On May 11, 35 years ago Liz ignited the gas heaters, unfurled a blue sheep skin on the table, and began her lesson. Nicky, just a few days old, was comfortable both in close embrace and cocooned in the blue. I imagine much of the content that morning was around the birth, the afterglow and the homecoming.
Somehow this captures part of the essence of the experience we’ve shared with our students. It has felt real. It has felt raw, immediate, open…. yes, there have been many times when the feelings have been almost overwhelming: anxiety around coping with it all, terror at what might happen, shame at what did happen! I sense, though, that it has been far, far easier than it would have been if we’d held back, if we’d pretended to be something other than we were, and if we’d prepared lessons based on somebody else’s experience of the world instead of our own.
The choice each of has is an interesting starting point.
We chose to open our family and our home in a way we had never come across before. We wanted to create something which, as far as we knew, didn’t exist. How would it be, to live as a family, yet build a loose, ever changing community within our home? Could we develop a model for living where we lived together, studied together and spent much of our free time together? And right from the start there were conflicts, mostly around the day to day arrangements of sharing our space. Who would do the washing up? What happens when the babies cry during the night? What are the rights and responsibilities of us as business owners and the students as guests?
This gave us a great chance to dialogue, to work out together what actually supported all of us. How could we grow a business we loved running, and how could our students maximize their learning. And a framework evolved, over the following years, sometimes through learning from our mistakes and sometimes through inspired input. We had come across a model for learning which seemed to work very well. We knew it was experiential and as we reflected more we realised what ‘experiential’ meant for us. It was the weaving together of 5 equally important threads: physical, mental, emotional, creative and spiritual. And we discovered that the key element which brought these ingredients together into this magical tapestry was safety. We each need to feel safe – in ourselves, in relationship, in our community and in the world, before we can move forward.
We can, as self-determining adults, choose to navigate our life paths with shields and weapons, ready for the attack – we have been told – that will surely come. Or we can choose to empower ourselves and each other from the inside, building confidence and mutual trust. One of the greatest discoveries we have made in living with thousands of people, from so many backgrounds and from all over the world is that there is something deep down we have in common – which seems to us almost hardwired – that in spite of all our superficial differences we all seek to be accepted, to be loved, and to accept each other and give love. In our experience at Nab Cottage, the veil which keeps people separated, fearful and alone, can, with love, be so easy to lift. What follows is deep connection from the heart with other human beings.
This has informed our philosophy of education and we have chosen to make this process of unveiling explicit in all our courses.
We have created a 4 week cycle, and with each new cycle we revisit similar territory, yet with deeper understanding and clearer vision. In week 1 we look at issues of identity, character, physicality, conditioning, exploring our individual histories, sharing whatever brought us to this place right now. Week 2 moves out from looking at self into exploring relationship. Week 3 moves out further into building local community and in week 4 it’s all of us out in the world, helping to create together a worldwide community that nourishes us all.
Since lockdown we have been streaming live from the studio in the barn. This weekly session follows the same structure and it’s open for anyone to come and see. It’s from our Facebook page at 17.00 GMT on Mondays.