BALI RETREAT 2018

Thank you for taking us all on a truly magical journey of artistic exploration and personal discovery
— Bali Retreat participant April 2018
 One of the beautiful ensuite rooms at the Indies

One of the beautiful ensuite rooms at the Indies

Square the Circle has recently returned from another amazing and inspiring retreat on the beautiful, symbolic island of Bali. We spent 10 days in the Indies villas, an oasis of calm set in a walled garden with its own pool and three stunning villas.

I love the Indies - character and connection to a wonderful part of Bali - a haven in a secret garden
— Retreat participant April 2018
The staff have been amazing - nothing too much trouble and absolute attention to all needs
— Retreat participant April 2018

WORKSHOPS

A deep, stimulating and enriching experience, like a deep massage for the psyche!
— Retreat participant April 2018

Mornings on the retreat are spent in the large, air conditioned art room at the Indies, exploring different aspects of symbolism through templates, creative play and sharing images. For more information on these workshops, click here. Themes included, the Forest, the Sea, Mother and Father, and Spirituality. In each workshop, we look at universal symbolism then explore our own personal symbolism using the art materials. You can see the varied and wonderfully creative images made in these workshops here

The retreat also included workshops on universal and sacred symbolism, the importance of fairy tales and myth, balinese symbolism and wayang kulit shadow puppets, creating a balinese mandala and how to create your own narratives and journals.

ACTIVITIES AND OUTINGS

Such an amazing experience! Facilitators were very helpful - couldn’t have asked for anything better
— Retreat participant April 2018

This year's retreat was designed around the famous Indonesian puppet, the wayang kulit, meaning leather puppet. This is a highly symbolic and sacred show used in many rituals and ceremonies on Bali. We travelled to Ubud to see a wayang kulit show, spent a morning in the beautiful grounds of the craft museum making our own puppets using leather and traditional tools, and wrote our own narratives, putting on our own wayang kulit show at the Indies at the end of the retreat.

We also visited Kevala ceramics, a busy, working ceramics factory, where we all had tutoring on the potter's wheels, then spent a peaceful and creative hour carving scroffitto on glazed pots created for us by Kevala. These were delivered back to the Indies, fired and perfect, at the end of the retreat!

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SPIRIT AND SOUL

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A key aspect of our Bali retreat is for participants to explore and get involved in the rich symbolic spirituality of the island of Bali. There are many and varied ceremonies, rituals and offerings across the island on a daily basis, and we had the opportunity to get really involved, including a cleansing ceremony up in the rainforest, giving the daily offerings to the domestic temple in the Indies garden, which we were taught to make by the Indies staff team, and joining in the offerings at Kevala ceramics. The retreat also offered daily morning yoga by the pool at the Indies.

FOOD AND DRINK!

All dinners and breakfast by the pool are included in the retreat. Bali is also full of wonderful local cuisine and great restaurants, both up in Ubud and on the beach. We shared a couple of evenings and lunches out, and there was time for participants to explore restaurants and beach cafes by themselves. The culinary highlight of the retreat was a sunset visit for cocktails and a balinese feast at Bali Asli restaurant, with a terrace overlooking the mighty Mount Agung, Bali's most sacred place.

Thank you to all participants for an enriching and fun retreat. The retreat in 2019 will be 12-21st April. We are limiting it to 8 places - if you are interested in reserving a space for April 2019, e mail square-the-circle@hotmail.com. No payment is required until October 2018. Full details on enquiry

See you there!

BALI RETREAT 2017

A once in a lifetime experience immersed in balinese culture with a supportive group of like minded women whilst exploring personal and collective symbolism, mythology and stories - heaven!
— Retreat participant, Australia

Early in 2017 Square the Circle headed to the beautiful island of Bali in Indonesia to run a Retreat using what we've learnt and shared in London and New York. The island of Bali is a hugely creative place, and full of rich symbolism that permeates every day life for all balinese, through daily rituals and rich festivals that involve the whole village. We stayed at the Indies estate in Sanur, a tranquil, walled space, ideal for containing and nurturing participants. One participant wrote of the Indies:"quiet, containing, wonderful staff, pool, birds, trees - a safe space and just very beautiful"

The Retreat was developed and designed around the balinese festival of Nyepi, heralding in the New Year. Nyepi day is a day of silence and reflection, where the island is purified of all the difficulties and evils of the previous year, and starts again, renewed. During the day no one is allowed to leave home, cook or work, and no light is permitted, plunging the island into total darkness and silence at night. Even the airport is shut, and from above it appears as if the island of Bali has just disappeared. The stars and silence are incredible! The night before this special day is called Tawur Kesanga, when huge effigies called Ogoh Ogoh, built over months by the villagers of Bali, are paraded through the streets, turned three times at the cross roads to confuse the evil spirits, then taken for burning at the beach. It a richly symbolic and important part of the purification of the island. You can read more about Nyepi here.

DAY ONE: Welcome

We began the retreat on the first Friday evening with an introductory workshop to discuss our hopes and fears for the week, using collage images and free association. This was followed by welcome cocktails and dinner by the pool.

DAY TWO: Ceramics, symbols and the mind

Our first full day started with yoga then breakfast together by the pool, before setting off in the mini bus to Kerala ceramics factory, in order to get our clay work created in timing for firing and taking home at the end of the Retreat.We were wonderfully looked after by the team at Kerala, who had given up part of their festival holiday to work with us. Participants had a chance to learn turning pots on the wheels, and to scroffitto their own balinese box, supported and guided by the skilled and talented staff, and supplied with tea, water and cakes throughout the morning!

We then shared lunch together down by the beach, and headed back to the Indies. The first workshop in the afternoon explored what we think is meant by symbolism, followed by presentations on universal sacred symbolism and Jung's collective unconscious, and the importance of myth and stories. We then explored these ideas creatively using templates of The Mind. After a break for relaxation we reconvened in the workshop space for a workshop on the balinese festival of Nyepi, linked to Jung's theories of The Shadow. We were taking our own Ogoh Ogoh effigy to the balinese parade, and spent this workshop writing what our own personal demons are, and thinking about our shadow aspect. We wrote these on tissue paper and pasted them onto the Ogoh, as part of the symbolic burning and puriication of Nyepi later in the week. We finished the day with dinner together by the pool.

DAY THREE: The forest and Ogoh Ogoh creation

After breakfast, our first themed workshop explored ideas and symbolism around the Forest. You can view the images produced here.

After a break for lunch, massages and relaxation, we worked together to decorate our Ogoh Ooh and get him ready fo the big parade. We had drawn names of body parts out of a hat to decide who painted what, and worked in small teams. This was a very rewarding shared piece, very uniting and bonding. Two of the participants had added fantastic spikes to the Ogoh in the morning before the workshop and this really enhanced the work. We also watched the Indies team building the traditional bamboo platform on which we would carry the Ogoh Ogoh in the parade.Some of us continued to paint into the night after dinner!

 

 

DAY FOUR: The sea and the ceremony

Our thematic workshop today was The Sea, and we explored our symbols and feelings about this beautiful subject after yoga and breakfast by the pool. You can view the images produced here. After lunch we were taught how to make the exquisite offertory baskets by Nyoman, who runs the Indies Estate. These baskets are ubiquitous across the island - you will see them every day and everywhere, on the road outside houses and shops, down on the beach, and crowded onto shrines and in temples. They are daily offerings to the Gods, and larger versions are created for big festivals. We were making ours to take with us on the parade. Nyoman also taught us to tie a sarong properly, as we were wearing traditional dress in the parade and didn't want the sarong falling off in the night! After changing and an early supper, we set off into the evening, following our effigy on his bamboo platform. The night of Tawur Kesanga is like nothing else on earth. Almost the whole of Bali is out on the streets, with the oldest grandparent and the youngest child involved in some way - young men dancing, teenagers playing traditional music, and a team carrying the vast Ogoh Ogoh effigy built by the village. You can view video of the spectacle here. We had the very special and privileged chance of parading an Ogoh Ogoh, not something that Westerners usually do, and by special permission from our local Banjar (village Head). It was a truly amazing night an not your usual tourist event. We retired back to the Indies for celebratory drinks on one of the villa terraces by the pool - tired and inspired!

DAY FIVE: Home and silence

Today was Nyepi day, with a skeleton staff at the Indies, cold buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner as no one can cook, and we were confined to the villa -  a day of peace, reflection, reading and painting by the pool. The silence is incredible. There are no traffic noises, no police sirens, no noise from the street, just birds singing, dogs barking and cockerels crowing. The themed workshop in the morning was based around Home, and we carried out the creative element of the 3 hour workshop in complete silence. You can view the images of home here. We ate dinner early while we still had some light, then watched the night slip into total blackness - no ambient light from the street and no lights in the villas, just small torches to guide the path. It was a very intense and unusual experience for our modern way of living, and the stars were absolutely spectacular. It was a beautiful and special day.

DAY SIX: Mother, father, wood carving and Mount Agung

This morning's workshop, following yoga and breakfast, was themed around mother and father. You can view the images here. After the workshop we took a packed lunch straight onto the mini bus and headed up the east coast of Bali towards Ubud, the islands great artistic centre. We drove through rural villages, down bumpy tracks and grazing cows, to the wood carving centre set in the middle of waving rice paddies: it felt like being on an island in a swaying green sea. We had two hours of expert tuition on the basics of balinese mask carving, and were served tea and delicious deep fried plantain snacks, before heading off again up North to the more mountainous area of Bali, and the imposing and sacred volcano Mount Agung. We were the guest of a unique restaurant called Bali Asli, set amongst the rainforest, with a balcony facing breathtaking views of the volcano, where we drank cocktails, then were served a balinese feast, before the sleepy drive home through the villages and towns of east Bali.

DAY SEVEN: The shadow and shopping

After morning yoga and our usual shared breakfast by the pool, we explored the shadow in our themed workshop. You can view the images here. This was an intense shared experience, and the rest of the day participants could wander out into Sanur for lunch by the beach, some shopping, rest and relaxation. Everyone had a free massage included in the Retreat, so this was a good opportunity to book this in. We shared dinner together by the pool.

DAY EIGHT: Spirituality, purification and the palace

Today was another very special day. After a morning workshop around the theme of spirituality (view the images here), we set off up the west coast of Bali, heading for the sacred and exquisite temple of Puri Anya, an ancient 17th century balinese temple set right up against the volcano and nestled into the rainforest, full of scampering monkeys and birdsong. We were guests of the Crown Prince of Kerambitan, who arranged for us to take part in a traditional purification ceremony  in a quiet part of the temple, right in the jungle. This is not usually on offer to Westerners. It was very peaceful and magical. From here, we drove to the palace of Kerambitan, where we were welcomed like royalty by balinese dancers and musicians, and were the guests of the King at a feast of babi guling (spit roasted pig). We danced and watched the traditional trance dance, that was originally created at this palace. We were part of a true, Balinese experience.

DAY NINE: Endings

Everyone was slowly leaving for home throughout the day after yoga and breakfast. Our ceramic boxes arrived back, fired and complete, from Kerala, for everyone to take home, along with their wood carved mask and a portfolio of 19 very personal images, showing a journey through the symbols of life, and hopefully many memories of wonderful experiences and some new friends!

If you are interested in hearing more, or would like information about our Retreat next year, please e mail square-the-circle@hotmail.com

 

 

 

Square the Circle Workshop in New York

Square the Circle is off to New York, presenting an experiential workshop at the International Arts in Health Conference at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. The conference is based around Mentalization, with a keynote speech from Peter Fonagy, and we have an hour and a half to talk a little about the theoretical underpinnings of these workshops - Jung, Symbolism and story-making, Flow, and linking these to concepts of mentalization. We are then going to have a creative session around the Forest theme. It should be an amazing experience, meeting new people interested in using art and creativity in health services, and the chance to make some images together. If you'd like to know more about this, click here.

The Children's Book AS Byatt

If you are interested in fairy stories and myths, this book is magical. It is about the golden age after Victoria with the art and craft movement, the rise of socialism and an awareness of the suffering of the poor, but all with the terrible known shadow of the war looming, as the years roll on - 1902, 1904, 1910 and the young men get older and you know what is coming. But the main characters are also puppet makers, potters and weavers of fairy stories. It is magic. I love this quote: "you know what you have said, about stories under the hills, of old things and inhuman things and magic, that used to run through everything and has now shrunk to odd little patches of magic woods and hummocks? You talk a great deal about the brothers Grimm and their belief that fairy tales were the old religion - the old inner life - of the German people? Well, I sometimes feel stories are the inner life of this house, a kind of spinning energy. I am this spinning fairy in the attic. I am Mother Goose quacking away what sounds like comfortable chatter but is really what holds it all together' 

Stranger Things and the Hero Quest

Finished the new Netflix series, Stranger Things last week. I was very struck by the powerful and traditional symbolism in the story, and wondered if the writers were aware of it, or whether it came out of the collective unconscious and man's long history of myth-making? Without giving away any spoilers, the Town police chief, Hopper, begins the series as a backwater cop, unfulfilled, drinking, waking on the sofa, heavy smoker, with a failed marriage behind him. Through the story, he finds purpose and goes on a Herculean hero quest to find and redeem himself through trying to save the little lost boy, Will. When he goes into the parallel world, it is clearly a frightening plunge into the unconscious, a realisation of the importance of diving into the unexplored aspects of himself in order to find truth. It is the hero's journey into the forest, played out in myths since the dawn of time. And the parallel world was the same as the 'real' world, but dark, frightening and full of monsters. But what is also interesting is that it is only when he has taken this dive that he begins to process the death of his beloved daughter, and thus integrates the pain and harm of it into his being, and is able to become whole and renewed. I loved this show - it didn't shy away from the difficult journeys we must all travel, and didn't offer easy solutions by way of all the right people ending up happily ever after with each other. It was dark, nuanced and subtle.

Symbolism alive and well

I started this journey to discover more about Jung's idea of collective unconscious, and how we can access our own inner unconscious. Being an artist and Art Therapist, it seemed logical to do this through creativity, and I have had a fascinating year researching all the wonderful traditional and universal symbols that arose as I developed my drawings for Square the Circle. The great universal themes, including going into the forest, travelling across the sea or plunging into its depths, finding a place to call home - they are part of all of us and what makes us human, but also come up time and again in our ancient stories and myths. Why have we lost touch with this ubiquitous and elemental aspect of humanity? It is still alive and well in much literature and art, but funding and priorities for these aspects of humanity are increasingly being cut and devalued. Perhaps our enlightened and scientific existence has not allowed a space for this kind of thinking? Richard Dawkins did say that we should not read fairytales to children because they are not true! Perhaps a need to get in touch with ideas of metaphor and symbolism needed there! but science and ancient ideas of a collective 'blueprint' of what it is to be human, and an understanding of the human psyche are beginning to talk to each other. Jung had an in-depth collaboration with the Nobel prize winning physicist Pauli for example. I am constantly seeing symbolic ideas and imagery in modern life. We just don't notice it any more. did anyone notice the Flower of Life on the posters for Coldplay's recent tour? That is a fascinating ancient symbol, worth researching.