Fantastic experience to tell you about. I just turned 65, and 6 days later my husband, Ian, turned 70. We picked a very special holiday to celebrate these milestones.
After a week’s circle trip exploring a small part of British Columbia’s of coastal delights by car and staying at some beautiful wilderness locations, we spent the final week at Hollyhock on Cortes Island, BC, Canada. Ian and I had stayed at Hollyhock 20 years ago on a tenting holiday and we’ve been wanting to return ever since.
Wow! Hollyhock, “Canada’s Lifelong Learning Centre” on Cortes Island is at the southern end of what British Columbian’s call Desolation Sound. Cortes Island is uniquely positioned in some of the warmest west coast waters surrounded by superb ocean views and the surrounding scenic islands. Getting to Cortes is a delightful island-hopping journey via two ferries, first from Campbell River, BC (on Vancouver Island), then a drive across Quadra Island to the next ferry, and on to Cortes.
The Hollyhock resort covers a few acres at the south-east corner of Cortes, facing south over what is probably the most beautiful beach and view on the island.
Hollyhock has an interesting history, worth digging into if you plan to visit. Personally, what I love most about spending time at Hollyhock is the overall spirit of the place –spiritual, environmentally green/caring, vegetarian, respectful, restful, quiet. There are no electronics anywhere to be seen; they are restricted to just one area on site.
When you book your stay there, whether you are doing a workshop or just having a holiday getaway, your package includes all the meals (wonderfully tasty vegetarian food, prepared using fresh-picked delights from their much-nurtured garden); use of all the grounds, the ocean-view hot tubs and the beach (both of which are clothing optional), the big friendly lodge with ever-brewing coffee and teas, 24-hour fruit bowl, bread and toaster; a weekly beach oyster-bake, optional excursions, workshop presentations, and much more.
What a getaway into another reality! Ian and I booked a private room in one of the beach houses, with an amazing view out over the water.
There’s where we spent our quiet times, either in the lounge chairs on the deck, or chatting on the window-seat in our room, or lounging on the bed reading and/or daydreaming/meditating/etc.
Ian was participating in a week-long workshop called Dreamtime Didjeridu with Shine and Zach Sukuweh. I can’t presume to describe his experience, but he had a great time with the people there, honed his skills at playing the didjeridu, especially to create healing sounds for other people, and also learned how to do some much-needed repair work on his didj.
My workshop was Meditative Art & Yoga with Mochita Har-Lev of the Meditative Art School (her own company).
My experience for the week is what the rest of this post is about.
About the yoga … Although the yoga sessions were refreshing and energizing, a great lead-in to the meditative art segments of the day, it took me personally a couple of days to appreciate that. Let me just say this: even though I keep generally fit and very healthy, and I attend a weekly yoga class for seniors, my body wasn’t ready for daily yoga, even though it was at what was probably a “normal” level. It took quite a bit of adjustment on my part to ensure that I didn’t cause my body more pain than good. I talked with Mochita after day 2’s session and she was open to adapting what she was leading the group to do so that some of us “elders” could be more comfortable and still enjoy the benefits of yoga.
It was also hard for me to get up early enough for the first of our several daily meditations. At home, 7 a.m. is still sleeping time for me! Nevertheless, by day 3 I was arising eagerly at 6:15 without even needing the alarm clock.
Practicing Meditative Art, the main feature of my workshop, was fantastic. Mochita’s overall theme was using all-natural materials, “earth, stone, wood, natural paints, felt, shells, beads, flowers and so much more” to “empower yourself and your creativity.” During each session, our practice was to “combine art, ancient wisdom, and quiet inner work [to] learn and experience meditative painting, sculpturing, creative movement and writing,” and to “discover art from a meditative place, along with daily practice of yoga, walking/sitting meditation and guided relaxation.”
[quoting Mochita’s website about our workshop]
Creativity has always been a solitary practice for me. I tend to disappear into some other place when I’m doing my arts and crafts, my mind a blank canvas without thought, goals, or any consciousness of time. Despite my preference for that alone-time, it was a unique, special treat to participate within a group of like-minded women working side-by-side in pleasurable meditative silence, each of us lost in our own personal creative place.
All the materials we used during the week were from nature, either from beach-combing, raiding the kitchen, or using the treasures Mochita had brought for us from India and Greece.
So… here’s how each day went….
7 a.m., a forest-surrounded climb up the hill to our group’s private location, Bluff House, for a half-hour meditation, followed by 3/4 of an hour of yoga.
8:30, to the main lodge for a delicious breakfast, where Ian and I shared our morning cuppa, excited to get going on the rest of the day.
9:30, back to Bluff House for two and a half hours of guided meditative art.
Above, we were learning to use a special kind of water-based paint made from nature-based colors (Stockmar; click here for more info)… so natural that you have to keep them in the fridge after opening them! We created our own containers using egg shells nested in grasses and leaves gathered from the garden around us.
My personal meditative paint-play:
In the next photo, we are using materials from the kitchen to make mandalas. Rice, beans, peas, seeds, dried herbs like lavender, cloves, and more, along with a water/flour paste to secure the pieces to an all-natural board.
My own resulting mandala:
12:30, to the lodge for a lunch of the chef’s garden delights and perhaps some garden-grown herbal teas. The energy of the Lodge dining room was always high with everybody sharing their excitement about their workshops.
Then 3 hours of personal time, during which I usually went back to our workspace and continued with my day’s art project. Creative work is better than a break for me, plus that’s what I went there for, right?
Here I’m using my beach-gathered materials, beginning to create my dreamcatcher.
Here’s how it turned out:
At 4 p.m., our group gathered again. We began with another meditation session followed by 2 more hours of meditative art, along with sometimes a slide show of historical and/or famous examples of the kind of creative works we were working on that day, perhaps some sharing time about our own art and other topics, etc.
Here we are working with raw wool to needle-felt our personal creatures — fairies, goddesses, birds, whatever came to the imagination during our meditative time.
To construct the base for our felting surface, we had gone for a walk to the garden and filled pillowcases with cedar chips!
Here’s a “family portrait” of the finished work from all participants:
My own completed goddess figure:
6:30, dinner in the lodge, always superb food prepared with great care and creativity. Evenings were spent quietly: walks on the beach, sitting around chatting and sharing the day’s experiences, enjoying the outdoor hot tubs (with an amazing view), exploring the beautiful trails all over the grounds, receiving bodywork (for an extra fee), relaxing with some reading, etc. The evenings were a special time for Ian and I to connect and talk about our day’s creative activities and the growth and changes they were leading us through.
It was an amazing week, one we will treasure as part of our memories about our special age-transition milestones.