“So, what did you do on this retreat-thing you went to?”
“We threw cushions at each other.”
“You threw cushions at each other?!”
“Um … why?”
“Well – it was to experience the transitioning of yin to yang and yang to yin as you caught the cushion thrown by your partner and allowed the momentum to carry it around to your side to the point of maximum yin and then, almost effortlessly, you propelled the cushion back towards your partner, releasing it at full yang.”
“And we did elements of the Short Form moving just one arm instead of both.”
“Oh, really ….?
“And we did the whole of the Short Form in the reverse.”
“Good, well … er … you had a nice time?”
“Well, that’s the main thing, isn’t it.”
So went my imagined conversation with a neighbour following the wonderful Light and Shadow Retreat most ably led by Jos Hadfield and Louanne Richards at Roselidden at the end of July.
Had my imagination alighted on a different neighbour, the conversation might have been rather more wistful; I might have reflected on the hope that many of us had during lockdown, that the world would become a gentler, more caring place once the pandemic had eased. But my experience has regretfully, been pretty well the opposite: the world now seems even more full of hostility, anger and bad temper than it has ever been. And therefore how refreshing and nurturing it was to return to Roselidden and be greeted with warmth, smiles and hugs. To continue conversations begun more than a decade ago with people who, over the years of connection and reconnection have become firm and dear friends. And to encounter new faces – including a number of friends and relatives of participants: some of the time joining in with our activities, some of the time forging their own – all were welcome; all contributed.
As ever, Jos and Louanne, positive, supportive and responsive to interest and need, led us in qi gong and tai chi – Short and Long Forms; and Japanese Brushwork. As ever, they guided us gently and with uplifting humour to new experiences and insights, and provided the non-judgemental spaciousness from which new experiences and insights arise spontaneously. Indeed, the ‘cushion exercise’ provoked a deeply-felt sense of the natural and inevitable transition between yin and yang and the energy that can arise from fully moving in harmony (as far as I was capable) with this. “Perhaps we should stand a bit further apart”, my partner suggested as I started getting into the flow!
And once more, my attempts at brushwork reminded me just what a huge chasm there can be between intention and results – and not only in brushwork, of course. And then, in gazing at marks I had made on the paper I wondered what marks I am making in the living of my life.
And, of course, there was the beach! Wonderful, invigorating Gunwalloe beach. Facing the infinite sea, feeling it’s rhythm, sensing its power and engaging with it and all nature with our open hearts and through our sacred movement. Well, that’s what I aspire to, but somehow my head keeps getting in the way! Even so, it’s always an exhilarating way to start the day, especially for those brave enough (not me!) to go for a swim.
“And what was the food like?” This is what my Mum might have asked. Food was always very important to her and maybe to all of her generation – the generation that lived through the Second World War. Food was scarce, precious. It was the language of her love; she prepared it with love and to leave anything on your plate was to reject her love.
In answer to her question I would have said,
“The food was excellent: it was varied and ample; vegetarian and vegan – everybody’s dietary requirements were catered for; everybody said how much they enjoyed the food.”
“And who did you have to cook for you?” she might have enquired. And I would have said,
“Rosie, one of Jos and Peter two daughters – she was our cook. Did I say ‘cook’?
No, she was our Chef!”
But what of the theme – Light and Shadow: yang and yin; laughter and tears; movement and silence; ink and paper; action and reflection; enjoying a meal and doing the washing up! … Of course, everything was, and is, light and shadow.
But let Rumi have the last words:
Both light and shadow are the dance of love.
John Brindley, August 2022.
With many thanks to Sydney Whiteland-Smith for the majority of the photographs, including this one: