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Subject matter experts and prominent New Zealand leaders share their knowledge and engage with the audience, sparking new ideas and innovation as minds from different backgrounds converge and focus their energy on a salient issue or theme.

Presence and Mindfulness

by Kelly Bewley, Project Manager - Exhibitions, Auckland War Memorial Museum

The kaupapa of the 8th retreat really resonated with me - Presence and Mindfulness for Creative Leadership. Art making and creativity ruled my world during my 20s. It played a huge role in forming who I am today and provided a practice to deeply connect with my feelings, thoughts and experiences. Over the past decade I've spent less time in that space, so Waiheke was a welcome return. The challenges presented over the three days were rich. Exploration of self, review of current state and future potential, recognition of core fears and values, opening up, letting go and finding flow. All of this was wonderfully enabled through voice work, spoken word poetry and bush sculpture. It was a rare treat to let go, swim in my own creativity and revel in the group’s imagination and artistry.

Waiheke was paradise. Expansive blue sky, beaming hot sun, fresh coastal air. I felt absolutely relaxed upon arriving in Onetangi, totally released from the hustle and bustle of everyday urban life. I managed to swim two times on the first day. It was a baptism of sorts, a perfect way to settle in and acclimatise.

I was really moved by the honesty and courage shown by the cohort on the first morning. It wasn't a surprise; we all knew it was coming! Taking stock was an act of sovereignty, a tactic to take control and ownership of our group identity, to proactively confront our sense of commitment to the Programme and question our clarity of vision and mission. Knowing the Programme is coming to an end, as well as the loaded and challenging 'email' sent the night before kicked us into action. Edges were frayed and differences of opinion were aired, but much consolidation and solidarity were found. It was a really solid kick off!

Louise’s reflective exercises conjured up rich and deeply personal material to feed the creative activities I took part in. Reviewing my life to date as chapters in a book was surprisingly tangible, it forced me to confront the obvious themes of my life as I currently perceive them. The 'two wolf' parable complemented this exercise really well, acting as a tool to shine a light on the myths and mindsets I maintain which perpetuate the self-limiting behaviour. I’m keen to play with this re-authoring notion to try to feed the right wolf!

Sylvia's voice workshop was a blast. Massaging the intuitive and creative right brain muscle, pushing out every tiny bit of oxygen. Unleashing my zombie slack-jawed beast, my instrument of free-flowing tone (I - AM - HERE!). I loved watching Sylvia operate. She had amazing attention to detail, inspired everyone to commit, and was super patient with each and every participant. What a firecracker, what a leader!

The retreat was accented by many strong rounds of ‘My Life’ stories. They blow me away every time, so thankful for all that is shared and shed. Aroha ki a tatou. Mauri ora!

My silent bush trek was perfect preparation for sculpture making on the second day. I meditated on Louise’s provocation around finding our heart space, a free place which isn't governed by limitation. I gave this place imaginative form taking on the shape of a boat - buoyant, responsive, and adventurous. The sculpture I ended up constructing embodied a journey between my analytical upper self and deeper, more centred heart self. I was lost in the act of art making, stacking rocks from the river’s edge, snaking stonehenged pathways along a little cliff, striving to connect the river to the cliff top, creating a solid pathway to make the heart space more readily accessible. I sang to myself as I played and created, feeling energised by the act. I loved viewing the cohort’s sculptures with accompanying explanations providing yet another window into their true person. I also felt moved by the comments I received, trust levels were at an all-time high, I felt a crazy sense of wholeness, feeling like I was presenting myself authentically with zero pretenses.

Selina’s Poetry workshop was hungry to capitalise on the previous experiences. I fully committed and was very proud of my ability to dredge words from my non-wordy mind. Her message to always bring you’re A-game was powerful, a real push for me and aspects of my cruiser personality. I was inspired by the fact that she was a K-boxing freak as well. That K-boxing fed her art and vice versa, what an unlikely marriage.

Steve’s workshop was the icing on the cake. So active, invigorating and funny! The act of physically gesturing values was genius. I can honestly say that I can finally identify and connect to a set of values that I truly believe in and live. Working as a group and in pairs was amazing, favouring creative collaboration over analytical discourse was fun and powerful. There's definitely something in this form of expression that works for me. A more effective route for ideas, concepts and deeply felt meaning to easily surface. Maybe I favour feeling things over thinking things? Definitely more prodding to be done there. The final half hour of laughing really brought the retreat to a joyous close. Steve is the Pied Piper of Waiheke for sure. It was the best medicine I have taken in many years, Kia ora e hoa!

So, I've gotta say it's been a retreat like no other. It really opened me up! I felt like all prior lessons, questions and realisations came flooding forward and locked into place, I enjoyed a blissful sense of clarity and calm. I didn’t feel like I was striving to 'get it' but felt like I was fully stretched. Thanks everyone for participating, sharing, leading, feeding, and feeling. Aroha to you all!


Everything melts away on the island

The pressures of work, the nagging thoughts

The inky night sky stretches its limbs Its form relaxes upon the land