Photos by Elaine
The extreme heat (above 35 degrees celsius) and the rains of this past summer has both helped our plants to grow and mature. Some plants like the Coriander have dried out, which I had expected as they are very fast-growing, short-living beings that need to be plucked regularly for their leaves to continue growth. They are beginning to grow their seed, which we will harvest for next year's growth. We have also discovered a stowaway Tomato plant, growing in our pot of Lupins. It grew late in the season so we will see if it will have enough time to fruit. The Garden Project adventure has gotten many of our team members on the balcony, watering and sharing in its growth. Looking up from Falknerstrasse to see living beings on our balcony is very satisfying. Not just that they are beautiful, green and blossoming, but also to know that life can thrive in the harshest of environments by adapting.
Photos by Elaine
"To retreat" means to take a step back or to withdraw. Often this word was used in war or fighting strategy, which most often presents a negative situation of being in an inferior position or impending defeat. However, there is another indication to it, meaning to take time out or away from our everyday lives to a calm, secluded place. Many spiritual traditions have practiced this as a way of intensifying the connection to the divine, by focusing the mind, spirit, maybe the body in specific practices such as meditation or prayer or physical movement.
This past July, as every July for the past 10 years, my family and I were in the area of Ftan/Scuol, in Canton Graubunden, where the Inn River flows out of Switzerland into Austria. ICM has organized a Tai Ji Quan and Qi Gong retreat in this area for that long along with some Qi Gong colleagues from Appenzell. My husband, Frank, and our colleague, Petra, lead the practice, which lasts half a day ending by lunch. It has been our experience that we visit a wonderful environment, where the energy of the land is strong and nature pure, but we almost never had time outside of training time to see the sights or do our own exploration of the area. Over the years we have planned retreats that last only till lunchtime and participants can go off on their own later in the day to do whatever it is that they need to continue their process of withdrawing from their everyday lives and finding what they need to regenerate, whether it be resting, bathing in thermal baths or taking a hike in nature.
Many times now, we have discussed changing the venue of our Summer Retreat and every time we have decided to stay in this area of Switzerland. Scuol/Ftan lies in the Lower Engadine region of Graubunden. Looking at a map a few weeks ago, I finally found out why it's called Engadine. "En" is the Romansh name for Inn, hence, Engadine is the "Valley of the En River". The Inn River is the only river in Switzerland that ends in the Black Sea as it merges with the Danube River in Passau, Germany. It begins in Piz Bernina (4049m) and flows downward through Scuol (1290m) and then into Austria. It has a special blue-green color and the powerful current enlivens the spirit, inspiring calmness and awe. This is not the only body of water that exists in the area. Between the towns of Scuol, Ftan (1648m), Sent (1440m) and Vulpera (1287m) are many underground springs that flow mineral water, rich in minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium and even natural carbon dioxide, giving the water a natural sparkling quality. Since the 1300s, people have been coming to this area to bathe in the thermal baths and drink in mineral drinking halls. Surrounding all these are mountains over 3000 metres high, many covered in Swiss Stone Pine trees. In the region, Europe's highest forest of Pinus cembra lies at 2400m, grow trees as old as 700 years. The Swiss National Park is close by, where wildlife like deer, alpine ibex, marmots, and plants like Edelweiss and Arnica montana grow freely.
As you can imagine, these are all reasons that draw us to return here every year, to practice Tai Ji Quan and Qi Gong in an environment so rich and vibrant in Qi. My feeling is also that here in these mountains, heaven meets earth more intensely and the 5 elements (Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal) are at their purest and so vividly present, as well as so easily accessible. This is an environment with little industry and I get a sense of respect of the elements from the people who live here. They take care to beautify and adorn the many fountains, through which mineral water from the many springs flow into, with flowers and sculptures. The water is pure, refreshing and perfect for drinking. There is a public thermal bath here that you can bathe in, while looking out into the mountains, which my father described as "being in heaven" when he bathed here a few years ago. All the retreat participants often tell us how well and strong they feel after practicing and being in this environment, even if it were their first time practicing Tai Ji Quan and Qi Gong. So next July ( July 12-17, 2020 ), do come practice with us and retreat into this place of wonder that still exists. You may be surprised by what you find in nature and within yourself.
Photos by Elaine.
I am a Chinese Medicine practitioner at ICM, mother of 2 boys, living on my third continent. I love to share my perspectives on healing, TCM, gardening, social change and life.