The Art of Stillness offers retreats that interweave meditation, creative expression and quiet reflection, to enhance your capacity to meet life’s challenges, cultivate joy and promote well-being
The Art of Stillness retreats and courses offer the opportunity for you to explore and learn, through the combination of mindfulness and conscious creative enquiry, the practice of being fully present to and accepting of each unfolding moment.
The Mindfulness Approach shows you that it is possible to learn how to change your relationship to challenging life events by utilising your own inner resources to find greater health and well-being.
Exploring mindfulness through conscious creative expression you enhance your experience by developing your capacity to think more creatively, become more solution focused and feel more empowered.
Benefits of Mindfulness & Conscious Creative Expression:
- Stress reduction
- Enhanced health & well-being
- Enhanced creativity
- More solution focused
- Feel more empowered
- Greater contentment
- More positive outlook
What is Conscious Creative Enquiry?
“Everything we do is an act of poetry or a painting if we do it with mindfulness.”
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hahn
The practice of meditation and inquiry has many similarities to creative work. The need to focus and become fully absorbed and present to the task at hand as well as developing the capacity to receive what arises, look deeply, generate ideas and develop solutions. The capacity to stay present to, and hold difficult feelings and emotions is enhanced by mindfulness practice and together with artistic expression gives you both the a means to express what is difficult to verbalise and another powerful tool to see how the mind works.
Using simple collage and image making, journal and creative writing, stillness and movement, sound making and listening, simple games and partner work we can explore being present to our habitual responses and learn ways of responding differently and more creatively.
To ‘Create’ means to ‘bring into being’, with Conscious Creative Enquiry we are exploring our potential to bring into being a more receptive, accepting, authentic and creative response to life that enhances our capacity for contentment and well being.
What is Mindfulness?
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way:
on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally”
Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present to, and accepting of each unfolding moment of our experience. By bringing our full attention to our thoughts, feelings, sensations and emotions we become more aware of our responses to life. We begin to see our habitual way of relating to events as they unfold and where we may be blocking our capacity to be more receptive to change and open to the wonder present in each moment. This deepening awareness allows us to be more accepting of ourselves and life’s challenges leading to a higher level of contentment and the cultivation of a more positive outlook. We begin to see the glass as half full rather than half empty.
Mindfulness, which is a Buddhist meditation technique, has become part of mainstream medicine and psychology due to the pioneering work of Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn who developed the mindfulness approach to help people deal with stress.
“The first function of mindfulness is to recognize what is there.
The second function of mindfulness is to embrace it and to get deeply in touch with it.”
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh
It seems simple, and it is. But it’ not easy! Somehow, the mind tends to have a will of it’s own and will usually skip from the past to the future and back again and rarely stays with the present. The reason our mind flits about like this is that our thoughts of the past and the future are hooked into our emotions.
So for instance memories of the past are usually connected with pleasure, regret, anger, or sadness, whereas thoughts of the future are usually linked in with anxiety or hope. We tend to spend most of our time with stories of past or fantasies of the future running through our minds. When we experience a challenging event like being told we have a serious illness our emotions can run high. Our thoughts may spin into ‘what if I die’, ‘I’ll never be able to cope’, ‘What if I lose my job,’ etc. It can be difficult to experience and rest in the present moment with just the facts and immediate practical matters needing attention.
With training and practice the mind will start to be more still and fully aware and less susceptible to being hooked by our thoughts and emotions.
Research into the benefits of mindfulness meditation*:
In Madison, Wisconsin, Dr Richard Davidson has been carrying out studies on Buddhist monks for several years.His personal belief is that “by meditating, you can become happier, you can concentrate more effectively and you can change your brain in ways that support that.”In one study he observed the brains of a group of office workers before and after they undertook a course of meditation combined with stress reduction techniques.
At the end of the course the participants’ brains seemed to have altered in the way they functioned. They showed greater activity in the left-hand side – a characteristic which Davidson has previously linked to happiness and enthusiasm. This idea that meditation could improve the wellbeing of everyone, even those not struggling with mental illness, is something that is exciting researchers. Professor Williams believes it has huge potential.
“It involves dealing with expectations, with constantly judging ourselves – feeling we’re not good enough,” he said.
“And, that is something which is so widespread in our communities.”
“All of these things are just thoughts. And, they will come up in meditation and learning to recognize what they are as thoughts, and let them go, can be enormously empowering for anybody.”
*Source: Scientists probe Meditation Secrets,
BBC web article by Naomi Law