We are very much looking forward to welcoming you to Sicily. Our new home nestles at the foot of Mt Etna with views over the nearby orchards and to the sea, just outside the town of Fiumefreddo di Sicilia. Our hosts are Guenda and Guido - two lovelier people you would struggle to meet. Gave up high paying jobs in the city to do something closer to their hearts. We love that. Check out their website at: Borgo Degli Aranci to get a feel for the place (and to see the great photos).
Set amid organic groves of oranges, grapefruit, mandarins, walnuts and kiwi fruit and with access to an organic garden, this retreat aims to remind us of our connection with nature and to ourselves. To that end, the ‘highlight’ will be 3 days of silence in the middle of the week.
If you like what you see, do go to our Booking Page I hope to see you there!
This is an opportunity to join us to ask the questions: Who Am I? - It's not compulsory, however, and if you wanted to come for the silence and engage with your own practice, you'd be very welcome.
Who Am I?
Such a great question! We're not so much interested in the worked out answer - although those will turn up, our minds can't resist it - we're interested in getting under the skin of the question and THEN seeing what comes up. We'll go through the methodology on the first session.
Sitting quietly, we'll pose the question to ourselves. We'll do some meditation practices to support ourselves physically - using centuries old Taoist and Zen meditations to make sure we feel grounded and rooted.
Asking this question is a great way of seeing through areas that we may feel 'stuck' with. It can be fabulous for clearing cobwebs and getting a sense of uncluttering. But also it offers the potential to move out of our traditional ways of looking at the world. We may even feel what we are, rather than theorising about what we are. There are very few times when we get the opportunity to sit quietly and truly look within. This is a nettle well worth grasping!
Zen Yoga might also be described as meditation for the body. Our two teachers, Dainei (pronounced die-nay) who's joining us on the 13th Octobr and Emma (I think you can do that one on your own!) who's joining us on the 20th October have both trained with Daizan Roshi of Zenways and their emphasis is on the union of mind AND body. It's not acrobatic or gymnastic yoga. It's about moving into the spaces that we've been holding on to and learning to make friends with our bodies and with our habitual ways of being.
"See how nature - trees, flowers, grass - grows in silence; see the stars, the moon, and the sun, how they move in silence" - MOTHER TERESA
"Silence is a profound teacher and a hard taskmaster. Learn her art when it is offered; there is much to hear within her temple!" - LY DE ANGELES
"When you become aware of silence, immediately there is that state of inner still alertness. You are present. You have stepped out of thousands of years of collective human conditioning". - ECKHART TOLLE, Stillness Speaks
“Silence is a source of Great Strength.” - LAO TZU
"Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom" - FRANCIS BACON
"Silence is the best way to come to know ourselves, and in knowing ourselves we can heal and truly rest" - KIM BENNETT!
It seems that more and more people are coming to find value in both silence and stopping. To me it's the only way to truly get a feel for how things really are. And maybe that's not what we think (I mean LITERALLY not what we think). We'll have a period of practice silence on the Tuesday morning until after lunch. This gives those who are in any way anxious or who haven't experienced silence an opportunity to ask questions and air anything that may arise before we start our three days. After that we'll be in silence from first thing on Monday morning until first thing on Thursday morning - 3 days. If you need to speak about something I'll be on hand. We will make a commitment not to compromise our and our fellow guests' silence.
Three days is a lovely amount of time to truly engage with silence. We won't leave the premises during this period, other than to go walking locally if we choose. We'll stay around base and get into the feeling of the thing.
If the idea of silence is speaking to you (ha!) then heed the call. Most of the people that I know who have done the silent retreat thing to any degree all felt a bit nervous about it before they did it - that's really normal. It's not a full on Buddhist practice, so if you want to read, write, draw, knit etc while you're in silence then you'll be very welcome. It's your silent time to do with as you please. You’ll see a timetable a little further down the page.
There are three houses in total and all bedrooms are for sole use. All the accommodation has use of the swimming pool with loungers and olive trees to use as shade. The 3 houses are in a u-shape so they're all very close together (maybe 20 paces apart).
Average temperatures see highs of 25 and lows of 17 in October, so you ought to have a sunbathing opportunity or two, but please remember that weather has a mind of its own and so nothing is guaranteed. This retreat is much more about investigating our internal weather (although we do hope to have a drop or two of sunshine!).
Cedra is the main house with 6 bedrooms.
2 singles (one on the ground floor)
4 doubles - all on the first floor and one has a particularly good view.
The other three doubles don’t have a special outlook but there are great views from the living room as well as the outside areas.
2 bathrooms on the first floor and 1 bathroom on the ground floor.
A kitchen and double aspect living room.
A smaller house with 2 double bedrooms on the ground floor with a patio and brilliant views onto Mt Etna and the distant sea.
Staff accommodation and our indoor meditation space.
|Single||Double||Double w. view||Double w. view|
Nothing is compulsory or obligatory other than committing to and honouring the silence. This will give you an idea of the timetable that you’re welcome to join in with - or not - as you see fit.
|8.30 - 9.30am||Breakfast|
|10.30am||Guided insight meditation|
|11am||Self - Guided Meditation|
|12.00||Walking, Standing and Sitting Meditation|
|2pm||Free time - writing, walking, sleeping, drawing, painting|
|5.00pm||Doing Nothing Meditation|
|8.30pm||Short Talk from Kim|
During the rest of the time we’ll be following a variation of this schedule.
We'll go up to the main car parks at Mt Etna, a height of about 2,800 metres. Etna's actual height is 3,350 metres but we won't be going to the actual live volcanic craters. You'll see when you get there that the option we have chosen would seem to be the smarter way of spending time on Etna - no tortuously slow (and smelly!) hummer ride up to the top and the privilege of paying 60e! Instead, we take a gentle amble (although some parts of quite steep) traversing the lava, going up the side and around one of the dormant craters and then back to our starting point. It'll take between 2 and 3 hours depending on the group. There's an opportunity to buy a cake and a coffee on our return (this is Italy - it's great coffee....).
As with all miracles of nature, the Etna trip is really hard to put into words. There is something about the bleak moonscape, the views far out to sea and the energy of standing on something that is so monumentally ALIVE and potentially devasting and yet benign that tweaks your stuff. I'm not even sure I really know what I mean when I say that - it's really hard to describe but fabulous to do. We'll do a short meditation up there too. Meditating on a volcano - woohoo!
This from Wikipedia: "Taormina is a hilltop town on the east coast of Sicily. It sits near Mount Etna. The town is known for the Teatro Antico di Taormina, an ancient Greco-Roman theater still used today. Near the theater, cliffs drop to the sea forming coves with sandy beaches. A narrow stretch of sand connects the mainland to Isola Bella, a tiny island and nature reserve".
Taormina has been described as the Naples of Sicily and it's easy to see why. Grand architecture, very expensive designer shops (!) and all manner of cafes and eateries are available for the eye (and stomach) to feast on. It's really good for a wander and last year most of our guests said that they would have liked longer there so this year we're not putting any time restraints on the trip (last year we wanted you back by lunch and lunch ended up being at 2.30pm!) and you can have an unhurried lunch in the town. Following on we'll visit:
La Isola Bella
As mentioned in the Wikipedia paragraph, it really is the sweetest little island. It feels magical just looking at it but with a bit of luck you'll be able to paddle (roll your trousers up sort of paddling, not kayak paddling...) over to the island itself. A great end to the Taormina day out.
The Sicilians eat plenty of pizza, pasta and meat and finding vegetarian food can sometimes be a struggle (but we manage it!). For the moment we can't cater for any specialist diets other than vegetarian.
There are direct Easyjet flights to Catania from Luton, Heathrow, Gatwick, Bristol and Manchester - book early for the best prices (but check we have accommodation available for you first).
You can also try www.skyscanner.net - they're good at putting trips together that have multiple legs.