What does self care mean to you? Does it mean going to get your hair or nails done? Taking a long bath? Reading a book? Going for a nap? Or going for a walk? Well self care can be any of the above but for me personally, before I practiced mindfulness I often confused certain acts of self care with doing something that actually didn't serve me well at all.
What am I talking about you may ask? Well - I guess it wasn't the acts themselves - it was how I approached them. I mean having your nails done may seem like an act of self-care - but not if it means rushing to get your nails done in the middle of your lunch hour and you have to frantically find a place to park your car before you sit in the salon chair and wonder why you put yourself through all you did to get there! You see what I now know is self care is doing something for yourself in the most caring way to benefit and nurture yourself from the inside out and if that means allowing yourself extra time to arrive at the nail salon, and you enjoy the experience of having your nails tended to and you enjoy the chat with whoever is doing your nails well yes - then that is self care but us women can so often confuse 'having things done' to make us look good (or giving ourselves a quick-fix) as opposed to doing something for ourselves that will really make us FEEL really good - from the inside out - and that is the difference.
Since practicing mindfulness I have approached the practice - well, mindfully I guess. I have allowed the process to happen without striving or forcing it to happen. MoMe also developed this way as there was never a business plan or a strategy behind it - it simply happened after I completed an MBSR course to help me deal with living with tinnitus and sudden deafness in one ear. Being a graphic designer with a creative mindset and having more clarity and more creative energy after the course was finished - I felt so passionate about spreading the benefits of MBSR to my friends - that is how MoMe was born.
But the more I practice the more I wanted to practice because like anything that you enjoy and see benefits from - the more enjoyable it becomes. So signing up for a weekend retreat last february was something I wanted to do - not something I felt I had to do. I felt excited about it and as I packed my suitcase on the friday before my first weekend retreat I smiled to myself as I thought about this journey I am on and how I felt excited and content packing hiking boots, comfy clothes, and one of my favourite books as opposed to multiple pairs of heels, necklaces, handbags and 'just-incase' outfits as I have so frequently done for weekends away in the past.
TRUST the journey
I obviously had feelings of apprehension - as this was my first full weekend retreat and a little bit of the 'mums guilt' as I was leaving my family for a weekend of complete self-care in the beautiful surroundings of the Glen of Aherlow. When those feelings start to creep into my thought stream I remind myself of the oxygen mask on an airplane and how we are told to place our own masks on first so I knew that this weekend would benefit my husband and children too - and not just me. And something told me it was the right thing to do - I felt it was something I wanted to do.
The weekend retreat I went on was run by my MBSR teacher Donna Curtin and Maggie Cross who is an amazing yoga teacher who has been teaching Yoga for over . The setting was the very beautiful Tígh Roy run by Roy Galvin and his amazing and very welcoming staff which also includes Roy's sister Deirdre.
I arrived not knowing anyone except for Donna so this in itself was also something completely outside my comfort zone but it's at times like this when I have seen my practice come into play as rather than over-thinking it - I just thought about it as it was unfolding - moment by moment. When I think about it now actually I am here smiling to myself as I know in the past I would spent the whole journey there asking myself if I had done the right thing and questioning myself as to should I be going?! If I had done that it would all have been such a waste of energy as when I arrived I was greeted by everyone with freshly brewed tea, the warmest of welcomes and above all the most wonderful energy I have ever felt walking into a room full of women that I had never met before!
all you see when you pause to notice
There were 12 other women there - all of different ages - most, like me on their own and also a group of 4 friends who brought so much energy and laughter with them on their 'alternative girlie weekend'. Some of the group had , like me, practiced mindfulness before but others were new to it all and had never tried meditation or yoga - but that was all okay - that didn't matter to anyone.
The weekend consisted of meditation, yoga and mindful walks in the beautiful surrounding hills that Tíg Roy is set in. While the periods of meditation and mindful walking were silent this wasn't a silent retreat so at mealtimes over Roy's delicious freshly prepared organic meals we had the most wonderful conversations and there was so much laughter and connection between us.
From arrival on the Friday evening to finishing with a lunch on Sunday, we were treated to everything we needed to feel completely nourished from the inside out and completely stress free. Everything was organised so well that I honestly couldn't believe how fast the time went - even though we were practicing moment to moment awareness. I guess there was just a 'natural flow' - to pardon the pun - to how things went as the synergy between Maggie and Donna just made everyone feel at ease.
Along with meditation, yoga, mindful walking and mindful movement exercises there was also a little hidden gem in Roy's traditional Finnish wood-burning sauna tucked away in the tranquil nature garden. This beautiful little cabin proved to be the perfect way to pamper ourselves and have a good laugh and a chat before heading to a beautiful vegetarian dinner followed by a very relaxing guided meditation by Donna before it was time for bed...and I don't think I need to write anything about how well I slept after all that!
The entire weekend was the perfect way to say goodbye to the winter months and look forward to spring with a more relaxed and refreshed approach. It helped me deepen my practice - that's the thing about weekends when you allow yourself to rest completely - mind, body and soul - it can make you want to practice more in everyday life as you get to see such benefits after a weekend like that. However, a weekend retreat like this is also a great way for anyone to dip their toe into the practice even if they hadn't tried it or formal meditation before. While allowing me to discover more about myself, it also made me understand the true sense of the word 'Retreat' as it really is a 'treat' - to yourself - to your whole body, your mind and and to your spirit - Wholeheartedly.
On the Sunday before we sat down to lunch we went on a mindful walk and the beautiful things you notice when you walk mindfully - especially in such a tranquil setting - can really be breathtaking. I watched how the raindrops fell from a beautiful fern leaf - something I had never watched attentively before practicing mindfulness. How the water gathered on the leaf until it's weight allows it to fall? Such beauty in something we so often take for granted. I stood at a stream flowing for a while which reminded me of how soothing the sound of water is - especially with my tinnitus and surrounding mountains remind us of how we can find stillness within ourselves even when life can be busy and sometimes stressful.
After our walk and before we sat down to lunch and prepared to say our goodbyes to one another, we all gathered in our closing circle - a way of ending the weekend - and when asked to say one word that came to mind as the weekend ended Grateful was what I said because grateful was how I felt. Grateful that I had given myself that time, grateful that I had trusted my own instincts and trusted in myself to go, grateful to my husband who had encouraged me to go and was waiting at home for me with my kids, grateful to what I had experienced, the food, the conversations, the peace, the tranquility, the sence of calm and a chance to really nourish myself body and mind. But above all that feeling of gratitude that I felt - that real feeling that a weekend like that allows you to experience and almost seemed to make me feel like I floated all the way home.
Donna and Maggie run this retreat twice yearly at Tígh Roy. Their next retreat is running on from Friday 19th October - Sunday 21st October.
Details can be found on Donna's website www.mindfulnessjourney.ie under Events or on contact Donna on 087 2052701 or Maggie on 087 2869097