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of your body. You may wonder, as I did, how this could take a whole 20 minutes, after all, how much is there to say about lying on the floor?! But there is actually a lot to think about. Patti’s gentle voice breaks the silence: “Can you feel your toes? What part of your foot is touching the ground? Can you flex your toes?” This continues all the way up to my head. “Feel the weight of your head as it rests on the pillow” Patti says. “Move your awareness now to your fingers, think about which parts of your fingers are touching the floor”. Every now and again she gently reminds me that if I notice my mind wandering this is perfectly natu- ral, but that I should try and bring it back into the room and into the moment. I must admit I did find myself at one point thinking I mustn’t forget to go to Sainsbury’s on the way home! As I lay there I hear muffled sounds coming from


Patti


gardeners outside, tending to the vast grounds, perhaps they were always there but now I’m slightly more in tune with the sounds around me. Next it’s the breathing exercise - we sit crossed legged and I await instructions. Now, when someone tells me to breathe I suddenly feel like I can’t do it anymore, like when someone tells you to think about the way you walk! But Patti takes me slowly through it as we inhale and


exhale together slowly ‘tuning into our breath’. “How do you feel?” Patti asks after she dings her


“It’s not the answer to tackling our prob- lems, but it’s an important tool to help us navigate our way through life’s stresses - a steady surfboard to ride the waves.”


Tibetan chimes at the end. The answer is relaxed; I don’t think you could be anything other than relaxed, if you give into it. It’s true you could easily tune out, think this is a waste of time and concentrate on your important day at work tomorrow or whether there’ll be a car parking space at school pick up today, but if you come ready to listen and learn I think there is something in this mindfulness lark. Others agree, with thousands of people


choosing to take up the health trend every year, and hundreds of those are coming here to Sharpham. Patti says the majority are from London and the South East often with stressful jobs like teachers, executives, doc- tors or carers, but they also get a good local contingent with familiar faces from Totnes and the surrounding towns and villages. Patti joined the teaching team in 2014. It all started in her late 20s when she went trav- elling and did a meditation retreat in India. She now specialises in meditation, mindfulness and Hatha Yoga. Originally from Australia, she’s been in the UK for the past 20 years and considers it home. She says she loves coming to work at Sharpham every day and often stays here during retreats, enjoying meeting and working with the visitors and sitting together for ‘exquisite meals’ made from vegetables grown in the estate’s walled garden. “We live in a busy chitty chatty world,” Patti says politely. “It can be easy to gallop through life without stopping to notice much and there is so much to notice. You don’t have to just focus on yourself, you can think about a sound, study a leaf, watch a bird. It’s all to easy to stop noticing the world around us, but it’s here to help us.” Patti believes mindfulness is something we can all


do, every one of us, it’s not a magical skill some possess and others don’t. She says some find it hard at first, feeling slightly awkward and uncomfortable with the technique, but it doesn’t take long for them to relax if they open themselves up to it. “It’s not the answer to tackling our problems, but it’s an important tool to help us navigate our way through life’s stresses – a steady surfboard to ride the waves.” My mini course today was a small snapshot of what goes on here at Sharpham. They also take visitors into the grounds with events such as stargazing and bat watching, nature retreats happen in their woodland campsite and there are retreats in the Buddhist tradi- tion at their Barn Retreat venue. The Trust also hosts weddings in the house and there’s the famous wine and cheese-tasting experience and café just down the road. Prices for mindfulness courses start at £68 for the day and go up to £350+ for a five-night retreat in Sharpham House. Go to www.sharphamtrust.org to find out more.


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