This year, 2018, more than any other year in my recent history has been devoted to learning more about myself from a non-Buddhist/mindfulness perspective. I have been learning about chakras and energy and have started to move my personal and professional lives more outside into nature.
Following the summer of “shit” that was 2017, I had already been looking at different types of retreat to complement what I was already doing. And it was a combination of reading a book and trawling through websites that I discovered this particular weekend retreat called, “celebrating life”. The retreat was organised by a psychologist, therapist, shamanic teacher and author Christa Mackinnon and the theme for this year was empowerment.
So this is not my usual type of retreat! There were no spa treatments, there was no silence, however it has had a profound and lasting effect upon me. The retreat was shamanic in nature, and for me it is related to feeling and knowing we are connected to the natural world and to each other, energy and power. The schedule for the two days included drumming circles, gong baths, medicine circle, shamanic journeying, walking the labyrinth, shamanic dancing and other delights!
What I noticed was that there are some parallels with shamanism and mindfulness in terms of the looking inward for example when meditating, shamanic walking or shamanic dancing. However where these two approaches seemed separate for me was that we were not only looking inward but we were connecting with others more so than I would experience on a silent meditation retreat. For instance, I was aware of the tone and pitch of the drum that I was using, I was aware of the rhythm I was creating and how the rhythm seemed to create itself; and I was aware of the collective sound we all made using our drums. It felt like we were creating a sound together, and without me (or anyone of us) the sound would have been different. It was a wonderful experience to be co-creating these melodies and sounds together, and I am sure that there were some vibrational energy benefits to this as well.
I have to confess, that there was a part of me wondering if this might all be a little bit to “woo hoo” for me, entering this retreat with very little knowledge of shamanism. I need not have worried! Everyone was really down to earth and extremely friendly and warm. Most people had been on this retreat previously, and out of the 27 of us I think it was only around five of us that were completely new. And we all said we would come back again.
The purpose of a retreat is to know ourselves a little bit more deeply. And what I have learnt is that I need to be connected to others and to be seen by them. I have also learnt that I need to harness the characteristics of particular animals to achieve my goals. And I have learned that I want to learn more about shamanism… New directions and new growth…
Celebrate Life Group 2018 Image: Yani Vark