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Holiday, friendship and “meditation retreat” (tenth post)

A brief tenth post - back in Marrakech and reflecting on the trip.

Back in the city - so woken by the Marrakech muezzin long before 5.00am.  Lying in the dark and then coming downstairs to read and write.  Yesterday we started in Hotel Irocha a bit north of Ourzazate.  Great shared group breakfast out on a veranda, then into the 4x4's to head up over the Atlas and down again to Marrakech.  With stops it was approximately a four hour trip.  Rain.  The first we'd seen since driving down to the desert, both an age and just a week ago.  Then back here to the little hotel at Dar Soukaina, haven in the busy-ness of the medina.  Welcoming fresh squeezed orange juice and green tea.  Some unpacking.

Holiday, friendship and “meditation retreat” (ninth post)

Here's a ninth Moroccan post - coming out of the desert - dancing, cold beer, mindfulness & consciousness

James enjoying a non-desert coffee! 

Here in the civilisation of Hotel Irocha, I woke early and then got up with the first tentative muezzin call from the local village.  It's now a bit before 5.00am.  I've been settled typing for a little and the calls become more demanding.  As on the first morning in Marrakech nearly a week ago, the muezzin call starts a cock crowing.  It's still pitch black.  The desert sunrise yesterday morning wasn't till well after 6.00am.

Holiday, friendship and “meditation retreat” (eighth post)

Eighth Moroccan post - last night in the desert.

Some of our guides singing & drumming

Last breakfast here in the desert - this one at an encampment at Erg Cheggaga.  We arrived last night after one of our longest day's walks (they haven't been very long).  I've not been wearing a watch since the first afternoon in the desert, but I guess we were walking for maybe a bit over 3 hours in the morning and then for a bit less than 3 hours in the afternoon. 

We're now in from the desert proper.  Tired.  We put up tents, ate under the stars, then sang.  Our five guides sang Berber songs, drumming on empty plastic containers.  Full of energy.  Our Western songs seemed quite sad, doleful, beside their rhythm.  We tried singing various tunes, but then came up with something that fitted - "She'll be coming round the mountain" complete with clapping and whooping.  That seemed to hit the spot for the guides!  Great.  Sad.  Lovely.  And we sang on and danced.  Then slept under the stars.  

Holiday, friendship and “meditation retreat” (seventh post)

And here's a briefer seventh Moroccan post looking a little at the internal "meditative methods" being used by various of us in the desert.

Following the camels

So at the lunch siesta today I asked our group what they had been doing in their heads while they were walking.  One person talked about simply "being with the walking and the breath".  They're a dancer and spoke of "dancing with the wind".  They said something too about "headlessness".  That took me back to the Incredible String Band and their 1960's song about Douglas Traherne Harding who lectured on "headlessness".  I remember staying the night at Douglas's home nearly 40 years ago!

Holiday, friendship and “meditation retreat” (sixth post)

This is the sixth - and a rather longer - Moroccan post.  It looks a little at mindfulness and interpersonal conflict. 


And after the siesta yesterday, we walked (again without the camels) up to the top of the highest "singing dune" (so-called because of the noise it sometimes makes in the wind).  We sat with the sun setting and then ran wildly down the steep, maybe 300 foot or so, slope of the dune.  Then back through the diminishing light to the camp.

There are two big tents - one for our five Berber guides - and the other for some of us.  We also have a couple of smaller two-man tents we can put up, if we want to ... and there's the special option too of sleeping out under the amazing stars!

Several of us have talked of seeing this trip as involving three intertwined themes - deepening our relationship with ourselves, deepening our relationship with the landscape, and deepening our relationship with each other.

Holiday, friendship and “meditation retreat” (fifth post)

This fifth Moroccan post is written two days into the desert walk with the mindfulness practice beginning to deepen.

Resting by the camels

This is the second full day in the desert.  We've been here about 48 hours.  Now is post-lunch siesta time.  Walking meditatively this morning was much easier than yesterday's walk.  I'm not wearing a watch, but I'd guess we walked initially today for between 1½ to 2 hours.  We then stopped in the shade of a tamarisk tree mound for water, nuts and raisins.  The mound was a bit small to shade our whole group - there are eight of us and five Berber guides.  I and the camels seem a bit more relaxed around each other after two days travelling together, so I simply sat in shade thrown by one of the resting camels.  It turned its neck to look at me with intelligent, inquisitive eyes and then seemed fine having me for company. 

Holiday, friendship and “meditation retreat” (fourth post)

This brief fourth Moroccan blog post describes some of the first day in the desert.

a few clouds catching the sunlight

Waking this morning in the encampment ... desert dawn ... a few clouds catching the sunlight ... people slowly emerge from their tents.  Camels wandering.  Packing up gradually.  Breakfast.  Then heading out through scattered tamarisk trees.  We've agreed we'll try walking mostly in silence.  Settling.  Relaxing the body.  Being aware of the surroundings.

Holiday, friendship and “meditation retreat” (third post)

This is the third Moroccan blog post.  It introduces some ideas about mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), self-criticism and problem solving.

So yesterday we drove East and South from Marrakech across the Atlas - the road, our driver said, winding up to over 6,500 feet (about 2,000 meters) before heading back down to the plain that eventually after many kilometers will become the Sahara.

Holiday, friendship and “meditation retreat” (second post)

This is the second of 11 blog posts about going to Morocco to walk "mindfully" in the Sahara desert.  This post covers the arrival in Marrakech.

5.00am - the calls of the muezzin increase in volume. This seems a good time to meditate. All around, here in the Marrakech medina, many others will be praying.

... and now it's over an hour later. I sat quietly listening. The cocks crew lustily as the muezzin calls ebbed away. Normally in Edinburgh I would be up at this time. It's quite a solitary, quiet time of day. Interesting just now, comforting in a way, to feel the sincere activity of many in this city at that early hour.

Holiday, friendship and “meditation retreat” (first post)

This is the first of 11 blog posts about going to Morocco to walk "mindfully" in the Sahara desert.  This post gives a bit of background to the trip.

6.00am - the old clock has just sounded in my cousin's house in London. We arrived yesterday evening, flew down from Edinburgh, came across London, had a great meal with my cousin, his wife, their daughter, and dear Kieran, our son, who'd cycled over from his flat further East. I woke this morning an hour or so ago and lay thinking about the trip ahead. At 8.00am, Catero, my wife, and I are due to head down to Victoria and take a train out to Gatwick airport. Hopefully we'll meet up with four friends there and catch a plane to Marrakech. We should then get together with a couple more friends at the little hotel we've booked in the Medina. Tomorrow we're due to be picked up by two 4x4's and driven over the Atlas mountains down towards the Sahara desert.