mindfulness

October Newsletter

Write It Down! Spain 2019 is over – Bring on 2020!

Afternoons are for dreaming and writing

Afternoons are for dreaming and writing

It feels like Elaine has given me a precious gift that will last a lifetime – the confidence to write and the understanding of how to write. Where I thought I had nothing to say, I now feel that my life is significant enough to write my memories and that I can do this for the rest of my life. I have found my voice and feel renewed and empowered.’ Siobhan

The most perfect holiday. I have felt so looked after and nurtured. A life affirming combination of walking, meditation, writing and food in a beautiful house and location. Thank you, Elaine.’ Kate

We are thrilled to announce that we have been chosen by Guardian Travel as one of their TOP TEN LIFE-CHANGING RETREATS WORLDWIDE plus Finca Buenvino, our Andalucian farmhouse home, has been chosen as one of Alastair Sawday’s 25 Favourite Places To Stay in Europe.


Now October is here, and that means saying goodbye to Finca Buenvino for 2019. Thank you to Sam, Jeannie, Charlie and Jago Chesterton for being the very best hosts any writing group could ever wish for. This year has been wonderful – and as ever, we have shared lots of laughter, some tears and much, much brilliant writing.

BUT no need to fret! As we have confirmed dates for 2020. Booking has now started so, I know everyone says this, but I do advise you to book early to guarantee a place. Buenvino has five exquisite bedrooms, all with private bathrooms and glorious views, some available to share and groups are limited to seven guests to ensure that everyone gets the appropriate encouragement, nurturing and attention.

Here’s the link for more info: http://write-it-down.co.uk/spain 

2020 Dates

Saturday 20th – Saturday 27th June

Saturday 4th – Saturday 11th July

Saturday 5th – Saturday 11th September

Prices:
£1800 twin room

£2200 private room

Prices include all expenses, minus travel to/from Seville.

Once in a while, you have a holiday experience that you know will stay with you for a very long time. Buenvino and Elaine’s retreats are a magical combination.’ Francesca
Elaine’s calm, positive encouragement is infectious. The combination of beautiful, tranquil surroundings, a stunning property, relaxing meditations, hugely interesting walks and thoughtful and diverse writing sessions all serve to make this a truly inspiring experience.’ Sue

Hope to see you in Andalucia in 2020!

The Benefits of Being Alone

What living and travelling on my own has taught me

On the beach in Portugal as a participant in  a Heal The Healers retreat in January 2019 - thanks to  Casa Fuzetta

On the beach in Portugal as a participant in a Heal The Healers retreat in January 2019 - thanks to Casa Fuzetta

For the very first time in my life, I’m home alone.

After years of ‘boomeranging’ my adult sons have gone and a couple of months ago, my youngest moved out. She and her boyfriend got their own place, albeit only 30 minutes up the road. For 53 years I’ve cooked, washed, cleaned and looked after other people and absolutely loved it. It’s been noisy, chaotic, exhilarating, terrifying, challenging but almost always, very rewarding. I’ve been a lover, a mother and a carer and before that, I was a 17-year-old daughter living at home with two parents, three younger siblings – and a dog. Now the only beating heart in my home is my own and every room in my three-bed, two-bathroom flat is just for me.

I expected to feel lonely when everyone finally left and took most of their things. I expected to feel sad and yes, initially all the clichés of the ‘one pint of milk and a small, festering loaf of bread’, judgemental stares from the empty mega fridge-freezer, family-sized dishwasher and large-capacity washing machine were true. But bizarrely, I feel 30 years younger and ten feet taller.

The other night, stressing out about not falling asleep as quickly as I wanted, a voice whispered in my ear, ‘Your job is done.’  Freaked out, I changed track in my head and concentrated on my breath and hit back into the mindfulness meditation techniques on which I can always rely. The next morning I realised what that was all about. Yes, my job is done in so many ways. My three kids are happy in their own homes and achieving amazing things professionally, but finally being alone has shone a light on what I have achieved, especially in the last 20 years since my husband died. It has given me space to recognise my own strengths – holding the family together, supporting them emotionally (and sometimes financially) and using my experience and skills to start a new career that I love, empowering others by writing down my life and encouraging everyone to do the same.

Also, maybe I have relied too much, for too long on my children’s company. If ever there has been a film to see, an exhibition to visit, a new travel adventure to plan my first thought has always been, ‘Would Jamie, Will or Lu like to do that with me?’ I have been enormously lucky that a lot of the time, they have said yes. But, it’s time I finally let go and moved on. Found out who I really am and what I want to do for the next maybe 30 years of my life. And lately I’ve discovered that it IS possible to make fabulous new friends when you’re older, you just have to travel more on your own!

2019 lies ahead and I welcome it with open arms. I have no ailing parents to care for, no partner to accommodate, no grandchildren (yet), no health issues that I’m aware of, no car, no mortgage – and no dog. For the very first time in my life I have no dependants, apart from an ever-increasing army of spider plants. The only person I have to look after is myself. What I have always dreaded has turned out to be a true liberation.

            A recent report in the UK press stated that, according to the Resolution Foundation report, we are happiest in our lives at 16 and 70. That we are happier, more satisfied and feel a greater sense of self-worth in our earlier years – and again as we approach older age.

I’m 70 in September. Bring it on! 

IMG_5748.jpeg

The Power Of Nature To Heal

IMG_2146.jpg

Photo of the Sierra De Aracena by Charlie Chesterton, chef at Finca Buenvino. Follow him on Instagram @foodsunandfun

I’m writing this in a café in north London, down wind from the peppery scent of their Christmas tree. Outside, the sky is blue and the sun shines.

I want to go and play outside, Mum!

Every year it’s the same – every year I’m crawling the walls by December, desperate for sun and fresh air, and yet the answer is in my own hands. Not more extra spending on a possibly-effective SAD light, but getting my butt moving; wrap up, shape up and get out of doors. And not to Savers, Sainsbury’s or another ‘indoors’ but really OUT, OUT.

Whatever the weather.

As a child I found such happiness spending whole days outside –looking after the cows on a near-by dairy farm, searching for shells on the beach, roaming the fields on the family allotment, deep in the Hampshire countryside. All places where I could escape into my imagination, undisturbed by my parents or siblings and find peace and happiness Now, I want a life more in walking boots and waterproofs and less in make-up and outfits socially acceptable for city-living. I want mud. I want to feel my heart race as I climb a hill or mountain and my spirits soar as I reach the summit and gasp at the landscape before me.

The power of the natural world to heal and inspire  is something I need to remember in the dark, indoors days of winter in the Northern hemisphere. Plus now there’s digital help at our fingertips. I’ve joined a Whatsapp group called ‘Nature Therapy Counsel’ which encourages the sharing of photos of the natural landscape. There’s  the website Spirit Of The Trees which ‘provides poetry, folk tales, myths for tree lovers’ and as I type, on my laptop  I have my headphones plugged into a Youtube tape of 11 Hours of  Tranquil Birdsong.

Author Matt Haig was quoted in the Guardian Review recently, in relation to his experience of depression, saying, ‘…the day I realised I was going to be OK was the April after my breakdown, the sun came out and I almost felt a literal weight being lifted.’  And I’ll will be OK too, when the higher light levels return. In May, I’m back in wooded landscape of  the Sierra De Aracena National Park in Andalucia to run writing retreats and there we’ll spend almost all day outside -  meditation sessions, writing workshops, guided walks and eating lunch and dinner – but in the meantime I must  take more advantage of London’s myriad of parks and wild spaces for my mental health, whatever the weather. ‘Tis verily the season for bringing the greenery in but I need to get out as well.

This poem by the American author and poet Wendell Berry is my Christmas gift to you:

When despair for the world grows in me 

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, 

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. 

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.’

© Wendell Berry.  From “The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry”

Autumn Celebration

A time to say thank you…

Sam Chesterton, owner of Finca Buenvino, arranging flowers for the drawing room

Sam Chesterton, owner of Finca Buenvino, arranging flowers for the drawing room

Elaine, you are an inspirational teacher and I wish you could have been the course leader on my MA! You’ve encouraged us all with such sensitivity, perception, creativity and fun that I’ll always want to go on writing! Thank you for interconnecting with us all on a deep level and sharing your life and talents with us.

We have had a wonderful year at Finca Buenvino in 2018 - filled with laughter, love, generosity and gratitude. We have met so many new writers and taken such great pleasure in sharing with them the superb hospitality and food of Sam, Jeannie and Charlie Chesterton - introducing them to the high hills of the Andalucian landscape, the joys of sharing mealtimes, guided walks, mindfulness meditation sessions and of course, the transformational power of writing down our lives in notebooks.

IMG_0434.jpg

The infinity, salt-water pool which overlooks the Sierra De Aracena Y Picos De Aroche National Park. Finca Buenvino sits in 150 wooded acres which we explore every day, always taking time to sit and write sensory observations and stories in our small notebooks which we carry everywhere.

I will leave it up to comments from my writers on our September week to explain the benefits of a Write It Down! holiday at BV. Thanks to all of them and to everyone who has joined me during the last four years. We will be back here in May, June and September 2019.

The teaching method’s were superb; constant gentle nudges that got you out of your comfort zone and made your heart and mind wake-up and produce writing that I didn’t know was there - non-judgemental, sensitive, fun, very creative and caring to us all. I would recommend this holiday to anyone interested in writing.’ Heather.
IMG_0591.jpg
Elaine’s teaching created a very good team spirit, pushed us a little so we could all get a lot from the course but did so with humour throughout that was always encouraging. This holiday has finally got me started on a long held resolve to start writing - it was a very enjoyable, relaxing and therapeutic experience. David.