06 Feb How Long Does it Take to Find Yourself?
We’re all works in progress. Here, one writer reveals how a mini retreat helped them shift their mindset and gain perspective
‘I Learned To Love Myself In 48 Hours’
Laura Jane MacBeth, 37, is a writer from London.
When it comes to the path of self-discovery, mine is the one less travelled. I work out rather than practise yoga, and while I’ve had the odd dose of therapy, these remain occasional check-ins. So when I was asked by Top Santé to try an intensive weekend therapy course, I had misgivings. Especially when I read their online rubric and see words like ‘longing’, ‘passion’ and ‘self-love.’ Yikes. But the truth is, it’s probably time for an emotional tune-up. Lately I’ve found myself lacking in energy and motivation, feeling disconnected and despondent, and generally a bit down. So I decide to give it a shot. If nothing else, at least I’ll earn myself a great dinner-party story.
THE POWER OF INTIMACY
The course is held at a London yoga centre and on arrival the course leaders, psychotherapist Simon Matthews and spiritual life coach Rita Devi Mitra, are there to welcome us. First off, we’re instructed to look down at our feet, then ‘find another pair of feet’. We then have to ‘say hello with our feet’ – waving them from side to side or tapping them on the floor – before doing the same with our knees and hips. If I thought I’d reached peak-awkward, we’re then told to raise our gaze and make eye contact with our partner – maintaining it for two minutes without speaking! Simon explains that by doing this, we’re ‘allowing ourselves to really be seen.’ It’s excruciatingly uncomfortable and a huge relief when it’s over. Next, we sit in a circle and introduce ourselves, explain what brought us here and what we want to get out of it. Rita then takes us through a seated ‘led meditation’ where we will ‘get in touch with our hearts’. We close our eyes, and Rita suggests we physically touch our hearts with our hands. As I do so, I become aware of how bruised mine feels. I think about some of my experiences over the past few years – a major break-up, the ups and downs of dating, going freelance and working non-stop – and realise I haven’t allowed myself much time to heal. Day two kicks off with a 9am ‘dynamic meditation’ to help get us out of our minds and into our bodies. The meditation is split into four parts, each lasting 10 to 15 minutes. For the first section, we loosen up our bodies, while breathing ‘chaotically’ (at random intervals). In the second section, we’re told to ‘go big with our emotions’, from whooping with joy to screaming in pain. Then we jump up and down, and every time we connect with the floor we’re to chant ‘hoo’. We then freeze for a period of silence, before finally dancing it all out. We have the option to wear an eye mask, which I figure will make this all a bit more manageable, so I gratefully slip one on. Then Simon turns on the music and we’re off. I find it pretty hard. In the ‘big emotions’ section, I’m trapped between someone screaming at full banshee level and another who seems hell-bent on thumping a yoga bolster to oblivion. While I try to force out some whoops of joy, I feel so uncomfortable. I’m grateful for the 10 minutes of silence, during which I have an oddly strong feeling that I will get the things I want in life. It’s not until the last section of dancing that I find myself letting go. Thoughts pop into my head – of things I’ve long stopped doing, such as dance classes or drawing. I realise I need more of this ‘joy’ in my life to feel happy and fulfilled. After a break, we return for ‘exposure work’. We get into two circles, close our eyes and ‘centre ourselves and our thoughts’. Then we think about ‘how we hide and protect ourselves – what we don’t want people to see.’ We take turns standing up, making eye contact with each group member before revealing our thoughts. I explain that when I’m low I tend to withdraw, cutting contact with friends and family, and keeping myself busy so I don’t have to address my feelings. I also hide behind a funny, ‘don’t care’ persona. This isn’t easy to own up to, but it’s freeing.
Simon tells us the work we’re doing might stir up some old issues, and he’s right. Overnight I dream about old friends and partners, fallouts and break-ups never resolved, that I now realise I’ve been carrying around with me. When I wake the next day, it feels as if I’ve finally shaken them off. After more exposure work, we do a 40-minute dance meditation to pop songs with a message (Madonna’s Frozen and U2’s Beautiful Day) and even full-on rave tracks. Again, we’re given eye masks, and by the time the dance tunes kick in I’m completely into it. I find myself thinking about an old boss who bullied me at work and realise I wasn’t to blame – and again I get to ditch some baggage. Before we finish, we get in a circle and share what we’ve learned, and what we’re going to take away from the weekend. The contrast from the start of the weekend is clear. While I haven’t found everything easy, I definitely feel lighter for sharing – I’ve let go of some past hurts, and become aware of some changes I need to make to enjoy life more. And while it might take a bit longer than a weekend to find total happiness, at least I’ve started on the path.
Awakening of Love costs from £225 for a weekend course. Visit awakeningoflove.co.uk.