The week that started 15th June 2020


Went on an online retreat this week, that replaced the Dharma, Body and Connection to Earth retreat at Gaia House that was cancelled due to the lockdown. Our theme was Decolonizing the mind and cultivating the causes of happiness, led by Anushka Fernandopulle and Bonnie Duran, with guest contribution from Elvina Charley.

I’m so glad I went.

One definition of retreat I’ve seen lately was “time away in a quiet and secluded place where you can relax”. That’s not retreat for me. Even writing retreats. This is more accurate “the act of giving up and withdrawing” in order “to be in quiet, rest, and solitude… to notice the stirrings of our soul”.

I think of it as retreating from avoidance and distraction, and I remembered that I’m embodied, not just a mind.

Some resources shared during the retreat:

  • Darkness Is Asking To Be Loved by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel
    • I don’t remember where I first encountered this, this week, only that these words stayed with me:
    • “If you’re still holding up and trying to meditate right now, Zenju Earthlyn Manuel invites you to fall down.”
  • Anushka Fernandopulle, meditation, consulting, coaching
    • 5pm on weekends for meditations on Instagram, Sun 21 & Sat 27
  • White Awake, an online platform and nonprofit organization focused on popular education for white people

How being on retreat at home was for me

This was my first time on retreat at home, and only my second retreat ever. For me, I found I had much more free time being on retreat at home, which was both welcome and difficult.

Welcome because I’ve been exhausted, and finally, finally I felt able to rest. Like, my phone’s off, my computer’s off, I’m not reading books or writing, so…

Having my activity options reduced to meditate, listen to talks, or do house chores made a lot of room for sleep and rest. So, I did a lot of that. Went to bed early on Thursday. Napped a lot on Friday. Dozed on Saturday. Made a huge difference *and* I want to remember that that’s not it. Like, I’m still tired, I still need to rest.

  • How can I take this ability to rest into the rest of my life?

Difficult to have so much time though. I’m really good at giving myself a lot of things to do. I realised that I’ve been studying up to 6 different courses at once, whilst working full time, whilst recovering from being unwell, whilst writing every day, whilst reading 1 or 2 books. Like, when do I let myself just breathe? And I still rarely feel like I’m doing enough. And I wanted to add an MA into the mix too… 😅

One thing I love about silent retreats is how it helps me reflect on what I want to speak. After retreat I had a nice conversation about things we’re grateful for, which felt much better and more healing than some of the conversations I’ve been having.

5 things I’m grateful for…

  1. Wind in the trees, the sound and the sight, and the feeling that comes over me being surrounded by ancient beings swaying and thrashing together
  2. Words, and silence. How books take me to other worlds, how language gives me tools to express myself and articulate things I never imagined I’d be able to make tangible. How silence sparks spaciousness, a pause between action and reaction, how the constraint of not speaking creates opportunities for reflection, kindness and skilfulness
  3. Wisdom and teachings, how I am surrounded by people to learn from, past and present, how I learn from myself, and especially for heart-understanding, and not relying on cognition all the time
  4. Laughter and joy, and the ability to have both in times of crisis and pain
  5. Tears and the release of water, and the unblocking of what was stuck


Okay, universe, I get it. And I really will try to listen with my heart, and not just cognitively get it and ignore…

This is what happened.

It’s Sunday morning, I’m writing alongside one of the greatest loves of my life. We do this every day, but we’ve not done it all week.

I’m typing up things that poured on to paper during retreat. I’d forgotten this, but I’d written about belonging to the sea, about the sea being my home and all coasts being home to me. Something like that. I’d written about being merfolk, and this being a unification of blackness and queerness, the intersections of those identities.

Yesterday, during retreat, I wrote about three experiences I had on three different coastlines.

Now I am flicking through my photos of one of these experiences, in/near Málaga, the first time I had the courage to get in the sea. I go back a little further and this page pops up:

Rest: You've been working hard. Take a nap and get some rest. This card asks you to slow down, rest, and be very gentle with yourself right now. Can you cancel your appointments today (or for part of the day) and take a nap? By drawing this card, you're urged to let go of unnecessary activities, and to focus on self-renewal. Give yourself a hug, look in the mirror, and say, 'I love you. I promise to treat you with the respect and care that you deserve. You're wonderful!' No rushing or time urgency is allowed today! This is a day of sweet kindness, where you treat yourself as gently as a baby cradles in your arms.

Not only that, but the card it is describing is of a black merfolk child.

Magical, fantastic, innocent: A black child with a purple tail sleeps in a shell

Not only that, but just yesterday a friend told me they were going to be spending today nurturing their inner child, on account of it being fathers’ day today.

On a side note, oat clusters with chocolate is such a simple pleasure as a snack. Not as a cereal with milk, just straight out of the box.


Last week I finished reading Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin. This week I finished reading Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta. I was struck by the similarities between the two books.

Next, I’m reading Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, at last. This has been on my reading list for a while now. I started Small Island by Andrea Levy as well, so I do want to finish that. Other things on my list are Rosewater by Tade Thompson, which I am super excited about, and White Teeth by Zadie Smith.

Words learned this week

  • Martinet noun someone who demands strict adherence to set rules and punishes folks who fail to follow them. In an extended sense, a martinet is any person who believes strict adherence to rules and etiquette is paramount.


Also, I can’t believe I didn’t write about this already (but hey, there’s a lot going on right now, so frankly I’m impressed I’m doing my weeknotes at all, never mind on time too)…

Last week I gave a performative reading of a speculative short story I wrote at Science Fiction as Activism: Sharing Futures, an event that concluded an incredible course taught by the even more incredible Ama Josephine Budge and hosted by Freeword. It was nerve-wracking and so much fun! I want to do more readings. Also, apparently I prefer reading prose over poems.

I’m looking forward to doing this online writing course in my own time: Finding Your Voice by Patrice Lawrence.

One thing I ended up skim reading as a result of this course was this article: Adventure Time and Ursula Le Guin’s Carrier Bag. I read it after reading The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction by Ursula K. Le Guin, which made a big impression on me. I want to re-read Le Guin’s essay.


Some other meditation & dharma (teachings) possibilities: