Blogging the stories of our family life on a yoga retreat in the magical village and valleys of Amieira, Central Portugal. Everyday we are tending this beautiful land and its stone dwellings in our journey towards self sufficiency. Moses is the Portuguese name of this place, meaning many mill stones. And, providently, is also the name of our beloved golden retriever, without whom, we'd never have found it. We love you Moses.
The State of Deliciousness, my retreat review by Chloe Skinner
Lying on my yoga mat this morning I was 'invited into stillness' by Von - my favourite yoga teacher, and now, after my third visit to Vale de Moses, my friend. I lay there in the beautiful yoga shala overlooking mountainous forests, gleefully anticipating the joy of the astanga practice that was to come - a yoga practice guided by Von's playful, sincere and genuine love of sharing the joy of yoga with others. 'Stillness' isn't something that I find easy to 'achieve', but here at Vale de Moses, even in the invigorating movement of a vinyasa flow, a meditative morning walk with Andy, or a solitary hike up a hill, I can - albeit apprehensively and reluctantly at times - find stillness.
Stillness in the surrounding mountains; stillness in the stars on a clear night; stillness in the people around me; stillness in myself. Stillness can be intimidating, particularly following or during life's storms - the times I have found myself journeying back to Vale de Moses - but the warmth and love of those that live and work here, coupled with the ease of finding solitude, is such a nurturing environment in which to seek stillness.
As someone more naturally inclined toward movement however, the ability to balance this stillness I need so much with the delight of physically flowing - as well as the inevitability of a concurrent emotional flowing - is one of the many dynamics which draws me to Vale de Moses. After a morning walk with a sparkly-eyed and warm-souled Andy - predominantly silent but with a vignette of wisdom sprinkled in - a yoga class in which all different bodies are lovingly celebrated, 'held', supported and encouraged by Von, and a body and soul nourishing breakfast with good food and good people, I spent some time alone yesterday down at one of the natural pools - basking in the cool, fresh water, the fire of the sun, the rich smell of the earth and the silkiness of the light wind.
In the nurturing stillness, I found the rarity of the time to 'look' - simply 'look' - and found movement, adventure and busyness. Watching the small fish under the surface, the insects resting on the water's surface, the sway of the surrounding trees, I thought about how lucky I am to find myself in a place where I am reminded of the ease of loving this life, this world, these people, this self - even amidst the inevitabilities of pain and hardship which came before, and will come after, this moment, this week, this retreat.
All of this and it was only midday! The afternoon followed with mouth-tingling nourishment, brain-stimulating conversation, heart-warming laughter, body-quenching yoga practice and, all in all, soul-quenching life! Lovely life!
This morning, after hearing ourselves moving, stretching, and breathing into our bodies alongside one another - bodies that have recently been deeply massaged by the expert hands of Pete or Von - two of the other guests remarked upon how good an idea it was to come to Vale de Moses. I couldn't agree more - it is an excellent idea... indeed, it is my favourite! It is true, however, that one of my 'favourite' volunteers here said yesterday that 'every 'thing' is your favourite'. But that is just how I feel at Vale de Moses...as Von said to me,
'it is just about moving from one state of deliciousness to another'.