derek Walcott.

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound…
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

~ Wendell Berry

The Second Day

Last night, as I was sleeping

I dreamt – marvellous error! –
that I had a beehive here inside my heart.
And the golden bees were making white combs and sweet honey
from my old failures.

~ Antonio Machado Trans. Robert Bly

‘In Difficult Times To Keep Something Beautiful In Your Heart.’

There are times when life seems little more than a matter of struggle and endurance, when difficulty and disappointment form a crust around the heart. Because it can be deeply hurt, the heart hardens. There are corners in every heart which are utterly devoid of illusion, places where we know and remember the nature of devastation. Yet though the music of the heart may grow faint, there is in each of us an unprotected place that beauty can always reach out and touch. It was Blaise Pascal who said: In difficult times you should always carry something beautiful in your mind.

Rilke said that during such times we should endeavour to stay close to one simple thing in nature. When the mind is festering with trouble or the heart torn, we can find healing among the silence of mountains or fields, or listen to the simple, steadying rhythm of waves. The slowness and the stillness gradually take us over. Our breathing deepens and our hearts calm and our hungers relent. When serenity is restored, new perspectives open to us and difficulty can begin to seem like an invitation to new growth. This is also the experience of prayer. The tired machinations of the ego are abandoned. It no longer needs to push or prove itself in the combat of competition. Beneath the frenetic streams of thought, the quieter, elemental nature of the self takes over and calms our presence. Rather than taking us out of ourselves, nature coaxes us deeper inwards, teaches us to rest in the serenity of our elemental nature. When we go out among nature, clay is returning to clay. We are returning to participate in the stillness of the earth which first dreamed us. This stillness is rich and fecund. One might think that an invitation to enter into the stillness of nature is merely naïve romanticism that likes to indulge itself and escape from the cut and thrust of life into some narcissistic cocoon. This invitation to friendship with nature does of course entail a willingness to be alone out there. Yet this aloneness is anything but lonely. Solitude gradually clarifies the heart until a true tranquillity is reached. The irony is that at the heart of that aloneness you feel intimately connected with the world. Indeed, the beauty of nature is often the wisest balm for it gently relieves and releases the caged mind. Calmness flows in to wash away anxiety and worry. The thirteenth-century mystic Meister Eckhart always encouraged such calmness: Gelassenheit. Over against the world with all its turbulence, distraction and worry, one should cultivate a style of mind that can reach through to an inner stillness and calm. The world cannot ruffle the dignity of a soul that dwells in its own tranquillity. Gradually, this serenity will begin to pervade our seeing and change the way we look at things.

~ John O’Donohue

Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round
in another form. The child weaned from mother’s milk
now drinks wine and honey mixed.

God’s joy moves from unmarked box to unmarked box,
from cell to cell. As rainwater, down into flowerbed.
As roses, up from ground. Now it looks like
a plate of rice and fish, now a cliff
covered with vines, now a horse being saddled.
It hides within these, till one day it cracks them open.

Part of the self leaves the body when we sleep
and changes shape. You might say, Last night
I was a cypress tree, a small bed of tulips,
a field of grapevines. Then the phantasm goes away.
You are back in the room.
I don’t want to make anyone fearful.
Hear what’s behind what I say.

Tatatumtum tatum tatadum. There is the light gold of wheat
in the sun and the gold of bread made from that wheat.
I have neither. I am only talking about them,
as a town in the desert looks up
at stars on a clear night.

~ ‘Unmarked Boxes’ by Rumi trans. Coleman Barks

The Third Day:

At Blackwater Pond

At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have
settled
after a night of rain.
I dip my cupped hands. I drink
a long time. It tastes
like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold
into my body, waking the bones. I hear them
deep inside me, whispering
oh what is that beautiful thing
that just happened?

~ Mary Oliver

Sleeping In The Forest

I thought the earth remembered me, she
took me back so tenderly, arranging
her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds. I slept
as never before, a stone
on the riverbed, nothing
between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated
light as moths among the branches
of the perfect trees. All night
I heard the small kingdoms breathing
around me, the insects, and the birds
who do their work in the darkness. All night
I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling
with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.

~ Mary Oliver

The Fourth Day:

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt – marvellous error! –
that there was a fiery sun here in my heart
It was fiery because it gave warmth

as if from a hearth
and it was sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

~ Antonio Machado Trans. Robert Bly

These were the Nidras:

First Nidra, The Mystic Garden

Second Nidra, The Tree within the Garden

Third Nidra, The Starlit Cave

Fourth Nidra, The Rose Garden and the Dew Drop

Here is a film of the basic Sophrology induction using the Body Scan, Tension Release and Integration Pause:

Here is the Sophrology exercise we did on the Sunday morning on the 2018 retreat, in which you divided your age into 3 equal parts, and chose one memory to recall and enjoy from each period. You can, of course, use this audio to work with other memories, as in our first exercise where we took one, two or three enjoyable memories that came to mind from any time in our past.

A photo from the 2018 retreat:

A photo from the 2019 retreat: