We were fully booked for the retreat at the weekend some people camped in the woods on the Friday night so to be there first thing for the morning meditation. It was advertised as a beginners retreat and some of the people who came were completely new to mindfulness, but in truth all of them, whether they were aware of it or not, were all already in the process of awakening.
What made it particularly fun for me was the fact that they had arrived through the website, they were drawn to the retreat by what they had read and seen on the website, they were familiar with my rantings and already had an inkling of what they letting themselves in for – and to top it all, they still wanted to come!
By Saturday afternoon most of them had realised that they hadn’t come to Cocklewood to learn anything at all; that they weren’t there to acquire intellectual knowledge or add something to their identity, but they were there to advance the process of their awakening. Some people just dropped into the space and remained there for the weekend and the level of presence at times was quite staggering. When you get a group like that the energy can become very intense and that brings out the best in me, the teaching flowed without thought or effort and it was a joy to see the penny drop for people as each realisation sunk in. The vegetarian curry for dinner was served al fresco on the Zen picnic benches and wasrounded off with a surreal light show at sunset. It was mind blowing and I confess to getting a little lost in that for a while. I wasn’t the only one Sally had pitched her tent on the top of the hill facing west and I now that she some pictures up on Flckr.
Sunday morning began with some meditation and then some chi gong by the lake. By the end of the meditation everyone was deeply connected to the inner body which made the chi gong really special. There was a point during one of the Chi Gong meditations when I opened my eyes and it seemed that Helen and Sharon were glowing white in front of me, so radiant with light I swear I could see through them and make out background behind. Maybe I’m losing it and I’m always open to that possibility, but things like that are happening with increasing regularity and I’m hearing other people talk of them too
Sunday is the harder of the two days of the retreat; the teaching is about the pain body and how to consciously manage your emotions and how through acceptance to free yourself of what Eckhart Tolle calls the painbody – the shadow part of ourselves that in the east they might call it Karma
The exercises are ultimately liberating but can be quite gruelling, so it was a happy distraction to discover that where we had positioned ourselves not only gave a wonderful view of the valley and the rolling sky, but the ground was alive with ladybirds. The “mindfully feeling the tickle on the back of your hand as you allow the ladybirds to walk over them meditation” is a new one for me, but definitely worth a go. I’ve heard that they can bite – so be mindful.
Feeling a couple of spots of rain we retreated to the hut for some energy work. The energy work isn’t always everyone’s cup of tea and there can be some quite dramatic releases of emotion, body titches, shaking, sobbing or euphoric rushes and hysterical laughing. Even though it can incredibly helpful and sometimes there is a real catharsis, it’s not what we are used too and for the wary it can be unsettling – so it’s for volunteers only. – Everyone volunteered and it was amazing!
Going home time was quite emotional it was only two days but in some ways it seemed like we had been there for much longer and some really warm friendships were made over the weekend. The group had really become quite close they had shared the space and held themselves in it together and I felt a real connection between us all.
One of the people on the retreat told me that they had been experiencing awakening for a while, and had collected insights along the way. He said the insights were like pieces of a jigsaw but the retreat had given him the clarity to put those pieces together and it now all made sense. If that’s the case than I’m delighted because that ultimately what Cocklewood is about, there a lot of people awakening now and that is wonderful, but this shift in consciousness can be very uncomfortable and unsettling at times and we most often wake up at times of acute crisis, and it can throw you a little off balance for a while – our work in London and Cocklewood is to help people through this process, to give you some simple tools and help create the space for that shift to happen. It wasn’t until I had left Cocklewood did I hear that there had been riots and looting and complete madness in cities all over the country. And that reaffirmed how important this work is because that world could not exist in the energy at Cocklewood and cannot exist for long around many who came last weekend.
We’ve had some lovely feedback and I’ll put some of the comments on the website once I get the owner’s permission