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Autumn Retreat 2014, Suffolk – Tomoko Mori

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Autumn Retreat 2014, an intensive Okido yoga residential course was held for 16 – 20 (Thursday –Sunday) October 2014 in Thorpeness, a small village in Suffolk UK.


We love to come here once a year. What a spot! The house we rent stands right in front of the sea with no road in between. Movements and sounds of the sea, the skies, sunrises and stars - everyone appreciates a taste of the natural world, just two hours away from London.

Thursday 16 Oct. We began with preparations to the house before welcoming the participants. In order to make a clear dojo, Michael and Trish had the task of fitting the living room furniture into the small neighbouring room. Meanwhile in the kitchen Junko arranged all the food we brought as well as cooking light supper to be served on arrival of the participants. I also had many things to organise: checking the bedrooms, the programme time table, fast aid kits and so on. And, receiving the participants.

It was a largely different group from previous years and many had not attended before. Yet there was already a chatty, bubbling energy at the first meeting for supper. We did self-introduction and I gave the guidance about the retreat. Then Trish led a ginger compress session. The first evening programme always starts quite late and it was nearly 10:30 pm when all was over. The participants seemed relieved to hear that the wake-up call would be at 7 am. I know everybody is tired from stress of work or other elements of the life. Good sleep is the best. Feel safe!

Friday 17 Oct. 7:30-9:00 am, I led the first yoga session before breakfast, while the other staff were busy in the kitchen to prepare both breakfast and lunch because we were going for a walk to Aldeburgh after the breakfast. The group was quite relaxed enjoying pretty autumn products like mushrooms and blackberries. We stopped for tea at Aldeburgh and walked back on the seashore in the beautiful autumn sunlight.

Following a break after lunch, Trish led a movement to music class in various tunes: a morning raga, jazz, classical, folk, world and modern music. To end, she guided us to Savasana with lavender and linseed bags covering eyes, and passed the class to Michael for a general yoga class and meditation. After supper, Junko and Anna led a chamomile compress session to end the day at 9:30 pm with the sleeping pledge.

Saturday 18 Oct. Wake-up call at 6:30am. Anna’s morning exercise class. Jogging or walking. Breakfast. Junko’s purification lesson. Michael’s kyokaho, or dynamic hara-strengthening exercises. After lunch, Trish led a walk at Minsmere, a famous nature reserve in the Suffolk countryside. We walked in silence for some part as viewing a small herd of red deer. Then I led the group into the deep inner realm through asana and pranayama, and then meditation to re-connect with the outer realm as keeping in touch with the inner. After supper, we had a merry time in singing with Anna’s leadership. The last session was shiatsu led by Trish. She asked us to make pairs of more experienced with less experienced. By this time the group was raised into the mood of sharing good time and energy with anybody that just happened to be a partner at that time. As humbly asking for partners’ requests, people got into work with free spirit. This full day ended at 9:45 pm.


Sunday 19 Oct. It was a cloudy morning, but as Anna was leading us in AEIOU sound exercises, the clouds over the sea parted from the horizon and the sun came up. We all observed the spectacle in silence and then went outside to enjoy the fresh air. A small flock of seabirds flew past. Then Jogging or walking. After breakfast Trish led a partner exercise class, followed by Juno’s dynamic yoga class. All were great. After lunch and a short break, Michael gave an art class. We normally do this kind of class on the third or fourth day after some physical cleansing was done to release feelings more freely. After 2 hours of intense individual work, we displayed all paintings

Then questions and discussion session. As Junko facilitated the session, I talked towards the questions from my Okido Yoga experience, with Michael’s helpful notions. Interesting questions were posed: “When doing exercises, my mind is engaged with other things. How can I become stronger in having ‘no mind’ and give full attention to my breathing?” “Is it necessary to believe, to gain benefits from spiritual pursuits?” “If Okido means the way of Oki, how many ways can we follow during any one life time?” This is a very valuable session of discussion for everyone. After supper everybody including the staff wrote a reflective report. Trish led a ginger oil massage and this long full day was closed at 9:30 pm.


Monday, the last day to finish at 2:30 pm. Wake-up call at 6:10am. Michael led morning exercises with chanting of Heart Sutra, we all facing the sea and sunrise. This is a wonderful session on the last morning of our retreat. Jogging or walking, and only light soup for breakfast. Then I gave the last lesson of asana and meditation. I asked people to sit on chairs with additional height so that stiff hip joints or knees, if there were, would least bother them. I opened the windows. Wrapped warmly, they allowed the sounds of the sea simply merging into them. After the participants packing their personal luggage, we had a beautiful brunch and socialising time for 11.15 – 12:30. The group has become like a family. It is amazing to see this quick progress, comfortable openness among people who have different backgrounds and characters and more over did not know each other four days ago. Then we returned our good energy to the house by performing thorough house cleaning as brining the fresh sea air into both the house and our own bodies. The furniture was put back and we did our final gathering in the normal living room setting. Sharing at the final gathering was deep. So, this is Oki sensei’s formula: ‘Eat from the same pan’. Let's do it again.

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