‘The miracle is not to walk on water.
The miracle is to walk on the green earth,
dwelling deeply in the present moment
and feeling truly alive.’
Thich Nhat Hanh
Mindfulness for writers: nature, land, creative & reflective writing, & haiku & haibun intensive
5-DAY ONLINE RETREATS 2020 & 2021
Monday 10th August – Friday 14th inclusive 2020
Monday 5th October – Friday 9th inclusive, 2020
Monday 4th January – Friday 9th inclusive, 2021
See bottom of page for costs and options.
Now, mid-October, we’ve just completed the second week. Scroll to bottom to see what some participants have said.
‘Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.’ Jon Kabat-Zinn
Listen to my podcast on the practice of mindfulness here.
Could you, in these uncertain times, do with being in touch with a deep, still part of yourself, in the company of the universe?
What you can expect
‘I feel so sad to be closing the week but it has been a great experience. You put together such a good course. It has gently built over the days until today which really is work for the whole weekend ahead, with the BIG question, the haibun and the love letter…’ Participant on the August 2020 group; more comments at bottom of page.
These sessions will:
Remind you to remember the living universe of which you’re part
Teach you simple techniques to deal moment-by-moment with our tendency to get lost in fears, anxieties, regrets and judgements
Offer you ways of staying more present and connected throughout your day, less thrown off balance by transience and uncertainty, and more choice in how you respond
Deepen your intimacy with yourself and with Other
Deepen the quality of your attention to your life, your human relationships and your relationships with the rest of the natural world (and remind you that we’re never NOT in relationship)
Offer you a question, some writing tasks and a few inspiring lines each day to ‘fire up’ your imagination
Offer you ways in to and expert advice on writing haiku (after all, it’s easy to write 3-line poems, but often very hard to write a halfway decent haiku) and Zen-style prose haibun.
Why I use the Zen-based mindfulness approach
Mindfulness as it is known in the West is primarily associated with stress reduction. It has accelerated enormously in popularity, since it can be extremely beneficial, therapeutic and relaxing. The person largely responsible for this movement is Jon Kabat-Zinn, whose book Wherever You Go, There You Are has lived by my bed and been a profound, reliable and inspirational guide since I was given it in 1994.
I include Zen mindfulness meditation rather than the more popular MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) practice as the Zen approach, as I mention below, is about our relationship to everything, rather than specifically for our own wellbeing – although clearly it also helps with that.
So mindfulness is also more than a tool for stress reduction. In its original form and as part of a Zen outlook, it has a psychospiritual component, and is a joyful, present-moment-focused way of giving attention to each passing moment, our relationship with the self and essential nature, and our intimacy with the whole of the animate world – which is to say everything. (Original Zen practice very much involved the rest of the natural world, and the fact of our interconnectedness.)
I love how Zoë Williams in her column in the Guardian weekend magazine of 11.11.17 expressed it: ’The problem with mindfulness is that it spread across the world unhinged from the philosophy of human goodness that was supposed to underpin it… Mindfulness has to be principled, otherwise it’s just a guy in California eating a raisin really, really slowly.’
So it’s also about reflecting on how we live.
Even five minutes of this practice can open up a sense of spaciousness in your life.
For a writer, it’s an opportunity, too, to renew your intimacy with your pen (yes, pen, not cursor).
Zen practice is about living, not about ‘believing’
Unlike monotheism, Zen is not a religion, does not require belief, doesn’t offer dogma or doctrine, and is not a cult. You don’t have to sign up for anything at all. It doesn’t separate human from human or from the other-than-human; it doesn’t separate matter from spirit. And, in fact, there’s nowhere to get to but right here, right now. It’s about taking time to really experience your experience, which helps you make wise choices.
So Zen mindfulness is a way of cutting through all the rubbish to ‘clear mind’, a way of peeling back the layers of conditioning and habits so that you can as the Buddha said ‘make of yourself a light’, of stripping away some fears and regrets and uncertainties, of living in a simpler, more profound, more connected, compassionate and harmonious way.
It’s also not something you do in 20 minutes on a cushion or chair once a day; as my late Zen teacher used to say, mindfulness begins when you get off the meditation cushion.
So one thing this intensive course offers is a way of bringing yourself present to your daily moments – on purpose and non-judgmentally.
Part of the point of this practice is to remind us that we are all part of natural world, the web of being. You will be expected to spend time outdoors, looking, listening, being and writing, and recording the passing moment, inner and outer.
This will be a time for quiet reflection and dwelling. You will also be bringing your attention to your relationships, including with the other-than-human, and gently questioning whether how you live your life is how you want to live your life.
What does this have to do with poetry? Well, firstly you’ll be doing a fair amount of creative and reflective writing. Also, there are two literary artforms that are specifically connected with Zen mindfulness. One is the well-known haiku; the other the prose equivalent, haibun (a form I particularly like, and have been teaching for over 20 years). Both these are ways of simultaneously exploring present-moment awareness, and of expressing it. Rich, insightful but pared-back, they can offer insight to others, too.
Each day will offer writing tasks, a question, usually at least one poem, and an image that might inspire your own writing.
There will be a private Facebook group. You are strongly encouraged to sign up, even if you delete your account afterwards – I find from the tree course that the support and exchange of creative work and information between participants is enormously inspiring and helpful for everyone.
IN 2021, the retreat week will involve Zoom meetings as an optional extra. See below.
There will also be the option of one-to-one mentoring with me (once again, see below).
You can read more here.
On my SoundCloud page I speak about Zen mindfulness meditation practice.
HOW IT WORKS
This is a guided but solo week. I will send you a PDF for each day’s work the night before it’s due, plus the Introduction and the Practicals PDFs the weekend before the course starts.
There are two ways of working with this week’s practice, both very different. Think about which is for you before you begin.
One is to join our private Facebook group, where you will find inspiration, enthusiasm, participants’ creative and reflective work, and generous peer feedback (plus a little from me). I recommend this option; it adds a significant dimension to the week and a sense of deep companionship.
The other, and I really only recommend this for people who are self-motivated and used to retreat-style work, is to approach this week in a spirit of real retreat: minimising all external distractions and having a break from whatever your entertainment ‘tics’ are: TV, radio, computer, phone etc. I notice that people who go for the solo option but do not ‘fit’ the above description tend to fall away.
The week, with or without facebook, costs £125. I can usually offer one concessionary place for someone in genuine need. NB If you sign up as a couple or a pair of friends, you do still each have to purchase the course separately. If you introduce a new person to my work and it results in a booking, I can offer you (but not your friend, sorry) a discount of £10.
If you want to sign up for the Zoom option, which will involve a daily meeting of between 45 and 90 minutes depending on numbers, to share your work and receive very brief feedback, the total cost is £150.
If you would like a response from me on up to 8 pages of your reflective and creative work produced during the week, it’s an extra £95 (you don’t have to decide before booking: you can choose to add this option during or immediately after the retreat). Contact me via the form below, and I will give you details for paying by Paypal or bank transfer.
The Small Print
• there are no refunds available on this course
• in signing up you agree that, if you want to work with a friend, that person needs to sign up and pay separately
• all the material is copyright and cannot be shared or reproduced elsewhere without my written permission (it’s how I make my living).
You need to know that this is intensive, and you will need to practise every day with time outside, a self-directed formal mindfulness session (following my guidance) and some writing, and further mindfulness check-ins with yourself during the day, even if only a few minutes at a time.
This will be most effective if you can see it as a semi-retreat. If you are extremely busy, you might want to think about freeing up time later in the year. Although most participants will likely not be taking the whole week out as a retreat and the practice will probably need to be fitted around daily life, this practice is best approached when you have the time not to experience this as another pressure on the ‘to do’ list, and can devote, say, a whole morning to it, with periods to ‘dip in’ during the day.
You will need to set aside a little time to be outdoors, no matter what the weather. There will be a psychological component to this material, and in order to immerse yourself you need to expect to spend at least one, and later a couple of hours a day with the process.
If this sounds like something you might commit to, please drop me a note via the contact form below, mentioning Mindfulness & Poetry.
FEEDBACK ON THE 2020 WEEKS
‘It has been SO inspiring and it has given me a fantastic kick up the bum, lots of material to draw from. What you give is absolutely priceless. I can’t thank you enough. Xxxxx’ MG
‘I have written haiku in the past, but not with such excellence guidance and advice. I’ve taken a lot from this week. Thanks again for a wonderful course.’ MR
‘I have thoroughly enjoyed these five days and some interesting things have come up for me. I really went for the retreat element and [Facebook] felt incompatible with that. I have tried to avoid TV and radio and to concentrate even more than usual on the world around me. I have spent more time questioning and writing than I usually allow myself, and I have enjoyed it.’ CG
‘Thank you. It’s an been amazing week. You have a unique blend of skills that enables people to take risks and grow. I have learned that rather than trying to write, I need to be still and words will come unbidden, though whether that will work so well without your gentle direction, I will see! The morning bright moment has been a revelation…’ GS
‘[This has] been a quietly life-changing experience for me. It’s made me realise how much I’ve been missing.’ MS
‘I can’t begin to thank you enough for this wonderful course. It has been such a tonic and inspiration as well as fun and thought provoking. You have been so kind and supportive to the group and my only sadness is that we weren’t able to meet on it as a residential course.’ AW
‘I feel so sad to be closing the week Roselle but it has been a great experience. You put together such a good course. It has gently built over the days until today which really is work for the whole weekend ahead, with the BIG question, the haibun and the love letter. I have enjoyed the discipline of getting back to a notebook. I tend to always use the computer now cos it’s so easy to copy and paste but I have a notebook full of thoughts and ideas… And if you fancy doing a part 2 at some point, count me in.’ MA
‘Thank you so much for this wonderful course. I enjoyed the whole process. I’ve never found meditation did anything for me, but this has opened a tiny crack in my wall and I’m going to continue to see how far it takes me. I looked forward to every day, each new task was so interesting and made me search into myself. Fantastic! I feel it has deepened and widened my writing and made me more confident of ‘being’ in that level or frame, or state, which is what I’ve been searching for unknowingly for many years! The Tongues in Trees started the process and Writing the Bright Moment has continued strengthening it in me. You are a magician at giving people confidence to write from their true inner cores, which is where the magic of each person’s creativity starts… a thousand thanks to you for helping me get there.’ CJ
‘So, we find ourselves at the end of our week together. Thank you so much Roselle and all you fine [Facebook group] folk for helping me to restore myself to myself – if that makes sense? The writing prompts have taken me to places I needed to visit.’ DA
‘Thank you for a lovely week’s retreat. I have benefitted greatly from it, but I still find haiku very difficult! It looks as if we will have a nice Facebook group as an extra bonus too.’ MvH
‘A great thank you from me too to Roselle and all of you other participants. What a great course – with just the right amount of challenge, but also so much emphasis too on acceptance and not forcing anything, on being still… I so enjoyed the exercises every day in the garden, Roselle’s wise teachings, and also all of the pieces of writing here on facebook. I loved reconnecting basically with What is Good for the Soul (poetry, nature, mindfulness), and am full of intention to try and keep this going…’ HTJ
‘I have stoked up enough writing this week – and practice – to keep me going for a long while. So much to work on and to work with! I want to thank Roselle for putting this virtual course together, and to everyone here [on Facebook] for reading my writing and for being SO encouraging!’ RC
And from someone who chose the mentored option, August 2020:
‘I found it a very helpful and thoughtful commentary and I am probably in agreement with all you have suggested. I would like to send you a more considered reply when I have had time to fully digest. For now though I can say that I have been really pleased with the PNM course and feel I achieved so much in that week... I found [it] extremely enjoyable, inspirational and productive. Thank you so much for creating it and putting together such well thought out assignments each day.‘ MA