Musical Martha is here!
Recently returned Barn Coordinator Martha is perfectly pitched to help Barn retreatants.
Musician Martha will be supporting retreats at The Barn until July and has brought her wonderful talent for music with her.
"Music has always been my time to focus and connect with others," she said. "It's an offer...there's often an intention to share and to be part of something with others. And for me, mindfulness has...this intention for the well-being for everyone. For me it was like, well , these are the same thing!"
Martha's first instrument was her voice. "I love singing, I've been singing since I was a baby," she said. "Singing's such a foundation and it's such a powerful thing to be able to sing with others."
Clarinet is her main instrument, and she plays Klezmer (Eastern European traditional Jewish music). Martha's neither Jewish nor Eastern European but, she says, "I love the culture, the community, the way of being. I heard the music and I love that it gets everyone dancing and crying all at once.
She likes classical and jazz and much more music and has also brought her tin whistle and a Greek mandolin, the baglomas, with her. "Folk music is what I'm interested in because it's so human," she says.
"Sometimes I sing on a Barn retreat, if people feel up for it," she says. "I usually sing Plum Village songs. Sometimes I play my clarinet just for me out in the grounds and people might hear!".
Martha's taken time out from her life's work in London: she works and volunteers for an organisation called Mindful Music. "We work with musicians to take songwriting and percussion into primary school classrooms, talking about emootions and how we are and exploring things like compassion and acceptance of who we are," she said. She also runs and performs at Dinosaur Discos, which are events for adults and kids, with live music, DJs, recycled dinosaur costumes, dino-yoga and dino-moves!
Some Barn visitors may recognise Martha: she was with us for about 6 months before the beginning of the pandemic and now she's back to finish her year's service.
Martha's meditation and mindfulness practice began as a newly-qualified primary school teacher.
"My mum actually gave me a Thich Nhat Hanh book and I read this. It was just transformational reading his words and as a teacher I started practising meditation in the mornings."
Said Martha: "If I'm calm, accepting, patient and happy then my ability to hold the room is just so much higher than if I'm a bit anxious, stressed or frustrated...if I take care of my emotions, needs, habits, if I'm aware of myself I can show up and be present, whether it's children in a primary school or a group of retreatants."
She sang the praises of Sharpham: "I'm really inspired by how much care there is here for the whole Earth - with The Coach House, rewilding the land, this diverse range of spaces for the people, this understanding of the way the world is and a sense of community."
"It just feels like everyone's getting along and having a good time and from that all this good stuff is being generated. Everyone is so welcoming and so interesting here!"
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Picture of Martha by Guy Clarke