Mindfulness and More – A Review by Jaime Howell

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I am animate.
I am an animal.
I am born from life and living
And so, dear friend, are you.
Everything we experience reverberates with these truths.

Tarchin Hearn

Words shared with us in the intimacy of land, love and learning. Mindfulness and More, a three week retreat with Tarchin Hearn at Wangapeka Study and Retreat Centre.

Do the cicadas know we are on retreat? Alas even their riot of life bringing rhythms began to slow down and on occasion pause as the weather cooled. We too began cooling, slowing, finding pauses, agendas dissolving in natures initiation to presence.

Words do not easily convey the magnanimity of a view offered during these days and weeks. Hints and feelings for an impossible possibility to open into everything, a state of deep listening and inquiry. For those who have experienced retreat, you know something about the wonder that happens when we human creatures slow down. A process of noticing as if for the first time ordinary miracles of the natural world. Between the microscope and the star blazing dark skies, we rested, inquired and began to reconnect with a capacity for appreciation.

At the beginning Tarchin said something like… “A lot of people enter a retreat operating as if in a world of things.” The statement gave rise to the question, how can we sometimes busy humans get a feeling for living in a seamless, ceaseless, multi-realmed dynamic of relating? And so it appears we all signed up for a relationship retreat, apprentices to the knowing/doing kinaesthetic arts of intimacy with life and living.

It came as a welcome wake up to be re-membered that I live almost entirely in a world of concepts, a kind of unexamined hypnosis with convention. The heart quickens, hairs bristling on my neck, so this could be something about what it means to live in truth? It appears that almost all of our human communication exists on surfaces. What on earth is going on beyond the surfaces? We were told that this was ‘Mindfulness and More’, we were now getting the feeling for the more part. And so the retreat began, how does thing-ness arise in the mind of a knower? How can we creatures of humanness move in the languaging of suchness?

A few moments from our time on hill…
We are coming to rest with aliveness in a posture of standing, open mouth nose breathing. Dancing with breath and gravity, finding stillness where there is continual movement in relationship.

Smiling, breathing, present, appreciating and offering.

Open to contemplate two truths, phylogenetic and ontogenetic happening together. Can we get a feeling for it? I will try to share something of this.

These words are a challenge to speak let alone understand in a experiential way. Ontogeny is the study of the development of organisms while phylogeny is the study of evolution. Our moment to moment living happens at the crossroads where 3.5 billion years of unbroken evolution brings forth the ontogenetic story of a me, or a you. The latter (ontogenetic) is the story we think we know best, the one of our conception, birth, childhood and so on, it is ceaseless right up to this moment our eyes meet these typing lines. Why might we ponder this? Because there exists a tendency to separate ourselves from the phylogenetic reality and live an illusion of separation from the living systems that sustain life. Human communication is an example. We use words all the time, but do we have a sense of the colossal body of inter corporeal relating that is taking place to enable this? We are in this Together, it is no longer a question. The stuff of our beingness is a staggering collaboration.


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Contemplate a hedgerow? A boundary making device right? Something familiar in the British Isles to show a division of property. Look closer? My goodness it is alive. The boundary itself is made of animated life. Creatures are living their lives here, moving back and forth between domains. Where are the boundaries? What are the boundaries made of? Are there any boundaries?


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Finally I want to share a word or two of the appreciation we all felt for spending some time together, such technology is not rocket science, yet it is rare in this busy world to be together with no agenda in the expanse of nature unfolding. It is time to acknowledge the blessing of Wangapeka clear skies day and night, the wondrous collections of colourful treasures, offered probably unknowingly to the microscope of wonder. The green leaves; a touch parched but faithfully inspiring in their diversity, beauty and generosity. Retreat is special because we get to be together with open hearts; humans of all ages, coming from different cultures, countries, choreographies of languages, perceptions and behaviours. We learn so much from each other.

I have a sense of a collective glowing heart of appreciation for Tarchin. The retreat wove together threads that have been refining and developing for decades and more. A synergy of insight, experience, passionate inquiry, deep caring and laughter. Wow, if the walls of the Whare could speak, they might breath out a long smiling “Ahhhhhhh, there is goodness happening here.”

Sarva Mangalam, all is blessing,
Jamie Howell