Stillness, sound and starlight: a Sunseed meditation retreat
Nestled deep in the heart of the Andalusian mountains, in the bustling Los Molinos ecovillage we are gifted with a weekend of calm and tranquillity, of looking deep within and also making a profound connection with others and the natural world that surrounds us. On the third weekend in July, this came in the form of the Sunseed meditation retreat, with the theme of ‘being at ease.’
We began on a Friday evening, in the candlelit sanctuary of the Casa Rosa, with a round of introductions and a simple breathing exercise to start off. The weekend continued with an engaging mix of talks, meditations and mindful walks in nature, gently guided by Siggy’s wealth of practice and experience on the subject.
I found my own meditation practice challenged by the Hindu and Buddhist approaches that we learned, much more rooted in sitting in complete stillness than I’m used to! It’s a mark of great discipline I think to be fully relaxed and rooted in the earth with nothing to guide you but your breath. All the participants, from many walks of life, benefited in some way from this immersion in deep silence and introspection.
We learned a range of meditation techniques, including Indian mudras (hand positions) to embody different emotions, such as compassion and loving kindness. We also learned the Feldenkrais, Yoga Nidra and Pranayama techniques, all of which focus on deep breathing and connecting with our bodies in a way we rarely do in everyday life.
We talked about using our voices and bodies to release stress and trauma that can build up, and can be painful but is necessary for achieving our goal of ‘being at ease.’ Siggy made the comparison to the way that animals go through an extraordinary amount of trauma but don’t show traumatic symptoms unless they are held in captivity or attacked by humans. They release this trauma alone through their bodies, shaking violently and feeling it completely for as long as they need to, then going back to their normal lives. We find many ways of burying trauma and pain, via a hundred different distractions in the form of substances or processes, but to truly be at ease, it must be physically felt and then released. We did this through a ‘talking and listening’ exercise, listening to a partner describe who they are without stopping for five minutes, and without reacting in any way. This kind of ‘automatic talking’, paired with simply being with ourselves, brought up issues in many of us things we might have buried, to deal with in a safe and embracing environment.
My favourite gifts of this course though, were the evening sessions on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday we went down to the beautiful stone labyrinth and sat in a circle in the candlelit twilight, and created our own ‘symphony’ of sounds, whatever came to us in the moment. The result was a sometimes amusing, sometimes intriguing combination of sounds. Eventually we trailed off into silence, honoured by the flickering candles and bright moonlight lighting our circle.
On Sunday evening we went up to the roof terrace of the Mirador and stargazed, watching as more and more stars appeared in the darkening dusk. It also became an impromptu cloud spotting, as the bright moonlight lit up the passing clouds that rarely appear this time of year in Los Molinos, and satellite and plane spotting too! It was a treasured chance for the mostly city-bound attendees to connect with our unpolluted night sky.
We finished with a check-in circle and final meditation on the Monday morning, and finally our goodbyes, met with smiles and tears all round. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to examine and expand my own practice, but mostly to have shared this space so intimately with such wonderful people. I look forward to attending another of Siggy’s retreats in the future!
By EVS volunteer Sophie
If this has piqued your interest, check out details of our next retreats here.