Why go on a retreat? For all the reasons below and more!
When I turned 40 I wanted to gift myself time away to replenish and nourish my soul. It was 2011 and I was coming out of two of the most challenging years of my life – so many endings and health issues to deal with. So I used some of the proceeds from my divorce settlement and booked four days at Gaia in the Byron Bay Hinterland. That four days turned out to be one of the best gifts I had ever given myself.
Four and a half years later, it was time for me to retreat from my everyday life once more. Earlier this year, the need for me to retreat arose out of a healing. For the first time in a while I knew that this was true, but a part of me resisted.
Resistance came in the form of worrying about the finances to pay for it and of the logistics around my boys. So for a few months I simply looked at the flyer that I had sitting on my desk and kept going.
Around August a friend suggested we share a room on the retreat and in that moment I felt a ‘yes’ rise up. So I found a way, around the things that I saw as reasons not to go and booked my place. As I sent that email off, a feeling of lightness and excitement settled into my being.
Deciding that this retreat would be my gift/reward to myself after an intense four month period of birthing my book, new website and branding helped me to keep moving forward when exhaustion started to kick in.
As it turned out, the timing of the retreat could not have been better, coming just 18 days after my dad passed away. When looking from a higher perspective, I could see the magic of the Universe and her grander plan for me. How things occur at the perfect time to help us.
So it was that at the end of October I packed my bags and drove up to Amarant Retreat in the Yarra Valley for two days of nourishment. Driving up the narrow dirt driveway, the Australian bush pressing up to the edge of the road I could feel my breathing deepening and I knew I was in the right place.
The house at Amarant is surrounded by the majesty of nature… the myriad and varied species of gum trees standing tall… their strength pressing up to the house giving the feeling that a protective wall was around you. The branches filled with the chattering of birds and the undergrowth alive with creatures you could hear but not see.
At the base of these amazing trees, ferns were unfolding their new fronds and vibrant rhododendrons provided pops of colour amongst the vastness of green. Sitting in the room with a log fire, a warm cup of tea and overlooking the valley my body began to slowly relax.
Walking by myself in the bush, the coolness of the air on my cheeks, I stopped to sit quietly on a fallen tree, closing my eyes and calming my breathing. As I sat listening to the various birds singing and calling out, I got a message to keep walking.
Standing up I continued to meander up the hill, catching glimpses of the valley below through the trees until I spotted a granite rock with a circle of vibrant green moss in the middle… smiling, I knew this was ‘my’ rock and new resting place.
Meditating on that rock, I heard the words “I am with you”. To be honest, I don’t know ‘who’ it was – my father? God? Another? It didn’t matter, as I just knew that I was with someone who loved me and I felt incredibly peaceful.
I felt at home there on my own with nature… the stillness and energy of creation all around me. That was until a loud animal noise echoed around the valley and freaked me out! I suddenly felt alone and very vulnerable and began to walk back down the hill. As I write this however, I realise that in that moment I lacked faith… faith that I was safe, that “someone” was with me and to just breath into my fear and be in sync with nature. But I allowed my fear to drive me.
Stretching out and feeling into the yoga poses in a room that overlooked the bush and valley below was beyond nourishing… the birdsong filtering in through the windows allowing one to relax to levels that the noise of the city does not always allow.
The alchemy of this energy released a flood of tears that had formed within my heart… helped along by Elvis singing “Amazing Grace” – a song that is one of my all time favourites, a love I shared with my dad.
It was also the song that filled my dad’s room the night before he passed… as my mother and I sat beside dad and watched Paul Kelly and Gurrumul (a most divine Aboriginal singer who you must seek out) sing this song together. Here now were the words revisiting me, providing the grace to release more of the grief, which was gripping my heart.
The women sharing the retreat and our beautiful host Susanne Calman, allowed me to be with my grief and my tears. And so I sat there for as long as those tears flowed.
Eagerly awaiting each meal time, I would sit at the table expectantly… not only because of the amazing food provided by Rachel from Enchanted Eating, but due to the fact that I hadn’t had to think of what to eat, shop for the ingredients or stand and prepare the meal before cleaning it all up… what an absolute luxury!!
Sitting down and being presented with food that awakened so many of my senses was a revelation. First it was the eyes, marveling at the colours and vibrancy of the food on the plate as Rachel came out of the kitchen and served us.
Leaning down and smelling the sweetness or aroma rising up, before taking that first exquisite mouthful… my taste buds dancing with joy at the flavours being unleashed in my mouth. Food that was healthy and nourishing and mostly eaten in silence. All of us, being fully present to each mouthful and the gift of being able to slow down and take our time.
Free time in the afternoon meant deciding between reading or napping. Filled with exhaustion, my body screamed out for a nap… ahh the luxury of climbing under the covers at 3pm and waking up two hours later… to find two freshly made bliss balls waiting for me.
I always know and trust that when a group comes together, the perfect people for what you need, will be present – even if they push your buttons! (not that anyone pushed my buttons on this retreat). So it was that the two days were filled with much silence – not intentionally, but all of us just okay with ‘being’.
No one filling the void, with unnecessary conversation. This was just what I needed as I didn’t have much energy to give out and so the silence was a welcome gift that helped me to just ‘be.’
As I wrote the above words what also became clear is that the Universe sent my way the perfect roommate. Johannah entered my life in February this year and collaborated with me on my rebranding and new website – she has since turned into a dear friend. Her energy was just what I needed that weekend and she is the first person I’ve met who is quieter than me in the room!
The power of retreating meant that I was nurtured and nourished, while being guided gently through two days of transformation, my body slowly unfurling like the fronds of the fern. What bliss it was to have the time to devote a couple of hours to creating my dream map/vision board for the next 12 months – even if the result surprised me!
What I know for sure about taking yourself on retreat is that you gift your soul a window in time to surrender to your self-care on a deeper level. It is not the same as an afternoon spent doing your favourite thing (and I advocate that you do this regularly!).
Instead, it is an action that allows you to fully step away from your everyday life to make you the priority, to allow you to just ‘be’ and to give you the opportunity to connect to your inner wisdom. Where doing nothing and allowing others to nurture you holds great healing power.
I also know for sure that I won’t be leaving it another four years before I give myself this gift. I deserve this time for myself and as a woman I understand that filling my cup back up allows me to come home and be the best mum/friend I can be.
Now I look forward to taking my two experiences of retreating and weaving my learning into the Paris to Provence: A Woman’s Journey tour in May 2016 – the ultimate gift to yourself and a journey that i feel deeply passionate about. I also know that as I have refilled my own cup, I will be able to nurture and give all of me to the women who join me, including Susanne.
Why go on a retreat? Because it will transform your life.. and that is where the power lies.
PS. Leave a comment below and tell me how you have felt when you have given yourself the gift of a retreat. Or is it something you have yet to do? Do you feel guilty for giving yourself this gift?
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