I recently had the honour of teaching some Tai Chi and Internal Arts practices to a wonderful group of physicians at the Mindfulness in Medicine Retreat, which took place at the world-renowned Hollyhock retreat centre on spectacular Cortes Island, British Columbia. It was extremely inspiring to me as an Occupational Therapist to have the opportunity to share the arts that have captivated me for over 25 years with other health care providers, especially those of the caliber that attended the retreat. After teaching these arts to people from all walks of life, and preaching their health benefits like a broken record, I finally had the opportunity to share them with a group of people who share my passion for helping others with their health. It was intimidating, exhilarating, and humbling all at the same time.
As if the absolute privilege of spending time with this group of amazing humans wasn’t enough, the setting was equally breathtaking and spectacular. I’ve heard about retreats at Hollyhock for over 20 years now, and it’s always been on a bucket list of places that I’d love to visit if I had the opportunity. After having been there, I can honestly say that it more than exceeded my expectations as a venue for self discovery, personal growth, and quiet contemplation.
Arriving at the idyllic setting on Cortes Island, two ferries away from Vancouver Island, you feel truly on retreat and physically separate from everyday life. The picturesque grounds, sprawling organic garden, old growth cedar forest, and beaches teeming with life, provide the perfect atmosphere for reconnecting with the self, and washing away some of the residue that life covers us in.
The staff are wonderfully accommodating and extremely helpful people, and seem infused by the gratitude that permeates the grounds of the center.
Lastly but certainly not the least is the food. Wow. My wife and I both love to cook, and enjoy eating fresh food, but I’ve never experienced anything with the level of care, beauty, and culinary expertise that is exhibited at Hollyhock. Much of the produce comes from their garden and local sources, artisan baked goods, fresh seafood, and an oyster BBQ on the beach, it is absolutely world class!
I owe this transformative experience to my dear friend and colleague Dr. Mark Sherman. Mark and I met in 2012 at the University of Alberta while studying medical acupuncture with our dear friend, teacher, and mentor Dr. Steven Aung, and have been great friends ever since. Mark is an amazing human being and truly embodies the mindfulness and meditation practices that he so eloquently and compassionately shares through his organization Living This Moment, and BCALM (B.C. Association for Living Mindfully).
Mark has over 20 years of experience in meditation and mindfulness practices, cognitive behavioural therapy, which coupled with his knowledge of the human body and mind as a physician makes him an incredibly knowledgable and compassionate facilitator. He demonstrates a gentle ease while explaining complex topics regarding the inner workings of the human condition, whilst offering practical and simple methods for improving perspective, cultivating awareness, and building a personal practice. I feel truly blessed to have him in my life, and look forward to working together with him in the future.
This brings me to the purpose of this post. Meditation and Internal Arts – Balancing Movement and Stillness is a six-day retreat that Mark and I are offering at Hollyhock this coming fall. We hope for it to a transformative experience for all who attend, and a tradition that we can continue to build. Mark will focus on seated and walking practices of mindfulness and metta(loving kindness)meditation, while I will introduce both static and movement practices from Chinese Internal Arts. We are working together to build a comprehensive program that intertwines the commonalities between various practices of different traditions, and a selection of methods for cultivating a healthy mind, body, and spirit.
Hollyhock offers different options for accommodations, from camping in the old growth forest, to staying in a variety of beautifully maintained private or shared rooms. They also offer scholarships for those with fixed incomes (such as elders/seniors) or financial hardship. Click here for more information.
Here is a short video that I made of some of my practice during my free time at the retreat this past June. I certainly don’t consider myself a master of any art, and prefer to remain a beginner and continue my learning for the rest of my life. My personal mandate is to share the health-improving benefits of the arts that I practice with anyone who wishes to learn. Principles and foundation exercises of some of these arts will be covered at Meditation and Internal Arts – Balancing Movement and Stillness.
I hope you enjoy the breathtaking beauty of Cortes Island.
I sincerely believe that attending any retreat at Hollyhock will be a transformative experience, regardless of what you study, but if you have the inclination to take some time for yourself this fall, please consider joining us, and freely share this with anyone who you feel may benefit.
I’ve also attached a few testimonials below from some of the wonderful doctors that attended the Mindfulness in Medicine retreat at Hollyhock this past June.
All the best to you, and hope to see you this fall.
August 8, 2019
- “I just did some Qi Gong breathing exercises in my office before I start seeing my patients. So grounding and beautiful. I really loved working with you on the retreat. You are a great teacher. You bring a sense of humor and humility to your practice along with great wisdom. I found the Tai Chi and Qi gong exercises to be very grounding and settling for my body and nervous system. This little clip that you just sent was a perfect mini-practice and I felt able to connect with you virtually. Thanks for all you do.”
- “Having the opportunity to learn the basics of Tai Chi with you was an eye-opening, invigorating, and sometimes hilarious experience. I will always remember the good physical feeling I got from these gentle movements, and I practice them daily on my own! Thank you!”
- “Paul Bromley has a wealth of knowledge of Tai Chi and the Chinese Internal Arts, and is highly accomplished as a teacher. He guides his students with a combination of wisdom, expertise, and gentle humour that makes for a powerfully meditative and restorative experience. I highly recommend his instruction to all.”
- “It was a pleasure to participate in Paul’s introductory Tai Chi and Qi Gong classes. Paul has tremendous experience and knowledge of teaching at various levels and is able to communicate essentials of anatomy, body mechanics and how they relate to injuries and injury prevention at any age. With a strong appreciation for individual physical variations and limitations he is able to adapt his techniques for all to benefit. Paul’s instruction is engaging and delivered with humour and compassion. With happy anticipation I look forward to enrolling in more of Paul’s courses.”
- “I recently attended a Mindfulness in Medicine Retreat on Vancouver Island with Dr. Mark Sherman. As part of the retreat, I had the opportunity to learn and practice Tai Chi and Qi Gong with Mr. Paul Bromley. This was an excellent experience. I was very impressed by the mindful and body awareness components. This would be an excellent complement to any cognitive behavior therapy or dialectical behavior therapy a client might be getting. I was also impressed with how the regular practice of Tai Chi and/or Qi Gong would strengthen the legs and improve posture and balance. I could see this being particularly helpful for patients with chronic pain, neurological conditions, arthritis, and simply the effects of ageing.”