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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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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A Cob Experience

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate to have the opportunity to spend a day with one of the only two professional “cob” builders in Spain. We want to build our new house using “cob” and this was a golden opportunity for me to have my first any kind of experience with it. Cob is a mixture of clay, sand and straw that combines to make a very strong structure that provides excellent insulation while being flexible. We like the idea that we can use the clay from our land for this build and the whole process is ecological.

After an 8 hour drive across Spain and several well earned beers upon arrival I slept well and rested up for my big day. The next morning I met Mateu on site where he was going to build a cob oven for a family that he had built a cob house for previously. So not only did I get to see a house that he had built I got to help with the cob oven. Mateu’s calm and pleasant mannerism coupled with his knowledge of cob made it a very enjoyable experience. The family who were having the oven built made the day even more of an experience by providing a big traditional lunch and their openness and hospitality made the day perfect.

I learned a lot about cob and realize first hand how labor intensive it can be but how satisfying as well. Even though I was allowed to pack the cob on to the structure the real art was when Mateu “sculptured” the oven making it symmetrical and adding features to make it unique.

Mateu is coming to spend a couple of days with us at the end of July and I look forward to seeing him again and to get his ideas for our new build.

Dean

Benefits of Earthing

Earthing or grounding is the simple process of getting outside with your bare feet on the ground and it has astounding benefits. We have forgotten how important this is and not just from a spiritual perspective. We have been created to work in harmony and connection with Gaia and wearing shoes all the time has ironically been one of the most damaging things we have done to ourselves in the name of progress.

The Earth is electrical – just like your body! There is a well-known scientific phenomenon called the atmospheric Global Electrical Current. It’s basically a current of electricity coming out of the ground where lightning strikes and returning to the ground elsewhere. This creates negative-charged free electrons in the ground which contribute to the benefits of Earthing in people and animals (and probably all life forms on Earth).  These free electrons are replenished by an estimated 5,000 lightning strikes a minute all around the Earth.

When you touch the ground with bare feet or bare skin, then, you’re not just touching the soil – you’re connecting with a massive electrical warehouse of free electrons which are then transferred to your body. This will “ground” you – literally and figuratively. Just like an electrician knows the importance of grounding a house’s electrical system, so too is it important to ground your body.

The health benefit of earthing is in reducing inflammation. Inflammation is the immune system’s natural response to allergens, trauma or infection. There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is not normally a problem, as the body needs to make pro-inflammatory compounds to deal with injury or infection and then will go on to make anti-inflammatory compounds to repair your system after the infection has dissipated.  Chronic infection is a problem because the immune system continues to promote inflammation throughout the body with pro-inflammatory compounds.

Inflammation is now considered to be the root cause of many ‘modern’ diseases; it is a significant factor for arthritis, as well as heart disease, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and diabetes. Inflammation is also known to accelerate the natural process of aging and causing your body and immune system to weaken over time due to repeated or prolonged stress. Inflammation leads to more stress, which leads to the worsening of all auto-immune conditions.

There are many theories about the causes of chronic inflammation. The Gaian healing approach is to consider the possibility that your body is not ‘broken’, but merely misinformed and to focus on the solution, not the problem. Some understanding of the inflammatory response is helpful here, so that the mind can recognise the real benefits of earthing.

The normal inflammatory response is, in part, a burst of free radicals produced by the immune system in response to an injury. This natural production of free radicals occurs to prevent infection and to promote healing at a site of injury. A free radical is an electrically charged particle. Free radicals are produced during oxidation: the process during which electrons are extracted from molecules. Oxidation occurs through electromagnetic radiation or sunlight and when oxygen in our bodies bonds with other molecules. This constantly happens when we breathe, for example, or when our body breaks down nutrients.

This electrical charge occurs because the free radical is missing an electron. To become stabilized, a free radical must “steal” its missing electron from another molecule. When the electron is stolen from an invader (e.g., bacteria), the invader’s molecular structure is damaged, which leads to its death (as intended by the immune system). When there are no invaders left to destroy and when there is a lack of electrons available from antioxidants to stabilize excess free radicals, free radicals then turn to the only other source from which they can steal electrons – healthy cells. The resulting damage to and death of healthy cells, from loss of electrons to free radicals, further signals the immune system for additional help. This sets up a continuous autoimmune response (creating more free radicals), which promotes chronic inflammation and tissue damage, often referred to as oxidative stress.

The simple solution is to provide excess free radicals with the missing electron they seek, so that they don’t need to steal from healthy cells. The Earth herself is a massive source of free electrons that flood the body on contact with the naked skin. Research has shown that the rhythm of this free electron flux helps to entrain the body’s circadian rhythm, including the rhythmic secretion of cortisol.  This suggests that grounding is also important for optimal sleep, daytime alertness, and endocrine function.

Earthing also shields the body from the damaging effects of man-made electro-magnetic fields and microwaves as the Earth’s voltage is conducted throughout the skin, creating a natural Faraday cage effect.

Earthing is also known to thin your blood and make it less viscous, reducing the risk of blood clots, elevated blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Just getting outside with your bare feet on the ground for 30 minutes a day can significantly reduce pain and swelling in a few weeks.

If you stretch your mind beyond the scientific into the experiential, you will enjoy even more benefits from earthing.  Walking barefoot in your garden gives Gaia-Sophia useful information that She uses to provide you with the specific plants you need for your optimum health.  Plants use underground fungal or mycelial networks to share information and that includes information about you released through the pores in your feet.  Last summer, our first summer here, we payed special attention to many of the healing plants and wildflowers we saw around.  This year we have at least four times as many.  This isn’t something you need to believe, as you can easily try it for yourself and it costs nothing!  You can find out more about this at our Lammas Alchemy Retreat.

I find that daily earthing, when the weather allows, has helped my manage my body temperature more effectively; I’m less hot when it’s hot and less cold when it’s cold.  I also find that I’m able to deal with problems more effectively and I have considerably less anxiety.

Clint Ober is credited with bringing earthing into the mainstream and his book, Earthing, is a good read and full of research and testimonials.

There is also a lovely film, called Grounded, which follows the affects of grounding through a small Alaskan community – and has lots of beautiful Alaskan scenery.

There are also a range of grounding products available, such as sheets and mats that enable you to be grounded while inside. (We use grounding sheets and we all sleep better.)

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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Beltane

My first post on our new site is on Beltane – how good that feels! Gaia is vibrant in birdsong and dazzling green everywhere I look. Our ancestors celebrated Beltane, May Day, as the time of fertility and the sacred union of the male and female principles.

Beltane is a Fire Festival. The word ‘Beltane’ originates from the Celtic God ‘Bel’, meaning ‘the bright one’ and the Gaelic word ‘teine’ meaning fire. Together they make ‘Bright Fire’ and traditionally bonfires were lit to honour the Sun and encourage the support of Bel and the Sun’s light to nurture the growing harvest and protect the community.

This year, as we celebrate creativity, fertility and abundance with our Beltane fire, I have a new awareness. The ancient Gnostics, the pagan ancestors of the Celts and other tribes, had the most beautiful and complex cosmology that has been painstakingly reconstructed by John Lash. In this they tell of the shearing of the template for humanity (the Anthropos) caused by Aeon Sophia unintentionally falling out of the Galactic Centre. This caused the gender rift we still experience today.

 “When the Aeon Sophia careened into Orion and sheared the template, she took a part of the Anthropos template with her, and the tattered streamer of nucleic dew was absorbed into the soft globe of the mothering earth. By shearing the template, Sophia caused the separation of the sexes and precipitated the conditions for mitotic reproduction in the human species, not a feature of her original dreaming.

The tattered mesh drawn into the materialization of the earth was the female part of the Anthropos template, the Omega component. The male part, the Alpha component, was left behind in the Orion nebula. This is the origin of the gender rift. It is cosmic prelude to the chthonian romance between the otherworldly Alpha males and the native women of Gaia — dissevered halves of the same species. [“Alchemical Androgyne,” a symbolic image of the dissevered genders in unity. From the Turba Philosophorum, an alchemical anthrology of the 17th Century.]”

Extract from http://www.metahistory.org/dynamyth/TreeNymphs2.php

John Lash

The Sophianic Myth is so compelling because as soon as you encounter it, you find that you are already living it. Do you ever have moments when you look at a member of the opposite sex and feel completely baffled by their strangeness? That is because you are seeing the Truth. Men and women are so very different in our expressions of the same material; there has never been a time on this planet when we as a species have been able to live in harmony and unfettered appreciation of the beauty in our differences.

The great gift of the Sophianic Myth is that it does not end in judgment, in fact it does not end at all. Thousands of years ago the ancient Gnostics foretold that a time would come in their future, our present day, in which Sophia would wake up in Her Dreaming and be responsive to those of us who want to work with Her. We are celebrating this Beltane as recognition of the opportunity we have to co-evolve together with Gaia Sophia, as our yin/yang perspectives are unified in Love for the Earth, all Her creatures and those humans who choose to appreciate Her Beauty.

My Beltane Ritual will be to write my Highest Desire for the rest of the year on a piece of paper and put it in fill a small cardboard box filled with petals, a few seeds, a twig of willow and some oak leaves. I will bury that in the Earth, sprinkled with more petals so that Gaia takes my Desire into Her awareness and makes it grow.

Beltane poem