I used to think Mindfulness Retreats were for people with too much money and time on their hands. Therefore: definitely not for me. But this month, I ended up at one. I don’t want to risk sounding like ‘that person’ who went on a retreat that changed their life (I’ve always screwed my nose up at ‘those people’), but I’m pretty sure it did.
The Mindfulness Retreat was hosted by For You Workshops. They’re dedicated to “empowering people to live a more fulfilled life, connected to nature and each other.” Run by Ursula Griffen, For You host workshops with a range of different experts on different topics. This was their very first retreat; I hope it won’t be their last.
The weekend started on a crisp winter morning, one of the most misty drives I’ve ever experienced. I had to chuckle to myself as the mist cleared in the last five minutes of my drive, and the road opened up into farmland, birds flying overhead, the sun gleaming through clear blue skies. So cliche.
This was a social media-free weekend. The only device allowed was a film camera we used if we felt like a moment should be captured. I gladly tucked my phone into my glove box and dragged my yoga mat, guitar, and overnight bag into the cosy lodge. Picture a lockwood home nestled into the edge of a forest. Complete with fireplace, multiple bedrooms, and a kitchen with an old school stove, the Tree Heart Lodge was the perfect place to ‘get my mindful on’.
The two-day retreat began with introductions and a workshop on why mindfulness is important; how it actually affects our brains and wellbeing. All 16 of us sat in a circle on cushions, enjoying herbal tea and hot cacao (my new obsession), and absorbing knowledge. It’s one thing to tell someone to be mindful, but another to explain on a scientific level WHY it’s important for our health and everyday actions. Mindfulness can seem incredibly intangible and ‘airy fairy’ when not paired with rational reasoning. The workshop leader, Charlotte, did an incredible job of making me realise how mindfulness is not a practice; it’s a crucial state of mind for human success.
One of my favourite parts of the weekend, was finishing whatever we were doing, and walking into the kitchen to find Pinterest-ready gluten-free and vegan dishes waiting for us to devour. Emma, a naturopath and medical herbalist, was our cook for the weekend. It was an absolute treat.
The retreat involved a lot of peace. Sitting in nature, reading my book, learning about our New Zealand flora and fauna, listening to glorious live music (our yoga instructor, Buster, was conveniently an amazing musician too) connecting with others, and nearly falling asleep after one of the best yoga sessions I’ve ever experienced. I learnt how to enjoy my own company, I surprisingly enjoyed our half-day of noble silence, and to be honest, I didn’t want to go back home.
The greatest lesson I’ve taken away from this Mindfulness Retreat that totally destroyed all my conceptions of retreats in the best way possible, was to stay awake. Be conscious. ‘Busyness’ is praised in current society, and we’re expected to always have something to do and somewhere to go. Boredom is scarce, and our minds hardly have time to reflect, create, and grow. We’re too busy thinking about the past and the future, to be awake in the present. Mindfulness is a concept I will take with me into every single part of my life. It has already benefited my relationships, my mind, and my physical and emotional wellbeing.
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Sometimes Mindfulness Retreats aren’t possible. Whether it be budget constraints or circumstances, I realise not all of us can pop away for a weekend without phone contact, and I am honoured to have attended this For You Retreat. But you don’t have to go to a retreat to find mindfulness. You could find it right this second.
If you do anything today, may it be two minutes of lying on the floor breathing, 15 minutes of reading a book with no interruptions, four minutes of closing your eyes while sitting on grass, or a stroll through nature with no buzzing phone. We underestimate the power of mindfulness, and although I realise I now sound like all those ‘hipsters’ who I once rolled my eyes at, I can’t help but share my new epiphany. Perhaps I am one of the ‘converted’, but whatever you think, please just try it. What do you have to lose?
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