I recently returned from a tech-free healing retreat in the Cotswolds, designed for time poor people who want to replenish and reset mind, body and soul. The weekend was the collaboration of coaches Raylah Elsom and Imogen Kirk-Reynolds Here’s a little of what I learned…
I actually enjoy not having my phone
Ok, so to be perfectly honest with you I never thought I’d write that sentence. On our first night, after luring us in with a delicious light dinner of tomato soup, salads and a baked pear dessert, we were asked to hand in our phones and laptops for the remainder of the retreat. My stomach lurched at the prospect and I knew instantly this was exactly what I needed.
My phone is my connection to the outside world, it’s work, it’s friends & family, it’s entertainment, it’s education, but it’s also a distraction from myself. Before the retreat my phone would be the first thing I looked at in the morning and last thing at night. Not having that option gave me the opportunity to focus my attention inwards instead.
I noticed how often I had the urge to check my phone, for no other reason than out of habit. When there was no phone to check, instead I checked in with myself – asking how am I feeling? What do I need in this moment? What would I like to do with my time? Through turning my attention inwards in this way, I felt my relationship with myself strengthen.
When my phone was handed back to me on the last day, I didn’t rush to switch it on again as I’d anticipated. What’s more, I vowed to introduce no-phone zones – blocking out a few hours in my day or even a whole day with my phone switched off. Sometimes of course this is easier said than done and for those of us who can’t be trusted, there’s also this wonderful little app in development called distractagone.com
The Power of Now a fitting read
They say time’s a healer, well so is space
As a mindset and emotional wellbeing coach my practice involves ensuring I make time for the things that make me feel good and reset my mind, body and soul on a regular basis; yoga, meditation, acupuncture, swimming, travel to name just a few. Yet this retreat made me realise that I have very little actual space in my life. And by space, I mean hours spent doing absolutely nothing, blank dates in the diary with no commitments to myself or others. My life is full. Full of amazingness yes, but full none the less.
Although we had timetabled activities, healing sessions and meal times, I relished the hours in-between; my time to do absolutely nothing. I remembered what it felt like to be bored, something I haven’t felt since my pre-teens (as I flicked through my Smash Hits magazine for the twenty-seventh time that day). Perhaps that’s why I have a negative association with boredom and seek to fill my adult life to the brim, but boredom is nothing more than the place you reach just before inspiration happens. And I don’t mean external inspiration, like a particularly well-crafted Pinterest board that seems to speak to your soul – I mean insights about your very existence, moments of clarity about your life that appear to come from nowhere. It can be difficult to carve out time away from distractions, and I have learned that sometimes it can be helpful to allow others to do this for you, by committing to spending time on a retreat.
Energy healing helps me tune into and release my fears
I’m no stranger to energy medicine, having regular acupuncture, reiki and biodynamic massage, but I had never had bioenergetic healing or EFT (emotional freedom technique) before this retreat and I was amazed by the results.
I feel it’s important to acknowledge that it’s the healer, not just the healing modality that is important in how we experience this work and the healers running this retreat, Imogen and Raylah, created a feeling of absolute confidentiality, safety and nurturing throughout the retreat; enabling me to fully relax into the weekend and into the healing process.
As soon as I stepped into the room with Imogen I felt at ease. She was burning sage over the chaise longue I was about to lay on. Burning sage, or smudging, is an indigenous shamanic practice of cleansing the energy of a space. In recent years science has also concluded that medicinal smoke reduces airborne disease causing bacteria. Learn More Here
Imogen explained that the healing she performs works with the energy field of the body, unblocking the flow of qi and receiving messages from the body about where it is storing trauma or needs healing. I was cocooned by blankets as Imogen placed her hands on my shoulders, bringing me into presence with my body by guiding my attention through the different parts of my body one by one. As she did this I felt myself drift into a deeper state of relaxation.
During the rest of our session I was aware of Imogen moving around me, occasionally pausing to make notes, but I also felt incredibly tuned into myself. From time to time I would feel part of my body, maybe just a single muscle or a nerve, come to life. It was although my attention was suddenly dialed into the messages my body sends every day, which are usually so completely beyond my awareness I’m unconscious of them. I could feel my own blood moving through my veins and my skin cells holding me all together.
Before long I began to get very strong messages from my intuition. I can usually tell these messages apart from my regular thoughts by the way they feel when they arrive. They don’t come from my mind, but from my whole body, my whole being. I feel them, rather than think them and they only ever come when my mind is quiet, and my body relaxed. Some of these messages or realisations felt emotionally painful to receive and I felt tears behind my eyelids, yet almost as soon as the emotion arose I watched it disappear again.
Afterwards Imogen relayed what had come up for her, messages she had received from my body through tuning into my energy field. As she spoke tears rolled from eyes and down my cheeks, not tears of sadness, but tears of resonance. I was deeply moved by how accurately she saw what is within me. Writing this now, I realise that it was her seeing and naming which allowed me to do the same.
The next day I had my EFT session with Raylah. I was ready to discuss what had come up for me in my session with Imogen and felt both nervous and excited to try EFT, a therapy I had read can help you let go of painful emotions and trauma.
I began by telling Raylah about some of my deepest fears which I felt ready to speak out loud and address. Raylah listened with empathy, asking me questions to explore where in my body I could feel those fears. Then Raylah asked me to tap on various places on my head, face and body, mirroring her own movements, whilst she spoke out what I had told her, and I repeated the words. After each fear was spoken I repeated the words “Even though I feel all of this fear, I love and accept myself completely.”
Tears flowed from my eyes throughout, a physical manifestation of the ‘letting go’ I was experiencing. Towards the end of the session I began to feel as though a weight had been lifted from my chest. Raylah asked me how I felt, and I answered, “grateful.”
The session enabled me to admit and accept my fears, and in doing so I was able to see those fears for what they are – just fears – and move on with my life regardless. As I left the session the words one of my all-time favourite self-help gurus Susan Jeffers came to mind; “feel the fear and do it anyway”
Alice Carder is a transformational coach, empowering women on a mission to master their own mindset & emotional wellbeing, creating their dream life & business from the inside out. Alice’s career started out in television where she worked as a writer and documentary filmmaker with credits including Channel4 and BBC Three. The sudden death of Alice’s best friend Rita in her twenties, followed by a serious accident which almost resulted in her losing her own life just one year later, placed Alice on a steep trajectory of personal transformation. Now Alice works with purpose-led female founders & entrepreneurs, coaching them to create happy, successful and fulfilled lives & businesses. A qualified journalist, Alice’s writing can also be seen on Medium, The Debrief & Huffington Post.