There is an understanding that the spiritual path presents many obstacles for the aspirant to overcome potentially developing determination, will-power, love and thus helping to assist in spiritual growth.
Well one obstacle I hadn't considered on Be inspired's first Yoga and Wellbeing retreat on Herm was the cancellation of our scheduled boat to the Island less than 24hours before it was meant to sail due to a combination of predicated high winds and high tides - what are the chances, I mean it is only a 20 minute sail away! Alas, there was nothing we could do, the matter was taken out of our hands very much presenting an opportunity to go with the flow and make the most of what limited time we would now have to retreat on Herm.
And make the most of it we did.
There is no doubt that Herm, especially off season, is a perfect location to retreat - no cars and thus no traffic, not very many people, no internet, television or other external distraction, not even any shops to visit and no real need to spend any money.
We practised Yoga in the conservatory of the White House Hotel with stunning views of flowers, trees, the sea, Jethou and Guernsey in the background. I have attended quite a few retreats in my time, in some incredible locations such as Bali and Nepal but I have to say that it doesn't get much better than this...quiet and peaceful, natural and healing, Herm is a wonderful place to recharge batteries, get away from it all and practice Yoga.
Everybody seemed to enjoy the asana classes, some did a headstand for the first time, some mastered chatturanga, others increased their experience of backbends and everyone developed their experience of asana somehow. We even managed some partner work, back to back, open heart, this kind of interaction really helps individuals to explore their practice and other's practices too. Vicki gave many great adjustments and it was lovely to have her there supporting me on every level.
There was lots on offer that first afternoon, Reiki sessions with Eugenie Heraty and I, personal transformation sessions with Michelle Johansen, an art class with Sheila or simply the opportunity to chill out in bedrooms or take a walk around the Island to blow away the cobwebs - and blowing away the cobwebs was no problem this weekend, the winds were high, a reflection of the energy of the full moon perhaps - and there was even the chance for a cleansing rain shower - wellie boots were a wonderful joy!
(Photo courtesy of Susan Norman - great idea, thank you Susan and Gerry for your creativity on your ramblings around the Island).
I visited the art class that afternoon and was amazed by the incredibly calming energy in the room, Sheila is a natural and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and the laughter was flowing as much as the creativity, the photos say it all really - very impressive watercolour paintings ladies, well done!
Vicki and I made the most of the opportunity for self-practice when we had the chance over the weekend, like I say, the conservatory is a wonderful place to practice and it reminded me of practising with Devika in Nepal and my brother Ross out in the garden at home - there is something special about practising beside one of your best friend's with views of nature and a calming energy in the room. Thank you Vic, special memories.
We all chanted together, "Om Mani Padme Hum"(Sanskrit) or Om Mani Peme Hung (Tibetan), the oldest and most well known mantra of Tibetan Buddhism meaning "Om, jewel in the lotus, hum." (from darkness comes light) and the Gayatri Mantra - one of the most ancient mantras, which is truly healing, illuminating and balancing. While this was a new experinece for many, I know I was not alone in feeling incrediby uplifted and light by this chanting and would love to do this more regularly, we underestimate the power of chanting, clearing the throat chakra and raising the energy in the body. Thank you everyone for giving it a try.
Sheila has the most gentle, beautiful and graceful voice for leading pranayama and guided meditation sessions, just what we needed to really take us within - powerful too as I can still remember the peaceful feeling of lying on a cloud surrounded by sparkling stars so that I could have stayed there for hours, bliss...thank you Sheila, you have a gift for expression in all its manifestations.
The vegetarian food prepared by Tom and his staff in the Mermaid was fantastic - it is hard to please us vegetarians sometimes but please us they did, thank you Tom, you did us proud. We enjoyed a scrumptious and wholesome brunch with fresh breads and fruits, cereals, yoghurts (soya and dairy), fresh juices and cooked breakfast made to order. The evening meal catered for all dietary requirements, a vegan pumpkin risotto and a lentil and potato bake, plus lots of different salads, homemade humous, guacamole and toasted pitta bread followed by baked bananas and an apple, sultana and walnut crumble.
We were all tired that first evening, it had been an intensive day and some left for bed straight after the meal while others sat around chatting and laughing together. Sheila entertained us with her accurate angel readings (remember ladies, there is no coincidence) and Tao readings were on offer too.
Being the full moon we decided to make the most of the energy to "let go" (unless you let go, there is no space for the new, or so it goes) and did our own "letting go" ceremony, writing down all the things no longer serving us and besuming Nick and all the other guys in the Mermaid by standing around the open fire, Sheila calling down the Goddess and then throwing our bits of paper in the fire - Vicki's jumped straight out again much to our amusement and her concern!!
We were all in bed by 10.30pm, I was rather impressed, it was a Saturday night after all and there no rules but clearly the fresh air had gotten to everybody, I was certainly asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. Not for long however. This ringing sound was punctuating my dreams and refused to go away...I finally realised it was not in my dream at all but was the fire alarm in the cottage going off, it was 12.30am, great!
So eventually Vicki and I decided we should go and investigate only to find a few of the women already congregating by the front door having ascertained there was no fire and all of us staring at the fire alarm willing it to stop. Eventually, after Vicki had tried to contact someone in the Mermaid, a water-proof clad man (for it was windy and raining by then) appeared from the darkness at our door and thankfully turned off the fire alarm so we could all go back to sleep.
Vicki and I found this absolutely hilarious, not so, however, when it went off for a second time at 3.30am! Not that I actualy reacted at this point, I, like most other people decided to take my chances and stay in bed, the ringing noise was part of my dream again in any event, plus I heard Vicki getting up and knew she would come back and get me if there was a real fire...well maybe...at this point she was quite prepared to turn any switch on the fire alarm system that may stop the ridiculous ringing but thankfully waterproof clad man appeared from the darkness again and decided to disenable the fire alarm for the rest of the night, hoorah.
Needless to say the fire alarms were the topic of much laughter and conversation the next day...the irony of retreating and the general disruption they created, oh well one of those things you cannot control again - talk about obstacles, yes we seemed to have plenty of those and I am sure we will continue to laugh at the memory of the fire alarm and water-proof clad man appearing as he did to save our poor ears.
Michelle led a wonderful opening and closing circle, establishing boundaries and helping us to gently get to know each other before the retreat started and then sharing our experiences when the retreat ended. While I am not usually a fan of public speaking and group circles like this, I do believe they are necessary to break the ice and establish a group energy and Michelle delivered perfectly - thank you Michelle.
We certainly created a group energy over the weekend, the photos say it all really, expertly taken by my lovely cousin Nick who has a gift for capturing the human spirit and is slowly creating a new genre of Yoga photography...take a look, the photos depict the essence of the retreat better than my words can describe it...go to www.nickdespres.com, select Client Proofs, gallery Yoga Herm Weekend
username yoga, password weekend (all in lowercase). Also please have a look at his blog for the weekend.
Anyhow group energy - we may have only been together for 30 odd hours but within an hour of arriving back in Guernsey I was seriously missing everyone. This is not unusual but I was surprised by the intensity of the feeling of separation after such a short time together, of course it passed, but I still felt the need to telephone Vicki and check she felt the same! And I was incredibly aware how hectic the energy seemed to be over here, I went for a sunset walk through the lanes of St Andrews and was amazed by the number of cars out on the roads and the general noise. I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like if you spent a week retreating on Herm...we will have to try that one day.
So I for one felt rejuvinated, re-energised, nurtured and restored after the retreat on Herm and the comments have been very positive from others who attended. For me it was a dream come true, seriously, and I look forward to the next one!
I would just like to say a huge thank you to all of you who attended this first retreat and helped to make the dream a reality, also to Vicki, Sheila, Michelle and Eugenie for supporting me in your own special ways before the retreat and for facilitating over the weekend, to Jonathan, Sion, Tom and the staff at the Mermaid for all your efforts on Herm, to Nick for all the incredible photos and for just being there with us, and to my Mum, thank you, I could not have done it without you - lots of love. xxx
Hope to see you all on the next one.
Love and light