Sometimes it helps to just ……STOP……
Stop working, stop stressing, stop trying to please everyone, all of the time, stop worrying, stop feeling guilty for your mistakes, and take time out to just breathe, and give yourself the time to think about what you really want out of life.
So that’s exactly what I did, two weeks ago, after a chance conversation with an old friend, who said to me “this could not be a better time to just drop everything and come with me on a retreat in Spain”. Having considered this for all of a few minutes, I couldn’t find a single reason why not, so I did the spontaneous thing and said yes.
A few days later and I was on my way, heading up into the hills outside Marbella, for a week which I now realised was going to challenge me in ways that I had not really taken account of. The price to be paid for spontaneity! I am usually pretty meticulous in my planning, but this week was already full of curve balls.
So here we were – no meat, no dairy, no caffeine, no wheat, no booze……. for a whole week!!!!!!!! Oh my god, what had I let myself in for? Those of you who know me well, will also know that I usually subscribe to something resembling the statement below……heaven help those around me when withdrawal started to kick in!
So, back to the beginning, and for the location of this little gathering of beings looking for some answers, I have only one word…… STUNNING. El Cortijo de los Caballos is one of those places where, the instant the door closes behind you as you enter, a sense of calm descends. It is like being cocooned in a small, private world of peace and tranquility, the only noise being the swishing of the palm trees. El Cortijo is a privately owned residence, rented out for weddings, retreats, family gatherings etc; a beautifully restored collection of traditional Spanish stables which are now very pretty little whitewashed villas, situated in the beautiful gardens, all curled around a beautiful pool. It is both rustic and luxurious, each villa with its own kitchen, bathroom, living room and terrace. The perfect place to unwind.
This week was being run by Kambio Retreats, about whom I can say nothing but good things – when somebody said to me before I arrived, that it could be life changing, I was all a bit “yeah, yeah”, but having been through the experience, I can honestly say that, whilst it might not have turned my life upside down, it has certainly made me see myself, and many different aspects of my life, in a different light. So, having arrived and settled in, it was time to gather for dinner, and meet the other guests and staff, who would be my companions, therapists, chef, beauty technician, yoga and fitness coach, masseuse, “bath butler” (more on that later!), walking buddies, team mates and shoulder to cry on. We were a very diverse bunch, from various corners of the world, including Holland, Spain, UK, Gibraltar and Brazil, but we were soon tucking in to our first vegan meal, and, oh boy, was it delicious!
So, the food! All of it was vegan (other than the occasional organic egg); we started each day with a shot of apple cider vinegar and lemon juice (honestly, very unpleasant, but apparently very good for you!), followed by home made granola, sometimes with a fruit compote, and a freshly squeezed juice or a smoothie. Other days were wheat free pancakes with banana etc. Lunch was a variety of salads (the chef had very kindly taken into consideration my abhorrence of lettuce, cucumber and celery!!!), combined with numerous other plant based dishes, including sweet potato, chick pea, couscous, lentils etc, most of which I would probably never have experimented with, had I not been here. Dinner was a full on, 3 course meal – some amazing curries, moroccan style dishes, wheat free pasta with cheese free pesto. It was all incredible and highly inspirational. My favourite main meal of the week – vegetable Thai Laksa! The lentil and sweet potato shepherds pie was also really good. Dessert – chocolate mousse made with carob (or was it cacao?!?!) & avocado (I hate avocado!), absolutely sensational! Not once during the week did I feel that I hadn’t eaten enough, but I also never felt too full, or bloated after a meal. A few days in, my energy levels were higher, I was sleeping better and I was bouncing out of bed in the morning. My conclusion from all of this……. it’s easy to be vegan when you have the Kambio Retreats chef doing all the cooking and you are miles away from the nearest temptation! It hasn’t made me give up meat, but it has made me re-evaluate how much meat we have in our diet, and I am now much more mindful of where our food is coming from. The contents of my shopping trolley looked quite different this week!
Gradually, we fell into a routine. Our days started with half an hour of quiet reading, followed by yoga and stretching, taught by Geiza, the supremely fit and bendy Brazilian girl with the megawatt smile. After breakfast there followed a series of workshops – now, I was aware of what some of these would involve, but others were really going to take me out of my comfort zone. I am not one to regularly show my innermost feelings, but to get the most out of this experience meant really opening up and being honest, with myself, as much as everyone else.
Our first morning involved a session of clearing; basically, a therapy session, followed by each of us working out, and writing down, what we wanted to leave behind at the end of the week – all the things that we no longer wanted to be a part of our lives, and that had no future relevance. The things that were holding us back, weighing us down and preventing us living our lives in the way that we wanted. It sounds like a really simple principle, but it actually took a great deal of soul searching to admit to the reality, and put it all down down on paper. Oh boy, did I have a lot of baggage to consign to the bin! Hence the title of this post…… in the words of Elsa, from the movie Frozen, “Let it go”, it serves no purpose.
Other mornings included sessions of breakthrough coaching, soul planning, EFT (or tapping), Huna, Jin Shin, the world of essential oils and a morning at the beach. I am not going to try and explain all of these techniques, as the only way to really learn about whether they will be effective for you is to try them…… some of them are still a bit of a mystery to me, but I learnt something about myself from every single one of them. I was a little sceptical before embarking on this journey, but I promised myself I would jump in feet first, and with an entirely open mind. The whole week, besides being very enjoyable, was also incredibly emotional, and extremely enlightening.
On day 4 I hit the wall! I woke with a horrendous headache and feeling really lethargic , probably largely derived from sugar and caffeine withdrawal. However, with all this support around me, I had an entire toolkit of options to deal with it – a gentle walk on the beach, peppermint oil, plenty of water, another fabulous lunch and an afternoon massage. By dinner time, I felt absolutely back to normal!
I have to give a special mention in this post to my lovely, inspirational friend Rachel (@essentiallyracheluk), our essential oil practitioner and “bath Butler”, without whose encouragement I would never have gone in the first place. Rachel ran some amazing sessions on how to build pure, organic, essential oils into your daily routine, and “detox your life” by using them instead of, or as a supplement to, some of the many chemicals we use in cleaning products, beauty products, medicines etc. Rachel has also made a huge difference to my life, simply in helping me to improve my sleep pattern by using these oils – mixing up different combinations as part of her “bath Butler” service, until we found a mixture which worked.
Our afternoons were spent either out walking, doing some pilates under the palm trees, sitting by the pool, having massages or beauty treatments, before an invigorating dance fitness session with Geiza before dinner.
I have returned with more energy, a renewed zest for life, determination, confidence and complete and utter belief in myself. I no longer feel guilty for leaving behind something that was making me miserable – guilt, I now understand, is a wasted emotion. It serves absolutely no purpose and is of no benefit to anyone, least of all myself. I have re-engaged with an old friend, made a great many new and incredibly supportive friends, and I left El Cortijo, safe in the knowledge that we will always be there for each other! Good things are already happening since we all returned, and we are all sharing in the joy of seeing our new friends change their lives for the better. That old saying is true……. life is what you make it, and this retreat has given me a newfound sense of inner strength and power to carve out my future the way I want it to be.
So a huge thankyou to everyone involved in making this experience as unique and enlightening as it was – Kathy Hector and Mark Twissell from Kambio Retreats, Jacqui Crooks, Jo Glenn, Rachel Cooper-Kennedy, Susan Zayas, Peggy Boer, Chantal Sanderson, Geiza Nascimento, and Marilyn Devonish.
I am so very glad I went, it was a total privilege to be involved in something so special, and I would recommend a Kambio Retreat to anyone who wants to learn more about themselves and change their way of life for the better!