We have just returned from a magical four days on the north coast of Cornwall at a Horizon Inspired bespoke family retreat. When planning our family retreat, we were mindful of what we could - and indeed, would - bring home from it that we could integrate into our day to day lives, as well as enjoy whilst away.
During our four day retreat we had a gentle structure to our days: beautiful breakfasts prepared for us - think smoothie bowls topped with fruits, fresh baked sourdough, perfectly poached eggs - followed by a morning mindfulness session with the children on the yoga deck, wrapped up in blankets. Joey, our retreat host, pitched these perfectly, encouraging mindful thinking and allowing the children to engage with that in different ways - verbally, aurally, creatively - encouraging us to be in the moment and sit comfortably and calmly with that. What was clever is that R and I also had a chance to have some quiet to be with our thoughts, as well as sharing that mindful space with the children.
Late morning we would head out on a family trip - mainly drawn to the north coast of Cornwall’s bucolic beaches, and of course the sudden drop in temperature didn’t stop the kids from ripping off their clothes and playing for a good couple of hours in the rock pools at Bedruthan steps. Therapy of its own sort!
We always returned home to a wonderful welcome - woodburner lit, candles glowing, kettle on ready to be handed a cuppa. An afternoon of massages for the grown-ups with Lisa Allen was a beautiful addition to one afternoon, and on another day our morning was spent at a fabulous family yoga session. Come evening, we played games by the fire, the children did lots of drawing and had a couple of movie afternoons, then a family supper at which we were always given a special card to invite a discussion about family, gratitutde and love with our meal. The children became excited to find out what the card would be, and within the few days of our stay, began to respond more easily and openly to the questions such as “What do you love most about each person in your family?”
Kids in bed, the retreat house is a beautiful place to stretch out and relax with long, comfy sofas and cosy blankets, log fire burning - and each evening there was a grown-up meditation to round off the day. Joey has set up her retreat house so that it is more than that - it genuinely feels like home, in part due to the laid-back, welcoming styling and in large part due to Joey’s relaxed, open and welcoming approach.
Looking back over the past few days, I feel so grateful for this opportunity that we have had to be really present with the kids. During school holidays, I’m often working or trying to sneak in chores whilst ‘playing’ with the children at home, and when we’re out and about we’re often doing a busy activity - which has real value and is great fun, but I’m not so often really present with them for an extended period. This has been a magical part of the retreat, carving out that time together away from home, sharing experiences that are gentle, mindful, small-scale and nurturing. The sense of calm that has pervaded our family retreat has, it feels, touched all of us.
That said, there have still been upsets, frustrations, disagreements - and high excitement and energy levels not least with the anticipation of sparklers on our last evening that Joey had so sweetly placed in the children’s room (along with the bubbles, colouring pencils and paper, flowers and beautiful notes …) Did being ‘on retreat’ mean that there were no arguments, no tears, no melt downs at the car park ticket machine by the beach about who was going to insert each coin, who could press the green button and who could collect the ticket? Of course not! But somehow both R and I stayed calmer, were more able to see the amusing side of the tantrums in the moment (it’s always easier when the kids are finally in bed and you reflect back on the day - but in the moment? I often struggle!) and so these moments seemed to pass without having such a deep imprint on our family time. Looking back, this is probably the first four sequential days in a while that we haven’t used a 'naughty step' for some time-out (for the kids and each other!!). Coincidence? I think not.
Having fresh home cooked food prepared for breakfast and supper was a particular joy, no having to plan menus ahead and steer a significant part of each day around food shopping, the cooking and clearing up - or the guilt I often feel that I should be using this time away from the pressure of home to dust down the Ottolenghi cook book and take on those long ingredient lists ..
So, what will we take from these magical four days that we’ve had? Firstly, delighting in the little things, slowing it down and remembering that sharing a small moment of mindfulness with the kids - as we drive to school, on a walk, at bed time - can be so enrichening for us all. Bringing ‘love notes’ to supper times; a great way to keep things positive, show each other love and respect in a tangible way (and perhaps the children will come to write the notes in due course?). Family yoga - we’re hoping to do a weekly self-guided session. Self-care - remembering that when I’m feeling calm and nourished, I’m better at nourishing my children.
As a family, we are so grateful to Joey for opening up her house to us and making it our home for the past four days. For tuning into all that we hoped to bring into the retreat and creating a bespoke, perfectly planned holiday. For bearing with the arguments and tears and meeting them with a smile. For holding that space for us. And above all, for dancing like crazy round the kitchen with the kids as they sang “Big - red - combine harvester” for the 457th time.
If you are interested in joining a Horizon Inspired retreat, do drop Joey a line - we’re so glad we did!