February Reflections!

I think of January and February as hibernation months. A time when nature restores itself making way for the vibrant activity of the Spring and Summer months. I expect January and February to be cold and look forward to wrapping up warm, for snow to fall and preparing, in the event of a heavy fall of snow, for guests of Poulstone to arrive at and depart from the retreat centre with relative ease. I planned very little outside work and most of my time planned for staying indoors, catching up on administrative tasks and preparing the house for spring.

Well, we have had a big surprise, the predicted cold winter never arrived at Poulstone and marched directly to the east coast of the USA. Poulstone has had incredibly windy days, particularly in January, with significant rainfalls in Herefordshire but no snowfall, or cold weather.

The excess rainfall has brought its own idiosyncrasy to Poulstone. The view from south of the house towards the River is nothing short of enchanting. The river has broken its banks and flooded the surrounding plains.

I take great delight in standing next to the Wellingtonia tree, to the front of the house, looking across the fields towards the River Wye as morning begins to break, taking in the vitalising morning dewy air.

I now have a picture imprinted in my mind of the views from Poulstone towards the river on a January morning. It is made up of bright orange skies, clouds stretched out like dough allowing the morning sun to peep through the gaps. A blanket of water over the front paddock reflects the overhanging trees and clouds. Birds and rabbits playing on the green beach of paddock touching the spread of the river.

This vista is completed by ancient trees, whose wisdom lingers in the air. This must be what one of the Guardians of Poulstone, the Wellingtonia Tree, sees and experiences every morning in the beginning months of the year.

Nature must be bewildered by the warm start to the year. Its February and the grass has started to grow, maybe it never stopped growing. The garden has required more attention than anyone planned. The mower has been out for the first cut of grass in 2016. The smell of cut grass in early February has confused our senses, as has mowing grass whilst having to avoid budding snow drops and daffodils.

We are grateful to Malvern Bhavan group for volunteering to do some work in the garden for a few hours as a part of their retreat. This has helped Poulstone catch up on the outdoor garden work and turned out to be a fun and rewarding part of their retreat. If any retreat would like to spend some of its time helping in the garden, please let us know. We can prepare a small schedule of outdoor garden works for your group.

We also organised massage therapy on behalf of a Cultural Leadership retreat. We had to temporarily convert the shop and the overflow dining room into massage therapy rooms. Our therapists, all qualified at the Bristol School of Massage, ended up providing eleven massage therapies. Again, if you wish to have massage therapy during your stay at Poulstone, please let us know in good time and we will do our best to organise a therapists.

A big thankyou to all the groups who have used the house in January and February. It’s been a very pleasant start to the year and spring, it seems, is already upon us. I do not wish to count “my eggs before they hatch” and ever mindful of the fickleness of English weather; my overcoat is at the ready, I am still making plans for guests in the event of heavy snows but doing so whilst “on the mower” in readiness for the next grass cut.

With much love

Rajesh Rai

22 February 2016

Happy New Year & Seasons Greetings!

Wow, I cannot believe two months have gone by since taking over Poulstone!

Getting to know Poulstone has been a steep learning curve and has taken up most if not all of our time. The house, the gardens, the people, the surroundings and three retreats later, we are beginning to understand what it takes to run Poulstone. Mel and Steve did this so seamlessly and theirs will be a tough act to follow. We take this opportunity to wish Mel and Steve well in the next phase of their lives in the Pyrenees and thank them for their efforts in looking after Poulstone over the last eight years.

In June 2015, I ran a retreat at Poulstone for Malvern Bhavan. In July, Mel and Steve asked whether I wished to take over the running of the retreat centre and by the 9th November, I took over the management of Poulstone Retreat Centre. It’s been a rollercoaster journey and if I was told this is what I would be doing in a year’s time, I would have completely dismissed the idea.

Life ceases to amaze at how beautiful it is. It really does give you what you ask for. A year is a very long time and anything can happen, including the fulfilment of your hopes and wishes.

I am assisted by my wife, Divya and James. James now lives in the Bothy where Steve and Mel used to be. Together, we hope to continue acting as guardians for the space that has been created by your work and practices at Poulstone Court.

For those who do not know Poulstone, it’s been running as a retreat centre for over 25 years and one can sense the whole space at Poulstone to be pervaded by the spirit of many years of practice. This was the predominant reason for the decision to take over guardianship of Poulstone. I wish to honour, preserve and add to the energy created in Poulstone by over 25 years of work and practice by its guests. Poulstone’s guests really are the custodians of Poulstone and we look forward to getting to know you all over the coming months.

We will continue to maintain the high standards of service that you expect from Poulstone, retaining all staff. We do not intend to alter much in the running of Poulstone although in 2016 we hope to paint some of the rooms, change some of the carpets, purchase fresh bedding for all beds, update the website and also undertake some long overdue works on some of the windows. In the walled garden, we hope to introduce a rose garden and build an outdoor havan kund. We have already started on some of these works. The key in our minds to any change is to maintain Poulstone’s charm whilst improving the experience of your stay. We will be guided by you in this endeavour and your comments about your stay will always be valued.

We are grateful to our first three “retreatees”; Bill Wood who ran a Yoga retreat, Tim Bartlett a massage retreat and Sally Bogle, a Mindfulness retreat, for allowing us to serve and thanking you for enriching the space at Poulstone by your work.

2015 has been filled with generosity and opportunity, I hope this continues and hope and pray that 2016 brings love and joy to you all.

Happy New Year & Seasons Greetings.


Poulstone Retreat Centre



Energy fields and modern technology

For those of you who are interested, we are posting a link to some Conscious TV programmes which look at the effect of mobile phones and wi-fi on our subtle anatomy and therefore our health and well-being.  The second link includes some very interesting dowsing demonstrations showing how even mobiles on stand-by can close  down our energy fields:

The links are:



Be well!

Mel & Steve x

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

Just sitting still and being quiet…..

The veg garden is now nearly fully planted – Gail just has some peas and basil and some kale that she is bringing on up in the barn cloakroom where it gets nice and warm throughout the day. Mel planted out the courgette, squash and pumpkin plants in the gap between Manda leaving us and Burgs arriving, and Steve did some major weeding of poppy plants out of the cut flower bed to make room for dahlias and sweet peas. We began making the wigwams for the sweet peas today and will be planting them out with the dahlias over the next few days if the weather isn’t too wet! We’ve had some very nice days all out in the garden together in the short space between courses, joined by robins and blackbirds looking for worms and masses of bees enjoying the pollen on Gail’s green manure (called phacelia – it attracts bees like almost nothing else and is extremely pretty too!).

It was like high summer here last week for Burgs’  seven day silent Healing Meditation Retreat .  We were lucky to be able to join this retreat and it was gorgeous between sessions to lie out and doze on the lawn in the sunshine or sit quietly enjoying the hum of the bees in the flower beds or the birds nest-building and catching insects on the wing. Even the first applications of suncream occurred!

Friends who don’t meditate often ask us why we might want to be silent and “just sit there” all week! There  is often so little space in most people’s lives, with so much pulling on us, that the very idea of being quiet and having that much space for so long seems wierd.  The only break that people get is when they’re asleep! Nearly everyone has felt the urge to have more peace and serenity in their life and so we often answer with something to this effect.

However, the truth is that when we do sit still with ourselves – without a drink or a snack, without a book or the radio, or the TV or daydreaming about the past or planning for the future, (or in many people’s cases these days, without checking their phone!) – it isn’t very peaceful or serene at all!  In fact, what we see immediately is how restless we are, how unable to settle, how the mind is constantly hankering after something to keep it amused and distracted from the moment it’s in. This is not a comfortable revelation!!  Taming the restless mind is not easy and it doesn’t happen over night, but with skilful instruction and by patient repetition in our attempts to concentrate, it begins to happen. We start to access a different reference point, glimpses of peace, of just being able to rest quietly with ourselves and for that to feel enough, to feel complete. When we have access to this feeling of completeness within, then the need for external distraction becomes less, we are less likely to feel bored or need things to be a particular way to feel happy. Gradually a feeling of contentment arises out of this simplicity where we experience the world more spaciously and as a felt experience rather than a collection of ideas. It’s a lifetime’s work, of course, but we start to get the feeling of the freedom that lies ahead.

Because freedom lies not in having to have what we want in order to be happy, but being content regardless of what we have. And without the ability to sit quietly at peace with ourselves, this is often just an idea rather than something that actually starts to happen to us.

Much love

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

Thoughts and Reflections

Our guest blogger today is meditation teacher, Burgs, who teaches meditation and healing retreats regularly at Poulstone throughout the year.

Burgs has been teaching meditation in Europe and Asia since 1998. His teaching style draws upon a wide range of traditions he studied whilst in Asia. He has been recognised and trained by many highly-regarded teachers including the Venerable Pa Auk Sayadaw in Burma (the first person in Burma for 500 years who can teach the complete teachings of the Buddha) and the Tibetan master, His Holiness Dodrupchen Rinpoche.

Burgs has a deep grounding and understanding in all aspects of meditation and energetic cultivation, and has a profound appreciation of how different spiritual practices and traditions fit together as a whole. It is rare to find someone that can deliver such teachings and practices whilst providing the energetic support for progress on the path to the highest level.

As with all our contributors, we asked him to write something that would be useful to all of us in these demanding and changing times.  He writes:

“Over the years that I have been running retreats at Poulstone, I have often wondered what is the most important factor in creating the optimum retreat environment. In the past it was always the ambience of the place, the surrounding environment and, of course, the quality of the food. But I realise in recent years that a new factor has come to the forefront, and perhaps one that many people haven’t considered. And that is providing the opportunity to take a break from the constant bombardment from modern technology and in particular the huge increase in electro-magnetic field (EMF) exposure that most of us encounter these days.

 I recently called a hotel near an airport where I needed to stay overnight and asked “Do you have any wifi free rooms” to which the receptionist proudly announced “Yes, sir, all our rooms have free wifi.” So well-appointed were they that there was no facility to switch off the wifi in any part of the hotel.

Yes, we live  in  a cloud of EMF and microwave frequencies these days and the debilitating effects are just starting to become apparent. Anyway, I do not wish to go into the emerging scientific evidence which can be researched on-line. I simply wanted to suggest to all of you who come to Poulstone, that perhaps the most nourishing part of your experience these days, may be to switch off your phones and keep the wifi off for the duration. Mel and Steve switch off the wifi router for the whole of our retreats and it makes such a tremendous difference to the depth to which people are able to meditate. I am sure the effects would be the same for anyone coming to Poulstone to do energy work. People do try to complain that they need to access the internet while on retreat, but really, what actually IS a retreat if it isnt time out from our ordinary lives?

For many people it is not easy to create a totally EMF-free environment, but luckily for us, Poulstone can be that for the time of our stay. All we have to do is switch off the wifi router and agree not to use our mobile phones in the house. If you try this I guarantee you will go home feeling even more refreshed that you usually do.

 I know it may sound dramatic, but it is my opinion, (and being a meditation teacher I do not say this lightly) that if we are currently heavily exposed to wifi and the like, if it was a choice between being free from all RF–EMR (electromagnetic frequencies and their fields) exposure and not meditating, or meditating and remaining highly exposed, I personally would choose the former, because I believe the benefits to our general state of well-being would be greater. Luckily we are not in a position where we have to choose, but we can inform ourselves, pay attention and make choices accordingly.

In essence it is heavy and persistent exposure that worries me. Occasional exposure is inevitable and I do believe our energy and nervous systems are capable of adapting to that. So I just want to suggest that you consciously make efforts to reduce the level of RF–EMR’s  that you expose yourself to.

A few simple steps can reduce this by 50-80%. So here are my suggestions:

1. Never take a mobile phone call directly to your ear for more than a minute.

2. Use the speaker phone wherever you can.

3. Switch off your phone when it is in your pocket or carry it in a bag. Check your messages from time to time.

4. Use text messages instead of phone calls as often as possible.

5. Change your wireless DECT walkabout home phones back to plugged in corded phones or get a power saving /eco cordless phone ( these wireless phones are AS damaging as wifi and many people don’t know it).

6. Change your wifi (wireless) internet router back to the old style plug-in cables ( ethernet ) and live with the minor inconvenience of having to use your computer in designated areas.

7. If you can’t get rid of your wifi router, then only switch it on when you need it and NEVER leave it on at night while you sleep.

8. Do what you can to encourage your colleagues/ boss at work to put your working/office environment back over to plug-in cable (ethernet).

9. DON’T upgrade to 4G when it is offered to you. It is a VERY strong signal (way more than 3G and we have NO idea what the effects of long term exposure to this will be). Leave it at least a year and watch to see how others respond/ feedback on it.

None of these suggestions are actually in any way extreme, and they are all really easy to do if you set your mind to it. Just remember 10 years ago NONE of us had any wifi! And certainly no 4G.

These steps will, depending upon your current exposure and living conditions, reduce your exposure from between 50-80%. Certainly enough to make a real difference in the long term. And remember there has been no long term studies with this stuff yet so let’s not just wait to find out.

If you wish to inform yourself more on the subject there is a lot of material gathered on the Dangers of Wifi Facebook page. If you want it in a well put- together and concise format, please send a message through Facebook to Cablesnotwireless and request the information pack they are offering”.

Well, definitely some food for thought! We have both certainly found a huge benefit in switching off the wi-fi and returning to corded phones and wired mouse, keyboard, printer etc.  It cost virtually nothing to do and we feel less drained after a day in the office, have more energy and better mental clarity (not that sludgy computer-head we used to come home with!).

Burgs will be running a number of 5 day and week long retreats at Poulstone in 2014 as well as two exciting on-line meditation courses starting in January for those who find it difficult to take time away. For full details click here: http://theartofmeditation.org/online-meditation-courses/.  We took the one year on-line course last year and found it a powerful tool for deepening and stabilising our daily meditation practice at home.  We highly recommend it to anyone serious about developing their meditation.

Warm wishes and love

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

Thoughts and reflections……it’s all about power….

This post Jonathan Horwitz writes for us about power as seen through the eyes of a shaman.

He writes:

“Power is such a loaded word, and for many of us, when we hear the word “power”, it evokes a fear response. We think of the misuses of power, perhaps times when we have felt overwhelmed by how others have used power over us, or we feel engulfed by images in the media showing the destructive effects of power.

This view of power can often lead to fear. Power seems strong, controlling, forceful. It can leave us feeling as if there is too much power around us and we need to protect ourselves so we don’t get hurt. The sad thing about this is that we end up protecting ourselves so much that we shut life out. The only thing that protection does is build a thin shell around us, giving us an illusion of security by separating us from our surroundings and even ourselves.

But we are a part of the whole. There is no separation except for the barriers we put up around ourselves, and even those barriers are an illusion.

To cultivate another attitude to power, it can  be more helpful to think of it as “life force” – the power we need to stay alive, to be full of vitality, to help us meet daily challenges. This is not something we want to shut out! Instead of protection, we can ask for help to fill ourselves with the power we need. Then when you meet challenging or frightening situations, you do not retreat into a shell, but are more able to stand on your own two feet and face what is coming towards you. To do this, the shaman calls on the Spirit Power of the Universe. Essentially, the shamanic work I do is teaching people how to connect to this power so we have the energy we need to live life fully.

Power, like any energy, is not meant to be static or stored – it is meant to move and flow. If we feel we need more energy in our lives, the best thing to do is open ourselves to the Power of the Universe and let it flow through us. There is so much help around us all the time, if only we remember how to open and connect. A truly remarkable aspect of Power – not as controlling force but as vital energy – is that the more we share it, the stronger it gets. The more you allow it to move through you, rather than trying to hold on to it, the more the power can energise and support both you and others.

Power is in all that exists, and if  we fill ourselves with it there is no need for protection because we have all we need. We are made of the Power of the Universe. We forget this, but when we know it, we can step into life with an open heart, steady feet and power in our hands”.

Jonathan has been teaching shamanism in the UK and Europe for over 25 years, including many courses held at Poulstone. He lives with his partner, Zara, in southern Sweden and we feel very fortunate to have him visit us each year to teach.  He will be holding an advanced shamanic retreat called “Peace & Power” here from 9-13 October 2013. For more information, you can visit http://www.shamanism.dk/ or visit the courses page of our website: http://www.poulstone.com/courses.php?pageNum_rsCalendar=1&totalRows_rsCalendar=17

Thoughts and reflections…

This post our thoughts and reflections about these challenging times are from Terry Cooper and Jenner Roth, founders of Spectrum Psychotherapy. Spectrum, established in 1976, is a London-based centre for psychotherapy providing space for personal enquiry in which people learn to manage all aspects of their lives, develop self-knowledge, resilience and the capacity and skills to solve problems.  (http://www.spectrumtherapy.co.uk/).  Spectrum have been coming to Poulstone for many years and we always enjoy their warmth and friendly professionalism.  In addition to the residential week of their foundation course, Jenner also brings an annual Women in the World group which is a peer group for women therapists.

They write:

In running the Spectrum psychotherapy practice we are only too aware of the pressure and stresses individuals, couples and families are dealing with as a result of world change. Massive changes in lifestyle and personal circumstances have happened since the September 11th disaster and the subsequent collapse of the financial industry and many of its institutions.  Living has become more expensive and jobs less secure.  Most of us are dealing with stresses we never imagined we would see.

But one of the great things about humans is that we have an incredible ability to adapt and adjust to changing circumstances and it is this in-built imperative to reorganize and form a better future that is our friend during times of great uncertainty.

As psychotherapists we utilise the natural formative forces that are innate in people to help them develop a variety of skills to manage themselves in the change process. Recognising whether we isolate or open up to others when we are stressed and feeling low on resources is very important. We are weaker when we don’t respond to our desire to be close to others, when we are overwhelmed and frightened of life’s challenges.

Communication often breaks down under stress and we go back to old, learned survival patterns, which usually involve withdrawing from others and this adds to the stress picture. Being close to others when you feel like withdrawing, and talking when you feel there is no point are essential in reducing stress levels and maintaining balanced relationships with one’s self and others. Often more stress is generated by our negative reactions to a stressful situation than the actual circumstances we are having to face and deal with.

Personal development workshops can provide a rich learning environment to get support and develop personal management skills.  We have run residential workshops at Poulstone Court for a number of years and having the peace and reflection of this venue for a residential workshop adds a special energy and support to learning new ways of moving through daily life.  We invite you to visit our website and talk to us.  http://www.spectrumtherapy.co.uk

Thoughts and reflections…………

This post, Manda Scott, novelist and shamanic teacher, writes:

In my days as a clinician, I used to practice evidence-based veterinary medicine. Now that I write novels for a living and teach shamanic dreaming courses, I practise – and teach – evidence-based spirituality: we do what we do because it works, and because our lives are enhanced as a result – we don’t need a faith, or a belief system, or a creed. In fact, it’s important that we have none of these; each fosters emotional attachments to words and to head-mind cycles of self-justification that get in the way of the open-hearted, full-hearted, strong-hearted, clear-hearted life that is ours if we work towards it.

Effortless, and yet whole-hearted intent is required to stand in heart-mind and listen to the whispers of the All That Is, and is hardest of all to understand and to teach. Our culture trains us in effortful and often heart-less ways of living and often, simply setting aside the habits of a lifetime is enough as a first step.  The rest is found by practice, and by attention to the people and places that mirror this for us – of which Poulstone, and the space Mel and Steve create and sustain is a perfect, and constant example.  Simply to be here is an act of mindfulness that helps us let go of the tribulations of the week and come back to ourselves. This is evidence-based spirituality in action and we are grateful for it.

Manda Scott has published 10 novels to date, including the internationally best-selling “Boudica: Dreaming” series.  The website for information about her writing is http://www.mandascott.co.uk.  She also teaches shamanic dreaming courses and more information on these can be found at http://www.mandascott.co.uk/dreamingcourses.aspx.  Manda will be teaching at Poulstone throughout 2013.  Please contact her directly for information about courses open to the public: info@mandascott.co.uk.

Thoughts and Reflections……..

We are very fortunate to have so many inspiring teachers who come and work here at Poulstone.  So we’ve decided to start a “Thoughts and Reflections” column and ask some of our regular teachers to contribute their thoughts and impressions.  We left the brief very open – just some thoughts that might be useful to people in these challenging times!

Our first contribution is from Marianne Murray, Holotropic Breathwork teacher.  Marianne has written a piece entitled “Dancing with Disorientation”:

I’m sure most of us, who are drawn to the kinds of workshops and retreats offered at Poulstone, are familiar with the feelings that come when entering territory that is unfamiliar and outside of our every-day realms of experience. Filled with sensations ranging from excitement to anxiety, curiosity to fear, we bravely head into the unknown in service of our own healing and transformation. What we might not think about is that it is this very act of destabilizing our sense of familiarity – the habits of the known – that invites change.

Most frequently, our habitual ways of being are disoriented through chance life events: sickness, accidents, divorce, and so forth. At such times, the stories that we tell ourselves about how life works, and what is true, right, and trustworthy, become threadbare and broken. Out of the wreckage, we have to construct new stories, new ways of making sense of life. If we have good guidance – inner and/or outer – we can grow and become wiser through such experiences, and our capacity for living and loving becomes deeper.

How courageous, then, to step intentionally into disorientation – to invite the destabilization of beliefs, and fond attachments to the familiarity of life. Yet this is exactly what we must do in order to transform, no? Whether the invitation is into meditation, breathwork, shamanic practice, ecstatic dance, or any one of the many ‘*technologies of the sacred’ available to us, if we allow ourselves to dis-orient in small ways, in safe contexts, in a community of friends, with good guidance, then our worlds may become greater.

But, of course, that’s not the whole story. Disorientation, and recognizing a larger view, also involves the loss of what was: ways of being and interacting in the world that may no longer be acceptable to us. In a very real sense, when we experience transformation something must die and fall away and, as with a death, we may need to grieve, or bargain, rage against the loss, or fight against what is now demanded of us in our ‘new life.’ This is the point at which the pull to fall back into the comfortable – if unsatisfactory – old ways of being is likely to be strongest.

When we feel this kind of destabilization following a profound experience or insight, reflective and integrative practices can be our greatest friend. If we can stay in contact with ourselves, with compassion and determination, this is the time in which we can deepen into the learning that lives within the intensity and rawness of the moment. We can invite our hearts to stay open and discover new meaning from what is revealed if we stay friendly to our experience. Journaling, writing poetry, painting, and congruent forms of therapy can support us as we discover who we are becoming and how we can express this new learning in the everydayness of our lives.

As Gandhi so famously said: “We must become the change we want to see in the world.” The practice of becoming is the art of dancing with disorientation.

(* A term coined by Stanislav Grof, ‘father’ of Holotropic Breathwork)

Marianne Murray trained with Stan Grof, and was certified as a Holotropic Breathwork™ facilitator in 2001. She has a Ph.D in Transformative Learning, and an MA in Transpersonal Psychology. She is a systemic constellations facilitator, a certified bodyworker, and has an interest and involvement in contemplative practices. Marianne is an associate with the Academy for the Love of Learning in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Marianne’s website is http://www.holotropic-breathwork.co.uk/.

Her workshop this year at Poulstone is happening 5th – 10th August 2013.  More details are on the Courses page of our website: www.poulstone.com/courses.php.

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre