Gaian Alchemy Retreat Programme

The goal of Gaian Alchemy is the completion of the Great Work, as explained in an earlier post: Regeneration; orientation to Gaian Alchemy. There is no completion date, of course, but we are in the completion timeframe and the conditions are damn near perfect. The ancient alchemists had to generate the state of chaos needed to make matter mutable, but those conditions are now generously provided, saving us valuable energy. The framework, tools and clues are in place and now it is just a matter of application and dedication to the pleasures of discovery.

Stages and Phases

The Gaian Alchemy Retreats will address two core themes, Regeneration and Time by following the three main stages to the alchemical process. We don’t know how many stages the original alchemists used in their experiments, it could have been four in some cases, seven in others, but I’m following the model described by John Lash in the Course in Gaian Alchemy that he taught in the 80s and working with three. These are:

  • Formation and Fixation
  • Coniunctio
  • Magnificatio

With regard to phasing: the two Gaian Alchemy Retreats this year will concentrate on Formation and Fixation within the context of Regeneration. I’m planning for next year’s retreats to address Formation and Fixation with regard to Time. After that, those strands will come together, as appropriate, for the Coniunctio followed by (trumpet fanfare, if you will) the Magnificatio, “The expansion of consciousness to encompass the realm of Mythical Beings and the expansion of the senses.” JLL. I’m anticipating that the work will grow organically, like mycelium, with fruits in different locations and I’d like to see new ways of working together emerge. I’ve had to create some sort of structure, so I can envisage how the Work might progress, but I’m not intending to teach Gaian Alchemy as a set course – it’s much more about setting people up to take the work forward in their own way and supporting the Work as best we can.

Formation and Fixation

The Formation and Fixation stage could be described as the process of recovering the memories of where your senses originated and how to use them correctly. We don’t use our senses correctly, for the most part, because the theatre of human experience has been constructed to put the human at the centre of any experience, but not in any interactive relationship with anything else! For example, you might look at a tree or the stars, but there is no ordinarily accepted recognition of the fact that the tree and the stars are also interacting with you via that look. The observer effect acknowledges that observing an object, situation or phenomenon necessarily changes it, but it does not consider the possibility that the observer is also effected by the interaction. This two-way effect is not imaginary, even though it might not be measurable by instruments. There are biochemical and electromagnetic exchanges that occur between all living things, including the earth and cosmos, that the alchemists knew by other names and portrayed in their illustrations. The modern human is no longer able to use his/her senses to this degree of subtlety, however, we can choose to recover our senses.

The process of Formation and Fixation enables you to experience how you are located within the atmospheric membrane of the earth and how your senses were designed for interaction with all other forms of life on the planet and the plenary sovereign intelligence of the planet itself. The format of learning in the retreats will be some formal group teaching and discussion, followed by experiential exercises and one-on-one coaching sessions, for individual goal setting and support. There will also be a group task/project involving direct sensory and imaginative interaction with the land. The structure is intended to support ‘playful learning’, in a relaxed way that accommodates individual drives, talents and expectations (including my own) as much as possible.

The topics to be covered will include:

  • the three dimensions of space (enclosing space, surface space and enclosed space)
  • human identity and the Fallen Goddess Scenario as the guiding narrative
  • the human effect, intention, reason and desire
  • the process of recognition
  • kundalini and the grounding mechanism
  • DNA, biophotons and the challenges of time and light

I’m anticipating that what you’ll learn here will enable you to begin the process of regeneration, because this has been my experience. The ‘remembering’ of how to use your senses correctly and interactively with nature, within a guiding narrative that explains both earth and human origins AND is open-ended, makes if possible to use your imagination/consciousness fully, without falling into the trap of the ‘fantastic imagination’. The fantastic or fantasy imagination could be described as that which does not align with the dreaming of the earth. My experience is: fix the senses and the imagination follows.

More information on Gaian Alchemy Retreats 2018

Planetary Tantra in Andalucia

Theoria 2015 Andalucia

Planetary Tantra in Andalucia

November 12 – 20 2015

 The Maine terton and I are planning a shamanic retreat in Andalucia, Spain, to be held from November 12 (arrival day) to November 20 (closing day). The event comprises seven full days of which five will be dedicated entirely to the Mystery School method of instruction by the Light. There will be one all-night session in telestic trance to attain theoria – the Greek word for beholding the Divine Light. The event is limited to twelve participants (see below, details of the caryatid with basket).

JLL will conduct this event in the manner of a telestic gathering on the model of the Mystery cells. He will show how to work with directed intention and guide the experiment at every step. Participants will be closely briefed on how to encounter the Organic Light in a trance state. The entire group will unite in an experiment with the telestic method using a question to posed to the Organic Light.

The event includes plenty of time for walks in the spectacular hills, instruction in cording, local excursions (if desired) and sky-viewing lessons.

 

Sacrament basket

Image: Caryatid handmaiden of Demeter from the porch of the Acropolis, bearing on her head the sacred basket containing the psychoactive sacrament of the Mysteries.

Source: http://www.clavielle.com/the-temple-of-demeter-and-the-curse-of-eleusis/

Note that the basket is decorated with a twelve-petalled florette, enclosing a smaller florette of eight petals. At Eleusis and other Mystery Schools, people were taken twelve at a time into the inner sanctuary to be initated for instruction by the Light. Of those twelve, neophytes who succeeded in encountering the OL were eligible to advance and become core members of a Mystery cell (eight petals).

The time for the Mysteries to spread via the internet and archontic media has passed and is replaced by real, face-to-face connection and group interaction. The focus now must be on developing confidence in the basic PT practice of interactive magic with Gaia. Discussion through the week will include routine topics of Gaian sorcery, as well as considerations of the challenge to prepare and set up groups and communities based on PT and the Terma of Gaia Awakening.

Event fee €50/day, €450 total, food and lodging not included. An event coordinator will assist attendees in finding local accommodations at €20-25 per day, most of them within walking distance of the venue. It is suggested that two atendees arriving by air to Malaga rent cars, the cost to be shared with other attendees for transportation. (Some airline deals offer car rentals for €10/day or less.) Those who stay in the village will need transportation. Other expenses will be food. Attendees are expected to make and share food or eat in town.

We are inviting interest in this event, with advisement that limited participation will require selection and vetting of applicants based on previous experience with psychoactive plants or mind-altering substances.

Andrea Avanzato is coordinating the advance enquiries on our behalf.  If you are interested, please contact me using the form below and I will forward you her email address.

Yolanda

 

 

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Planetary Tantra Beltane Retreat 2015

Beltane is a magical time.  The veil between the worlds is as thin as on Samhain night, but we are celebrating the return of the light rather than darkness.  The Earth is blooming and it is a time of fertility, creativity and a little danger – the crops are still tender and a late frost or heavy rain could destroy our food for the year.  Without this risk there would be no magic.  It is the perfect time to launch the very first Planetary Tantra Retreat and to celebrate bringing in the May.

Planetary Tantra is:

“Rapturous immersion through desire and imagination in the dreaming power of the earth. It is the most intimate way of bonding with the planetary animal mother, Gaia.”  John Lash

The practices are deceptively simple and drawn from the Terma of Gaia Awakening.  You do not need to have any special skills or go on a three-year course to learn Planetary Tantra.  There are no secret rituals and it is freely open and available to anyone who feels called to what is essentially experimental mysticism or interactive magic with Gaia, Gaian ecosorcery if you prefer.  This is the only practice, that I am aware of, that is grounded in the Sophianic mythos.  We are focused on recovering the indigenous shamanic senses of our European ancestors, telestic shamanism, and learning the practical skills that we need in order to be able to take care of ourselves and each other.

However, not everyone will choose this practice; it is simple, but also rigorous.  There are two self-determined conditions for entry into the practice. The first is that you hold an “ardent wish to experience love for the earth as deeply as you love your own body”.  The second is to know your Highest Desire.  This is extremely challenging because most of us are unable to define and articulate our Highest Desire.  Nonetheless, “You cannot proceed to interactivity with [the Gaian Dakinis] unless you know what your highest desire is.”

These retreats are intended for people who want to explore and develop Planetary Tantra as a group in a beautiful, natural setting.  The way out of our collective nightmare is through our individual awakening within Gaia’s lucid dream.

The Planetary Tantra Beltane Retreat  runs from the evening of 1st May to the morning of 8th May and John Lash will be joining us for many of the sessions throughout the week.  Price €500 pp including all meals and pick-up and drop off at our local station.

Fully booked – you can find out more and the dates of our other retreats for 2015 here.

If you’d like more information, please get in touch using the contact form below.

 

 

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Regeneration and the Equinox

“Wanderer, your footsteps are the road, and nothing more; wanderer, there is no road, the road is made by walking. By walking one makes the road, and upon glancing behind one sees the path that never will be trod again. Wanderer, there is no road; just wakes on the sea.”

“Caminante, son tus huellas el camino, y nada más; caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar. Al andar se hace camino, y al volver la vista atrás se ve la senda que nunca se ha de volver a pisar. Caminante, no hay camino, sino estelas en la mar.”

 Antonio Machado

The theme of our Autumn Equinox 2014 was regeneration.  In Autumn the unpicked fruits of summer lay rotting on the ground so that the seeds can be released.  The leaves fall and cover the seeds, protecting them from the chill of winter until the vibrant energy of spring stirs them into life.

We find it hard to observe this pattern in our own lives, as attached as we are to our personal identities. Yet, the smell of rotting flesh creeps into our unconscious minds and we associate Autumn with death.  The energy that flows through us and gives us life never dies; it continues in an eternal cycle, through the seasons and greater tides of time.  Our lives are never our own.

Within this context we prepared for winter and the coming spring.  We did lots of hay rolling to cover the terraces for the food forest and made plans for next year’s retreats.

On the Eve of the Equinox we planned an all-night vigil in the tipi.  At sunrise we buried the ashes from the fire that had burned all night in the tipi as Tony read the above quote from Antonio Machado.  Returning to the Earth the ashes of the old season’s wood for regeneration.

 

 

Autumn Equinox Retreat 2014

At the Autumn Equinox we experience a moment of perfect balance when day and night are of equal length. This is the Earth’s Stillpoint, a moment of super-potentiality before the nights begin to get longer and the days shorter as we move into Winter.  Our ancestors recognised the potential in this moment and built huge temples with astronomical precision to mark the Equinox sunrise.  Why is that? Their wisdom is lost to us; we can only guess at the meaning behind their efforts.

Today, we mark the seasons with school terms and public holidays.  We have wandered so far from the wilderness that we have forgotten our animal natures and have created false selves because we are afraid of the dark.  At some point on this long journey the Autumn Equinox, signifying the onset of the long dark nights of winter, came to be associated with death, the inner journey and preparation for spiritual rebirth at the Winter Solstice.

However, it is only the illusory veil of the ego that separates us from all that is real and traps us in the physical world, where life and matter meet.  In the Hindu tradition, the Divine Mother Goddess is the feminine aspect of each person’s own spiritual being.  At the Autumn Equinox, She leads us into the Mystery of Life as Kali, who fights alongside the mystic and destroys their egos to allow for their transformation. Kali is said to inhabit the cremation ground, the place where egos are killed and destroyed in the alchemical fire.

Is this why the Great Pyramid, Mnajdra or Chichen Itza were built?  Or is there something else?

To find the answers we need to take ourselves back to the wilderness, to the temple of Nature, and witness the Equinox sunrise for ourselves.

Our Equinox Retreat for 2014 is about transformation through realigning ourselves with the song of the Earth.  This is a meditative retreat to immerse ourselves in Nature and rediscover ourselves as part of Her great symphony as a prelude to the regeneration of Winter.

Mother of the Universe

O blissful Kali,
accept my congratulations.
You have enthralled the universe entirely
with your countless transformations.
Your ultimate magic feat is to throw every being
a sacred black stone, your very essence,
so that realization of mystic identity
will be its final destiny

You are so adept in magic, Ma Kali,
that you even draw the Father God,
who is all-transcending knowledge,
into your sweet madness,
your play of indivisible love.
As timeless awareness, you remain uninvolved,
producing the magic theater, divine creativity,
from the interplay of inertia, balance and activity.
This avid worshipper of Mother is shocked
that even supremely wise Lord Shiva
cannot realize Kali’s true nature.

O supremely foolish poet,
how can you hope to grasp her dancing feat
that elude even Shiva’s comprehension?
She has clearly driven you mad as well
with the magic of her Love.

Ramprasad Sen, Mother of the Universe, Visions of the Goddess and Tantric Hymns of Enlightenment

Activities:

  • Mindfulness and Meditation with the sounds of Nature
  • Qigong
  • Principles of Energy Healing and how to make them work in your life
  • Making natural shampoo, toothpaste and non-toxic household products that work
  • Nature walks
  • Mandala making
  • Night vigil for the Equinox Sunrise

This is an outdoor retreat. The experience of sitting outside, eating outside and even showering outside (with hot water) brings us out of our heads and into our bodies, so we can feel ourselves within the web of life. This helps us feel more content and strong and able to deal with whatever life throws at us more effectively.

We are in a beautiful rural location, over-looking the Courel mountains, about 10 miles from the nearest town of Monforte de Lemos, in Galica, Northwest Spain.  The location is very secluded without neighbours.  See How to Find Us.

Our aim is to provide an experience that is within Nature, but comfortable and a delight for the senses.  We have two double-skinned Norwegian accommodation tents, that are used for disaster relief situations, with normal headroom, a closing door, proper beds and bedding.  Each one sleeps four people comfortably. We have several smaller, camping tents, or you can bring your own.  We have an outside shower with plenty of hot water and tree bogs.  You will need to bring your own towels.

Retreat Dates: Evening of 20th September – evening of 24th September 2014
Price £250 per person
All meals are included and pick up and drop off from Monforte de Lemos.
10 places only.
Get in touch using the contact form below for more info or booking.
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Gaian First Aid Kit

Gaian First Aid Kit

The more time you spend in Nature and connect; begin to feel how a bird or a flower feels and open up your senses and intuition, the less likely you are to need a first aid kit. If that sounds preposterous, you really do need to get out more! When we observe things, especially living things, and muse, “How do you feel?” We rejuvenate our brains, firing up unused pathways and making new connections. Merging imagination, feeling and vision dissolves the imaginary veil between us and everything else and we become totally immersed in the sea of reality. In this space we have sufficient awareness and intuition to avoid the slippery rock as we cross the river and if we run into a swarm of mosquitoes our immune system will be so strong that we barely notice their bites.

Initially, this way of being takes concentration and practice, but after a while it begins to feel normal to feel like you are discovering the world for the first time. Do you remember how that felt as a child? How the plants, the birds, butterflies and animals talked with you? This is how we engage and participate with all life in the world.

However, sometimes, when you are in a rush or there are just too many things going on, you lose concentration and this is when we become more vulnerable to accidents and illness. It’s also when we tend to fall back on pharmaceuticals and the medical system, which are not good for us in the medium-term, even though they might appear to alleviate symptoms. (We try and keep chemicals out of our bodies and environment as much as possible.) That’s why we put together the Gaian First Aid Kit.

The Gaian First Aid Kit is what we use here on the finca. It’s made from natural ingredients and things we have thoroughly tried and tested over the past year. It might not cover every minor emergency, but it will help you through many of them. We also use these remedies for our dogs.

The Gaian First Aid Kit covers these issues:
• Headaches
• Insect bites
• Cuts and scrapes
• Skin infections (Staphylococcal)
• Food poisoning and stomach upsets
• Aches and pains
• Bruises and sprains
• Colds and flu

We go through the Gaian First Aid Kit in detail at our retreats, as well as the basics for making salves and tinctures. Plantain is abundant here and I always have some plantain oil to hand that’s been sun-steeped for 5-6 weeks, so retreat guests get to make plantain salve and take it home with them. Plantain salve is the most effective remedy to take the itch out of mosquito bites that we’ve ever found. It acts faster and lasts longer than any commercial preparation.

I’d love to hear about anything you find useful. (Please do not send me any info about things you haven’t tried yourself. So much of the information about natural healing remedies on the internet is the same stuff, shuffled and shared around and much of it doesn’t work.)

Our next retreat is Lammas 31st July to 3rd August.

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Tree Bog Construction

We decided on a tree bog for use by our guests this year as it’s a great natural and easy option for summer use. We will only be running retreats in the summer and only for a limited number of people, so this seemed to be the perfect solution.

A tree bog is essentially a small shed raised over a hole with trees around.  The trees eat the ‘humanure’, so it is a very ecological solution.  Our tree bog is mounted on a frame and keyed into flat stones.  It is on agricultural land so we couldn’t use any concrete or anything that might be considered to be a permanent structure.  The walls are made of rough cut chestnut slats.  The chestnut is local and very cheap.  Every other slat goes to the ground for sturdiness and the sides of the hole below floor level are filled with straw.  The side planks of the floor are removable, as are the front steps, so that the straw can be replaced as necessary. The roof is made of corrugated polyester – not the best option, but one of the most cost effective.

It is not quite a metre from the floor to the ground beneath the hole.  We looked at many designs and everyone said it must be a metre, but we couldn’t find any explanation as to why!  it just seemed to be something that was said and repeated.  We needed to ensure that the structure was secure, so we worked out our own designs and construction.  We’ll see how it works out!

The bench has a proper toilet seat and compartments either side for loo paper and sawdust.  We find some sawdust works well as we use it in our composting toilet in the cabin. We’re oiling all the wood with raw linseed oil, which is a good and environmentally sound solution, especially for exterior wood.  It dries relatively slowly, but only takes a couple of days in the heat.  It’s a bit yellow at first, but that seems to fade.  We won’t do the interior this summer, but will probably do it before winter.

We haven’t planted all the trees and shrubs around yet, but there are substantial woods behind the tree bog and we have transferred some local willows an bamboo.  There are young oaks growing around too.  The local farmer can’t understand why we insist on allowing the trees to grow in the fields.  He wants to cut them all down and keep open fields of grass, which he says is to prevent fires!  We think keeping the trees is more useful in preventing fires, but we are newcomers here.

 

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Lammas Permaculture Retreat

Lammas Permaculture Retreat

Our permaculture retreats focus on immersing ourselves in Nature so that our needs emerge in co-evolution with our environment. The essence of permaculture is not really about designing sustainable gardens, but recognising that everything we need is already here! We need to shift our perception. Sometimes this just happens, or you can prepare with shamanic work, sacred plants, mantra or mindfulness.

1. Relaxation

The first principle of permaculture is “observe and interact”. Our approach is to take a few steps back and start with relaxation. We can’t immerse ourselves in Nature, or observe and interact in harmony if we are tense and our minds are full of junk.

We use meditation, Qi Gong, yoga and sacred plants to bring ourselves into a peaceful state of mind, so that we can align with Nature on Her terms. Nature isn’t busy with thoughts, judgments and plans; She just flows.

2. Intent

Our next step is to invoke intent. Intent is not the same as intention. Setting an intention is to make a decision and impose it on the environment as an act of will. Intent on the other hand is a capacity, the force of life that manifests reality. It isn’t ours, but we have access to it.

Invoking intent is not about wishing or thinking or deciding anything. It is the perfectly articulated expression of a heart-felt desire that emerges from deep inside us, without any chatter or conflicting thoughts from the rational mind. This takes practice.

In The Power of Silence Don Juan explains how “intent is beckoned with the eyes” by moving to the “place of no pity” which is characterised by a specific shine to the eyes. The “place of no pity” is Don Juan’s way of describing the point where you get over your self-importance and are fully present, without mental chatter. The power is in the silence.

The ‘shiny eyes’ is like being ‘moved to tears’ in the presence of great love or beauty, humbled, fully present and self-less. To bring yourself to that state and then focus the attention is to act with intent.

We can’t do any better than to start with the intent to be fully present with Nature!

3. Observation

The act of observation involves so much more than just seeing. When we look at Nature, do we see what is really there? Or do we see what we expect to see, or what we have been conditioned to see? When you look at an untended garden, do you see weeds or a cornucopia of healer plants?

 “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”

William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

It is much easier for us to “project” what we think we see onto reality than to be able to witness what is actually there. Without relaxation and conscious observation what we  “perceive” or take into our experience is only a narcissistic illusion, our fantasy, and not real at all.

When we are relaxed and have invoked intent our powers of observation are liberated.

4. Feeling

Feeling is a direct sensory experience not to be confused with our emotional responses, which tend to be ego-modulated. Although we might feel through our sense of touch, we might feel hot or cold, wet or dry, we are essentially decoding this information via our hearts.

To quote from Stephen Harrod Buhner’s wonderful book, The Secret Teaching of Plants:

“The whole body is cradled within the electromagnetic field generated by the heart. The information embedded within that field is communicated to the external world through electromagnetic waves reaching out from the body. It is communicated within the body through the blood stream, which conducts electromagnetic impulses throughout the body…….

But the heart is not only concerned with its interior world. Its electromagnetic field allows it to touch the dynamic electromagnetic fields created by other living organisms and to exchange energy. Like all nonlinear systems that display self-organization and emergent behaviors, the heart is supremely sensitive to external perturbations that may affect its dynamic equilibrium. The heart not only transmits field pulses of electromagnetic energy, it also receives them, like a radio in a car. And like a radio, it is able to decode the information embedded within the electromagnetic fields it senses. It is, in fact, an organ of perception. “

Simply put, we need to stop, breathe and feel the biosphere in which we exist.

5. Acceptance

Acceptance is related to observation. We need to accept what we observe, even if we don’t like it, so that we don’t waste our energy. Acceptance is like an anchor that keeps us connected to reality. For example, you might not like the fact that your garden is on a north-facing slope, but if you cannot accept that you will waste a lot of time and money by trying to do things that will not work in that situation.

Acceptance is about non-resistance; it’s got nothing to do with approval or agreement, it is just a conscious acknowledgement of what is.  It is the foundation for everything that comes after.

At a deeper level it is an expression of unconditional love.

6. Desire

Desire is the basis for creativity and creation and to suppress desire is completely unnatural. Our aim is to recognise, accept and express our desires in a way that is in harmony with Nature.

What do you want?  What is your Highest Desire?

7. Imagination

 “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

Albert Einstein

“The imaginatio, or the act of imagining, was thus a physical activity that could be fitted into the cycle of material changes that brought these about and was brought about by them in turn.”

C. J. Jung

As we imagine we are also imagined and this is the key to co-evolving with Nature.

The ‘peak permaculture experience’ is about Love and Oneness, not about yields or usage; everything emerges from immersion.  In our permaculture retreats we connect deeply as we work on projects or participate in workshops.  We are always learning how to apply the wisdom of natural ecosystems to insights in our lives, our communities and in the garden of our heart. We will practice stopping, dwelling in the wonderful present moment, taking our time and doing everything in mindfulness: walking, sitting, eating, working, relaxing, having fun playing in the garden and becoming aware of all the wonderful conditions that support life in us and around us.  In this way we learn to look at our own lives and all the elements that come together to create what we are living right here, right now. Is this what we really want? Is this what the world needs? What seeds can we water more, which ones should we be careful with?

Our next retreat is Lammas 31st July – 3rd August.

Activities:

  • Introducing Mindfulness and Meditation
  • Qigong
  • Yoga
  • Introduction to Effective Micro-organisms and how to use them to enhance productivity in the garden
  • Principles of Gaian Healing and how to make them work in your life
  • Making natural shampoo, toothpaste and non-toxic household products that work
  • Introducing muscle-testing and how to work with your bodies innate intelligence
  • Introducing the Gaian First Aid Kit and making an essential salve and tincture from weeds.
  • Stargazing
  • Nature walks
  • Cooking outside (basic alchemy)

Contribution £250.  See Retreats for more information.

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Medicine, Alchemy and Cooking

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”   Hippocrates 431 B.C

Food as medicine doesn’t sound that appetising does it? The usual diet for many westerners is neither food nor medicine; it’s just chemicals pretending to be food. Likewise, our “medicine” is chemicals designed to mask symptoms; not medicine at all. Food as medicine was the norm for thousands of years and still is in other systems.

In the Ayurvedic system, one of the oldest and longest standing in the world, herbalism and nutrition are a single science, and no healing can be truly successful that disregards one or the other. Specific foods are prescribed therapeutically as herbs, or in combination with herbs. Eating correctly, according to your body type, is the most important aspect of Ayervedic healing.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, which is rooted in the Ayurvedic system, food is regarded as indispensible in regaining the yin-yang balance and healing. Traditional Chinese Medicine designates four uses for food: diet, medicine, tonic, and abstention.

Doctors are not required to advise on nutrition in the UK, it is covered in just a few hours in the first year of study. Their job is to diagnose, prescribe and refer. It doesn’t really have a lot to do with healing. Hippocrates turns over in his grave one more time.

Hippocrates was considered the “father of medicine”. He is well-known for rejecting primitive medicine and its superstitions and magic in favour of a scientific and rational approach. He is also famous for establishing a code of ethics, doctor/patient confidentiality, note-taking and patient record management. It is less well-known that he insisted his students study astrology, saying, “He who does not understand astrology is not a doctor but a fool.”

The Greeks had medicine long before Hippocrates. Their medicine originated Egypt, the home of alchemy. The historical and cultural links between alchemy and medicine have been systematically destroyed over many generations, but the memory still remains in the endo-psyche of our species. What does that mean? It means that if you sit quietly in nature, or look into the fire and pay attention to your body you will experience specific sensations and feelings and these will direct you to exactly what you need. It never fails, but it does take practice and this is how we get to cooking.

Alchemy can be arcane and complicated or as simple as bringing together a container, a substance and a catalyst. Purists might argue that cooking isn’t alchemy, as the substance that is cooked is not transmuted; a carrot is never transformed into ice cream, no matter how skilled the cook.  However, carrots protect you from heart disease and cancer, are anti-inflammatory, can improve your eyesight and support your brain and liver. I don’t go along with the notion that everything works exactly the same way for everyone all the time. Sometimes I want a carrot and that’s exactly when I need it.

Cooking as alchemy needs to be outside with a real fire. The first stage of alchemy is called the nigredo, blackness, suffering; the medieval manuscripts are full of references to putrefaction and death. In psychological terms it is about depression and the dark night of the soul, but in cooking as alchemy we are not talking about anything that intense. But wait until you are hungry before you start the process. Feel your hunger. If you have a health issue or are stressed about anything, feel that too and don’t push anything away. Then look at the flames for a while.

Flames have a wonderful way of quietening the mind and gradually begin to think about what you would like to eat. Of course, you will have had an idea before you start and you will have certain food available, but make sure you have a good supply of different ingredients and spices to hand. Notice the flavours, spices and textures that appeal to you. As you allow the recipe to emerge notice how you feel about different ingredients as they come to mind – the White Queen is always present in the feeling.

This process of feeling your responses to different ingredients corresponds to the albedo, or purification stage of alchemy. The purification is in the process of identifying and selecting the ingredients that make you feel good when you think about them. This is how you free the spirit from the physical matter of the food. It’s not about following a fixed recipe, this food is perfectly tailored to your needs at the time you are making it. If a new combination comes to you go with it. The Red King guides you to discover something new, or a different combination. The cooking corresponds to the rubedo or reddening stage. In this stage the spirit is reunited with the food, through heat, and a new “wholeness” is achieved through the combination of the ingredients and the intent brought into the process.

This is something to play with and is fun to do in a group. The alchemical marriage takes place in the merging of the ingredients to create something new. And where is the Philosopher’s Stone? Perhaps in the way you feel when you eat food prepared in this way.   With time and practice you will find yourself guided to the foods that support your healing.

Cooking is just one aspect of the practical alchemy of healing that we enjoy here. We work with the local healing plants, grow much of our own food and make most of our household and personal care items. It’s all alchemy!

Our next retreat is at Lammas and runs from 31July-4th August 2014.

Yolanda

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Lammas Alchemy Retreat in Galicia 2014

Lammas Alchemy Retreat in Galicia 2014

Lammas is midway between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox; the turning point of the seasons, where the waning summer element of Fire meets the Autumn element of Water. The Great Work of alchemy is the union of opposites and this transmutation creates a third entity, the Child of the Conjunction, or the Philosopher’s Stone.    All alchemy is rooted in nature, as it is through interacting with the elements and developing our awareness of existence beyond ourselves that we find our true selves.  This is the theme of our alchemy retreat in beautiful, unspoilt Galicia.

Lammas is the festival of the grain. The name Lammas is said to come from “Loaf Mass,” the celebration of the bread made from the first wheat sheaf of the harvest and shared amongst the community. In Ireland it is known as Lughnasa, after the Celtic Sun King Lugh, who created the tradition of feasting and games at the request of his foster mother Tailtiu, “The Great One of the Earth” and she was a goddess of sovereignty, looking after the harvest.

The origins of Lammas/Lughnasa are unknown, but any occasion celebrating grain and harvest leads us back to the Eleusinian Mysteries, and the reimagining of the story of Demeter the Goddess of Grain, Harvest and Fertility and her beautiful, innocent daughter, Persephone. Persephone was abducted and raped by Hades, the Lord of the Underworld and in her grief and rage Demeter caused nothing to grow while she searched for her daughter. Eventually she found her and Hades agreed to her release. However, Persephone had eaten some pomegranate seeds while in the Land of the Dead and this meant that she was obliged to return there for a third of the year as Hades’ Queen. Demeter refuses to let anything grow and we have winter until Persephone returns, bringing spring with her.

This is the time to celebrate the power of the Sun and Fire and to be grateful to the Earth for the harvest to come that will feed us through the winter. It is the time to recognise our personal harvest; what have we achieved? What have we learned? What do we have to share with each other? The visible fruits of the land, how the Sun and rain have turned the seed in the Earth into grain remind us of the processes at work in our day-to-day lives. Now is the time to think about the inward journey. For us the alchemy of Lammas lies in the transmutation of fire and water, the Yang and the Yin, heart energy and kidney energy.   What do we need to dissolve to encourage this process?

There will be plenty of time for contemplation, reflection and discussion on this alchemy retreat.  The area is so peaceful and beautiful.  We’ve planned workshops and activities that allow us to work together and develop skills that are practical and useful, that also strengthen our connection to the Earth, from which our sovereignty derives.  Fear and stress dissolve when we spend time outside and learn how to take care of ourselves and the Earth. These are skills that fall under the permaculture umbrella, enlightened with mindfulness and flavoured with alchemy!  Transformation here does not involve hard work, just allowing the experience of living a more natural lifestyle.

Workshops/Activities:

  • Introducing Mindfulness and Meditation
  • Qigong
  • Principles of Gaian Healing and how to make them work in your life
  • Making natural shampoo, toothpaste and non-toxic household products that work
  • Introduction to Effective Micro-organisms and how to use them to enhance productivity in the garden
  • Introducing muscle-testing and how to work with your bodies innate intelligence
  • Introducing the Gaian First Aid Kit and making an essential salve and tincture from weeds.
  • Stargazing
  • Nature walks
  • Cooking outside (basic alchemy)

This is an outdoor retreat. Most of us don’t spend enough time outside; we’ve lost our connection with the Earth and we need the resonance of the Earth to function at our best and be healthy. The experience of sitting outside, eating outside and even showering outside (with hot water) makes us feel content and strong and able to deal with whatever life throws at us more effectively. It’s why we go camping after all!

“As the sun transforms the seeds within the harvest, I too am able to transform my experiences into new seeds for the future. Lammas assessment helps me to gather the seeds of new directions that I will take with me into the dark of the year. This is the alchemy of Lammas.”

Glennie Kindred “The Alchemists Journey”

It’s hot here in August, but the nights are cooler. We have a tipi in case it gets too hot, or it rains. We have beds and bedding, but you need to bring your own towels. All meals (vegetarian) are included from Thursday evening onwards and we have an honour bar for beer and wine. We’ll pick you up and drop you off at Monforte de Lemos, but you’ll need to make your own way there from the airport. There is a direct train at around 6pm or buses throughout the day, with a change at Lugo. See How to find us for more information.

The price is £250 per person. (12 places maximum – 10 booked.) £100 on booking and £150 by 25th July 2014.   Arriving on the evening of Thursday 31st July and leaving on the morning of Monday 4th August 2014.

Use the contact form below for enquiries and we’ll send you the payment details via email. We are contactable by phone, but the reception is unreliable, so please leave a message if you don’t get through and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

UK mobile: +44 788 768 1706     Spain mobile: + 34 616 247 355

  • Rio Cabe in summer

 

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