At the beginning of October I found myself in Devon at a place called Embercombe, having signed up for one of their retreats called "The Journey". A strange place to be in that I truly had no idea what the retreat fully entailed and only knew that every fibre of my being needed/wanted to be there. Not knowing is the intentional set up by the creators and caused quite a few eyebrow raises as I tried hopelessly to explain to friends and fellow islanders why I had signed up to five days of, I did not know what, only that it was deep reflective, soul searching work. Truthfully it was one of the best decisions I have ever made and that is not an over embellishment. Near 2 months on and I am still becoming aware of the subtle changes those five days have made in my life, and am excited to see how it will further manifest.
Please forgive me for the elusiveness to what I write as I can not explain what physical things I did do, only the result they had upon me. I am not even sure whether in stating our actions whether it could give a clear rounded picture, or leave you with the impression of "is that all?" The crux of the week for me, was not necessarily the nature setting and the intention of building upon this relationship with the natural world, but to be part of a community. Having the chance to speak of deeper things and play around with the deeper questions of life with others was a huge draw to me. Whilst I cherish the community I have around me I am aware that not everyone has the interests that I do to self-study and explore what it means to be human beings and what our relationship with the natural world looks like. I wanted other people to share what I had read, share ideas and to challenge me, to be challenged leads to growth. The honest
truth was that upon my arrival on the first day I felt a sinking feeling as I looked round at the other participants, I was worried that once more I would be among others but not necessary "like-minded" people, that these people were not my tribe. How I laugh at myself now, how utterly ridiculous that idea sounds to me. Perhaps the greatest thing I learned was how to open up and be loved for every inch of the being I am. I can now say with utter confidence that I love everyone of those other participants, and they love me and that is such a wonderful place to be. We do not need to be "like-minded" to love and support each other unconditionally, and actually it is better if we are not.
Each day it felt like we were broken down, stripped away of the social ideas that knowingly or not we constrained to, and each day with the love, support, and space we held for each other we were given the chance to grow. I have talked often with a friend about the importance of environment, an idea I knew but really became so clear to me within those days of its importance to our growth and wellbeing. I was told by others how small, and
unsure I was when I first arrived, something I was only half aware of myself. For those five days though, I was in the most nurturing environment suitable to me. An environment where vulnerability was paramount, where I could dance, and sing and begin to take up space in a way I had forgotten how to do, where no one persons story took more precedence over another, all pain was recognised as equal and the space was held for all.
I cried, I danced, I was spontaneous, I swam in a freezing cold lake, I loved and was loved, I grew, I let go and I was unconditionally accepted.
We go through life, half living all too often. Our responsibilities to our family, our work, our friends and to all that that we must achieve to prove our worth doesn't lend the time to live. I would encourage everyone to go to Embercombe to experience The Journey for themselves. Or if not that to try vulnerability. I didn't walk away from Embercombe with all my soul searching questions answered with a clear path laid out in front of me as to what my direction in life should be as I had hoped, I walked away with something better, I walked a away with a renewed passion for life and the love of 20 other people.
For those who are tempted..