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Social integration and a midsummer potluck lunch

We have fifty to sixty people due for lunch today.  I better not hang around writing blog postings for too long.  There's still lots of preparation work to do.  It's great.  I love these midsummer potluck lunches that we've been hosting for many years now.  It's such fun to invite most of our local social network and see them all mixing up together in a chaotic "soup".  Hard work.  Heart warming.  If we invite ninety or so people we normally reckon that about half of them will be able to make it, so today's "catch" is a pretty good one.  Nearly all our closest local friends will be here and mixed up with them will be other friends, acquaintances, new partners, a couple of children.  Fantastic.  There's plenty of preparation and dear Catero has done a lot of cooking but, since it's potluck, we're not trying to feed them all just from our own efforts.

Peer groups: Cumbria spring group - initial thoughts

It's the first morning of this year's "Mixed Group" in Cumbria.  I wrote about this group in some detail when we last met up almost exactly a year ago.  Lying in bed a little earlier on, I thought over why I'm here.  I should be reasonably clear about this by now - after all the group (with varying participants) has been meeting almost every year since 1991.

Fawcett Mill Fields entrance

Holiday, friendship and “meditation retreat” (eleventh post)

This is the eleventh and final post about the Moroccan trip - a reflection once I was back in Scotland. 

So it's before breakfast on Tuesday morning in Edinburgh.  We got back about 36 hours ago.  I'm now mostly into the swing of "normal, everyday life" again.  150 plus emails, piles of post, phone messages - the usual "welcome back" after being away.  I said at the end of the first post about this trip (just 12 days ago) " ... it feels a fun, slightly crazy thing to attempt - to try to combine/construct something that's a mix of adventure, holiday, time with good friends, and also a meditation retreat.  Like trying to play some strange mix of musical styles."  We achieved this well.  Good.  And now what's been brought back with us?

Holiday, friendship and “meditation retreat” (tenth post)

A brief tenth post - back in Marrakech and reflecting on the trip.

Back in the city - so woken by the Marrakech muezzin long before 5.00am.  Lying in the dark and then coming downstairs to read and write.  Yesterday we started in Hotel Irocha a bit north of Ourzazate.  Great shared group breakfast out on a veranda, then into the 4x4's to head up over the Atlas and down again to Marrakech.  With stops it was approximately a four hour trip.  Rain.  The first we'd seen since driving down to the desert, both an age and just a week ago.  Then back here to the little hotel at Dar Soukaina, haven in the busy-ness of the medina.  Welcoming fresh squeezed orange juice and green tea.  Some unpacking.

Holiday, friendship and “meditation retreat” (ninth post)

Here's a ninth Moroccan post - coming out of the desert - dancing, cold beer, mindfulness & consciousness

James enjoying a non-desert coffee! 

Here in the civilisation of Hotel Irocha, I woke early and then got up with the first tentative muezzin call from the local village.  It's now a bit before 5.00am.  I've been settled typing for a little and the calls become more demanding.  As on the first morning in Marrakech nearly a week ago, the muezzin call starts a cock crowing.  It's still pitch black.  The desert sunrise yesterday morning wasn't till well after 6.00am.

Holiday, friendship and “meditation retreat” (eighth post)

Eighth Moroccan post - last night in the desert.

Some of our guides singing & drumming

Last breakfast here in the desert - this one at an encampment at Erg Cheggaga.  We arrived last night after one of our longest day's walks (they haven't been very long).  I've not been wearing a watch since the first afternoon in the desert, but I guess we were walking for maybe a bit over 3 hours in the morning and then for a bit less than 3 hours in the afternoon. 

We're now in from the desert proper.  Tired.  We put up tents, ate under the stars, then sang.  Our five guides sang Berber songs, drumming on empty plastic containers.  Full of energy.  Our Western songs seemed quite sad, doleful, beside their rhythm.  We tried singing various tunes, but then came up with something that fitted - "She'll be coming round the mountain" complete with clapping and whooping.  That seemed to hit the spot for the guides!  Great.  Sad.  Lovely.  And we sang on and danced.  Then slept under the stars.  

Holiday, friendship and “meditation retreat” (seventh post)

And here's a briefer seventh Moroccan post looking a little at the internal "meditative methods" being used by various of us in the desert.

Following the camels

So at the lunch siesta today I asked our group what they had been doing in their heads while they were walking.  One person talked about simply "being with the walking and the breath".  They're a dancer and spoke of "dancing with the wind".  They said something too about "headlessness".  That took me back to the Incredible String Band and their 1960's song about Douglas Traherne Harding who lectured on "headlessness".  I remember staying the night at Douglas's home nearly 40 years ago!

Holiday, friendship and “meditation retreat” (sixth post)

This is the sixth - and a rather longer - Moroccan post.  It looks a little at mindfulness and interpersonal conflict. 

The

And after the siesta yesterday, we walked (again without the camels) up to the top of the highest "singing dune" (so-called because of the noise it sometimes makes in the wind).  We sat with the sun setting and then ran wildly down the steep, maybe 300 foot or so, slope of the dune.  Then back through the diminishing light to the camp.

There are two big tents - one for our five Berber guides - and the other for some of us.  We also have a couple of smaller two-man tents we can put up, if we want to ... and there's the special option too of sleeping out under the amazing stars!

Several of us have talked of seeing this trip as involving three intertwined themes - deepening our relationship with ourselves, deepening our relationship with the landscape, and deepening our relationship with each other.

Holiday, friendship and “meditation retreat” (fifth post)

This fifth Moroccan post is written two days into the desert walk with the mindfulness practice beginning to deepen.

Resting by the camels

This is the second full day in the desert.  We've been here about 48 hours.  Now is post-lunch siesta time.  Walking meditatively this morning was much easier than yesterday's walk.  I'm not wearing a watch, but I'd guess we walked initially today for between 1½ to 2 hours.  We then stopped in the shade of a tamarisk tree mound for water, nuts and raisins.  The mound was a bit small to shade our whole group - there are eight of us and five Berber guides.  I and the camels seem a bit more relaxed around each other after two days travelling together, so I simply sat in shade thrown by one of the resting camels.  It turned its neck to look at me with intelligent, inquisitive eyes and then seemed fine having me for company. 

Holiday, friendship and “meditation retreat” (fourth post)

This brief fourth Moroccan blog post describes some of the first day in the desert.

a few clouds catching the sunlight

Waking this morning in the encampment ... desert dawn ... a few clouds catching the sunlight ... people slowly emerge from their tents.  Camels wandering.  Packing up gradually.  Breakfast.  Then heading out through scattered tamarisk trees.  We've agreed we'll try walking mostly in silence.  Settling.  Relaxing the body.  Being aware of the surroundings.

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