Blog

The Happy Hour

 

This month my focus for The Humble Retreat is to connect with charities specialising in mental health. I want to explore opportunities for collaborative projects where I can offer my retreats to a wider network of people. After every Humble Retreat I feel energised and determined to broaden the awareness of how The Humble Retreat can help individuals. Feedback from past guests reminds me of how powerful The Humble Retreat is. It is a weekend for everyone. 

Last month marked a year’s anniversary of The Humble Retreat idea being born! It was a year ago in May when I was mindfully walking around the UK with my tent and a few belongings to seek peace and stillness. As I was walking alone up the Welsh mountain of Snowdonia the vision of The Humble Retreat came to me. It was so clear and so profound that as soon as I got back into signal I asked my brother to purchase the domain name for my website and I started working on it straight away.

It’s been a momentous year of hosting retreats and creating a beautiful space with my mum for others to come and find peace. It has been an incredible added bonus to meet such inspiring people who have joined me for The Humble Retreat weekend. Every single person has taught me something about the myself, the world and the overwhelming love and compassion we as humans can truly show towards one another. It’s been a joy and I know that this will continue with every retreat.

To celebrate this milestone I am offering a Happy Hour for anyone who would like to spend an hour with me reconnecting, refocussing and restoring. I can host the Happy Hour via telephone or online video call. For those of you in the Berkshire area I can also host a face to face Happy Hour.

During the Happy Hour we can look at a whole range of areas to help you reach a peaceful and mindful state of mind.

We can explore areas you’d like to look at as well as any of the following areas I can guide you in:

  • Intention setting
  • Self appreciation
  • Gratitude
  • Breath work
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness practices
  • Non judgment
  • Happiness
  • Positive thinking
  • Mantras
  • Letting go

You can order your Happy Hour HERE. Once you’ve ordered I will contact you to arrange a convenient Happy Hour date and time with you. This offer is only available for a month!

It will be a joy to join you for a Happy Hour.

If you are looking for more than a Happy Hour please feel free to check out the upcoming dates for The Humble Retreat and The Humble DAY Retreat. 

 

 

What do YOU want?

We go through various transitions (big and small) in our life time. For me a big transitional year took place for me at the end of 2016 beginning of 2017. I quit my sensible job. I broke up with a man I said yes to marrying. I left London (my home for 7 years). I felt totally lost and broken. I asked myself what I wanted in that particular moment and the answer was to spend time alone and away from the real world. So I took myself travelling around the UK with my tent and some belongings. I wanted to reconnect with myself and allow myself time to heal.  

How many times do you ask yourself the question “what do I want?”. Often we are too busy or too distracted by this world that we live in and we forget to truly stop still and enquire deep within. 

And perhaps if we were to ask ourselves what it is we want – we might not actually know the answer. 

For me, it was only until I took myself walking, camping and adventuring around the UK that I was truly able to find out what I wanted. The noise quietened and I could finally hear myself think. I could suddenly visualise with crystal clear vision my desires in life and what was important to me. 

Taking time for yourself to find out what you want is so important. By doing this you are telling yourself AND the universe exactly what it is that will bring you happiness/freedom/stability or whatever it is you are after. 

But if you do not know the answer, how can you be sure that your are living to your fullest potential?

Sometimes it can be scary to answer ourselves honestly as the truth in answering becomes something you then have to take responsibility for and action.

My encouragement to you would be to feel the fear and do it anyway.

I’ve put together a mindful exercise to help you get to the foundations of what you want from any particular situation.

Time to find out

Take a moment to find a quiet space and a comfortable seat. You’ll need a pen and piece of paper for this exercise. I would advise that you switch your mobile phone to aeroplane mode too.

Now before you begin the writing exercise just take 2 minutes to be completely silent and still. Use your phone’s alarm to alert you to 2 minutes, if you need to.

During this 2 minutes of silence let thoughts come and go and try not to drift off with any one particular thought. If you do find yourself drifting just imagine that each thought is a cloud and that each cloud is moving by one by one and then evaporating into the air. Concentrate on your breath and just enjoy this 2 minutes of peace and stillness.

When you arrive back come to your piece of paper and go through the following questions to help you gain clarity of what it is you exactly want from a current situation you are finding challenging.

  1. Write down clearly the exact challenge you are facing at the moment.
  2. Write down in bullet points all the reason this particular challenge is causing you to feel stuck, empty or unclear about what it is you want.
  3. Read those bullet points out loud and observe how you feel when you do so.
  4. Use a word to describe that feeling.
  5. Focus on the challenge and write down how you visualise an ideal resolution.
  6. Write down in bullet points all the actions you need to take to get to that resolution.
  7. Read those bullet points out loud and observe how you feel when you do so.
  8. Use a word to describe that feeling.
  9. Clear your mind. Take 2 minutes to come back to silence and stillness.
  10. Come back to the original challenge. Out loud ask yourself “What do I want”. Be precise and detailed in answering this question. Don’t hold back. Be as descriptive as possible in your answer this question so that you create as much clarity for yourself as possible.
  11. Now…what are you waiting for?

It’s common for us as humans to do what other people want or to do things that we think other people want us to do. In situations of overwhelm or worry – come back to the questions “What do I want?”. Ask yourself out loud and don’t hold back when answering. We often quieten down our true desires for many decisions we make. Put yourself first and ask yourself what it is you truly want. You have had the answers all along!

Lacking in motivation? Don’t be so hard on yourself!

A sudden lack of motivation when you have been so enthusiastic or focussed on something can be a huge drain in energy. It’s common to be ridden with resistance, self sabotage followed by guilt.

Going through a wave of feeling demotivated can be an incredibly positive and powerful thing if you choose it to be. When we feel unmotivated to do something we have set out to do we either force ourselves to push through (and generally feel better for it) or we completely quit and wallow in our failure. But it must never be seen as a failure. In fact it is just a moment to reassess what the result of the goal or focus truly means to us.

Feeling demotivated allows us time to get to know ourselves and our thought patterns and processes even better.  We are offered a stillness in time to just stop, breathe and work out what lead to our feelings of resistance. Through a time of demotivation we can also then re locate the sparkle and form steps to either get back on track or find an alternative route, when the time is right for you to do so! 

Here is an exercise including some questions to ask yourself when you are feeling demotivated or resistant towards achieving something you have set out to do or a focus you currently have. Answer the questions openly and honestly and write them down freely so that you can clearly see the root cause of your demotivation.

  1. What goal or focus are you currently feeling demotivated about?
  2. How important is this goal or focus to you? 
  3. Make a list of bullet points including all the triggers you can acknowledge that are making you feel demotivated.
  4. From this list strike out with a pen all the triggers that you know you can finally accept and forget about. Perhaps try this mantra as you do so: “ I acknowledge that this had an impact on my current state of mind. I accept it fully and can now forget this.”
  5. If there are any triggers remaining in your list ask yourself why you are unable to accept and forget those.  
  6. Come back to the goal or focus that you are currently feeling demotivated about and ask yourself how you will feel when you finally achieve this. 
  7. What does achieving that goal or focus look like to you?
  8. Write down a list of bullet points of all the feelings that you hope to feel as a result of achieving this goal or focus. 
  9. Will it be easy to achieve your goal or focus?
  10. Is there anything you are afraid of if you don’t achieve this goal or focus. And does that really matter?

If you are open and honest when going through this exercise you can truly understand the reasons behind your lack of motivation. You will also be able to understand whether the remedy is a case of just accepting the triggers and getting back on track or whether the outcome of your goal or focus is perhaps not as important to you as you originally thought. Perhaps the goal or focus needs to be re-considered or tweaked?

When feelings of disappointment or failure start to creep in which are common feelings during demotivation remember to always be kind to yourself and know that those feelings will eventually pass. Take the time to allow yourself to retreat, reset and realign.

 

Hey January. Move over.

January is a funny time. There’s often a feeling of a come down after the Christmas hype. Purse strings are tight due to the excess spent in December. “Restraints” tend to come into action as we try to right our wrongs from the previous year…with fad dies, alcohol detoxes and strict goals. And to top it all off…the weather can be pretty bleak. So all in all, January can harbour some pretty low times.

It really doesn’t need to be this way.

For me, January has always been one of my favourite times of the year. A fresh start. A new leaf. A different beginning. The future of the year is there ahead of me to be lived and discovered. The excitement of the unknown is palpable. And the speed in which every year goes by, is just gearing itself up.

This blog provides a couple of helpful exercises to help you take in ALL of 2018 – one step at a time. You will need some paper and a pen 15 minutes to an hour (depending on the detail you want to go into!) and an open mind.

Reflections

Let’s first look at last year.

Sit comfortably, close your eyes and focus on your breath. Just take a few moments to feel and acknowledge your emotions towards last year. Are there any emotions coming up? What do those feel like? There’s no rush. Open your eyes and write down in one word or in as many words as you like how you would sum up last year.

Now let’s look at one of your successes from last year. Think about a moment in 2017 you were really happy with. A particular moment in time you were really proud of yourself. It doesn’t matter how big or small this success appears to be to you or to others. What matters is how significant this moment feels to you. What is that moment?

For me the moment I was most proud of myself in 2017 was when I realised how detached from diets, calories and restriction of food had finally become for me. It’s as if my authentic appetite and true body make up made it’s way back to me, after all these years. This was a very big moment and huge step in my journey to recovery with an eating disorder.

Now back to you. Once you have thought about your biggest success in 2017, take time to answer the following questions…

  1. How do you feel about that success?
  2. What steps did you take to achieve that success?
  3. What are the things you most grateful for as a result of this success.

Reflecting on successful moments in your life and understanding how you got there will remind you of just how far you have come in a process. Showing an abundance of gratitude whilst you reflect allows your mind to naturally reboot into a positive mental attitude towards yourself and your many achievements in your life, no matter how big or small.

Intentions

Now take time to think about the year ahead. Of course no one can predict what the future holds and the wonderful thing about life is that the future is completely unwritten. How amazing is that.

Setting intentions is a way of focusing our energy on a successful outcome or achievement. It’s a way of living our life in a mindful way. Mindfully reminding ourselves of our intentions in everything we do.

For example, for the year ahead my intentions are in alignment with my core values. I would like to apply my intention to every aspect of my life:

“to show people compassion love and kindness, whatever their journey, behaviour, background, demeanour or make up might be.”

We are all human and we all deserve this respect, even if it is not reciprocated. I will remind myself of my intention during any dilemma, challenge intention and decision that 2018 has to bring for me.

Now back to you. Once you have come to a decision on your intentions for 2018, focus on just one and take time to answer the following questions.

  1. Why do have you chosen this intention?
  2. What steps will you take to focus and live by this intention.
  3. What will you tell yourself if you temporarily lose sight of your intention?
  4. What are the things you will be most grateful for if you succeed with living 2018 through your intention?

Once you have finished writing down your reflections and intentions and if you feel comfortable to do so, share your thoughts with someone close to you or just simply read what you have written out loud to yourself. Make your intentions a reality and take one step at a time in living 2018 the way you choose to live it.

The Humble DAY Retreat

I’m thrilled to be launching The Humble DAY Retreat in January. This is for anyone who perhaps can’t yet commit to a FULL Humble Retreat weekend. It’s also a wonderful opportunity for anyone wanting to finding out more about mindfulness with a gentle introduction and within a peaceful and calming environment.

The Humble Day Retreat is mindfulness workshop in Crowthorne (Berkshire) welcoming people of all backgrounds to come together to connect and tune in to the present. The day offers humbling mindfulness activities allowing you to take joy in simple things, share gratitude, honour self love and connect with like minded people. This day will encourage you to restore, explore and reset.

It doesn’t matter if you are new to mindfulness, yoga or meditation. It will be a pleasure to welcome you and you will receive a very warm welcome. Allow yourself this time for you!

The next Humble Day Retreat is 20th January 10am – 3pm. Tickets cost £50 (including lunch) and you can book your spot here.

The itinerary for The Humble Day Retreat looks like this:

10am Welcome, introductions and setting intentions

11am Restorative & relaxing yoga

12pm Mindful appreciation

12:45pm Humble lunch

1:15pm Sharing circle

2pm Mindful walk

2:45pm Reflections

3pm Home time

The mindful commute

You’re hearing the word more and more. You might even see it cropping up in your work space. You’ve read about mindfulness links to mental health. But you’re still asking yourself what on earth is mindfulness? And how can I practise it?

Mindfulness is all around us in every breath we take. It’s up to us to wake up and acknowledge it.

Mindfulness is the complete awareness of any present moment. It’s the observation of feelings in each moment and the positivity, energy and calmness created within us as a result.

You may well be mindfully reading this article right now. Your thoughts are completely engrossed and your mind is actively present in every word read. If that is the case I urge you to really enjoy that feeling.

There may be some parts of your life where you might already be practising mindfulness perfectly, without knowing. And perhaps there are other parts of your life where mindfulness is so lacking that it is of no surprise that you are seeking to fill “the void”.

The trick is to acknowledge and find joy in every moment in existence. It really is that simple.

Let’s take an everyday example.

Commuting to the hustle of “work” is something that you are probably doing most days. It comes with challenges no doubt. The focus tends to be on the arrival and the stresses that come along with the journey: traffic, late trains, moody commuters, invasion of space on a crowded train…the list could be endless.

The focus on those challenges doesn’t have to be this way. Even in the worst of commutes.

You are either getting a train, cycling, driving or walking to work. Let’s break down each of these journeys whilst I share mindfulness exercises for you to acknowledge or even practise during your next commute.

The Train

Trains can be late. People can be moody. Crowds can be big.

But you are still you and you don’t need to get sucked into the low vibrations of external factors that you cannot change.  

In fact by mindfully radiating a positive energy you will naturally bring a positive impact to those commuters around you. You could be responsible for creating a positive energy in a “doom and gloom” carriage and therefore allow others to absorb your positive energy for their day too. This will naturally act as a domino effect and the people in your carriage will carry those good vibes to people they then meet during their day!

Some simple and mindful ways of passing on a positive energy to fellow commuters would be to:

  • Smile at fellow commuters
  • Offer a seat to a fellow commuter
  • Let fellow commuters get onto the train before you
  • Hold the door for fellow commuters
  • Thank the train guards as you leave the station
  • Accept the fact that trains will from time to time be late or even cancelled and be ok with that
  • Leave a post-it note on a seat, with a positive message or thought for the day for a stranger
  • Write 5 things that you are grateful for in that moment during your morning commute
  • Share those 5 things with a stranger you are sat opposite
  • Enjoy the time spent on the train and acknowledge it as time for you ahead of any noise in the day that might allow your mind to otherwise wander
  • Acknowledge your breath during your commute. What does it feel like? Is it fast? Slow? Shallow? Deep? Just observe and breathe and enjoy attaching no judgement.

Your train commute can be a positive pocket of energy for your day and others around you. Take joy in that responsibility and observe the spirits of those around you lift.

The Car

It can be difficult not to get outraged or feel anxious as a result of inconsiderate driving from other motorists on the road. Remember that you are in control of those feelings of overwhelm, annoyance or stress in the car.

  • When you get into the car ahead of your commute try to refrain from turning on any music. Music or the radio can act as an immediate distraction. Spend a few moments acknowledging how your body and mind feels whilst you are sat in the car in silence.
  • Be aware of your breath. Just observe what it feels like and how it sounds.
  • As you start your journey bring your attention to the physical experience of driving. Acknowledge what it feels like to sit in the seat, bring your attention to what the steering wheel feels like in your hands and what it feels like for your feet making adjustments on the pedals.
  • Is there any tension in your body? Are your shoulders relaxed or hunched? Is your jaw clenched or soft? Perhaps your neck needs a gentle roll to get rid of some tightness.
  • Your mind will wander. And when it does it is your role to gently bring your attention back to the moment. Bring awareness to your surroundings as you drive and notice things on the road as you make your journey. Acknowledge sounds, cars and the environment you are driving through.
  • Try and take deep breaths at every red light. Create a ritual for breathing and acknowledging your breath as your drive.

Take joy in this time as you focus on your feelings during each driving experience.

The Cycle

I’ve always taken cycling as my commuting option. My reasons for this are so that I can be outside in the fresh air and so that I can acknowledge the sunrises and sunsets in all their glory. I also love cycling to and from work to enjoy the feeling of all weather conditions – come rain or shine. It feels particularly invigorating to arrive home from a cycle commute after a torrential downpour.

I regularly practise mindfulness on my commuting rides. I shall explain how.

At the moment I cycle 32 miles a day (3 x a week) to and from a little cafe where I teach yoga and serve hot drinks and slices of vegan cakes to locals. The moment I wake up on a day I have a cycle commute a common thought is “oh gosh, those horrible hills – perhaps I can get a lift.”

Through mindfulness I acknowledge those feeling of resistance towards my ride and I observe my emotions that are attached to those thoughts. Gently, I reason with myself by taking a step at a time. Those individual steps to riding look like this:

  • I brush my teeth in joy and know that I have all this time ahead of my cycle to gear my mind up mentally
  • I wash my face with hot water and feel fresh and energised enjoying the powerful feeling of water against my skin
  • I put on a clean set of lycra for a comfy ride and acknowledge how good it is to feel snug and warm in the freshest of air
  • I fill up my water bottle and notice how refreshing it tastes now and during my cycle commute
  • I acknowledge my breath and enjoy the sensation of that very moment
  • I sit on my bike and start pedalling acknowledging as I click into my pedals and wake up my legs through the motion of my push and pull
  • I take an easy pace and enjoy the fact I am free to ride and move
  • I breathe during the uphills and know that I will at some point reach the the top. There is no rush
  • I feel invigorated on the downhills as I let the wheels roll naturally and take in the beautiful scenery of my route
  • I observe the incredible wildlife: deer, rabbits, birds of prey, squirrels, pheasants, foxes and I am simply awe bound by their natural habituals
  • I arrive safely at my destination (a little hot!) and I feel elated for the rest of the day. I made it!

Of course it’s easy for me to get distracted on my bike by mental challenges: impatient motorists, intimidating drivers, big lorries, fast cars, big hills, tired legs, flies accidentally swallowed, acorn showers. But I know that after each cycle commute I feel joy post ride and I know that every new challenge is just another test to keep me mindful and in each moment as it arrives.

The Walk

Walking is probably a more natural way of practising mindfulness. There are less distractions in terms of actions and the momentum of placing one foot after another is so simple. And yet perhaps as we walk our mind can wander quicker than our steps.

By practising mindfulness as we walk we can slow down those thoughts and bring our attention to our physical being in that very moment.

Here are a few essential ways to become more mindful when you walk to work:

  • Put your phone away. No music. No texting. No talking. Your phone is only a distraction from what is happening around you and within you during your walk
  • If you are walking to work don’t focus on work until you arrive at work. Try to stop guessing what your day at work with bring. Just focus on each step you make during your walk
  • Acknowledge your surroundings. Are there beautiful trees? Gorgeous colours? Birds singing? People running? Dogs playing? Cars tooting? Take joy in your surroundings. Even the sky can be a mindful focus. What colours can you see? What smells are you experiencing?
  • How do your feet feel as you walk? From heel to toe feel the ground beneath your feet and acknowledge the earth that supports you.
  • Are you walking briskly? Or slowly?
  • Is there any tenseness in your body? Breathe into that area and feel yourself relax into the natural rhythm of your walking style
  • Enjoy the movement of your legs and the relaxation of your arms swinging by your side

Arrive into the motion and feeling of your walking. Acknowledge the clarity of your mind and if your thoughts wander (which they will) – simply bring them back to the feeling of your walking motion. Enjoy.

Mindfulness doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to be this out of reach ideology that only yogis or spiritual gurus can achieve. Mindfulness is for everyone. It is simple. It is pure. It is you. It is me.

“Mind the gap” London underground says when you alight a train. Next time, really do mind that gap and observe yourself as you do so.

The reason I do what I do

It’s crazy to think that a week ago today, I had just finished hosting The Humble Retreat. My mum (who had come to cook for the weekend) and I had packed up the car and were enroute home. It was my first ever weekend hosting and creating a safe space for guests to discover and connect with gentle yoga, beautiful walking, mindfulness activities, wholesome homemade food and each other. 

Here we are, mum and I! Packing up and on our way home.

Ever since I set up The Humble Retreat, two months ago, I have known that this is exactly what I am meant to be doing in my life, right now. It’s that feeling we get when we know that something is unshakeably right. There is no doubt, worry or concern. Everything is just as it is meant to be.

 

I haven’t been worried about who will or won’t be coming to The Humble Retreat or concerned over bookings or lack of them.  I have so much conviction in The Humble Retreat that I know that those who decide to join me for a weekend will join me when the time is right for them.

If you think you are ready to experience The Humble Retreat, the nurturing and healing environment can leave you feeling uplifted and at peace with so much in your life.

That’s exactly what happened The Humble Retreat in August. It was wonderful to observe. From start to finish The Humble Retreat evolved beautifully into everything and more that I had hoped it to be.

The Shropshire hills!

Seven guests joined me for The Humble Retreat in August. They entered the bunkhouse on a rather rainy and dark Friday evening. As we all sat down at the kitchen table ready to start the weekend (and the unknown!) I immediately warmed to them all. This was a beautiful group.

The humble kitchen/sharing table!

How I admired each guest for being at peace and at ease with the humble accommodation, lack of internet, sharing rooms with people they had only just met, whilst allowing strangers (soon to be friends) in on their life journey. It was extremely humbling to observe how the group connected and were at such ease with one another. 

The humble adventure!

It can be very difficult to switch off from the noise and distraction in our everyday life so having individuals come together simply to be was just wonderful.

After settling in at the bunkhouse and the new surroundings everyone tucked into home made soup with bread and finished off their light supper with some carrot cake made by my dear mum. After introductions and sharing we all made it eagerly to bed by 9:30pm. It’s amazing how the fresh air (and some travelling time!) can send you off to bed early.

The humble bedrooms!

The next morning, after showers and a morning brew the humble retreaters and I trundled on down to the village hall which is a beautiful space just 5 minutes walk away from the bunkhouse. The village hall is perfectly located, nestled  at the foot of the Shropshire hills. It’s a wonderful space for gentle yoga. 

Gentle yoga is a perfect introduction to anyone who has never practised yoga before. There are no strenuous moves and it does not turn into a sweaty class. It’s a lovely relaxing class and encourages mindfulness whilst always coming back to the breath.

A big goal of mine at The Humble Retreat is to introduce guests to alternative holistic healing. After our gentle yoga class and a gratitude sharing circle it was a privilege to open up a discussion around Feng Shui Energetics. This talk was delivered by Kurly Marwaha who I met during my walking tour of the UK. 

There are many holistic healing therapies in the world and I have only discovered a smidgen of those. For future retreats I’m looking forward to inviting specialists in alternative healing therapies to share their knowledge at future Humble Retreats. 

We all need to heal after all.  

Whether it’s from an ailment, a heartbreak, grief, stress at work, depression, anxiety, motherhood, fatherhood, marriage, relationships, losing a job, addiction…whatever it is, we are constantly in need of healing our head, our heart and our soul.

This need for healing never stops. We are never completely healed or recovered from an ordeal in life.  There is never a magical “forever” fix. We know too well that we can be happy and then we can be sad. With this understanding and acceptance it is our responsibility to keep nurturing ourselves. Therapies, good company and nourishing activity are ways this can be achieved.

By 10:15am our bellies were making some seriously hungry groans and so we hurried back to the bunkhouse for a filling breakfast of oats, fruit, toast, yogurt, honey and homemade jams. 

After fuelling up, the humble retreaters and I set off for an afternoon of exploring the Long Mynd which is exactly where the The Humble Retreat resides. Four hours of walking, talking, getting wet in the summer downpour, drying off in the summer sun, breathing in the fresh air, having moments of silence, eating a packed lunch by a waterfall, laughing, exploring, observing and enjoying we ended back at the bunkhouse for cake and tea and to relax.

The humble retreaters!

The humble retreaters then observed a silent hour. The peace and quiet allowed for  reflection time. 

After this peaceful hour, humble retreaters were free to enjoy their own time to do as they pleased.  Chatting in the kitchen, sitting in the sunshine, impromptu reiki and reflexology treatment.

A humble breakfast!

The wholesome dinner was filling and satisfying after a long day of activity. Laughter filled the bunkhouse and just before bedtime at 9pm five guests committed to getting up with me at 5:30am the next morning for a sunrise walk to Caer Cadoc an hours walk from the bunkhouse. The other two humble retreaters were more than happy to swap the sunrise walk and honour themselves with a little lie in.

The sunrise walk was totally worth the alarm clock on a Sunday. It was brisk, fresh, quiet and beautifully sunny. The group of sunrise walkers and I sat at the top of the hill to watch the sun rising. 

The sunrise walk!

After breathing in every moment of the sunrise we made the hour journey back to the bunkhouse to join our fellow humble retreaters and my mum for a big breakfast and final sharing of our gratitude, intentions and reflections of the weekend.

Reflecting on the weekend!

It was a complete privilege and honour to host a group of humble retreaters who entered the bunkhouse as strangers and left as friends each experiencing something unique as a group and as an individual.

I am grateful to every humble retreater for being open. I am grateful to my mum for believing in the concept and for supporting The Humble Retreat (and making all the food!). I am grateful that the humble retreaters shared and created what became a magical weekend.

I am excited for the next Humble Retreat in September. I’m excited to welcome new humble retreaters. I am excited to experience something unique and special. I am excited to open up a safe space for humble retreaters to restore, explore and relax.

Spaces are still available for dates this year, so head here if you’re ready to join me.

The feedback The Humble Retreat  in August received from the humble retreaters was completely…humbling. And I will let their words lead this post out…

“Thank you for an incredible weekend and improving my perspective on life and how to make the most of every day”

“Thank you Lizzie and mum! I really believe in what you’re doing and I really believe it will be successful, because of you! I have been most grateful for listening to and sharing so many experiences and hearing the courage to overcome difficulties”

“My biggest take away from the weekend is being able to be present and fully appreciate the task I am doing and what I am experiencing. I’ve been most grateful for Lizzie and Mandy who are the best hosts, the wonderful company, conversation and food!”

“The memories shared with such beautiful people, the laughter, the nature and the amazing food have made my weekend. Absolutely beautiful weekend. Keep doing what you are doing as you are awesome!”

“This weekend has reminded me to be kinder to myself, to switch off from technology and to walk more.”

“This weekend I have seen a glimpse of what I used to be…happy. Thank you for what you have given me, something that money cannot buy – happiness!”.

Celebrate your milestones! One step at a time!

When I’ve had a dip in life or battled with a cycle of depression, everything seems totally out of reach. I can’t see clearly and my head feels as though it’s clouded with a heavy, damp, grey and thunderstorm ridden cloud. Nothing is easy. Nothing is worth celebrating. What’s the point?

During one of my particularly dark days, my mum once said to me “one step at a time”. This has been a mantra I regularly come back to. It’s kind and it’s gentle and it’s achievable. 

“One step at a time” has allowed me to be grateful for all the small baby steps I have successfully made during a dip. Each of those baby steps represents a milestone and each milestone is a success and something that I am grateful for. 

Whether it was pulling myself from my bed when I really rather stayed there, making myself a wholesome meal rather than sabotaging myself with a binge or a restriction, speaking to a friend and sharing my woes instead of pretending that everything was ok, dragging myself out for a run even if every inch of my body did not want to, smiling at a stranger even though I have wanted to hide, laughing out of enjoyment rather than out of force.

These all seem like pretty achievable tasks. But at the time, they were huge milestones. One step at a time I was moving forward into the light! 

One step at a time applies to good times, bad times, and just the ordinary day to day. 

Wherever we are in life we are hitting milestones every single day. We might forget to acknowledge them or show gratitude for achieving them – but they’re there! The small baby steps I am talking about are the ones you might think seem insignificant to someone else which might stop you from sharing or celebrating.

Remember, they are YOUR milestones. So celebrate and appreciate every single step towards each milestone. Whether it’s finally drawing the curtains after some dark days, saying what’s really on your mind, speaking up for yourself in a work environment, successfully arranging a date for friends to get together, or running 2 minutes longer than you did yesterday. Whatever it is, take one step at a time, and celebrate the milestones!

My first BUSINESS milestone happened yesterday, and I was so thrilled. After lots of talk from friends about booking to come to The Humble Retreat (which is a celebration in itself) I received my first official booking! The booking came from someone I haven’t spoken to in a while so I hadn’t even thought that they were interested. And even though setting up a business can be quite scary, I have complete faith in The Humble Retreat. I know the ticket sales will come, one step at a time. And each sale will be a milestone. And each milestone I will celebrate! 

One step at a time…

Discovering things that make you go POW!

It’s been a great month for me. I’ve been volunteering at New Life Foundation in Chiang Rai, Thailand. The foundation is a place for people recovering from drug addiction, alcohol abuse, anxiety, stress, burn out and other mental health issues. The foundation provides residents a safe and loving environment to rest and restore, whilst practicing skills based on mindfulness to better equip themselves when returning to the matrix of life.

I arrived here on recommendation of a great friend I met in Thailand whilst I was travelling in November last year. She spoke so highly of New Life Foundation and the community that I had to come and experience it for myself. I wanted to understand what techniques were being used to make this place such a magical place.

Four weeks since my arrival I have had so much opportunity to join in workshops, meditation, yoga, mindfulness practice, sharing circles and more. There have been a significant number of exercises I have been practicing which have brought me so much joy and enlightenment that I couldn’t resist sharing these with you.

They have given me food for thought and have definitely prompted me to consider including aspects of them into The Humble Retreat schedule.

Working meditation

As a volunteer I have been offering 4 hours of my time each day to help around the community. My time are split in to two 2 hour work shifts and my duties can range from breakfast, lunch, dinner, maintenance, agriculture, office, cleaning and garden duty. No day is the same and each morning at a community morning meeting at 8:30am I find out which duty I have been scheduled on for the day.

The New Life Foundation community heavily influenced by buddhist principle. This means that every work shift is to be a working meditation.

I’m sure if you’ve practiced meditation or have a rough understanding you might imagine a mediation to be done with your eyes shut, legs crossed in lotus position with palms resting on your knees. True, this is a good way of meditating and one that we practice here too.

Something I have discovered much more powerful than that is to meditate whilst working. To me, this means being totally present in every job that I am delegated. It means to be conscious of every single moment during one of my work shifts, whether is weeding, washing dishes, painting, sorting through rubbish.

It’s easy during any job to procrastinate when there is something we do not want to do. It’s easy to stress out at something some one said or didn’t say. It’s easy to get distracted. It’s easy to rush things to get the job done.

During working meditation I am giving myself the opportunity to work with concentration and dedication. I enjoy all interactions and observe other interaction and observe every feeling and emotion that crops up. I feel privileged to be helping however small the task.

A simple task of weeding, whilst working on the agricultural team, has probably been my most favourite job. Outside in all weather conditions (blasting heat or tropical storm), in the earth, with the insects, observing nature in all it’s glory and helping cultivate and nurture. I am mindful of every wonderful bit of magic that nature has to offer.

Noble silence

Every evening at 9:30pm we practice noble silence. With my bedtime being 9pm latest here (!!) this isn’t too much of an impact on my social chit chat. However, this noble silence lasts until 8:30am the next morning which means that when we are woken up by the gong at six in the morning we are in silence until our community morning meeting.

I have found this an incredible peaceful way to start the day. It’s such a wonderful way to greet the community in the morning with something as simple and beautiful as a smile. No need for words or noise. Just a gift from the heart.

Eating breakfast in this noble silence has also given me the opportunity to enjoy every mouthful and to eat in true mindfulness. This also assists with knowing when I am actually full, rather than eating for eatings sake.

Dance Mandala

Last weekend there was a dance mandala in the evening. It was described as a mediation. I had absolutely no idea what to expect, but I took myself along with another 20 people from the community who had chosen to attend. I mean, I figured we’d be dancing but perhaps we would be shown the dance moves?

How wrong was I.

For approximately 2 hours, in candle light and in an amazingly beautiful space at a forest hall (imagine a huge magical mud hut in the forest). Our facilitator for the dance mandala had set up a dj space and was already playing music when I arrived. She explained to the group that she would take us through a guided meditation through the sound of music. It was up to us how and where we moved.

A little conscious of my being at the start of the session I felt stuck to the floor and I just simply swayed my hips to the beat of the music. You know that obligatory sway to the rhythm of the music?

Within the next 2 hours I was able to truly feel the music. I felt euphoria and moved like a wild woman you might see at something like a dance mandala. I looked as though I had been dunked into a swimming pool due to the dripping sweat. The energy in the room from all my friends and community members was electric and it felt like one of the most memorable parties I have ever been to. I moved all around the room with movement and free style. It felt wonderful and I came away from the evening in such a trance. It was incredibly liberating to feel so comfortable and move to easily (eventually). It really triggered something in me which I haven’t truly thought about since I was 17…I want more of that dancing in my life!

TRE

TRE stands for tension stress and trauma release. We’ve all heard that someone can feel “shaky” after a stressful situation or when they are in shock. Shaking is the way that our body naturally releases tension. But these days, even in the stressful world that we live in or the stressful life we have created for ourselves we no longer use the bodies natural coping mechanism to deal with that stress. We know longer use shaking as a stress release.

I attended a TRE workshop not knowing too much about it. I heard that there was some shaking involved but that was it. Upon arriving and being introduced to the concept (as I’ve explained above) and  I understood that the TRE session would be a form of meditation and a way of releasing any old stress that has been stored in my body.

Little did I know what was really in store for me.

Our facilitator took the group through a number of exercises to warm up our psoas muscle. The psoas muscle is where we hold a lot of stress and emotion. That’s why in yoga teachers tell us that a lot of emotion is stored in the hips. An example of an exercise is the one where you sit against a wall in chair position without a chair.

After about 5 gentle psoas muscle warm up exercises we were guided to the floor. I lay on my back with my legs flat on the ground and slightly apart. I then was guided to gradually bend my knees, keeping the soles of my feet flat on the floor.

I felt some tremors which were subtle automatic shakes mostly in my leg and groin area. However, after about 5 minutes of gentle shaking the shaking moved through the whole of my body, shaking me from side to side up and down, legs uncontrollably flapping everywhere, arms wobbling about. I’m sure anyone walking into that space without knowing about TRE would have though I was having a fit.

Not only did I shake uncontrollably – but apparently this exercise shook up my humour too. My laughter exploded into fits of belly laughing and I had streams of tears running down my face as I experienced pure and utter joy. Who doesn’t love a belly laugh? And for a solid 15 minutes? That’s quite some laughing!

My laughing ended up triggering some other laughter in the room from other people shaking uncontrollably on the floor. This was another experience that I will remember forever. The feeling post exercise, I can honestly say I was high. High on adrenalin and in a completely euphoric state of mind. It took me quite some time to come back to ground.

TRE is something I would certainly recommend as a way of releasing – whatever it is that you end up releasing! Whatever the emotion released, enjoy it. It’s an incredibly cathartic experience.

Hugging meditation

Every morning at 8:30 the community comes together to sit in a circle and we kick off our day with an open meeting for any sharing and announcements. At the end of the meeting we practice a seated meditation for 15 minutes. However, on a Wednesday morning our seated meditation turns into something a little bit more special, a hugging meditation.

The hugging mediation involves finding a partner to hug. During the hugging, three deep breaths are made. One breath in then out to know that one day I will die. One breath in and out to know that one day the person I am hugging will one day die. And one final breath in and out to acknowledge the very present moment of hugging. After three breaths the next hugging partner is found to enjoy this very wonderful experience with.

Post hugging meditation, I always come away feeling so connected and loved. I feel in love too. With the people I have hugged and shared my energy with. It’s amazing just how much a hug feeds my soul.

It is not obligatory to join in the hugging meditation and people can meditate whilst sitting on the outside of the hugging meditation, whilst serious magic is being created in the middle with all the hugging.

Sharing circle

A sharing circle is a beautiful way to get things off your chest, share your story or just simply listen. Every Tuesday evening there is a “women’s circle” which involves ladies coming together to talk about a particular topic. At the same time, there is a “men’s circle”too. Since my arrival topics have been:

  • body awareness
  • gratitude
  • compassion
  • identity and values

After a short meditation to open the circle everyone has an opportunity to talk about anything they might like to share,relating to the topic of the week. Alfred the duck (a teddy) is placed in the middle of the circle. Picking up Alfred the duck is an indication that you have something to share. You can say as much or as little as you like. There is no right or wrong in anything that you say.

The circle is such a wonderful space. No judgment. So much love. Electric energy. And safety. Everything that is shared stays within the circle and within that moment only. It’s powerful to know that your share impacts so many others in the room. Sharing and resonating with another person’s share shows that we are not alone on this journey of life. So many people can relate to our experiences and sharing those experiences takes courage and strength.

It’s been fascinating jumping into all the weird and wonderful workshops and practices at the New Life Foundation and each opportunity has allowed me to learn more about myself, what works, what doesn’t work and what I would like to share with those who are considering a weekend at The Humble Retreat. Life is for living. Life is for experiencing!