Woman guiding a group of people in the woodsSome months have passed since the Into The Mountain performances and with this we have invited the amazing team of women who made it happen to share their reflections, thoughts and feelings after the event. From production to performing, guiding audiences and behind the scenes, all have taken something away from the collective experience of Into The Mountain into their daily lives and practices.

Here are the reflections from two of the Into The Mountain facilitators, Jean Langhorne and Mags Kerr.

“My experience on the project took me into the intricate folds of the mountain: folds of land, of lichen, of water, and of time. It was Nan Shepherd’s words that carried me in. But once I was there, every part of the route I walked became a ‘thin place’: a way in to a mystery beyond words.”

 Mags Kerr 

Mountain leader speaks to a group from within the Cairngorms

“My role during the performance week of Into the Mountain was to act as the guide and facilitator for the audience group who signed up for the long walking route up to the performance site. These 5 days turned out to be my dream job!  Not only did I have the great pleasure and privilege of working with Heather Morning of Mountaineering Scotland, but also had the good fortune to spend quality time each day, having interesting discussions with a diverse and committed group of people, while wandering around the pinewoods and the hillsides of beautiful Glenfeshie. However, the best part for me, was having plenty of time (3 – 5 hours, depending on the weather) to talk about and discuss in detail Nan Shepherd’s unique poetic prose masterpiece; “The Living Mountain”.

In order to help our audience group engage with the process behind the project and to frame the performance they would see in the afternoon, I devised a guided walk to include various experiential exercises and a selection of readings from the text. Stopping frequently and sharing Nan Shepherd’s words at various relevant locations en route, reminded us of the inspiration behind the project and hopefully encouraged each group to experience the walk as a sensory and embodied encounter with the landscape, instead of just focussing on reaching a summit or to the performance site.

In my role as walk facilitator, I was asked by Simone to share elements from my own personal practice of “placefulness” to enable audience members to take part in her invitation to “walk out of our bodies and into the landscape”.  This placefulness practice was developed recently out of an academic enquiry into “The Living Mountain” (as part of an MLitt) and is inspired by Shepherd’s ideas about walking as a means to embodied knowledge, sensory perception and deep engagement with place.

We probably all realise that walking, even in a quiet and beautiful environment, does not automatically embed the self in place. It is very easy to be distracted by our thoughts, by the company of others and by the digital devices we carry with us. From my own practice, I believe that, in addition to solitude and silence, a conscious effort is required to develop awareness of the body and of the present moment and of place.  At the beginning of our walk, I therefore introduced some simple exercises to encourage body and sensory awareness and then allowed some time for the group to experience how walking can become an attentional practice to experience sensory engagement and an embodied connection with place.

I have found that reading and re-reading “The Living Mountain” can provide us with ongoing inspiration on how to slow down and pay attention while out on a walk, to develop a mindful sensibility and perceptual awareness, to privilege our subjective experience and encourage wonder in our everyday encounters with the natural world.  It can provide us with a different set of motivations for going into the hills; instead of seeking adventure and the achievement of summits it can teach us to simply be with a place, in a spirit of humility and friendship.

My one day workshop on “Placefulness” explores how walking can be used as an attentional and embodied practice of place. Inspired by Nan Shepherd’s “The Living Mountain” and her exploration of walking as a means to embodied knowledge, sensory perception and deep engagement with place, this workshop adapts and communicates Shepherd’s key ideas in an accessible way, to enable participants to begin to build their own personal practice of place.

This one day “taster” workshop offers introductory experiential workshops on mindful walking, cultivating attentiveness and explores innovative ideas for engaging more meaningfully with place and for developing sensitivity to the natural world.

It provides an opportunity for slowing down and paying attention, for some digital detox and to spend some quiet solo time in a beautiful quiet place.

I run a this workshop a few times a year at The Shieling Project site, in Glenstrathfarrar, but can offer a one or a two-day version of this anywhere in Scotland.”

– Jean Langhorne