Should retreats be fun? To juice or to drink coffee? That is the question! (6 min read)
Updated: Nov 16, 2022
Can retreats be fun? Do they cater for 'average' people? Can you laugh or should it be all silent? Can you drink wine and coffee or is it all juices and green tea? Is the yoga all pigeon poses, well suited for the athletic, size 4s who are under 25?
Have you ever thought of going on a retreat but been put off? Join my club! I want fun more than juice! Is there such a thing as a fun retreat?
I'm fun and I like laughter as a balance to the depth of intensity of the life I experience; my holidays are to help me manage the suffering I see, as a sensitive person, which needs to be balanced with self-compassion. I am a fun, life loving, compassionate human. That sounds fine - nothing grates. I know it is true. It's to be allowed and is all acceptable. But how does that translate to my interest in the serious practices of mindfulness, yoga and counselling others. Is there a place for fun and compassion in yoga and mindfulness retreats?
I take my practice seriously, though not so seriously I obsess or beat myself up and I encourage the same with my clients. It's why I trained in Compassionate Mindfulness because, for me, Mindfulness alone was just too dry and disciplined for my lifestyle and responsibilities. My personality matches my style as a compassionate mindfulness teacher.
What about being a fun, life loving, compassionate student counsellor, especially one who wants to work with grief and trauma? Does that sound like a good match for a therapist I've asked myself? I do know, I cannot change who I am at my core and that even working with the worst of situations, a grounded, compassionate but hopeful counsellor, who can see beyond darkness, is essential.
The biggest, surprising challenge though was recently looking for a retreat to suit a fun, life loving, compassionate yoga and mindfulness retreatant. I looked and looked but I could not find anything that was resonating with me. I didn't want just a bland holiday but at the same time, I didn't want a detox, harsh endurance challenge for my tired body either.
What I wanted was not too much to ask: space and clarity to engage in mindfulness practices, with the offering of some well suited, realistic yoga, good company with real people forming a good, relaxed connection and all in all a therapeutic break that was still a fun holiday. A kind of 'middle-way' approach to a retreat holiday and well-being.
It shouldn't be so difficult to find I thought. But it was virtually impossible. Most retreats had brutal schedules which did not seem realistic to me. I did not fancy socialising with 'the beautiful people' (lucky folk but not me) who were all going to be half my age and all accomplished in advanced yoga, from the impression of all the retreat marketing photographs. But what was most clear to me, was that, on my annual holiday, I most certainly did not want to detox, drink juice all holiday nor fast! I wanted coffee without guilt. I needed a holiday retreat for 'average' humans, like me, who still struggle with downward dog and sitting crossed legged without suffering and want to ENJOY themselves and their practices.
Perhaps, it occurred to me that the people like me just don't go on holiday retreats any more as what's mostly available is so 'super-spiritual' or 'disciplined' they seem more Ashram than holiday. Luckily, after much searching, I did eventually find a Goldilocks fit with Maggie from Mindfulness UK and Kathy from Blue Sky Yoga in Milton Keynes (photos in the video are from that retreat). Because searching was so hard, and from the lack of offerings that matched a more realistic reality of what I needed, I grew a really strong conviction that I should offer mini mindfulness breaks myself - gentle and a middle-way retreat.
The idea of a middle-way retreat is not a rebel retreat, certainly not a free for all with no boundaries or respect, but more of a self-compassion break with the expectation of laughter, connection, mindfulness and coffee and other treats for people to indulge themselves with, without guilt or judgement. It's more of a holiday with mindfulness teaching and practices rather than Mindfulness on a strict Retreat that happens to be near some lovely scenery.
I have put together an extension of my Airbnb to allow for single people or a couple to come to my place in Malvern and enjoy a Mindfulness break, in the garden annex. Read more on this dedicated page, if interesting in coming for a mindfulness break in Malvern.
Wellness, health and living benefits from nurturing a sense of humour and self-compassion. 'Getting away with time for developing clarity and space for the body and mind' with added buckets of self-kindness, connection and an expectation of relaxation, laughter and enjoyment' is my offer. Come and stay with me, in Malvern, enjoy 1:1 therapeutic mindfulness work and a break in the hills. Use the contact me link if you are interested.