Recently I went on a 4-day Meditation Retreat at the Mandala Yoga Ashram in Wales. I knew it was time for some deep silence, contemplation and most importantly time to just be. My formal sitting meditation practice does not normally sit within the yogic traditions, so this was also an exploration into the unknown, in more ways than one!
As a child, ‘chatterbox’ was a familiar phrase used to describe me and not much has changed! I thought therefore that the retreat may be a challenge for me as over half of the time there was conducted in Mouna or Silence. No access to mobiles or the internet either. However, I found no inner conflict, in fact my whole self quickly rested in this practice. As the days passed my mind and body quietened, I found my physical self-releasing in ways that I’d only experienced in SRT sessions before. A quiet unfolding of the physical self over days. And as it did SRT images kept arising to the fore front of my awareness. Popping into my awareness as I walked around the beautiful grounds, during meditation, at meals times… acting as a gentle companion reminding me that it is ok to let go, cradling my journey into ‘Stillness’.
I took with me the wonderful ‘Skinner Releasing Technique – A Movement and Dance Practice’ book, with the intent of finally having time to digest a few more chapters. On the first afternoon there I began by rereading Alex Crowe’s chapter ‘movement, metaphysics and imagination’ – it seemed apt to start with a chapter with a focus on meditation. As I reread it, passages seemed to jump out at me and my awe of SRT and its ability to tap into Universal truths/patterns/knowledge astounds me, not for the first time. Pure consciousness, Buddhist metaphysics and the accessing of meditative states through metaphoric imagination all sung off the page and danced with the concepts of Spaciousness, Advaita (non-duality) and Tantra (the path of wholeness) being explored on the course I was on and my own meditation practice, my experience of accessing deep states in SRT totalities, merging with landscapes larger than myself and moving whilst feeling that deep connection to all other things. Alex Crowe’s chapter elegantly addresses the comparison between Buddhist meditation and SRT and successfully argues the case for SRT to be considered a contemplative practice. I certainly know that it is for me.
Time to contemplate the concepts mentioned above has brought me a newfound perspective on the spaces we explore in SRT. One which would take a whole other article to discuss, so I will leave it at that for now. I can’t wait to get in the studio and move with it.
The next morning after the 5:30am bell rang, I found myself up and ready with time to spare, so I dipped into Mary-Clare McKenna’s chapter ‘Landscape, Process, being’. I got a few pages in and had to put it down, stopping at a quotation of an image from the Ongoing Pedagogy “cradled in space at nightfall…caught by stars”. I went outside towards the hall for my first session of the day and found myself mesmerised; in the depths of the Welsh countryside the predawn stars were breathtaking. Everyone on the course was still in Mouna (silence), as I stood there in the darkness, I spotted others all gathered, resting in this amazing site. This collective unspoken appreciation was joyful.
Those stars stayed in my awareness throughout the day, landing deeply in my body. I found myself embodying that ongoing image on more than one occasion over the weekend, including in my meditations.
The stars, were not the only landscape that visited me during the weekend. I found myself merging with vast familiar landscapes, inner spaces, moss and deep pools of stillness. These moments came to me both in meditation, yoga asanas and when out moving during my afternoons. Dancing in the pouring rain underneath a tree by a beautiful pond, and on the top of a hill watching the rolling valleys unfold beneath me.
Mary-Clares chapter resonated deeply with my own practice, teaching SRT in varying landscapes and feeling that deep connection to the universe which SRT awareness open up. Themes of becoming aware of that which is beyond our everyday awareness, a deep connection to universe at large in all its complexities were scattered throughout it, which mirrored the experiences I was having at the Ashram.
This journal entry featured in her chapter says it all to me “ It’s as if it has moved into my physical self, or perhaps I have moved into it”
My time at the Ashram, quite surprisingly and unintentionally deepened my SRT practice just as much as it did my meditation practice (if one can draw a line between the two!?). An amazing experience which will no doubt continue to reverberate throughout my being for some time.
Post by Rosemary Spencer 25/10/23
Meditation in the River at Kilin in Scotland – Photo of Rosemary Spencer taken by Christopher Smith (Image is representative of Rosemary’s Practice. It was not taken on retreat.)