Wow what an amazing four days! Sharpham Trust is a retreat with panoramic views and a peaceful paradise. I have just returned from a four day ‘Walking and Mindfulness’ retreat, which I have to say was not my first choice. I was opting for the Barn Retreat a bit of work, but lots of sitting meditation and silence, but the universe had other ideas.
What concerned me was the daily 8 mile walk, as I haven’t done any serious walking for a number of years and certainly not uphill. And the thought of four days of vegetarian food was not something I was
particularly looking forward to either!! What I was really looking forward to was the routine and discipline of meditating daily, the silence and also the company of like minded people.
I arrived on the Sunday afternoon to be greeted by the Sharpham Trust team who made you feel at home right away. I was given a tour of the house which has a regal but homely feel to it and then I was shown my room which was simple but cosy. After unpacking we had a Welcome meeting where we met our facilitators and fellow retreaters. We were a group of nine women of varying ages and experience. Little did I know at this point that this would be one of the most amazing group of women I have ever had the pleasure of spending four days with.
I then sank into the routine of dinner, mindful meditation, serious silence from 8.30pm to 8.30am, breakfast,pack yummy lunches, out to the hills, sensual silence, natures beauty, knowledgeable natters, delicious dinner, mediation and back to silence. No technology to intrude or distract the mind or disturb the silent moments.
So how did I get on with the walking. Well I was not the leader of the pack, in fact at times going up the hills I could hardly breathe and my face looked like a well ripened tomato!! I also had not taken into
account that this was proper walking, so there would be no ‘ Costa’ stops or public toilets!!
Our first days walking was around the Sharpham estate which is surrounded by the River Dart. The views were spectacular and what really stuck me was not being able to hear a sound except the sounds of nature. There were no distant humming of cars, deep joy. I sat nestled in the roots of an Oak Tree by the River Dart in silence and felt like I would burst with the pure pleasure of being out in nature. I had forgotten how good it feels to be out in the wild, except for my very first experience of the compost toilets!!
Day 2 of the walking was along the coastal paths. We were so lucky to be treated to a beautiful, sunny day once again. There was a gentle breeze coming off the sea gently blowing out the cobwebs and filling you with clean, fresh air. For lunch we stopped at a secluded cove where I decided to brave the elements and have a paddle…. cold at first but the blisters enjoyed the exposure to the salt!
What made the walks extra special was the company and conversations. I had forgotten how much I enjoy the company of women and the exchanges that help to shift blocks, soothe the soul and expand the vision. WOW to Women On Walks!!
Day 3 was my biggest lesson, as well as being very excited at the prospect of a stop at a Coffee Shop!! Today was the turn of Dartmoor to be graced by our presence. As I struggled, red faced breathing like a train I asked, Nigel, who was our Driver of ‘Bob the Bus’ and assisting in leading the walk, ” How am I supposed to breathe?”. So now comes the words to the wise “Slow your pace down till you can breathe though your nose and not your mouth and you will be able to walk all day and have fun, which is what it is all about”.
So I did and no I didn’t end up at the front of the group, but I did enjoy the walk uphill rather than just going up it thinking when is this going to end!!. I have brought that learning home with me and am aware of my ‘rush’ to race through things rather than do less but enjoy it more.
The coffee stop was a delight and all of a sudden a public toilet seemed like the height of luxury!!. The walk on the moors was the one I was looking forward to the least but actually where I learnt the most and really enjoyed the wild and desolate scenery.
And the food… well what can I say except it was superb and has inspired me to attempt to cook more vegetarian options after chatting to Janet and getting recipes. Apparently Janet is publishing her cookbook later in the year, so I will be buying that one. I am also tempted to go on the cooking retreat later in the year at Sharpham.
Well I could go on for another few pages about the amazing experience of Sharpham but I will stop here as I don’t want to bore you. I am going to be writing a more detailed review as part of my journalism homework so watch out for that. What I would like to say in closing is a big thank you to Linda who led the group and Barry and Nigel who assisted too and to a group of women who I truly will never forget, thank you all for your wisdom, listening ears and inspiration.