19 Sep New Horizons
‘I’ve broken the pattern of doomed relationships’
Emma Bibby, 38, split up with her long-term partner three years ago. Dating, but fed up of attracting a similar kind of man, she decided to spend a week in Wales on the Path of Love course.
I drew up outside Buckland Hall, a beautiful centuries-old mansion like something out of a Jane Austen novel, surrounded by the Brecon Beacons. I was nervous, but also excited about what awaited me. I’d wanted to go on a retreat where I could take the time to look at my relationship patterns. I’d been dating on and off for three years – mostly online. I’m a sensitive person so I found it hard – the rejection, the lies and the same kind of uncommitted man I seem to be endlessly attracted to.
The course promised to help me focus on open-ing up my heart and trust in life’s possibilities again. There were 30 of us, and alongside around 30 staff (past participants), there were six highly trained therapists and the founders of the Path of Love.
It was scary opening up initially, but I felt well supported. In the first few days we were put into groups of 10, and we each got the opportunity to share any issues. But, rather than allow us to get tangled up in our ‘stories’ by over-analysing things, therapists would regularly intervene to get us to look at how these issues were making us feel.
I realised that I had been holding onto a lot of frustration and anger around my lack of self-worth and rejection, which was holding me back.
The trust that we built up as a group was extra-ordinary and inspiring. Most of us shared a bedroom, but you can book a single room if you’re worried about snoring. We ate like kings – albeit vegetarian ones. You are encouraged not to talk outside of the sessions. There is no alcohol, sugar, caffeine or smoking allowed. The idea is that you don’t use small talk or any of your other usual methods to avoid how you’re feeling.
The leaders would ask often ‘How do you feel?’ ‘I don’t know how I feel,’ I’d often respond, frustrated. It was as if I’d closed myself off from feeling anything. They encouraged us to ‘drop down’ from our heads to our hearts. I explored how I didn’t feel beautiful enough, or good enough. I got angry. I was tired of being treated like this by men. I created a new story – that I’m unique, beautiful, perfect the way I am, and completely deserving of love.
On the last night, I wanted some time alone, to allow all I’d experienced to sink in. So I sat in the grounds wrapped in a blanket, beneath the moon and the stars, and saw a firefly dancing in front of me. Someone said that was a symbol of hope – and also of attracting the right things into my life.
Did this one-week experience change my life? All I know now is that I can feel a definite shift in myself; I feel more accepting of who I am, and that I can allow love in again. I’ve also made new friends, for life, and for that, I’m truly grateful.
By Emma Bibby