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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.

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

This is the third Moroccan blog post.  It introduces some ideas about mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), self-criticism and problem solving.

So yesterday we drove East and South from Marrakech across the Atlas - the road, our driver said, winding up to over 6,500 feet (about 2,000 meters) before heading back down to the plain that eventually after many kilometers will become the Sahara.

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

This is the second of 11 blog posts about going to Morocco to walk "mindfully" in the Sahara desert.  This post covers the arrival in Marrakech.

5.00am - the calls of the muezzin increase in volume. This seems a good time to meditate. All around, here in the Marrakech medina, many others will be praying.

... and now it's over an hour later. I sat quietly listening. The cocks crew lustily as the muezzin calls ebbed away. Normally in Edinburgh I would be up at this time. It's quite a solitary, quiet time of day. Interesting just now, comforting in a way, to feel the sincere activity of many in this city at that early hour.

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

This is the first of 11 blog posts about going to Morocco to walk "mindfully" in the Sahara desert.  This post gives a bit of background to the trip.

6.00am - the old clock has just sounded in my cousin's house in London. We arrived yesterday evening, flew down from Edinburgh, came across London, had a great meal with my cousin, his wife, their daughter, and dear Kieran, our son, who'd cycled over from his flat further East. I woke this morning an hour or so ago and lay thinking about the trip ahead. At 8.00am, Catero, my wife, and I are due to head down to Victoria and take a train out to Gatwick airport. Hopefully we'll meet up with four friends there and catch a plane to Marrakech. We should then get together with a couple more friends at the little hotel we've booked in the Medina. Tomorrow we're due to be picked up by two 4x4's and driven over the Atlas mountains down towards the Sahara desert.

Ways of coping: theory & personal experience

In blog postings earlier this month, I've talked about supporting my Mum after her recent couple of strokes.  She's been shipped through three different hospitals and now is more peaceful in a nursing home.  It's sad - very sad at times - and it's great that she seems more comfortable, better looked after, and more content.  I definitely feel easier too.  Less weight on my shoulders, less emotional aching.

Friendship, life planning, & expressing emotions

Yesterday and today are a check-in time with my friend Larry.  I've written in a previous blog post how Larry and I have met every three or four months for many years specifically to review how our lives are going and to plan and prioritize our goals for the next few months.  "Taking charge" of our lives in this kind of way makes huge sense.  For example the self-determination literature (S-DT)  highlights the importance of making autonomous decisions about what we put our energy into.  This S-DT research and much other work (e.g. a recent study on goal-setting) also emphasises that this kind of approach is a core component of growing wellbeing in one's life.  Yeats wrote something like "A friend is someone who sees the potential in you and helps you to live it."  Meeting with an old friend in the way Larry and I have done, is certainly an example of what Yeats was talking about.

Peer groups: Wiston autumn group – second reflection

Yesterday was a normal day's work for me.  The group is getting a bit more distant.  In writing the reflection yesterday, I skipped past the structure of the final morning.  Waking, writing, tea, fruit, greeting, breakfast.  We negotiated details of the final morning timings.  The start was the last meeting of our small foursome support group.  Then we moved to a session in our groups of 12 or 13, and we ended with 45 minutes in the full group of 37.

Precious.  I deeply appreciate how I can be randomized - names out of a hat - to pretty much any other 3 to form a small support group, and if we work to be honest/authentic, sensitive/perceptive, caring/kind (see the communication scales) nearly always the time we spend together becomes hugely rich.  Yes, this is partly because our experiences in the wider group changes us and help us to be more and more open with each other in these small support groups - and it's partly because the quality of our interaction and mutual support in these small groups helps us be more true and courageous in the larger groups.

Peer groups: Wiston autumn group – first reflection

When I woke this morning I lay for a few minutes, asked myself how I felt, went inside, and there's sadness, a sense of tears in my chest.  And when I touch the sadness, try to sense what it's about, it seems about "missing", missing warmth, the hugs, a sea of kindness and smiling faces (and, of course, there's my mother's illness too).  I guess that's what it was like for me at the group.  In the morning, every single one of the other 36 men seemed more than happy to greet me with a big caring smile and a big hug too.  A sea of kindness, smiles, warmth.  And I return from the Men's Group to a very loving family, a very loving wife, a phone call with a dear son, time with a loving mother - but I still feel this sadness in my chest.  Something partly about brotherhood, and I know I can touch this kind of feeling too after the four day Spring Mixed Group.  Something about warmth and love and acceptance and kindness.  A sea of it.

Peer groups: Wiston autumn group – fourth morning

Yesterday I was away from the group for most of the day.  I started as usual - got up, wrote, met others, breakfast.  Then we came together briefly as the full 37 standing in a big circle outside the house on the gravel.  OK, we had already been the full 37 having breakfast, but coming together in the big circle helped me (and probably many others) feel part of the bigger group.  The circle was used for practical housekeeping around timings during the day and other issues, but there also seemed to be another important function in physically creating the holding circle of the full group.

We'd agreed to have breakfast ½ hour earlier than usual at 8.30am, so having the circle for twenty minutes or so at 9.15am still allowed our small support groups of 4 to meet for well over an hour up to 11.00am.  We'd agreed then to have a tea break and run the groups of 12-13 from 11.15 to lunch at 1.30.  Then a post-lunch period which people use to walk, talk, play, rest, and also for optional special interest groups - with the themes being offered by various people who wanted a chance to explore various issues more deeply.  We were then to meet again as the full group at 4.30.

Peer groups: Wiston autumn group – third morning

So yesterday was the second full day of the group and it went roaring along - like holidays where initially time moves slowly and then seems to accelerate.  Here the "train" of group memories seems to gather pace for me by this second day.  My sense has been that for all three of the mid-size groups of 12-13, the first day was at times quite a struggle - what are we here for?  Do I really emotionally trust these other people?  Do they like and accept me?  Is it safe to take risks and be vulnerable here?  Might I end up feeling rejected, humiliated or abandoned?  All of these seem totally sensible questions to me, and I think they need to feel answered on a gut, not just a head level.

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