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  She also teaches shamanic dreaming courses and more information on these can be found at  Manda will be teaching at Poulstone throughout 2013.  Please contact her directly for information about courses open to the public:

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

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

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre


A week of firsts

Last week was definitely a week of firsts!  We saw the first swallows and martins on Tuesday – Mel actually saw them arrive this year as she was barrowing compost up to the veg plot.  Then on Friday we heard the first cuckoo calling and in the evening we spotted the first bats out of hibernation here.  All very exciting, and combined with the sunny weather we’ve had this last week, it seems, after all the false starts, Spring is here!  The trees are starting to show the first faint haze of colour as buds start to open.

Today is sunny and glorious – there are cabbage white and peacock butterflies enjoying the light warm breezes, the (big, fat!) bumble bees and honey bees are out investigating the flower beds and the air is alive with the sounds of birds – buzzards’ cries high above, the chatter of sparrows and the distinctive sounds of the swallows’ call, the soft voices of the pigeons, the alarm call of pheasants….

The silent retreat we have here this week with Burgs ( has just broken silence and people are enjoying talking and sharing experiences out on the lawn in the sunshine.

Steve has spent the week weeding and catching up a bit outside and Gail has at last been able to plant the potatoes.  The courgette, squash and pumpkin seedlings are starting to show and last week Mel planted rainbow and swiss chard and spinach, as well as starting to prepare the bed for the carrots.  It feels like we can steam ahead a bit now!





Steve and Dave have also finished shaping the new area by the fountain ready for re-planting – more of that to come in a little while!

We shall say goodbye to our meditators tomorrow morning and then get on with readying the house for Richard and Marigold Farmer’s group ( arriving on Friday.  Hopefully this lovely weather will continue so they can do some of their work outside over next weekend.

Anyway, that’s all from us right now.  We hope you’re having a little Spring sunshine where you are and enjoying the feeling of everything enlivening around us.

More soon!

Mel & Steve,

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

Day in the garden

Wednesday was wonderfully warm and sunny and everyone got out into the garden.  Even Mel was sprung from behind her desk!

Steve and Dave have begun a new project around the cherry tree by the barn (more of that in due course) – the area had become a little dark and overgrown so time for a change.  Mel swept and tidied the kitchen yard and potted up some hanging baskets for a bit of colour out the back.
Gail and Mel also sowed under cover the calabrese, sweetcorn, brussels, kale, squash, pumpkin and courgettes.  It’s felt too cold to plant much outdoors apart from the onions….still, the warmth of the day made us hopeful of some warmer weather to come and a chance to really get going on the veg plot.

Given the coldness of the wind today, it’s hard to believe that we ate our lunch out under the pear trees…….!!

Well, Steve’s out in the garden again today – in steady drizzle – ho hum….Everyone else is working in the house.  We have a lovely yoga group from Bristol here ( lead by Charlotte Hunt and her partner Dom.  They’re having a nurturing weekend of yoga, walking, massage and relaxation.  We’re greatly enjoying having them here x

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre


Latest novel to emerge from Freefall workshops!

The Freefall writing students have departed and were very enthusiastic about what they have learnt and experienced over the week with Barbara.  (Barbara Turner-Vesselago –  The first thing people ask us when we mention Freefall is whether anyone gets published as a result of writing using this method.  The answer is simply “yes”!  Many people just come and write for pleasure but others do get published.  David Harrison who was on the course last week is the latest published author.

Dave was an aspiring writer when he first came to Freefall in 2008. This year, he published his first novel, Due Diligence, a crime thriller set in Manchester.

Dave says he acknowledges the massive contribution made to his writing by the Freefall process and by the supportive environment at Poulstone. He’s been back every year since 2008 and has already booked his place for 2014!

If you want to see the results of all this good work, check out Due Diligence at

Well done, Dave – we look forward to seeing you next year – and reading your first novel!
More soon!
Mel & Steve xx
Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

More on wi-fi…..

As a follow-up to our last post on wi-fi and for anyone who is concerned about electro-magnetic pollution generally, we recently came across this You Tube clip via friends of ours which we thought you might find interesting.  We found it very informative and useful and it confirmed some of our own experiences.

Take a look at

You may also find this video of interest:

Much love

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre

Lambs, arctic winds, big birthdays and freefalling

Well, we’ve had a time of contrasts just recently.  We had a great week with the meditation retreat – silent and peaceful – followed the same day (!) by Gail’s 60th (yes, very hard to believe) birthday weekend.  Gail borrowed Poulstone for an “at home” from Friday to Sunday with a party on the Saturday evening and a singing workshop too!  It was lovely meeting Gail’s family and friends, and nice to catch up with old buddies, many of whom have been Poulstone-goers for a decade or two.  Also, a great chance to dust off outfits that we might not have the opportunity to wear anywhere else, given the rural nature of our general lifestyle!  Gail has been a great support to Poulstone in many ways over the years and it was lovely to have a chance to thank her by letting her use the space for her celebrations.

Mind you, we did all spend a little time wondering if Gail’s party would be snowed off, but in the event only a few people couldn’t get here due to the weather.   An arctic wind has remained since then though and only in the last couple of days has the sun broken through to offset the cold breezes.  If you’re visiting in the next few weeks, take a walk over the bridge to Sellack to see the new lambs.  Some are very new and tiny, and the older ones are already banding together into naughty little gangs for races and other lamby mischief!  They’re such a pleasure to watch and more curious than frightened at that age.  They must be very glad of a little sun on their backs these last few days after the severe coldness of the last week or so.  Mel’s just come back from a walk and taken some pictures of the lambs and the blazing sunshine on the river today.  Also, some photos of the lovely daffodils coming out under the copper beech (good to see the Buddhist approach to “pest” control (ie leave everything as it is!) has had some rewards!!).

We now have a week-long writing course in called Freefall with Barbara Turner-Vesselago.  The first morning, as we begin printing the morning’s writing for Barbara to read, is always a good test of technological know-how as we try to print Mac files from PCs, ease data off sulky memory sticks and download printer drivers for those whose memory sticks won’t work.  It was pretty smooth this morning, all in all.  It takes not a little courage to sit with yourself all morning and see what comes to you to write – freefalling into the words.  There’s a lovely quiet, focused feeling in the house.


That’s all for now.

With love,

Mel & Steve

Poulstone Court Retreat Centre