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Striking the Balance – Lifeways 2023

Striking the Balance – Lifeways 2023

Oh dear!!! The grass is wet and the mole hills are muddy. No matter – nothing stops young campers joyfully slithering down the Emerson ha-ha on their way to their camp site, tents and back pack bumping down with them, gathering grass and mud on the way. The more mature (and arguably more sensible) of us of course take the steps – maintaining upright stance as we shift our weight from left to right, carefully carrying our physical bodies ‘Through the world of space into the ocean being of the spirit’.

YES !!! With registration in full swing Lifeways 2023 got going with the usual buzz of conversation (and lots of hugs) whilst checking, and changing, workshop choices. Maybe a craft in the morning and conversation in the afternoon? Or would conversation in the morning and craft in the afternoon be better? Maybe venture into something completely new, or stay on the firm ground of the familiar? Maybe relax with something easy, or go for a new challenge? All a question of achieving personal ‘balance’. Perhaps it’s just best to join a friend who arrived early and who’s already confirmed their choice! We are, after all, going to be moving forwards with the ‘weaving waves of time’ developing our life of feeling, hand in hand with our physical and spiritual companions.

We learned on the first evening that in the days blacksmiths made swords they carefully ‘balanced’ them by striking the hot metal repeatedly to get just the right thicknesses, in just the right places.

Hence ‘striking the balance’ has become a term applied to everything that needs a bit of adjustment to, well, ‘balance’ it – from accounts to life and work. Maybe we can imagine working on ourselves, as the blacksmith worked on the swords. That’s what lifeways offers – opportunity to warm up and give ourselves a little knock and nudge in the right direction, so after a week we are all a bit more ‘in balance.’ How’s that achieved? Well, the 185 of us, aged from 7 months to over 80 years in this incarnation, had some real experts to guide us and companions to accompany us through a carefully structured and ever evolving programme honed over the many years that lifeways has been running.

After breakfast, we started each morning singing. The voices of adults and the younger children blended in tones and rhythms that set us up for the day as we made our way down the steps to workshops and activities designed for all ages. We spared a thought for young, damp campers and their leaders working on getting fires going and their own morning activities started. Contributions of dry kindling were always welcomed!! We were on our way to start making a basket, composing a story, learn about the complex rhythms of life and the stars, discover balance in the life of birds as we portray them, see balance everywhere in art and nature, or work in speech and eurythmy with the challenging text of ‘Andromeda’. Then it’s lunch and a further rich selection of activities and workshops, some new, and some ‘old favourites’ like candle making, outdoor energetic games and clay work that are looked forward to every year by the younger participants.

The evenings bring the adults together for some serious talks, music and story telling. This year including consideration of non-binary gender identity in the context of the history and future development of humanity. The story telling evening was particularly vivid – with a story relating the tale of how human beings originally never needed to grow food. When they were hungry they simply carved out a piece of sky, which of course tasted delicious. But they got greedy and wasteful, and were chucking away great chunks of good sky. They did not heed the Gods warning so the sky withdrew out of their reach and for ever after human beings had to work in order to eat. The sky, out of reach, now looks down on us as a constant reminder. A timely warning to us all!!

Lifeways ends with a ‘harvest’. Groups come to the stage to show everyone what they have done, and the rooms light up with paintings, candles, baskets, felt work, and woodwork. For the adult groups the representative of humanity, holding the balance between Lucifer and Ahriman, was a central theme in many presentations. All week in our conversation and activities we had been working together with the tension between their extremes – between light and darkness, warmth and cold, loud and soft, fast and slow, stillness and movement….. and we remembered that essential little being on the top corner of the group, just above the Ahriman and Lucifer on the human beings right hand side – humour. That winged being was added to the group to keep it in ‘balance’.

In the final talk, given by Roger Druitt, we were encouraged to give into the temptation Ahriman and Lucifer offer us (just a little and just enough), maintain a dynamic balance between them and move forward with courage. Because if we get this right we develop as human beings, and may even be playing a part in the right development of our devilish tempters.

We ended Lifeways 2023 as usual, with lots of thanks to the Emerson staff for looking after us so well, and the sun came out just in time for our final lunch together on the lawn!

Do make a note of next years dates (July 21st – 27th), look out for the details in the AS in GB newsletter and on the Emerson Website and if you want to be sure of participating in your first choice of workshops – book early.

Sue Peat

For the Lifeways team (Florrie Cassell, Yvette Dellsperger, Louis Lines, Sue Peat and Ted Prestbury)