I knew this was going to be a great weekend but I could never have imagined just how heart-bursting, soul-nourishing and magical it was.
On the 20th Nov 2015, my friend, Stella Stathi and I made the 90 minute drive down from the city of London to the countryside of Sussex and Tilton House, where we were about to run our first combined Desire Map, Yoga & Journey Dance Retreat.
We arrived at the venue later than expected as we were busy chatting and I missed our turning to Tilton House. OOPS! We ended up on an adventure through the South Downs, on what we discovered was the old coach road and "not passible for cars"... by that point I'd driven too far and turning back was just as difficult as proceeding forward... somehow my Smart car! made it through and around the swimming pool sized puddles, that had earlier been trenched out by the vehicles it is used by... tractors! We got there in the end, after many 'tear streaming' laughs, mini panics, a sandwich break, wading through puddles to check the depth (my very technical way to see if we could make it) leaning precariously on two wheels into the neighbouring field and skidding through the mud - Sorry, and thank you, little car!
We eventually got back on the correct road to the stunning Georgian house and were directed and greeted by Lisa, who continued to look after us for the weekend and made our stay even more special. Tilton House owner, Shaun, also popped in to say hi! and welcome us to their stunning estate and we got to meet their gorgeous dog 'Barkley', so that made my day.
The tea and cake laid out for us in the warm, rustic kitchen was a welcome sight and eased us back into the weekend and the first treat of many. Eventually we all made it to our home for the weekend and our journeys were soon forgotten as the house hugged us into it's charming embrace.
We - Stella, Sophie, Elena, Natasha, Filomena, Emily - opened the weekend with a welcome ceremony in the library, where economist John Maynard Keynes (who once lived in the house with ballerina Lydia Lopokova) wrote his books. We sat by the log fire, offered our gifts for the altar and set the tone for our cosy weekend retreat.
Dinner was ready and waiting for us as we moved from the library, though the courtyard, to the dining room. The whole weekend was catered for by Cashew Catering and our culinary delight on Friday night was a most welcome comfort meal of mash, seitan (like a veggie version of sausages) and onion gravy. Followed by baked apples, with cinnamon and honey yoghurt. Natasha had kindly bought some Prosecco too, so we celebrated and washed our meal down with a few bubbles.
An early night was needed after dinner to prepare for our 7am walk, through the woods to the yurt, for yoga led by Stella...
I'm not sure anyone was looking forward to the early wake-up but the session was brilliant and got the day off to a great start.
After yoga and a hearty breakfast - while watching 2015's first snow! (ahhhhhhh) outside the window, we headed back to our library nook, to re-visit our Desire Map journeys and to begin the process of setting 'goals with soul'.
Saturday was all about "clearing the decks". Making space for new goals/ visions and what we really REALLY want. We began by looking at our relationships to goals and how we can change our negative thought paradigms to more positive and helpful patterns. I am so deeply grateful to all the women who showed up, fully, and committed to being seen, heard, to sharing - even when painful, for trusting the process, and each other.
The day was broken up with yet more delicious food by cashew catering, lots of tea and home made (vegan) brownies! Yum! We certainly did not go hungry.
We closed the Desire Mapping for the day, after soul-nurturing, meaningful conversations, some tears, lots of laughter and ready to start making future plans.
I barely have words to describe what came next, as I haven't fully digested it myself and it was one of those rare, precious moments, that you really had to experience to understand...
After a long break and plenty more tea, we ventured back to the yurt for Journey Dance, led by Stella. It was most of our first experiences of Journey Dance and there were mixed emotions of excitement and anxiety for how much we were about to put ourselves out of our comfort zones and immerse fully into something new.
JourneyDance yoga-dance is based on the ancient Eastern theory of the chakras, the energy centres of the body. The chakras are located on a vertical axis, along the spine. There are seven main chakras, namely: mooladhara, swadisthana, manipura, anahata, vishuddha, agna and sahasrara. Every chakra corresponds with a specific colour, symbol, sound (mantra), as well as with one of the elements of nature (Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Ether/Space), and, also, relates to and affects specific organs of the human body and aspects of human life and experience. Throughout our Journey,we make use of several techniques, utilising the above elements, in various combinations, to stimulate, remove any blockages and release the potential of each and every one of them. At different stages of the process, various tools, such as: guided imagery, visualisation, simple movement sequences and suggestions, free dance, yoga asanas and breathing techniques, meditation, group and partner work and energy experimentations are brought into play, to enrich our Journey and help us experience different aspects of ourselves and our potential.
We explored movements through all of the chakras, dancing freely, and as our own bodies felt called. Alone, with partners and as a group... I can only describe it as one of the most primal, tribal, sisterhood-connecting experiences I have ever had. I would never describe myself as a dancer, in fact, I think I may be banned from the Westend after the worst audition for Stomp ever! - That's for another blog post. But in this class I felt like the best dancer ever and free to fully express my un-utilised creativity and emotions, through movement. Without judgement, from myself or others. It really was... everything. A journey with the soul and a connection to all womankind. For 90 minutes we were tribal, warrioress queens! Thank you Stella. It is something I'll never forget. x
Guess what!? Yep - time for more food!...
Look at that gorgeous kitchen and Aga! I'm not one for posting lots of food pictures but OMG! Cashew Catering kept us fully-nourished, with the most amazing food - have you got that yet?! lol. Next up was aubergine and chickpea pasanda...
The treats kept coming and after dinner, we donned our bikinis and wellies! - it's all the rage don't you know! To follow the candles lit path to the sauna.
It was a quick dash back from the sauna, to the house, shower and bed, after a loooong, but deeply satisfying day.
Sunday morning began with a wake up call from the local pheasants squawking and a walk up the lane to this beauty...
Ahhh, deep breaths, alone time, appreciation for all that is and wonder at mother nature's beauty, basked in the crisp air and autumn rays of sun.
Yesterday I said "there's no such thing as perfection."
And there isn't... in the doing.
Perfection is what already is.
It's us. As we are. Perfectly imperfect.
Tilton House would be the perfect location to write a book. With no distractions and only the sounds of nature to interrupt your thoughts, it's a creative persons dream. A slice of heaven in Sussex. It's difficult to believe anything but peace could exist in the world when surrounded by such tranquil harmony.
Sunday's Desire Map session began with the 'Zone Of Creation' Mediation, to get us in the mood for setting goals to create the lives we desire.
With a fresh page, after clearing on Saturday, we were ready to make some serious plans for 2016. To stand in our strong feminine, 'Queen' energy, meeting the masculine, planning energy and move forwards with grace, our core desired feelings front and centre.
The emphasis on day two was on desire, fun, freedom and forward momentum. We played games, worked on some character acting techniques and role plays for confidence - thanks for indulging the actor in me ladies!
We released the things that are no longer serving us and with some big transformations, realisations and a new sisterhood of support, some magical visions were given birth to or received a fresh breath of life and enthusiasm.
As quickly as it had all began and as if we had dreamed it all, the weekend came to a close. We celebrated our core desired feelings, our plans, our dreams, and our new friendships. We gave gratitude for our lives, our inspiration and the ability to create. We blew out our candles, removed our items from the altars and gave one last wistful glance back into the library that held space for old habits to be released and new dreams to unfold. This is a truly special place, holding secrets of the most marvellous magic.
With beaming smiles and tearful eyes, we gave our hugs and final goodbyes. We will be back that's for sure and we have fond memories and great friendships to carry this divine journey into our futures. Something big changed within me this weekend and I'm sure the others will agree, there is fairytale magic to be found at Tilton House and sisters are definitely doing it for ourselves... and one another.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to Stella; for being my friend and co-facilitating this wonderful retreat. Here's to hatching plans and many more magical weekends.
Thanks also to all of you gorgeous #BodhiBabes who came and made this such a special weekend. It wouldn't have been the same without a single one of you. I love you all.
A final thank you to Danielle La Porte for creating the desire map and being the catalyst for massive transformation, clarity, action and a whole new breed of sisterhood - we are clear on our desires and have a soulful strategy to get them. Look what you've done! So much love for you! xx
"Feeling good is the whole point." - Danielle La Porte, creator of The Desire Map.
Rise sister, rise... and follow your desires.