Dear friends (News of the Retreat at Easter 2015 follows.) I’ve been writing quite often on my Facebook page of late about keeping our thinking, conversation, responses and outlook fresh. I suspect that means taking life more playfully and more seriously. It certainly means taking some risks: not doing things in the “same old way” just because that’s what you have always done. To keep thinking fruitfully and optimistically, to remain stimulated and engaged with life, we all need to take small or greater risks at least some of the time. Many people see themselves as too busy to engage with anything other than their most urgent tasks and demands – and then, with whatever time is left, are likely to collapse in front of the television. Others will fill “empty time” with routines that have long ago ceased to delight them. But the truth is that all of us need some inner gaiety, some surprises, a good deal of stimulation – as well as times for deep peace and reflection. We need to give ourselves the chance – at least occasionally – to see ourselves differently, to wake up new potentials, to risk being a total amateur as we learn something new. This makes us better company for ourselves; it invariably makes us better company for others.
My mother died in her 30s which was tragically early, but some years before that and with two little girls and a busy teaching job, she nevertheless persuaded a close friend to escape their ceaseless domestic duties and to go with her to evening art classes. My mother painted. Helen, her friend, chose pottery. That drive towards expressiveness (and relative independence) is so healthy and Helen went on to become one of New Zealand’s leading potters, always so grateful to my mother for pushing her to take that first step. (Some of you will remember that I wrote about a potter, Cordelia, in my novel Tasting Salt. She wasn’t Helen; Helen wasn’t Cordelia, but I have always been very interested in the physicality as well as the inspiration of the visual arts.)
At so many points in our lives “first steps” are needed. Or, perhaps more accurately, should be sought. A comfort zone can quickly become constrictive and fear of failing or of looking silly can loom too large. Opening ourselves to new experiences, reading widely and deeply, challenging our own presumptions, listening carefully and thoughtfully, reflecting on what we hear and what we talk about: all of this makes life itself more meaningful and delightful. Don’t hesitate to share on my Facebook page stories of your own inner or outer “first steps”.
The Retreat at Easter 2015
Rumi: With life as short as a half-drawn breath, why plant anything but love?
It’s hard to believe how quickly we can jump from Christmas holidays and January…to thinking about Easter. The annual spiritual retreat at Mana is only a little over a month away. It runs from 2-6 April and is – I always say this! – the highlight of my teaching year. The setting at Mana Retreat Centre, Coromandel, New Zealand, is simply sublime: one of the most beautiful places on earth. People come for a variety of reasons; all leave deeply uplifted and refreshed. We have meditation each day with guidance; teachings from me; time for discussion and questions; plenty of time to rest and be quiet or to walk in the Mana acres; optional body treatments; delicious food and unstinting kindness. We also have a gorgeous spiritually inclusive, musically inspired service on Easter Sunday in the Mana Sanctuary. Mana staff will help you to book a shuttle if you are coming from Auckland airport. Buses or ferries are another option. You can also book for a night or two before or after at modest extra cost. If this makes your heart sing – or if it would interest someone in your circles – please contact Mana without delay. Use this LINK for further information. You can also telephone: +64 7 866 8972. This year I will NOT be offering the usual weekend retreat in NSW. I am strictly limiting my public work at last, so please do take this beautiful opportunity now if it appeals to you. Here is a lovely quote from Michele Cherry who has participated several times: “Stephanie Dowrick’s gentle, loving and guiding presence is truly healing and her teaching is inspired and inspiring. I can’t imagine now not gifting these very special few days to myself each year…”
My thoughts and prayers will be with you all. I certainly hope to see some of you at Easter. If it is your first or much later time, please don’t hesitate to let me know that you are a member of this Network. I am always thrilled to hear that and to meet you in that special context. Peace in our hearts. Peace in our world. Stephanie Dowrick