Retreating to the magical island of Herm
Us four Es love going on retreat, and we love nothing more than retreating to Herm, because it's so easy, it's a simple 20 minute boat journey, plus there is something very magical about Herm.
Each retreat is wonderful in its own way - certainly the last Glastonbury and Goa retreats were just amazing - but sometimes the stars and moons align and this Herm retreat was one of the more enjoyable Herm retreats I've run over the last nine years.
Like Ewan and I, the children get a high off the energy. There's something special about bringing together a group of like minded individuals with a common purpose of practising yoga and raising their vibration over the weekend, enhanced by the energy of the place.
This is the other thing of course - retreats generally take place at very special places in the world, and the collective energy of place and the people who attend, makes for a very uplifting, healing and enlivening mix. That's certainly how I felt by the end of the weekend - uplifted and enlivened.
Usually my Mum comes and helps me over the Herm weekend, as there is a lot to set-up, organise and manage, but she was poorly unfortunately. Luckily my brother, Ross, is visiting from Australia so he came along with me instead. I enjoyed spending time with him on my own on the Friday and we set up in good time so we could walk and practice (he too is a yoga teacher, although he's more so a meditation avid these days).
Everyone else arrived on the 4pm boat on the Friday and were welcomed this time by Julie and Paul who are the new staff in the White House hotel - I'm very grateful for all their help over the weekend, this was a new experience for us as in the past the staff have just left us to it and not always been quite so helpful.
Class that evening was grounding and balancing, bringing everyone to Earth, and establishing intentions for the weekend ahead. Dinner was taken in the Mermaid, the new chef doing us proud with some yummy vegan and gluten free food over the weekend.
Saturday begins early for some of us with a sea swim at 7am. I missed it this year as Eben was still asleep, but Ewan went and joined the other ten swimmers and I watched from the warmth of our room instead.
Then followed tea and snacks if wanted, beside the roaring fire, and then into class, connecting us more fully with our hearts, before brunch. Thereafter the day can pass in a whizz of activity for some, or more gently for others. We offer a number of things to do, some for free like joining JP Máce for a run, or Judy Porter for a guided walk around the island, and other involving additional cost like joining Sophie Fuller for her nutrition workshop, making jewellery with Athene Sholl, Reiki with Emily Trebert, massage with Kelly Harvey, reflexology with Jo Pederson, and/or Shen with Jo Henton.
So while some do zoom around filling their day with running, walking and treatments, others take a more leisurely approach and chill out and slow down instead. The weather improved throughout the day and while I got a little wet on a late morning walk with Steph (my amazing web designer, photographer and videographer), by the afternoon the sun as shining brightly, which is always a bonus on retreat.
I joined a few of the ladies for an impromptu sea swim (well dip really) after their run, and checked in on everyone to see that all was well, before enjoying my own practice in the peace and quiet of the room, while my Dad and sister-in-law (who both came over for the day) looked after the children. This for me is bliss - quiet space in the middle of a retreat to catch my breath, tap into the magical retreat energy and then rest!
Some joined me late afternoon for Bhajans. This is essentially devotional singing and as I am not gifted with the ability to play any musical instruments, we sang along to music, Deva Premal's rendition of the Gayatri Mantra (my favourite mantra and my favourite singer) being the highlight. I'm currently studying Vedic chanting and while my teacher would be a little appalled at the laziness of pronunciation while singing, there is still something very healing, heart opening and joyful in the sound of the mantra, however it is delivered, after all intention counts for a lot.
We played around with a few crystals too, while chanting, and then sat in silence absorbing the effects, some of us feeling the energy moving in and around us and some also experiencing a greater connection to the heart (crystals in hand, I love sitting with crystals, especially in my meditations and Yoga Nidra). I certainly felt heart opened and joyful after the Gayatri mantra, it never fails to send a shiver down my spine - more light entering the world with us chanting it together like that.
Class followed and this was a deep stretch one, to connect more fully with the breath, into the body and into resistance, and attempting to be present to, and notice sensation. I for one, love a good deep stretch, especially into the hips! I caught myself at one point staring out at the views of the sunset, it was stunning, and managed a quick few photos, before continuing with the teaching!
In theory this class set us up nicely for the thirty minute meditation session led by Ross. I thoroughly enjoyed this, the opportunity to sit, and be guided by someone else. For others it was a challenge to remain sitting for so long, but there was always the opportunity to lie down - and after all, this is one of the reasons for practicing asana; so we can sit more comfortably.
This followed with a Yoga Nidra, as was the case on the evening class on the Friday, to encourage rest and rejuvenation and also an opportunity to further expand awareness. Yoga Nidra is certainly one of my favourite practices and I try to incorporate it into my life every other day if not more if I can, as it has so many benefits on so many different levels, especially with the activity of life these days, it's good to slow things down and activate the parasympathetic nervous system.
Saturday evening was another yummy meal, and then I got to enjoy some quiet time with the boys asleep while Ewan stayed in the pub with some of the others! I worked of course, planning the next Herm retreat while I was in the zone! Needless to say sleep came easily once the lights were out - there's something soothing about the sound of the sea and the birds on Herm.
Sunday morning Ewan and I both joined the swim, taking it in turns to hold Eben, while Elijah hung out with uncle Katie (as he calls her, my sister in law who had stayed the night to help with the children). This was more of a dip really, but enough to feel cleansed by the marvellously cold sea! Class that morning was one of centring and fun, and testing limitations body and mind. Laughter is encouraged of course - yoga is a light-hearted practice and should bring joy. We finished with a lovely relaxation, my amazing adjuster-helped, Vicki, and I, going around the room and giving everyone a little bit of Reiki.
Then that was that.
I had a tear in my eye as I thanked everyone for joining me one the weekend, and I felt emotional for a good half an hour afterwards as Ewan, Vicki and I rushed around packing everything up, before joining everyone else in the Mermaid for our brunch. It had been a good retreat for me at least!
Back home, the fun really began, unpacking all the stuff that we took with us for the weekend. Ugh! Still many hands create light work and with it being Mummy's Day, Ewan took the boys off with his Mum and sister so that I could finish the packing in peace before enjoying some quiet time to get onto my mat to stretch out, before resting to a Yoga Nidra, and sitting, coming back to earth and wafting burning sage around myself (into my aura to cleanse the energy of others picked up over the weekend). I even had time to soak in an oil infused bath, while reading a book. Bliss!
I was hyper for a good twenty-four hours after the retreat, as it was rather an expansive experience. This is often what happens when you go on retreat - the combination of all the practices and the environment creates an energetic shift and we become lighter and the world becomes brighter and things can shift.
Then of course we go through period of contraction, which can be very uncomfortable for some, as we come back to Earth a but and maybe find that things that used to feel OK, really don't feel OK now - sometimes we see more clearly through the illusion, or into the shadows, and that can be uncomfortable as we realise that we can no longer ignore something that is no longer working in our lives. The same can happen after the Reiki attunements.
There's a marvellous quote I came across in a book I'm reading (Buddha's Brain) about this, "On the path of awakening, it’s natural to experience some upheaval, dark nights of the soul, or unnerving groundlessness when the foundation of old beliefs falls away. At these times your refuge will catch you and help you ride out the storm”.
My refuge is my home, my family and my practice, and that's where I'm at...I'm retreating a little this week with my brother, before I head off to see my Ayurvedic doctor on Saturday for a Panchakarma, a few days ahead of the Spring Equinox (an ideal time for cleansing and doing some inner work) and join my brother for a night at Gatwick before he heads off to Australia. It's been a busy time with the book and the retreat...but I'm already looking forward to the Easter offerings and the Glastonbury retreat, woo hoo!