Reconnecting with Self and Nature: A transformative retreat experience

10th October 2023

When I embarked on planning my recent retreat to the enchanting sacred venue at St Nectan’s Glen, I knew it was going to be extraordinary. Set against the backdrop of a healing waterfall and surrounded by an abundance of nutritious negative ion-charged air, the retreat coincided with a powerful super full moon. It was the start of a new 12 month cycle, a time for release, forgiveness, embracing new beginnings, personal power and calling in abundance under the fiery energy of Aries. Each day was themed accordingly with optional associated journal questions.

As an intuitive leader, to ensure a personalised approach I delved into the participants’ intentions (outlined on booking forms). Alongside desires for ‘peace’, ‘rest and restore’, ‘reset’, I noticed a common thread: the yearning for connection.

Unveiling the essence of yoga

While many sought connection with like-minded souls, which is very powerful in itself. I understood the profound significance of learning how to connect with oneself on a deeper, spiritual level. In doing so, we can ALWAYS feel connected, no matter what is going on in our external world and relationships. Yoga, meaning to ‘bind’, ‘yoke’, ‘unite’, or ‘connect,’ teaches us this deep union, a reunion with our true essence.

Interestingly, and according to Richard Rhor, the word ‘religion’ came from the root word ‘ligamentous’ meaning ‘to connect’ and ‘re’ means again. Hence it could be translated to mean ‘to connect again’, or to ‘reconnect’. 

Rooted in nature, this connection becomes even more tangible – this capacity to connect to our deeper, ‘true’ self, our ‘source’ or our ‘essence’ is accentuated. Our physical beings are intertwined with nature; this is why we can feel ‘at home’ in nature.

Recent advances in our understanding of fascia and the extra cellular matrix highlight this even more. Ayurveda and yogic philosophy teaches us that our physical layer is ‘made of nature’ through the food that we eat which is made up of the 5 elements: earth, water, fire, air and space. We are, quite literally, what we eat! 

A balanced, plant-based diet mirrors our natural elements, emphasising the reciprocity between humans and plants through breath (energy) exchange. This 2-way interconnected relationship, when understood, enriches our lives and nurtures our overall well-being. The more we take time in nature, the more our nervous systems thrive – and in turn, so too do our heart and lungs, immune system, hormones, digestion and mental health.

Rediscovering our Inner Self

In the heart of the lush wilderness, we embraced the magic of our surroundings (St Nectan’s Glenn also happens to be on a lay line). Mornings were spent in silent communion with nature, practising forest bathing, breathwork, earthing and grounding exercises, contemplation and mindful journaling. I also arranged a visit to an ancient waterfall, over 4,000 years old, ensuring there was time to go under the 4,000-year-old waterfall one by one in silence. The energy was palpable, the shifts profound. 

Although many attendees were solo travellers and some lived alone, the silence in the morning was a new experience for many. Quite often, with so many day to day distractions (busy thoughts, radio, television, phones, social media) even when we are alone, we miss out on connecting to our true self.

With all this stripped away, they found the profound beauty of being present and listening to their inner truths. This is why contemplation and journaling in a held, quiet space in nature can be so life affirming and transformative. When we gift ourselves the time to slow down, breathe, and reflect on our true desires and direction, we often gain valuable guidance and wisdom. This process rejuvenates us and provides renewed energy for our journey.

Shared moments together, whilst eating (delicious, healthy, chef-prepared) meals; our trip to Merlin Cave; the cacao ceremony; and the joyous silent ecstatic dance, fostered connections. By the end of the retreat, it was as if we were a family – further highlighting the interconnectedness and oneness of us all. Three nights away felt like months!

“Life is a beautiful journey. Sometimes our journey is challenging. Quality time in nature and Clare’s exceptional practices is the navigation system to get you back on track”.

Tina, Wild Women’s retreat, St Nectan’s Glenn, 2023

Powerful realisations

During our closing circle, realisations surfaced. One participant found solace in shared eperiences of periods of darkness, realising none of us truly walks alone in our struggles. This insight enables us to maintain a broader perspective, trusting in the natural progression of challenges and believing in our ability to navigate through them and emerge into the light, just as many have before us. (The term ‘GURU’ illustrates this, where ‘Gu’ signifies ‘dark’ and ‘Ru’ signifies ‘light’).

Another, who had relished in the connection with others, felt an unshakeable sense of belonging, and a deep realisation that no matter what happened, she now knew she would never truly feel alone again. These words made my hairs stand on end as they echoed the profound impact of connection, a vital pillar of holistic health. It is SO fundamental to our health and wellbeing.

Join the journey: your path to deep connection

Witnessing these experiences is what inspires me to keep running retreats.

If you’re considering a retreat, I invite you to join me on the serene island of Antiparos next May. This retreat, open to all, promises an immersive experience amidst nature’s embrace, with sunrise yoga, sunset meditation, cave explorations, and more. Book now using the code ‘GREECE50’ for an exclusive discount – only available to the first 6 bookings (edit: now just 2!) and if you book by 31st October, early-bird prices also apply.

If you would like to come and are slightly conscious about travelling alone, don’t worry. We will keep in touch after booking to help arrange travel companions for those who wish. All the details, are on our website here and payment plans are also available.

Embark on this transformative journey.

Reconnect with yourself, with nature, and with others.

Embrace the profound shifts that await you.

Article by: Clare Francis

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