Surrounded by books-to-buy in The Book Warren and Café, Willingham – inspired by Barter Books, Alnwick, Northumberland where we still have a family account – my also-retired friend asked how I’d enjoyed the workshop at Grantchester the previous weekend:

Resting Back and Coming Forward in Relating with Joanna Watters

Noticing the complex expression on my face, she offered, “You wish now that you’d rather not taken part?”

“On the contrary: wow, no!  It was amazing:  intense and tender and deep and strong. And it offered rich insights, to which I’ve yet to open fully…”

“I do admire you,” she smiled, “putting yourself out there for all this self-development”.   We left it at that, and continued with cappuccino and scones, and talking about our future plans.

Yet the workshop –  on “listening for and allowing our boundaries, our limits, and including them when we connect” – is emphatically not for self-improvement, nor even does it concentrate on the isolated individual self. Rather, the teacher invites gentle and penetrating enquiry work  – often in pairs – to support ‘radical self acceptance’ – whatever is going on moment by moment, whether as sensing, feeling or thinking.

Looking back, I think I have been attracted to self-empowerment workshops all my adult life.  Often seeking (not always finding) a safe haven for self-expression, for extending my creativity. Latterly often through conscious movement practice (5- Rhythms, Open Floor, FreedomDance);  touch therapy; exploring my voice through sung improvisation; or allowing the flow of words and images onto the page.

At Joanna’s workshop the ‘radical self acceptance’ was supported by mirroring and  appreciation from other people. We had the luminous opportunity to give to others  – and to receive from them – nourishing perspectives on what was alive for us in the moment.

Receiving such truths in caring, intimate connection, I was at first emboldened, then dazed by this reminder of my own life force and its power. Awed by the uniqueness of our timelines, whether remembered as agitated, tranquil, murky, or shining like May Day blossom.

It’s time now to rest back into the stillness at the core of my being, to reflect, and to be nourished by experience.

Here’s a poem from back in summer 2016, written in the shady orchard in Murray Edwards College (New Hall), Cambridge, where I read Natural Sciences in 1970s

Work shopper

I’m at the feast that others spread for me;

I’m guest-of-honour at my own birthday party;

I’m patient, attendant at my own House of Healing.

I sit a-throne the counsellor’s chair.

I’m a shopper at my own holy work.

I invite myself to take my place in the Wendy House of infancy,

          to play in the sandpit, unfouled by cats.

I mark my own essaying;

I commend my performance, again and again.

I award myself a riff on the drums;

I select the beater, and resonate the triangle,

          ringing out in a song and dance

© Kathy McVittie 8 June 2016