Last weekend, I ‘treated myself’ to a weekend away in beautiful West Wales – The village of Llansteffan with its 6th century church and ruined medieval castle lies on the Tywi estuary, and boasts views over the Gower peninsula to the east and Pembrokeshire coastline to the west. There too, you will find Hill House (www.hillhouseretreats.co.uk) – a huge pink Victorian house, which as its name suggests, sits on a hill overlooking the village and is the venue for the Wisdom Within retreat hosted by coach Bharti Kerai.
I wasn’t quite sure what I was expecting from the weekend. I have known Bharti for some years, and I had been intrigued by her retreat for some time. Until now, time, space and finance had not been conducive, but when I won a discounted place on the retreat in a fundraising raffle, I knew that I was being called to go. In spite of further complications with work and childcare which almost derailed my plans, I arrived at Hill House on Friday with an open mind willing to experience whatever the weekend would bring.
There is definitely something about small coastal villages in West Wales which seems to promote immediate relaxation and facilitate the ‘offload’ of the baggage of everyday life. Both my bedroom on the second floor, and the main living room looked out over the village and out to sea – a perfect place to unwind with a cup of tea before meeting the other retreat attendees and starting to map out the programme for the weekend.
Our first session of ‘work’ was after a scrumptious vegetarian evening meal – setting out intentions for what we wanted to explore and unravel… things that were ‘bothering’ or hindering us from living life how we wanted to. Sounds cheesy? Far from it. I have titled this blog post ‘Oversized baggage’ for a reason. Because right from that first session it was clear that I had a whole heap of ‘STUFF’ that I needed to offload and untangle in the course of the weekend. My instinct was telling me that this retreat was a place where I could work through these things supported and coached by Bharti – I know I have a rich network of amazing friends, but sometimes you need someone who is further removed from your situation to know how to help you to deal with some of the unhelpful feelings you’re carrying around. I’m not going to bore you with all the details, but suffice to say that however ‘brave’ and ‘strong’ I may appear on the surface, I’ve actually reached a point of exhaustion with being ‘brave’ and ‘strong’… Scratch beneath the surface and you’d find a maelstrom of feelings of inadequacy (carried right from childhood), failure (to meet the exacting standards I have learned to set myself), rejection (by the man I married) and of being totally stuck… A slave to a life I didn’t choose, and seemingly unable to change things. Baggage. And lots of it.
Saturday comprised a combination of breath work, yoga, meditation and some quite challenging 1-to-1 work with Bharti, coupled with an exhilarating walk up to Llansteffan Castle and more amazing home-cooked vegetarian fare. Bedtime came quite early… zonked from the work, the processing and the fresh coastal air. Sadly, our time at Hill House was cut short on Sunday thanks to the good old British weather – no snow in this bit of Carmarthenshire, but enough had fallen (with more in the forecast) in Cardiff to make us decide that the best course of action was to head home after breakfast.
So, what now?
Well, the retreat has certainly heightened my awareness of some of the thought patterns and ‘scripts’ that run in my head, which are not really helpful to my self-belief and are quite a roadblock to living a less stressed and more fulfilled day-to-day life. I have come home armed with some new techniques to help me remain calm when the going gets tough, and to identify the things / situations which are draining rather than envigorating me… Sometimes these are things / situations that won’t go away, but being aware of the effect they have on me is at least a step towards managing them better. And I know that I want to work on this more, and having derived so much benefit from the way Bharti coached me, I’m hoping she’s up for some more!!
I also reconnected with some of the feelings that initially gave rise to the 50shadesofbrave challenges… Feelings which are not pleasant to sit with, and which at times I used the challenges to refocus away from. My strapline for 50shadesofbrave has always been ‘Changing life, one adventure at a time’… and this weekend I’ve got the impression that the adventure is not over for me.
Here’s to continuing to change life for the better. Who’s with me?