This year has been polar opposites to the last, full of fun activities, adventures with friends and an abundance of creativity. Yet despite doing all of this, spending a significant amount of money on myself for a retreat seemed self indulgent. A constant idea that would spring forward and then to be squashed by other thoughts. How could I justify spending this amount of money when I was advising my family I couldn’t return to Australia this Christmas, or my friends that I can’t travel to Perth for their wedding next year. Not that the retreat money is anywhere near what was needed for one or both of these.
One of the ways I justified to myself not to go on one of these retreats was the overseas travel that was inevitably involved. It didn’t make sense to spend more money again on a flight. Then I came across The Nature Sessions. A Kent based, nature reserve retreat, spending time in bell tents, participating in yoga with lots of creative and reflective activities. All whilst being fed delicious vegan food for three days. I liked them on Instagram and then again ignored it for a few days until a post popped up saying one of the attendees was looking to share her tent. I was in!
This is how I found myself waiting to be picked up from a little Kentside train station by a fellow retreater ready to spend time with 14 strangers. Arriving at Elmley Nature Reserve we were greeted by Kim, Hannah and Georgina who are three talented ladies that met and decided to run retreats for stressed out city goers like me! Once we were all acquainted and settled in our respective tents and huts we jumped in a large farm bus and took a tour of the reserve. This turned out to be the perfect antidote to city stress as we were encouraged to listen to bird calls, watch cows wandering past with calves and ate wild samphire.
Throughout the weekend we were directed to activities including flower wreaths, candle making and screen printing. Balanced with an abundance of free time we were left to engage in conversations with our fellow retreaters or spend some time being mindful. Two exercises stand out as impactful and transformative. First was journaling with Hannah. A practice I have always been envious of but I have never understood what I was meant to write and would give up. I also have never trusted my family not to read something that is so personal and I know that was a shrewd call on my part! Hannah guided us through two simple exercises that I have now continued to practice 2-3 times a week and I have found my emotional energy more calm and restful. There are also a number of memories that I have put to bed and moved from once I have written down and digested my feelings. The second task was working with Natasha on documenting our daily routine and identifying areas of stress. Stress isn’t always bad and everyone had different tolerances. What I learnt from this task was that my mobile phone was ruling my sleeping patterns and had to be banished from my life post 8.30pm. This has worked wonders and the result has been I have finished a book in two weeks, slept better and my vocabulary is improving.
Post retreat, back in my favourite city of London, I have pushed myself to set goals and move foreword after my tough time last year. I bought an alarm clock that doesn’t give me a heart attack and I’ve applied to a course that will result in a new career path. In addition to this I have made new friends, something that is hard when you are in your thirties. I have already attended a supper club curated by one and have two trips in the diary over the next month to visit others. Turns out is makes sense to invest in yourself. Because who else would otherwise?
What have you recently done that is just for yourself?
I’ve realised as I have finished this post that I put my camera away on the first day and rarely took it back out! Soz. PF xo