Mindfulness in the Natural World - Summer Weekend Workshop - Aug. 12 & 13, 9am-4pm in Ladysmith


In daily life there is a lot of competing noise and stimulation for our attention. Flipping through tabs on our computer, rushing for appointments, reading heart-gripping news story after news story. It is difficult to hear the more subtle communication from our spirit and bodies in such a fast-moving world. One of the beautiful things about carving out time in our lives to settle the mind and calm the nervous system is that our priorities and our deepest values come into greater clarity. Our inner wisdom can be accessed through the respect of deep and patient listening, and our lives aided by this clarity as guide. It also gives us a taste of how slowing down makes us feel, a lesson we can then bring to our daily life to be motivated to take some mindful pauses throughout the day.

I have just come back from a long meditation retreat, and the felt sense of connecting with simplicity, my body, and the earth is incredibly invigorating and soothing at the same time. Each of my retreat experiences has taught me something profound, humbling, and has left no doubt as to the immense power of turning toward the inner life. We must build up to these longer experiences of retreat. This mindfulness workshop might offer the next right bite-sized step on your journey.

I have been asked by the people who I have taught drop-in mindfulness meditation classes as well as those who have attended my 6-week workshop to offer a weekend workshop. Some work on weekday evenings or have too many responsibilities to take 6 consecutive weekday evenings to devote to this. I value listening to the varying needs of the communities I serve and finding ways of meeting these needs. The weekend format offers a concentrated and spacious container to allow the teachings to be felt in a deep way – leaving inspiration for regular practice and a taste of what mindfulness can bring to life. It would offer a deeper practice even if you have taken one of my 6-week workshops.

The Buddha did not mediate in air-conditioned rooms. Because he meditated under trees and on the earth, many of his teachings use nature metaphors. They teach that we can learn about ourselves by the direct experience of observing nature and vice versa. He taught that the internal world is a mirror of the external one. Most of the time in the Pacific Northwest it’s impractical to meditate outdoors for longer stretches of time, but summer affords a unique opportunity. When we lay on the grass and look up at the sky we are learning something about about perspective and how to cope with life. But how often do we pause in the forward momentum of life to do this?

The world of elements is contained in our bodies – the elements of fire, water, air, earth – when connected to externally soothe us into a slower rhythm and when connected to internally provide us a grounding and balanced way to be in relation with the waves of the 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows of a life. Our senses naturally perk up in nature, where we evolved to pay attention to survive, and to connect with the present moment in this way allows us to feel enlivened. (yes that’s the reason for my name as Enliven Meditation!)

The natural world is also a great teacher of the wisdom characteristics of accepting that things change, that we suffer when we hold on, and that things are a lot less personal than we take them to be. It is one thing to understand these teachings intellectually. It is another to connect to them from a deeper place of embodiment and through direct experience. This deeper understanding will allow us to use the teachings when we need them most, and they have the power to set us free. We will observe nature through these lenses and discover how they affect how we feel. Connecting to the beauty of the natural world, the cycles, the impermanence, we will see how it is a mirror to our own beauty and cycles - and how we can worry less about our worth and practice softening as things change.

When we are in doing mode it is so easy to gloss over listening driven by the feeling that there is not enough time. In this weekend we will be able to examine what mindful communication means. It starts with listening. Listening to ourselves, cutting through layers of conditioning and reactivity to see what deeper parts of us are imploring us to hear. Thus, examining what it means to listen with discernment to hear what is true. Also, what it means to listen to others from a place of respect, and to examine what common obstructions exist for hearing. Listening to the natural environment that we will be meditating in is another great bridge for contemplating this topic. What does it really mean to listen deeply?

From this point we’ll examine the guidelines for mindful speech practice. Questions such as i) is it true?, ii) is it helpful?, iii) is it from the heart?, and iv) is it good timing? help us weave mindfulness practice into daily life. Furthermore, mindfulness was not taught in a vacuum. It was taught alongside an ethical framework that supports our path of aligning our actions more and more with our heart. From a psychological perspective we’ll examine what triggers are, and how to slow things down so that we may chose a wise response rather than react, often in manners that hurt ourselves or others. Change is possible - awareness precedes choice.

The whole weekend will be imbued with the mindful qualities of warmth, acceptance, kindness, and compassion. These are qualities of heart that we can practice: which means they improve when we are conscious of taking opportunities for exercising them. This workshop will aim to show you how and give you opportunities to practice. No matter where we start from, we build from there.

We will practice the four postures of meditation: sitting down, walking, standing, and laying down. Any of these can be used at any time if sitting down does not work for you. We will have a shade structure under which to meditate, and chairs can be brought to sit on. There are beautiful grounds to practice walking meditation.

The natural world can be a support to us to soften back into trust, it can recalibrate our nervous system, it offers a wider perspective any time we need. This is a workshop designed to listen to the lessons of nature, and connect with something much wider than the confines of a small sense of self - often engendering awe. It has infinite wisdom – always here for us to listen to, be supported by, and learn from.

Here are some FAQ’s people have asked -

Will I have to speak in front of the group?

No. You always have the option to contribute through your presence and listening. That is a tremendous contribution. If there is group discussion, you can always say “pass”.

What will I have to bring?

A chair if you’d like to sit on one, snack and your lunch. A bathing suit, water shoes if you wish, and towel if you’d like to swim in the ocean! Rain gear just in case. A journal.

What are the steps to register?

I speak with all people who wish to sign up in order to have a conversation about what to expect, make sure there is alignment between what they want to get out of the workshop and what it is designed to offer, and see if it’s the right fit for their needs. You can call me on 250-668-4847 or email me to set up a time to speak on the phone: sarah@enlivencounselling.com.

Because workshops such as these can sometimes open things up for a person, if you are undergoing a crisis it likely wouldn’t be a good fit unless you have tools to ground yourself and manage triggers. This phone conversation also gives you a familiarity with me before you make your decision to take the workshop, and allows you to ask any questions you might have. Some people don’t like to talk on the phone, and other options are FaceTime, Skype, or email – just let me know if this is the case for you.

A $110 deposit will be taken to confirm registration. This can be done via e-transfer or PayPal. Final payment of a further $110 will be due one week before the workshop commences as this is a limited seat event. A waitlist will be collected and if you have to cancel you will be refunded unless there is no one to take your seat in which case you will forego your payment. Please be committed before you put down your deposit.

What if I am coming from further away and don’t want to drive home?

What a great idea! You could decide to stay Friday and/or Saturday nights and make it an even more restful experience. There are 2 beds available in the beach house on the property we will be using that can be rented for a fee. These are first come, first served. There is also the Kiwi Cove Lodge which is very close by. Please book ASAP: www.kiwicovelodge.com

What if it rains?

This is a rain or shine event. As it is summer even if it rains it’s unlikely to be cold under our covered shelter. Bring rain coat and shoes. Doing a walking meditation under the rain can be a beautiful experience! But you will not be required to walk under the rain, you can always choose to continue practicing under the rain shelter.


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