Retreating on Sark

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I love retreating and while I’ve never had a ‘bad’ retreat, there are some retreats that are very special, and this Sark retreat was certainly one of those.

The weather forecast for the weekend didn’t look that great earlier in the week, but we were indeed blessed. There was the usual strong winds on the Friday, testing us all in some way, but I’m very aware that there is always an obstacle on the spiritual path and always an obstacle in the days leading up to a retreat (or the months in the case of Goa and the whole visa drama), if not on the day itself.

But we arrived safely, albeit the journey was a little bumpy and a little longer than ordinary, setting us back a little from our tight schedule, which meant that the class started later than planned on the Friday and was therefore shorter than intended. But all good! Plus we were joined by a number of Sark residents, so there was certainly a welcoming feel to our first few hours on Sark, which continued throughout!

It was only when I was cycling home on my own that night, in the seeming pitch black that it hit me that this is one dark place! I know it’s a dark sky Island, but I’ve never noticed quite how dark it really is! It almost made me feel claustrophobic and certainly disorientated, and I couldn’t help thinking that it was a metaphor for life, as the recent moon cycle and equinox shift made a lot of us feel desperately disorientated and uncomfortable.

I was reminded that one has no choice really, but to just surrender to the flow as I too had to surrender to the bumpy path beneath me and keep pedalling, trusting that I would end up at my home for the night eventually! Of course we do have a choice, we always have a choice, we choose our thoughts after all! But what sense is there, what sense would there have been for me to go against the flow of the path on that dark evening? In life, what sense is there is pushing and battling against the flow of things?

The flow can be tricky though, simply because we can’t be sure, exactly, where we will end up. There is no certainty! But really, apart from the certainty of our breath (at least from the moment we are born, to the moment we die), and the fact we will age, what certainty is there in our lives anyway? It is more than this though, flowing often means that we need to let go. Letting go of who we think we are, so that we can settle more fully into a more authentic version of ourself, because life changes and sometimes we just stop fitting into the one that we have previously created.

There is grieving that comes with letting go, we have to break down all that we have created, and that can be tricky, heart over head, that is definitely not without its issues, the head likes to control, the heart doesn’t know what control means. So inevitably fear arises - there is some vulnerability that comes with following the heart and trusting the flow of things - and it could be very easy to resist and close the heart, dropping back into old well trodden paths instead, and yet knowing that you have outgrown these now so inevitably they will feel uncomfortable (cue head in sand or numbing out somehow).

Inevitably I made it home, to the light, and there were the children wired, absolutely wired with the excitement of being on Sark and of having my Dad, Baba, on hand to play with them at every opportunity, and of course Daddy too, but in comparison to Baba, Dady is rather boring! So there followed a mission to get them to sleep, and it was a late one! 10pm before the pickle otherwise known as Eben finally settled, and I was not far behind him! I’d love to say it was a restful night but it wasn't! Much bed swapping and finally some sleep!

I might only teach on retreats, rather than attend them as a student these days, but they are still transformative by their very nature. Not least because of the practices and spending at least 9 hours in a yoga environment full of beautiful yogic energy, but because of sharing my passion with others, which is a joy - I love to share yoga and only hope that others may be positively touched by the practice as I have been in my own life, this is what motivates me to teach, it is a duty!

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On Saturday, the sun was shining as I cycled to the yoga space at the Island Hall for the first class that morning. We may have had a terrible night with our children, but I was beginning to see even more of the light - this is such a beautiful spot on Planet Earth, a tonic for the soul.

The class was active in the morning, raising the energy, and after brunch, a few of us met for a walk through the beautiful valley to Dixcart Bay for a high-tide swim. Others joined Caragh for her popular chocolate making sessions (you even get to take lots of chocolate home with you!). Other still cycled around enjoying the views, walking, chatting, doing what you do on Sark and on retreat - as little or as much as you like!

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Later afternoon some of us met at 4.30pm for some Bhakti yoga and devotional chanting of mantra to Krishna, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. We also enjoyed the illuminating and energising Gayatri Mantra; with much gratitude, thank you. This before the chanting of the Bija mantras, to raise the vibration of each of our seven main chakras. We shared Reiki too, and held crystals, there was a lucky dip and most definitely a theme with rose quartz for the heart and sodalite for the throat showing up frequently. It is all about the heart and voicing this!

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The tea time yoga session was gentle in nature. By then my voice was well and truly giving up on me, my sore throat had been getting worse during the day, a message there for me metaphysically, and a chance to look clearly at my fear of not being heard, ha ha! I just loved the class regardless of the croaky yoga nidra!

More dark night and this time walking and chatting to Stocks with Sarah, before cycling on home alone, but this time enjoying the solitude and the unknown within the darkness and finding my way easily home. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the children were suitably exhausted by their Sark antics, all that fresh air had worked its magic, phew, a night of quality sleep!

More sunshine awaited me Sunday morning and this fairly much set the scene for the whole day, which whizzed past after another active morning class, and the end to the yoga element of the retreat. I really enjoyed the group energy that the students helped to create, and felt emotional that this was us done, so quickly! Thank you to all you really lovely ladies who attended and joined together so easily, it was an absolute honour and a joy.

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I joined the family and we cycled out to the dolmon on Little Sark. This place blows my mind. How did people get the stones here and why? It’s a beautifully protected spot, with the midday sun, at least at this time of the year, shining in. I suppose it’s just really peaceful, there was no urgency to leave. As those of you who know me will know, I love any sort of ancient stone for they contain a special energy, a link above and below, and I would certainly encourage the traipse to find these one next time you are in Sark.

We cycled around a little more but I’ll be honest, while others went sea swimming, I lay down in the bedroom of the house where we were staying and enjoyed a yoga nidra and opportunity to rest as Eben napped on the bed. Navigating Sark on a bike and breathing in all the fresh air, let alone the yoga, certainly makes one tired, plus of course life slows down a pace and all the stress dissipates.

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We returned to Guernsey on the 4.30pm boat, but I can’t say I was ready to leave, there is something about this magical Island, which just gets right under the skin, you can’t help but be uplifted by a stay, there’s something in the rocks and in its general energy.

I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to retreat on Sark, and for the family to come with me. The children absolutely love Sark, especially as they love tractors and tractors are everywhere, but also because they can just be so free. We can all be so free! It feels to me that Sark frees us a little bit in some way, maybe that sounds esoteric but here is some truth in it.

I’m very grateful to all of those who retreated with me and to Sark for holding space so marvellously, and for enlightening, and lightening the path a little. There was a lot of love on that retreat, and on that island generally.

Thank you. xx

Emma DespresComment