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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!

 

Practicing beliefs

At the moment I am in Thailand volunteering at a centre for people recovering from drug and alcohol abuse. The centre isn’t restricted to just addiction but also supports those suffering with depression, anxiety, burnout, trauma and any other mental illnesses. I came here on the recommendation from a friend who also volunteered at the centre. I will be here for 2 months.

I have a strong interest in mental wellbeing and recovery. I can still relate to so many stories and behaviours based on my background with depression and overcoming an eating disorder. I am here to love and to learn.

Stepping into this community on day one was incredibly daunting and quite overwhelming, even for me. Meeting new people and finding a connection with a person is something I love most in life. When there is a big group of people I can find it frustrating as I know I want to connect with each individual and understand who they are, but that’s tricky when there people are on mass.

I call the centre a community, because that is exactly what it is. A community of people who live together, work together and share together.

The community is made up of residents recovering, long and short term volunteers and staff. Today there are approximately 40 people in total.

It’s day 7 for me. In the past week I have been tried and tested externally and internally, questioning myself in certain situations and observing the different feelings develop as a result.

This place is a mini society. The forever changing dynamics of the community have a constant impact. It is up to me as to whether I let the daily activity, interactions and bonds (or lack of bonds) with people bring me down or build me up.

Sound familiar?

Regardless of where you are in the world or what you are doing: your job, relationships, parenting, hobbies, day to day activities – the concept of letting something or somebody from your day bring you down or build you up is forever being tested. It’s how we react in those moment or deal with those challenges that will eventually uncover some interesting answers for us as individuals.

From the moment I got here to the moment I sit here writing this now I have realised that I have been testing some beliefs that are are at core of my make up. I can apply these beliefs to every single moment I spend in the community. But not just that, I can transfer them into the real world too. See if you can connect with some of these beliefs too.

Be observant 

Not just of others, but of yourself.

I have observed every feeling of discomfort and every moment of joy within me over the last 7 days. I have allowed those feelings to coarse through my mind and body and I have allowed them to settle without any judgment. I have sat with different feelings and observed them for what they truly are. I accept that I will be challenged even more in the next 2 months.

Feelings pass. It’s what we learn from them that stays with us.

When I arrived it was clear that bonds had already been formed within the community. Friendships had been made. Experiences as a group had taken place. And somethings weren’t able to be shared with me. I was an outsider. This is only natural when entering a new community.

Rather than forcing myself onto groups to make myself a part of something for the sake of not being alone, I sat back and observed the dynamics of the community so that I could understand how it was structured and where my place should be. And I will continue to observe that dynamic because it will change every single day. Especially as people leave the community and new arrivals come.

Be patient

It has taken some time to for me to feel completely comfortable and at home. I have suddenly plunged myself into a situation of complete uncertainty. I have not been able to predict the mood, the activities, the food, the conversations, the challenges of each day.

I have urged myself to be calm, to be patient knowing that things will unfold as they have to. There is no rush.

My patience paid off and I have made some great friends. I have also been tasked with welcoming the newcomers with warmth and inclusion.

Be forgiving 

There is never a day that goes by in life where we are not faced with a personal challenge. It can take anything to unsettle your inner core.

Someone may say something that disturbs your peace. Or if you are not already at peace, it just adds to your anxiety.

If your inner core is rocked, just let it be.

A common imbedded coping mechanism we have is to react to other’s actions by saying something back in defence, creating a debate, causing tension or perhaps you may even withdraw from the situation and isolate yourself.

I am learning that to be forgiving is a much more harmonious way of dealing with a situation that might arise. I know that for me, forgiveness is the best possible outcome for maintaining the equilibrium of my inner core. It means that I hold no animosity towards a person, an action or a situation that may have challenged this balance. It is what it is. And I am totally OK with that. Grudges only turn into bigger problems the more we hold onto them without the act of forgiveness.

Forgiveness also applies to the act of forgiving yourself and that’s where it takes a little more effort! If there is a situation where you act in a way you are ashamed of, recognise that feeling. Know that you can make amends for your actions. And be kind to yourself.

Giving myself a hard time for an action I am not proud of will only lead to further tensions the more I hold onto them.

Be kind  

Imagine if there was more kindness in the world? What a beautiful place this would be?

Rather than dwelling on the suffering and pain that each and every one of us have to deal with, show more kindness. Kindness towards yourself and kindness towards others.

It’s no surprise that kindness has a domino effect, and that the more kind we are to one person – the more kind they are to you and others.

A simple act of kindness is offering someone a smile, a hug, offering to make them a hot drink, washing their cup, telling them something you find beautiful about them. Kindness in a funny way is just as selfish as it is selfless. Being kind can bring you so much joy. Be kind to be kind.

Be you

New situations are tough. Some people become a chameleon to fit in with the crowd. Others may withdraw and retreat within themselves. Notice the feelings of discomfort within you, when a new situation arises. That knot in your stomach. That resistance to be seen. That inability to speak out.

We spend half our time worrying what people think of us, how they perceive us and what judgments are being made. But in that moment, the real judge is ourself. Remember that people are too caught up in their own thoughts and feelings, and ironically may even be worrying about how you perceive them.

Be assured that there is only one you and you are totally unique. You don’t need anything external to prove this, you only have to look inside and see that your thoughts, your actions, your beliefs, your kindness, your observations and your forgiveness is yours, and yours only.