Monday, 2 February 2015

A Quiet Place Retreat

Penny Moon describes the process of developing a bespoke personal reflective experience 

“Who we are looking for is who is looking.” - St. Francis of Assisi 

A little light bulb moment dawned for me recently that led me to develop a new programme - a personal retreat with Mindfulness and Reflective Practice as key. I knew as soon as I had the idea that it would have to be on a one to one basis and would have to be able to give people some time to practice being as well as offering them some space to:

• Create space in their lives
• Rest in a warm, safe environment
• Get nurtured body and soul
• Clear their minds
• Consider their options
• and get to ‘re-member’ their true Selves.

It also would have to be more than a ‘pamper’ day or marching over hill and dale - which are relevant, but not what my light bulb told me was needed: something different, fed from ancient practices where retreat is considered essential for the development of the soul. I also knew I wanted to give a taste of this wonderful experience in a secular way.

I was very pleased with my vision – then realised that is exactly what A Quiet Place does.....! Silly me. Very much aware that this kind of thinking is not everyone’s cup of tea, I also wanted it to be adaptable across the board for corporate executives as well as those simply needing a break. Conscious that some people may feel a little anticipatory concern of imagined inner religious undertones or personal secrets to be let out with such retreats, so I needed to be able to allay any fears and create a set of menu options to build a great bespoke day.

 Developing this experience was an interesting opportunity for me to wander memory paths of my own reflective practice through a variety of gateways that I have explored over the years. I am personally interested in the spiritual path and have had the great good fortune to meet a variety of extraordinary teachers along the way, incidentally; I don’t mean the popular ones on the Internet, either but from times pre the modern global ‘self-development industry.’

1. The process, then, meant finding an appropriate place, having a pre-meeting to decide an order of the day with some sort of feedback session after about 3 weeks.

2. The content I had fun developing; so many possibilities! I had an image of a beautiful winding river, gentle today but with some adventures to tell and a few places to rest, have delicious picnics as well as explore with the companion… i.e. one’s self.

Questions this process raised for me:

• When do we ever spend seven hours on our own with another human being nowadays, except for family?
• Might it all be too intense?
• What can we do that would fulfill the bee… ness I had imagined as well as being of practical use to apply in the real world?

Might it be seen as self-indulgent - and whilst that may be OK not sure if people would be given time off work for this! To help me answer these questions, I prepared a timetable that would start with a holistic well-being audit (a series of questions I have devised to look at different issues which range from physical, emotional and intellectual to spiritual and creativity). This informal conversation produces a complementary agreed prescription with Top Tips, as well as providing clues as to what direction the rest of the day might take. Additionally, it informs the deep relaxation and guided visualisation I saw as a key component of the day.

To my delight and pleasure it worked well! I have played with the idea over 6 separate days - each person unique. The venue has been the extraordinary  in the conservatory (see this great pic of the wonderfully misty view from it first thing).

An ex-chef friend of mine made wonderful food for lunch and we wandered a little in the grounds.

The flow of the day worked well and finishing off for coffee and cake at the in Parkgate to watch the sunset over the Welsh Hills was just right. What else could we ask for… and of course we worked very, very, very hard!

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