In Summer 2016 I clicked onto a featured image and article on Facebook about an art and psychology retreat and organised time off as it seemed something I had to follow through. I didn’t have the money or knew where it was going to come from, I just knew I was going. I’m usually quiet money focused when it comes to priorities so this was a little unusual. Anyway I went with it! I organised the time off then the money and went!
I am interested in psychology and conscious living and dream theory interested me, it also said 24 hour art studio which really excited me. Also it was only in Windsor so very close by. I did plan to read Dark side of light chasers by Debbie Ford as starting point, so I knew more about Jung psychology but as the time came nearer I bough Diana, herself. An allegory of awakening by Martha Beck, a fantastic book though I didn’t have time to read it then and instead read Flow magazine in spare moments.
When I arrived I was greeted by cheerful older adults who gave me my introduction pack and welcomed me. Soon after we all gathered in a room for a meeting, more and more people came in all 10-50 years older than me and they all looked like professionals looking around me I felt out of place. I thought to myself I’m on the wrong course. I wasn’t, this was Champernowne Summer School and it would turn out to be the most interesting 5 days I could have and change my whole year.
My first instinct was right, everyone at the course was either a Psychotherapist, retired Psychotherapist or a full time Artist. So as a full time support worker and part time artist I wanted to kick myself that this was some sort of break away from the stress of their jobs, for those professionals to relax but also learn while away. Not for people interested in Psychology and Art to learn at a beginner level (these courses are for people doing in depth work in the helping profession, whoops!) My inner dialogue support system nudged me – You are welcome everywhere, a self actualised person doesn’t notice the difference between others in a new situation they just be themselves. So that’s exactly what I did, I relaxed a little and despite a few odd stares and introverted individuals (even more so than me) questions, all was well.
From a tour I had when I first arrived, I could tell the art space would be somewhere came a lot, down the spiral stairs and underground was the basement art studio. There were acrylic paints, tempera paints, ink, pencils, pens – many art supplies! My only hang up was there was no canvas, only paper. My mind whirred with questions Are there going to be any canvases? How can I do layers on paper? Could I drive home and get my toothbrush that I forgot and canvases? That seemed logical- something I need and something I want! Could I cope with just paper? Ordinarily I would have been ok with paper, though as I was away for 5 days I really wanted to make some art, I enjoyed using paper in the online course Painting with fire, this time I wanted a different experience.
The benefit of being away, even if it felt like the ‘wrong’ course was that I was in Windsor and the rooms inside the Private Cumberland Lodge were to me, pure luxury. The long tables at meal times proved to be an excellent chance for people to chat casually about how they felt and meet each other once again or for the first time. It was here that I met a lovely lady who dramatically changed my whole week! (We have remained friends too).
It was at the tables that I had a conversation with at least 3 people who said either in a previous year or this time round they wanted to leave the course, they came up with a get out plan and almost left. I mentioned before had a similar experience in wanting to go come and get more art supplies, though I wouldn’t of actually gone for good, at £795 all inclusive I was staying put. As I was partly on a Psychology course I thought that maybe this experience was part of the course, to get us out of our comfort and get us through our need to escape, maybe just maybe it was part of a transformation. The other logical cause was everyone had developed a dopamine deficiency and weren’t getting enough enjoyment. Anyway, it interested me and each person had a different ‘escape plan’.
The quality I first liked most form the course was the schedule, and as it was a holiday, you weren’t required to join in every activity, nor was it crammed full of exciting workshops. This meant that you had more time to yourself, if you didn’t go to a seminar – you found you had a few hours free to do whatever you pleased. Though if you wanted to you were welcome to join in Tai Chai, Dreaming Matrix (I later found out that it was a very interesting experience) and morning singing then you could.
The only workshop you were required to go to each day if you signed up for it, was the individual psychotherapies topics, you chose out of writing, drama, fairy tales and dance. I chose fairy tales and it was such a great experience listening to and discussing about the meaning, motifs, symbolism and significance for people through folk tales. I had’t explored them since reading Woman who run with wolves by Clarrisa Pinkola, a must have book for girls and women everywhere. The workshop fully opened me up to my own power and that of stories. The in depth workshop and inner work that came from it made being on the course very worthwhile!
My best experiences in using my free time was on my own in the studio, which I will explain about soon, taking my yoga mat and doing Sadhana at dawn outside, writing morning pages, reading Flow magazine in bed, meditation time in my room and reading fairy tales at the curved sofa cushions.
I had experiences with another too, that without I properly would have done my usual and kept myself to myself reading a book, writing or planning! Such as morning Kirtan singing, chatting about interests, chatting, chilling out and riding a bike to see deer. We also presented a sing along in presentation evening of Wah Yantee (a creativity and intuition mantra).
I also had an interesting but incredible experience when it came to producing art. Usually everything I do is within a few feet of my supplies, I brought a bag of my own but it still didn’t feel enough. I flicked through a cool art book I bought for inspiration and encouragement and still nothing. I was blocked. 100% blocked. In a 24 hour art studio which I could go to 5 days if I wanted.
So I did what I could to climb out of my blocked pit of self expression and I wrote on paper with brush and ink. I couldn’t paint but I could write. I didn’t want to write I wanted to paint so writing with a paint brush seemed a good compromise. I wrote then added gesso as a base then cut it up to make smaller pieces as I wanted to go along with my original and practical idea of starting to make art pieces that were easier to store in my creative space.
I then did a big piece with an orange background and stamped my hand prints all over it, just to get frustration out a little and even someone that can’t paint can do handprints. My inner support dialogue kept reminding me ‘It must look like I know what I’m doing to other people because I’m painting and I do art, but I don’t have a clue! I’m pretending to know and making it up as I go. It looks like I know but I don’t I’m just getting through a HUGE block’. Little did I know that that was the biggest act of surrender and letting go was what I most needed!
What occurred in the week creatively was incredible in terms of my attitude and how I felt, for without the normal daily duties to do and more time and space to be myself – my intuition came to play – literally! Through a series of circumstances someone giving away psychology books led me to read and listen to my intuition to go back to my room get my books and collage pages about feminine psychology-it was fascinating stuff. A woman told me about a band called Bliss after our mantra evening and I listened to the beautiful tracks Stop Me, Calling and Trust in you love while painting and reading. It must have looked chaotic but it was a process that felt right and I followed it.
My intuition came to play outside of the art studio too as I felt I wanted to explore the upper levels of the lodge, which I did to find more vibrant paintings on the walls. I also became sensitive to noticing people around me, that on their first days they seemed so tense and rigid and by day 4 and 5 were lost looser and lighter, even I felt lighter.
The week I was away, I decided as no one knew me, to cover my head with white cloth and purple scarf. (I cover my head while doing my morning yoga (Kundalini) and I’m learning about Sikhi and to me covering my 7th Chakra, having a sense of containment while doing activity that requires clarity of thought and cover my most precious part. While they seem like good enough reasons to me, to others it is a new thing, people are sceptical, it is met with some resistance and I feel shy doing it. Partly because I don’t have a proper head covering or turban yet and also that I haven’t seen a single head covered white woman in my local area, it makes me a little unconfident to do what I want.) However covering my head was the best thing I could have done, as that experience reminded me I could be myself around others completely! I now cover my head fully a lot more at home even after my morning practice, and I’m doing a combination of hair in bun, headband and scarfs at the moment.
At the end of the week I put my art papers into a line across the wall infront of me to see I had made some sort of story… I had without any effort at all, this was all down to my intuitive self, made a series of art work themed on Feminine Psychology and Relationships, something I had wanted to do for a long while but couldn’t quite begin.
On the last day I wanted to celebrate my artist self with 1 hour of play, I used whatever I felt drawn to ink, tempera, powder paint and let go, still with the notion ‘I don’t actually know what I’m doing I’m just painting’. I used the fact I had paper to my advantage (by now I totally forgot about my longing for canvas) and folded, screwed up and threw my creation, then carried on painting till a figure appeared. This got me thinking about how I could use my energy to help others unblock and to explore ideas of a creative guide further.
It’s thanks to Champernowne that I came back from a retreat feeling as if I’d just gone through therapy! I think with older people there I felt ‘held’ by the wisdom and encouragement of others. It inspired me to continue painting, to seriously add yoga training to next years plan, to trust my intuition more and use me time to read, appreciate life and to slow down and let go more.