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Thursday, November 1, 2018

Happiness is like the wind

I once lived on a hill in Tuscany above the Abbey of San Galgano. There was talk locally of a Russian Film Director who had been making a film thereabouts and I learned that it was Andrei Tarkovsky, an art school hero of mine. The protagonist in the film, Andrei Gorchakov is a poet in exile and he is struggling with the superficiality of life in Italy and longs for the deeper darker melancholia of his  life in Russia. There is a scene in the film Nostalghia (1hr.24 mins in) where, in a rain drenched ruin, he meets a little girl, and he asks her 'Are you happy?' And she answers ' 'Happy with what?'. He says with life, and she answers 'With life yes'

The subject of happiness has popped up a lot these past weeks.
Initially, I was asked by a friend if I was happy and I gave the answer that happiness, to me, is like the wind, that it blows sometimes warm and fragrant, sometimes cold and brittle and in fact that it is never the same, never constant.
But the question has made me want to define it to myself.

If I catch the wind in my hand, is it still the wind?

Questions then, that I have begun to ask myself.
When am I most happy?
In which situations am I not happy?
Do I think some people are born happy and others not?
Isn't perhaps the pursuit of happiness a more noble aspiration?
Are happy children more likely to become happy adults?
Does schooling take away a child's happiness?
Is a simple life a happier life?
Are gardeners happy souls?
Are creative people happier than social media addicts?
Are dog owners happier than most other folks?
(The Dalai Lama was once asked the secret of happiness, and he answered 'Buy a dog')

So there you are, go out and buy a dog.

Alternatively, you  might like to sign up for one of our workshops in Italy.
Springtime and early summer breaks in the mountains of La Sibilla, the Nature Goddess.

Write to Michael for further info about our retreats and workshops

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Watch out for Jellyfish

My morning swim

In moral support of Lewis Pugh, I returned to my morning swim in the sea regime this morning, after a sojourn in London. He says that courage is a muscle that improves in strength when practised.
And he's dead right about that. This morning in particular.
I was late arriving at my swimming beach because my mind was making excuses, the excuse of a burned foot (small accident with flaming plastic bag before London trip) and my mind said, take it easy, stay in bed, go tomorrow. Then I remembered that it's Lewis's last stretch of coastline morning. So I took his wise words as a spur to action and drove down to the sea. And what a difference an hour makes of a morning. Four times as many cars, ten times as many people, and, sad to say, Georgio, my seagull friend had given up on me and wasn't on his perch out at sea.
But I swam out to him anyway in his absence and sang his song to him, thinking he might hear me and fly to his black post, but alas not. He's sulking I guess.
The water is crystal clear, the air morning clean and fresh and I realise how lucky we are here in Le Marche, between the sea and the mountains. Read yesterday that 95% of city people in Europe breathe polluted air and that this effects the brain's function, that children are affected most of all. Great!

Which takes us down to Sicily.
Do you know Sicily?
You do?
You don't!
It is a place like no other
Folks there are intensely protective of the environment, the land, the surrounding sea, air quality, water quality, flora and fauna, and they are pro-active about these issues. And once they have fixed their awful roads and all drive electric cars, I think I will be singing their praises endlessly.

You might like to know that Gianni Girotto and I are running our BreathingArt workshop down there in October.
It's at the spectacular Bannata Centre
Here is an info link

So,here's a toast to Lewis Pugh, who at this very moment is finishing his super human swim and meeting Michael Gove at Dover.
Watch out for jellyfish Lewis.

Michael at 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Breathing Art in Sicily

So, we all know how to eat well.
How we should limit our alcohol intake.
How to keep sun exposure in check.
How much we should exercise.
How to be conscious of our carbon footprints.
How much water we should drink each day.

Do we know how to breathe properly?
Gianni Girotto.. has taught right breathing in Italy for many years and this October in Sicily he is collaborating with artist Michael Eldridge in an experiental workshop which explores the relationship between right breathing and the creative impulse.
What does this mean?
Gianni has found that the very practice of correct breathing triggers off a profound and powerful
release of energy and clarity of mind; this followed by a desire to do and make and to create in some form or fashion.
Michael has followed Gianni for years now and he has jumped at the prospect of working with him in Sicily. On this workshop he will show folks how to galvinise this energy and how such alchemy
can produce art work in the form of painting.

You don't have to be a a painter to come on the course, nor do you have to have had previous knowledge of right breathing techniques.
You just need to be curious, adventurous and to delight in the prospect of working with like minded people at the remarkable Centre of Bannata in central Sicily

Flights in Italy, Ryanair to Catania from most Italian airports, check also Volea and Vologratis
From UK, Ryanair to Catania from Bristol, East Midlands and Edinburgh, check also British Airways and EasyJet

Workshop dates October 16 to 21

The workshop is in both Italian and English

Find out more here

                                               BOOKING INSTRUCTIONS

Michael's email
Whatsapp +39 3283535358

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

George the seagull

This is my friend George.
He is a seagull
And the photo above is a portrait of him.
Perched on top of the black post

Every morning at daybreak I swim out to him and sing him a song
Why, it could be 'I'm not in love' by 10cc.
Or, 'True love will find you in the end' by Daniel Johnson
Maybe 'Wild Thing' by the Troggs
Always love songs

You see, I play this game. 'My last day on earth'
I guess it's just a mind game like any other, but I like it because it intensifies every day.

What I do is experiment with my mind, to see what it's up to.

You see, it gets in the way all of the time, so I figure if I pretend that this is my last day on earth, then I'm gonna miss so much of just plain ordinary stuff.
Like waking to watch the sun rise.
Like driving to the sea on traffic free roads
Like whispering HI to cats and dogs I pass.
Especially the two Cocker Spaniels at Civitanova Alta
Doing Tai Chi on an empty beach.
And singing to George as I swim towards the black post

A note; this wonder of living in the day for the day, is what we practice on our workshops, because you see, that is where creativity finds us, because we go looking for her in the mountains, by the rivers and lakes of the magnificent Sibillini mountains.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

A feeling for water

Sivert and the effect of water
Sivert, walking one evening by the river, stops on a sudden; there on the water are a pair of ducks,male and female. They have sighted him; they are aware of man, and afraid; one of them says something, utters a little sound, a melody in three tones, and the other answers with the same. Then they rise, whirl off like two little wheels a stone's throw up the river, and settle again. Then, as before, one speaks and the other answers; the same speech as at first, but mark a new delight: it is set in two octaves higher! Sivert stands looking at the birds,looking past them, far into a dream. A sound has floated through him, a sweetness of something wild and splendid, something he had known before, and forgotten again. He walks home in silence, says no word of it, makes no boast of it, t'was not for wordly speech. And it was but young Sivert from Sellanraa, went out one evening, young and ordinary as he was, and met with this.

On reading this, as I am at this moment it time, in a book by Knut Hamsun 'Growth of the soil' it struck me how it links with some experiences in my past and present life.

Driving through the low Sierras in California with a friend some years back, I'd left him to sulk by a river, a mountain stream in a wooded glade, and walked off to take some photographs. I returned to find him in a state of between shock and wonder. Oddly, I thought at the time, he did not wish to talk about what he would only say was a visitation of some sort. So I let it go.

Years earlier I'd witnessed a similar occurrence whilst visiting with my sister, a once sacred Celtic grove in mid Wales. It was a sort of cul de sac valley with a waterfall at its head. She was having trouble walking and I'd left her by a babbling brook to walk as far as the waterfall. On returning, I found her in a similar state as I had found my friend. Not wishing to talk to me but just that the brook had spoken to her in some fashion. Also on the way back to her house she'd asked me not to talk to her until that evening when she had poured through a dictionary of old Celtic, after which she told me that she had received a blessing, that was all.

So you gather from the above that I am drawn to water and old sacred places. And to jump to the present, this summer, in two of my workshops in The Sibillini mountains in Italy, I took participants to rivers and waterfalls associated with the old nature religions; to paint and photograph and to write poetry. Stranger things indeed, creative things, which manifested themselves in quite astounding work and the experience of which has had a profound effect on the folks involved.
Nowadays, we call these experiences mindfulness and re-wilding the self, but I have noticed that these experiences cannot be sought after and I never, ever put these notions into people's minds beforehand; this I must emphasise. They simply just happen when we are in that state of receptiveness which is most powerful when we are absorbed in the rhythms of nature. They come to us.

Let me leave you with a quote by Oliver Sacks

'The primeval, the sublime, are much better words here — for they indicate realms remote from the moral or the human, realms which force us to gaze into immense vistas of space and time, where the beginnings and originations of all things lie hidden. Now, as I wandered in the cycad forest on Rota, it seemed as if my senses were actually enlarging, as if a new sense, a time sense, was opening within me, something which might allow me to appreciate millennia or eons as directly as I had experienced seconds or minutes.'

You can follow Michael's Blogs here
And click here for workshops coming up in painting, photography, ceramics, poetry and more

(above photo Duncan Campbell)

Friday, July 13, 2018

My Garden of Now

 photo: Duncan Campbell, Casteluccio

'Must not the mind have the capacity to fathom -not to imitate, not to be shaped, and to be without fear? Should not such a mind be alone and therefore creative? That creativeness is not yours or mine, it is anonymous'. - Krishnamurti, '

I have called it that, in various ways, for as long as I can remember.
It was where, as a boy, I would become absorbed in the natural world and in making things and with drawing and creating images.
And I have been lucky, throughout my adult life, to not lose this wonder, although of course it has often been threatened.
And this is what I always aim to share with others in my workshops, as do all the other tutors. A precious place where time dissolves and where we can return safely whenever we choose.
This early Autumn, we are trying a few new adventures; a few new faces too, simply to keep on the move and not get stuck in routine and repetition. Neither in our art, nor in life itself.

Our workshops in Italy are held in The Sibillini mountains of Le Marche 

And also in Sicily, and include a variety of creative activities.

Here are some which might interest you for this Autumn 


Saturday, April 7, 2018

My Golden bubble of Abundance

                                        Painting by Michael Eldridge

'The object isn't to make art, it's to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable'......Robert Henri

It must have been ten years since I first came upon Henri's words. And I can truly say they changed my life. They made me curious as to what he meant, and more importantly, how to get into this 'wonderful state'

And this is where I have arrived at so far.....

A Golden bubble of Abundance
Into which I can invite in or throw out what I need, or don't need, every day

I can invite in 'health and well being, which ripples through my body from head to toe like a tingle of electricity, lighting up every one of the the thirty seven trillion cells in my body, so it becomes like a galaxy of stars in the universe- which indeed it is.

I can throw out of my bubble the past and present, because I have no need of these on some days, as I might wish to be absorbed into the beauty of the moment of now, my garden of now, if you will.

And when I walk through my garden of now I can wonder at the sky and the clouds, the trees and the animals, the sweet flowers and the rippling streams.

And when I walk deeper into this garden, I become aware of a distant roar of wind, the touch of it on my skin, a whisper in my ear. It is Creativity. And as always it is searching for me and can only find me if I make myself visible, if I step into the light.

And it whispers to me of wonderful things, words, images, colours, music, song, dance.

It is lonely without us and needs us to dance with because then it is complete and life is complete, as it should be. And so we are almost obliged to return this gift by making music, painting, poetry, or however and whatever we may desire to create.
To create beyond ourselves

And we learn to connect with the good things in life and steer away from the bad

And into our bubble we can put ,too, other things we might need each day, such as
To get us through the day's little difficulties, because there will always be these

And we can carry our bubble, make our bubble, whenever we desire, to both protect us and to make us glow.
It can always be created simply with the breath of our imagination

A Golden Bubble of Abundance

Read about Michael's workshops in Italy