The First Time… What is it like to attend your first workshop?

land of the exiles great hucklow  devils rock  001 (17)The laughter, fun and friendship of the events and workshops we hold each year is something we cherish. We look forward to greeting Companions and friends we see all too rarely, some of whom cross half a world to join us for a few days. The warmth is real and it doesn’t take long to envelop the whole group, including those attending for a first time.

With the Silent Eye’s weekend workshop coming up in April, a point was made that these things can be daunting for anyone who has never attended an esoteric workshop and who may have absolutely no idea what to expect. We all remember the first time, the nervousness and uncertainty, so we thought it might be an idea to write about it from a more subjective viewpoint.

Many of our events are informal and fairly organic, accepting the gifts of the moment in a landscape or sharing ideas as we walk. Even those can seem daunting if you do not know what to expect. A more structured ritual weekend can seem like venturing into the unknown.

It is all very well knowing the timetable and type of subjects that will be covered, the fact that we will be using ritual drama and will run presentation and meditation sessions… but really, if you have never been to one of these workshops you are still none the wiser.

As a friend wrote after our inaugural workshop: “Daunting beyond words, that first time. But after a couple of hours you realise that they’re all mad (in the good way), and that nobody appears to know any more than you do (not really) and that if it weren’t for the interruptions caused by the scheduled events, you’d all be sitting around drinking tea and chatting “interesting stuff” for the entire three days…”

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The April weekend is held in Derbyshire, in a small village surrounded by the green hills of the Dales. We take over the Nightingale Centre, which is a lovely old building providing comfortable accommodation, excellent food and which just happens to have a 17th century pub next door for good measure.

The weekend begins on the Friday evening. You are greeted and allowed to settle into your room. There will be time to meet old friends perhaps and begin to make new ones in a relaxed atmosphere. An informal welcome and introduction to the weekend precedes a buffet dinner, after which we talk you through the first of a series of ritual dramas that will begin the thread that continually weaves through the weekend.

The ritual dramas take the form of a single story that flow through the weekend, providing an imaginative and engaging frame within which we share the spiritual teachings. We ask that everyone wear a white robe or shawl to signify sacred intent. Many will add other items to make the character they have been assigned their own.

Everyone takes some part in these ritual dramas. Roles are assigned well in advance and scripts sent out so you can be familiar with what we will be doing if you choose.They are fully scripted…you don’t have to learn your lines, know how to act, what to do or where to be. Everyone begins together on an emotional and magical journey that simply requires you to be part of it.

The ritual dramas are scripted down to the last detail… and mistakes still happen. Even experienced ritualists can be found snoring through their ‘cue’ after a longhaul flight. It doesn’t matter. Someone will always either nudge or cover for them. One experienced ritualist of my all-too-intimate acquaintance has been known to sob and sniff her way through half of a particularly moving ritual, using her robe sleeve as a handkerchief. (These days, I take tissues….).

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In the evenings, after the final event of the day, half the companions retire to the village pub, the others chat in the comfortable lounge or walk in the beautiful landscape and grounds and the evenings pass in a relaxed and friendly manner. Impromptu bands have sprung up when we have had musicians with us, dances have been danced and art has been made… and so have friendships.

The mornings may begin with a special ritual or perhaps a guided meditation, where you are simply asked to relax and take an emotive journey in the imagination. These are followed by lectures, discussions and group work… where you will be presented with a variety of subjects and invited to share your thoughts and participate in discussion and perhaps practical exercises. You are not expected to be familiar with the concepts presented and there is no expected degree of knowledge or learning required, just the openness to listen to new ideas and old, to think and feel and see what comes and share your own thoughts if you so choose.

Mealtimes are wonderful for talk. The food is incredibly good at the Nightingale Centre and they cater for all diets beautifully. The rooms are comfortable, the staff impeccable and the centre itself beautifully presented and set in glorious countryside.

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We intend the weekend to be comfortable, fun, challenging and informative. We hope to have you laughing, thinking, moving and feeling… possibly shedding an odd tear. We want those who attend to leave their mark on the heart of our school and hope we can leave a gentle mark on their lives too.

You do not have to be a member of the School to attend. You do not even have to be thinking about joining. We just want to share a unique moment with a group of people who are there because they wish to be. All are warmly welcome.We know there are few esoteric workshops of this calibre that are open to all in the UK at this time. The vast majority of the best ones are tied to Schools or particular groups and so are generally fully subscribed fairly rapidly.

Each year we publish the scripts of the events as Silent Eye Workbooks shortly after April. Here you can read the type of story we use for the emotional and psychological adventure we share. Here too you can read the accounts, opinions and experiences of some of those who attend, both members of the School and those who simply come to share the weekend. You will find details of Land of the Exiles and The Song of the Troubadour on the Books page.

It is worth stressing that we do not seek to make money from these workshops or from the School. It will operate on a strictly not for profit basis, keeping costs as low as possible to allow the workshops to be accessible to all.

Full details of the 2016 workshop and events for 2017 can be found on the Events page.

*Please note, photographs of those attending the events are used only with prior permission and will not show all who attend.

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