When I first decided to book myself a week of solo retreat, I had some interesting responses. Everything from “won’t you be afraid on your own?” (umm….no), and “won’t you feel lonely?” (are you serious? And I’m taking my dog with me!) through to “why would you want to do that?”
Well as you know I’m progressing towards the Mystic phase of my life, becoming “she who holds her wise blood inside”*. At this point in the process, when my moon cycles began to appear less frequently, I noticed a nagging restlessness and irritability with the company and demands of others. Not that I loved them any less or wanted to call a permanent halt to any relationships, but I was hearing a call to be alone with my thoughts and feelings. By the way, I did need to reassure my beloved partner of this – just a tip for any sisters who are considering doing the same. Semele the Mother was letting go, and I wanted to honour all that she had been and mourn her passing if necessary. I also needed to explore what Semele the Mystic might look like, what she wanted to do with this next phase of her life and how she could best serve the planet in this new identity.
As an empath, I’ve worked hard at being able to define my boundaries and discern between my energy and another’s, but this was very different. It was as if a voice was trying to make itself heard through a lot of interference and I knew I would never be able to hear it clearly while I was immersed in my current daily life. I needed to be in an unfamiliar environment to allow myself to better explore what might lie beyond the routine and normality for me. How can you open up to the new when you are still mired in the old?
The word retreat in the dictionary definition means to consider or regard again. So essentially it’s time apart to think about and gain a new, fresh perspective on yourself or your life. At times of transition, it’s healthy to consider what of the old you wish to and can carry forward with you, and what you should leave behind. Personally, I also like to work with the other meaning of treat – anything that affords pleasure or enjoyment! So being a woodland elf, I decided to spend a week in a modern but simple cabin in a working forest. Several beautiful walking trails started right outside my front door so Finn and I could spend lots of time outside in nature, and I was fairly confident I probably wouldn’t speak to another human soul for the whole stay. I didn’t! I glimpsed a couple of people from a distance but never encountered another person when I was out walking even though I went out twice a day.
I received so many wonderful blessings during this time, some I was prepared for and some I hadn’t expected. I adored being able to live completely according to the personal rhythm of my own body. I didn’t set the alarm, so I could go to sleep and wake whenever felt right. This meant a couple of dawn risings and walks in the misty early morning light, snoozing in the afternoon which is practically unheard of for me, and a couple of nights when I was in bed not long after dark descended. Bodily wisdom is such an essential aspect of our intuition. Allowing your body to lead the way and feeling into its needs really facilitates a deeper journey into gnosis (see my Inner Oracle article).
Mealtimes were even more flexible than usual (as I wasn’t planning around evening activities or business appointments) and I fell into a natural rhythm of late morning lunch and an earlier dinner. I know breakfast is supposed to be the most important meal of the day but I’m afraid the only time I’ve been able to stomach it was when I was pregnant. If I set off walking early then I popped a banana and a handful of nuts in my pocket (just in case my Mum is reading this!)
I rediscovered the pleasure of journalling and free-flow writing. I’ve been recording dreams for years, but it’s been a while since I kept a detailed intuitive diary. I know the theory but I’d forgotten the practical joy of how much it helps you to process what you’re sensing or feeling, and how just noting down your observations can lead you to make connections that fuel a giant leap in understanding. My friends would also say this was a gentle prod to spend more time writing and now I can whole-heartedly agree instead of muttering a non-committal “maybe”.
In fact, everything in that week became rich with meaning, symbolism and magic – the animals and birds I encountered on my walks, the shapes of clouds, the whispers and roars of the wind, the singing streams, the teaching of trees. Several moments saw me moved to tears by the boundless beauty around me, because I was gifting myself enough time and space to truly see, hear and feel it. I realised just how rare it is for us to bring our full presence and awareness to any moment in a busy day. Just that true sense of beingness brings a beauty all its own, and great gratitude for living it.
As a child I loved to daydream. Just soft gazing out of the window, or absorbing the light and heat on a sunny patch of carpet. It appears I haven’t lost my talent for it! One of the cabin walls was pretty much all window opening directly onto forest, so I could just drift lazily and gently along with the movement there, whether it was a bird diving down for a mouthful of seed or the subtle sway of a branch. No agenda, no goal to reach, just allowing my consciousness to flow where it willed. Many psychologists and coaches say that the essential you can be found in the child you were and the first loves you knew then. We evolve and grow of course, but there is a deep kernel of truth in this, especially as my time of life is often when women are freed up from family obligations to pursue dreams that may have been sidelined during the child-rearing years.
And that brings me to the big revelation, if you can call it that, because honestly I found every moment to be a revelation of some sort. I think I’d gone into this experience with some absurd expectation that by the end of the stay I’d have a detailed, fully drafted plan of what my life was going to look like and what I was going to be doing for my remaining years. That I was going to be told the ONE key purpose I was here for that I could now fully step into as I’d never done before (can’t you just hear all those pressure-inducing marketing blurbs that bombard the Facebook feeds of the spiritually-minded in that thinking?). With the sense of humour that almost always permeates my guidance, instead of one key I got low key!
“Surrender, relax, stop trying so hard,” the Light said. “Trust in the flow of opportunity, which will come, and act when you feel moved to do so, as you will. You are a symphony of creative gifts and passions, and each one represents an aspect of your contribution to Gaia. En-joy them all, for in that is the action of instilling joy in others. Write, sing, dance, tell stories, connect, empower, call back the soul. This is who you are; this is your magic and your wisdom. Being this is doing this for Gaia and for humanity.”
*This beautiful description of the post-menopausal woman comes from Susan Weed, and her book is the best I have read: “New Menopausal Years, the Wise Woman Way”.