A nature and beer adventure led our trio on an unexpected, spiritual journey to sound health.
Our jaunt’s initial goal, on this hot summer morning, appeared straightforward enough…. to re-discover Houghley Gyll, LS13. A few false starts later, from our point of departure on Bramley’s main drag, we stumbled across the green snicket that is the Gyll. We sat there a while allowing the stillness and cool of its shady trees to replenish us. Feeling refreshed we mosied down via Amen Corner to Kirkstall. It is said that Amen Corner got it’s name from medieval times, it being the last point across the half-mile distance from Kirkstall Abbey, when the communal affirmations of the monks was still audible. Nowadays you’d do well to utter a silent prayer as you walk over it since there is only one very narrow footpath on the cramped u bend road bridge, the canal is a sheer drop from the bridge’s low rise stone wall.
We took heed of a Whyther Lane billboard’s admonition to ‘go fun yourself’, and went to a nearby riverside inn. On inquiring what snacks were available, we were informed there had been a rush on the smoked duck, and fancy cheeses. Plain sort of folk by nature we content ourselves with much simpler fayre as accomapaniment to our pints, a bag of roast peanuts. We had the pub garden completely to ourselves, the river’s slow hypnotic eddy lulled us.
An occasional train scuttled passed but did not drown out our discussions, which included whether or not psychiatric diagnosis was useful in the overall wellbeing of those so labelled.
Hollybush farm’s gable end was just visible above the shrubs. It triggered the story of it’s heyday as a rhubarb farm, when at early dawn it’s produce was bundled aboard a cargo train, which stopped nearby at the former station. The rhubarb, a highly valued ‘fruit’, was destined for the Ritz Hotel, in London. Toffs seemingly liked their crumble, possibly after pheasant or smoked duck!
About to depart our separate ways, one among us, bound for a spirituality group drumming circle, invited we two ‘lost souls’ of LS13 to join them. People with mental and emotional sensitivities often find making spontaneous decisions hard, and also doing several activities in one day, taxing. This was true for all present, but on this occasion, bonhomie, the sun’s warmth, and possibly the effect of the beer led to the invite being enthusiastically pounced upon.
Arriving at the venue, Leeds MIND’s, Clarence House, we were ushered into it’s temple like glade or copse.
Since the centre’s inception many wishes for peace of mind have been uttered here, and these seem to linger, permeating it’s atmosphere of contemplation.
We joined a friendly group of around half a dozen other people. The facilitator, Marion, told us how she had came to drumming as a hobby more by coincidence than design. Marion also explained the origins and materials of the impressively tall ‘ethnic’ drums. In addition other percussion instruments were available for us to choose. To heighten the already existing spiritual intent and atmosphere, candles were lit, and incense passed so that we could smell which blend might best suit our mood. We chose Nag Champya, this was also lit. One regular member of the group explained Nag in India means snake. It’s easy to see why it has this name, because as the stick smoulders, its thin shaft of smoke slithers, then hangs heavily, motionless before ascending slowly toward the leaf dappled sky above in moksha. Nag Champya is a mix of sandalwood and frangipani, and has a chypre/sweet perfume which emits an overwhelmingly heady scent. It is often used in ashrams.to promote an out of body experience which enables those present to be transported away from their material concerns.
Among the rhythms we played were Sufi and Ghanaian, we weren’t sure if the Sufi rhythms were what accompany the whirling dervish dances, but they were infectious. Since the rhythms were complex Marion broke the patterns into smaller sections, as we mastered one we gradually progressed enough to also improvise, playing by ear and feeling. We were also encouraged to “give it some welly”,…. very therapeutic for pent up emotions. On this occasion the drumming rhythms helped to breakdown inhibitions. Drumming to invoke spiritual states of mind has a long history.
Despite the enjoyment of the whole day, poignancy mingled with the spiritual awareness of some present, who found themselves remembering former MIND members who had previously shared this space, even helping to plan the garden and pond, and who have since prematurely left ‘this mortal coil’. Thoughts especially of the Michael, the drummer of the former music group Sound Health.
The Leeds Mind, Sprituality group is part of the Wellbeing Service at Clarence House and is open to members of MIND. The group is held every Monday between 2-3.p.m. If you are interested, contact details can be found here
Daniel Tavet, and Sue Margaret