Catherine Smith

I volunteer at Springwood Mindfulness Sanctuary in West Sussex, a forever home for retired and rescued equines, where mindfulness & healing is a natural way of being for both humans and equines alike. Retreats & workshops available.

Diary 2020

At the edge of the woods I stand still and quiet. Looking down at the ground I spy a tiny shoot with a couple of leaves. Would I have noticed that unless I was stood still and consciously looking? How much do I miss while walking and allowing my mind to be filled with distracting thoughts? We continue our walk, noticing the different bark textures and colours, spotting trees with marks on their trunks that resemble ancient symbols, fungi that look like a fairy staircase winding around the trunk. We glimpse bright blue sky through the tree tops, smell damp earth, rotting leaves. The air cools as we enter denser areas, the light fades slightly. Birds sing, each with their own song. We spot deer tracks. In the distance we hear the waterfall flowing under the fairy bridge which is adorned with moss. Listen, can you hear the waterfall’s song? A rush of water over stone, a burble, a drip drip. We admire the moss, its many shades of green, dark, light, vivid, with different textures. Lush. Soft to touch. We move on and admire the beauty of the silver birches silhouetted against the bright blue sky as we emerge into the clearing, the smoke from the yurt’s chimney promising warmth from the wood burner inside. The kettle whistles on the stove. Today I became still and listened and I heard the universe hum. I felt humbled and blessed.

Be Still and Listen. A Mindful Walk at Springwood Mindfulness Sanctuary © Catherine Smith 2018

I sit beside the wood-burning stove in the yurt, watching the flames dance, lulled almost to sleep by the crack and pop of the wood, breathing in the scent of dried bay and lavender. I hear voices approaching. Laughter. I open the door to the yurt, shivering slightly in the crisp air. Welcome. Come in and get warm. Wellies and coats discarded, mugs of tea clasped in chilly hands. Warm blankets draped over legs and feet. The day unfolds, stories are shared, thought-provoking and humbling stories of battling illness, seeking peace, hoping for a fresh start. I feel humbled at the support freely offered to each as they share their story, compassion and understanding. Rooting for you. All too soon the daylight fades and the day draws to a close. I am left with memories of roaring fires, homemade soup bubbling on the stove, locally baked sourdough bread, fennel tea, card readings, wreath making, tree hugging, romping through the woods, sitting around the fire pit, letting go and inviting in. Warmth. Lovely people with a beautiful gentle energy, candle light, darkness, making our way back through the woods to the cars by torchlight. Cast into the firepit that day were all that no longer served us, followed by our hopes and dreams for the coming year. We supported and chanted. We willed those hopes and dreams to come true. I often wonder if they did. I hope so.

Celebrating Winter Solstice at Springwood Mindfulness Sanctuary © Catherine Smith 2017


Calendar 2020

The blazing sun disappears behind the trees, lighting them up as if they are on fire, sinking without a trace, leaving a darkening sky behind. The air is cooling, making the hairs on my arms stand up, I breathe out and can see my breath on the air. The light is fading quickly, but I have no fear of the dark, not while I am in the middle of a field. The only sounds are the distant hum of traffic and an occasional owl hoot, the birds have retired for the night and the night dwellers have yet to stir. In the distance the stables are lit up, the golden light beckoning, suggesting warmth and shelter. The horses and donkeys are being fed, jostling with each other to clean the buckets, to get the last scrapings, their instinct in synch with the changing season, urging them to put down fat stores for the winter ahead. The daylight has gone now, it is dark when the lights are turned off. We make our way carefully across the field to the car park. I drive home, headlights on full beam on the country road, street lights providing guidance on the main roads. Arriving home, in darkness, it feels like I should go straight to bed. It is only 8pm but feels much later. Merlin the cat is eager to go out and hunt for moths.

Autumn evening at Springwood © Catherine Smith 2017


Diary 2019

The mare’s head is lowered, sleepy eyes. Peaceful. Sharing her space and gentle energy with her companion. Graciously they allow us to join them. A brief acknowledgement of our presence, barely breaking from their relaxed state. We become still, lower our energy. Open our heartspace. Connect, let them know they are safe. You have a safe space with us. We are listening. The mare is fidgeting, as if she wants to move towards me. Due to past trauma she is not sure – should I trust her? – she wonders. A fragile, beautiful energy surrounds her. I yearn to open my arms and welcome her into my heartspace. Come rest in my heartspace and let go. Unconditional. Pure. More fidgeting from the mare, still unsure. The horses sigh, yawn, their tummies rumble. Releasing.My yearning is stronger now, but I am also unsure whether to move forward. Trying to make sense of what I am feeling. The rest of the herd are now gathering around us, keen to share this pure gentle energy. More yawning. Jostling each other to get closer to us. Itching and twitching. More releasing. We thank them for allowing us into their space and sharing their energy.

Later I realise I have experienced what it is to feel my heartspace fully open and to have unconditional love for another being. It has taken a long time for you to trust humans. I am honoured and humbled that you shared that with me. Thank you Missy.

Sharing Heartspace © Catherine Smith 2017


Calendar 2019

Early morning, the air thick with the promise of a hot and sticky day. Some of the horses are grazing, one lying down. My boots are wet from the dew as I follow their human guardian across the field. Arriving at the ancient oak tree we sit down, the earth damp beneath us and the bark knobbly against our backs, it’s a little cooler under the leaf laden branches.

We sit quietly, listening to the rustle of the leaves above us, the birdsong around us. The herd come to us, we feel their warm breath across our faces, their whiskers tickling as they brush their muzzles across us, checking us out. Some pass by, pausing for a brief sniff before moving on, the remainder stand in a semi circle facing us. Their heads start to relax and drop, their eyelids begin to lower, nostrils and bottom lips relax. We all bask in the gentle energy that surrounds us. An occasional sigh, a stretch, a shuffle forward closer to us. The big gelding’s face is almost touching my own now. Gentle despite his size. I look down and see my top is smeared with dirt from inquisitive muzzles.

All have troubled backgrounds, but thanks to the provision of unconditional love, healing and the space to recover by their guardian, they have chosen to open their big hearts to us, to trust humans again. I am humbled.

The marks on my top will fade but today will remain in my heart forever.

The Gentle Herd © Catherine Smith