Aotearoa Retreat Centre Project
News and Updates
Steering group gathering in Golden Bay - planning for the future
Here in Aotearoa, New Zealand, we have been in the time of Matariki, which is the start of the māori new year. It is a time to honour the past and make plans for the future; traditionally to harvest and prepare the land for the coming year. With this intention, the steering group gathered together in Mohua, Golden Bay on the Ren Xue retreat centre land for a winter strategy and planning weekend. Joining the steering group were Leslie Van Gelder who facilitated our sessions, James Alker and Vincent Louys, two key local community members.
It was very special for us all to meet in person as most of our meetings take place online. There is nothing like those real-time connections that happen at a meal table, during a walk on the beach, a shared practice or relaxing together over (many) cups of tea - as demonstrated by the wonderful Trina King!
Personal Stories - What was it like to be together and be in person on the land?
Steve Campbell - steering group member.
Steve shares how it feels to be the geographically furthest away from the retreat centre as he is based in Australia and has found the zoom meetings a challenge. He inspires us as he works through the challenge and finds the learning and the enjoyment of getting his hands in the soil!
I never really enjoyed my school life that much especially doing things that I didn't want to or didn't like doing (this was a lot) in the school environment. The only real relief for me at school was the playground time when I could get my hands dirty, have some fun with friends and feel a sense of freedom. However this sense of freedom was not really real it was more to do with the fact that I had escaped the classroom and felt relieved.
So being on the land together with everyone was a bit like my playtime and I found it very enjoyable spending time with everyone and getting to know you all bit better. So it is a bit like the zoom meetings for me are similar to being back in the classroom where I can easily tense up and being with everyone in-person is my escape from the classroom to the playground.
Both are really unhealthy patterns and are one of the same pattern that I am currently working on, I haven't come up with a good answer just yet but I am not going to give up.
Marie-Laure - steering group and local community member
Marie-Laure is living right on the land! But she still has challenges to face and she shows such determination in how she approaches it. You can also feel her joy as she shares with us:
As a local, I felt a lot of gratitude - people came from so far to visit us, even from Australia! - and joy to have people here, it was like nourishing the Qifield here and the land.
I enjoyed the tree planting so much, there was so much love and happiness from everyone, the trees felt it I am sure.
It was a bit challenging for me to stay focused for the hours of a meeting - maybe because I need to concentrate more than a person for whom English is a mother tongue, or maybe because I needed to mobilise more Qi. So on the second day I felt tired and needed to step away from the group for a long nap and some solitude and care.
Of course, it was different being here together rather than with zoom, practising Qigong together was great - being close to each other, sharing meals, like a family. I loved having the boys with us, life is a cycle and we have all been in this cycle.
My personal goal is to be more involved in the project, because as a local - and we are few - I feel that I need to contribute more, and also to find a good balance between my professional and personal life, so that I can do things without being overwhelmed and stay unified. My goal is to be with my Jingshen all the time!
Leslie Van Gelder - our treasured facilitator and one of the founding members of the project speaks about how it felt to return for the third year:
There is something really powerful about the third time of a thing and this year I really felt that. My first trip to Golden Bay was in January of 2020 with the midwives. It was in the era I think of as “before.” There was very little on Cat and James’ land and we had our little circle of tents set up over a few beautiful summer days. We looked at the farm from the road, from the side, from a distance, from the Mussel Inn. It was “out there” as an idea and a possibility. A year and a half later, we were all gathered in the house in Parapara that I think of as our first year as a group, where out there was getting far closer and we had big questions about priorities and choices and 6 mandarins and how that all “might” be. It felt like it all hovered in the realm of the possible but still wasn’t on the ground. In 2022, as the skies gave us storms and rainbows, we planted trees and celebrated suddenly owning a farm, and our farm managers hosted everyone even while still unpacking their own boxes. And this year, we were in the third year of our gathering and it felt steady. The ground beneath us drier, the weather more settled, and all of us now starting to feel how does this place, this project, this group of people, those who have been coming and will come, fit into the bigger picture of Ren Xue in the world. I loved that. How we are grounding ourselves. Connecting and reconnecting. New planting, more dreaming, and enough history for us to remember what this was all like before we were there, too.
Trina, Leslie and Steve enjoying the view as you approach Golden Bay