a memoir from Joshua

Waking up before the sunrise has never been easy for me. However, doing so in the beautiful wooden clad interior of a converted van, with the intention of practicing yoga before breakfast and the rest of the day- will remain amongst my favorite morning memories with utter ease. The off grid living and regular mindfulness coupled with good food and sunshine seems to be a recipe for grounding, gathering and enjoying. From the two sweet dogs putting on a constant show to the sweat and fulfillment of building rammed earth walls and stone steps. It’s more than easy to recommend coming here to anyone who enjoys reconnecting with the land, reconnecting with themselves and embarking on a foray into all of our shared humanity. Blessings and love

Chakra Yoga Retreat

Our first retreat of the year has begun and this week we explore the chakra system and how it relates to us. Beginning in a sharing circle we share about our experiences of surival, emotions, esteem, love, having a voice, dreams and our higher powers. We recognise that our issues are in our tissues.

After our discussion we move into a Kundalini kriya. Today’s focus is Swādhisthāna, the second chakra. Here is where our emotions, feelings, sexuality and creativity lie, when there are blockages we can become rigid, stuck and lack flow. How can I allow myself to go with the flow? Thank you beautiful women for your courage, honesty and compassion towards one another.

Process Painting with Meriel

A few years ago I hit another depression, suddenly life began to become very dark and just getting out of bed felt like a struggle. Although I had an element of fear about where this would take me I had come to see that my inner pains were teaching me something, if I would only listen to their voice. With a deep breath I went on another heavy journey of my inner world, visiting old stories of childhood blues, this process lasted just over a year.

When I was a small child I would happily paint all day. I had no fear of mixing colours and applying them to paper, I didn’t care about making a mess, I was permanently in the present moment with whatever media was in front of me. However, as I got older I began to doubt my ability to create art (sound familiar?), until one day I stopped altogether. And yet in this depression I had such a strong craving to paint and have that experience I had once taken for granted as a child.

About 6 months into the depression I met up with Meriel Nicoll, an Alanon friend of mine who happens to be an artist. I explained about my craving to do some art as I felt this might lift me out of my depression but I had no idea where to begin. I was both surprised and delighted when she told me about her art class called ‘Process Painting’. I had never heard of this process so I was intrigued to find out more and quickly signed up.

I was very nervous when I first walked into the large studio in Brighton which over the next few months became my place of refuge. Meriel warmly welcomed me into the space as I joined the others who sat on meditation cushions, surrounded by crystals and shamanic readings waiting for the sharing circle to begin. Meriel explained that we didn’t need to know how to paint, we could simply start with a brush stroke and see where that took us, that there were no rules except we were not allowed to abandon our paintings, that once we started we needed to commit to our painting and go through whatever blockages and emotions we had. We were allowed to cut, rip, and add to our paintings, we could turn it upside down – but not give up on it. I noticed as she spoke I had a strong sense of relief and yet another part of me wanted to give up right then and there as a strong feeling of not being able to do this came up in me, “can we use pencils and a rubber?” I meekly asked – “Oh that’s another thing – you can only use paint” and with that she led us through a sharing circle followed by a meditation.

As I approached the large piece of paper stuck on the wall, I became very aware of my inner voice saying ‘tree, tree, tree’ at first I didn’t even notice the voice as I pondered on what I should paint, but then I heard it loud and clear as if from a deep well within, and so I began to paint a tree. For a moment I was completely at one with the painting as I painted the trunk and the branches with different shades of colour. When I left that first afternoon I felt a feeling of satisfaction, something I hadn’t felt for a while.

The following week I turned up to class, but as I looked at my painting again I felt a sense of doom – I couldn’t figure out where to go next with the painting. At this point Meriel asked me what was going on inside me? To be honest I just wanted to tear the whole thing up and start again, but instead Meriel suggested I introduce myself to the painting and ask it where I should go next? I thought this sounded ridiculous, but I had nothing to lose so went along with her suggestion whilst Meriel waited with pen and paper in hand. Suddenly words started pouring out of me … nothing to do with the painting as such but very much to do with where I was at in my depression. Meriel held the space without judgement and I felt free to pour all of those words of frustration and gloom out. After speaking I closed my eyes and waited and then suddenly ‘roots’ came to my mind without hesitation I added more paper to the bottom of my tree and began to paint the roots. The next week the word ‘mouth’ came to me and suddenly the roots of the tree were coming out of the mouths of small babies who appeared to be in great pain with the weight of life they were bearing, I identified very much with the pain. The babies eventually disappeared and two goddesses appeared, one with golden fiery hair and who had the gentlest voice (I came to see this goddess as my inner voice and guide – who has been with me all along) and the other a forest goddess barely visible but with unbelievable strength (she too was part of me).

One day my painting was complete – I knew there was no where else to go with it and as I stepped back from it I had a strong sense of the journey I had just completed and the profound sense that something had shifted deep within.

The pictures I have included here are from Meriel’s own Process Paining work as unfortunately I have lost the images of the different visual processes of my time with Meriel, but hopefully I’ll find them again and I can then add them to this post at another time. If you are interested in joining Meriel’s retreat here then please contact us to book your place.

Process Painting with Meriel at Rural Escapes Portugal on the 5 – 12 June 2019

For more information about the Process Painting Retreat click here.

paying it forward

We’re very grateful to the people who come and volunteer their time to help us build this wonderful place which has already become a space shared by many from Women’s Circles, to monthly workshops including Authentic Movement, to retreats for people in recovery from addiction. One of the ways we pay it forward to our volunteers is to offer them morning yoga, which is a beautiful way to start the day.

keeping busy in the mountain

The winter has been a busy one here at Rural Escapes Portugal. We’ve been blessed with many sunny days and because much of the work has focused on clearing the land, it’s made the work much more enjoyable for the four volunteers who have been helping us here these last 3 weeks. The work is full on, all the land is on steep slopes and the guys have to stand at angles using forks to pull all the brambles and steva down to be burned in a constant fire. This is not only making the place look much better, but also preparing us just in case of fires in the hot summer months.

They have also been helping us cut down and strip Eucalyptus trees so they can dry and later be used for the extension roof of the yoga cottage, which incidentally is such a wonderful and well used space. We have yoga most mornings, and we have had a few women circles there. We also have a regular monthly ‘Authentic Movement’ class there, lead by a local woman called Jurga Bliss and we even have used it as a cinema space where friends and volunteers can sit back and watch a film together.

Trips out – Odeceixe

learning to paddle board

As you can imagine there are so many beautiful places to visit near by us, and some of the most popular trips out are to the many stunning west coast beaches, where the cliffs rise magnificently out from the Atlantic ocean displaying many sandy beaches and isolated coves.  Praia de Odeceixe is just one of these beauties and is still one of my favorites.

This is the local beach to Odeceixe, a quaint cobbled village that clings onto the side of a hill landmarked by an old white washed windmill. 

There are lots of places to eat here from local Portuguese fish restaurants to vegetarian and every budget is catered for. One of our favourite restaurants is Restaurante Chaparro where you can sit outside and enjoy some very reasonably priced seafood cooked on the grill. You must try their garlic piri piri prawns – they really are delicious.   

To get to the beach from Odeceixe the road follows a river that meanders it’s way through fields where you will see beautiful brown cows chomping lazily away at the grass. The beach itself looks like a sandy island as it’s mostly surrounded by water.

You can choose two very different experiences at this small beach, either go to the busier Atlantic side where you can jump the waves, try some surfing or simply lay on the beach and watch the surfers do their thing! Or if like me you prefer it quieter then opt for the river side. Here I love to float with the tides of the river, have a go on our paddle board or watch families float by on various vessels. I especially love it when the tide is high as this is when the river is deeper and you can get to have a bit more of a swim. 

atlantic odeceixe


odeceixe paddle board

Odeceixe beach from cliff top