Comparing Meditation Retreats

Grateful for what we have

If wishes were horses!

I wish we had a whirlpool/jacuzzi/spa tub at our retreat. It would have been wonderful to lie back into hot, swirling bubbles at the end of a busy day of walking meditation, writing meditation and working meditation sessions. Especially if we also did an equine-assisted experiential learning session. Instead, all we have is a 2 acre/1 Ha spring fed lake and a pond surrounded by mint, wild thyme and whispering reeds. Yes, I know I can sit on a sun lounger on the deck by the lake with a tall, cool drink (some of the ice-cold water from the mountain springs that feeds our lake will be pure bliss in the summer heat) and watch the sun set over the water. Or I could join the otters for a late afternoon swim in the lake. Or I could swing in a hammock over the water and watch the horses come down to the water for a drink. Or I could sit by the pond with my feet in the mint-scented water…

I also wish we had a sauna. Lots of retreat resorts have saunas. I would like one of the infra-red ones that warm up instantly. Just imagine all that blissful heat at the touch of a button. Yes, I know that we live in the south of France, where in the summer the temp goes up to 35° in the shade and where even in the winter we rarely have cause for complaint. I know I spent most of my days here trying to get out of the sun and into the shade. I know our guests love the endless, sunny, warm summer days. I know they love getting up early in the morning to see the sunrise while it is already warm enough to walk around in a t-shirt . I know they love the long, balmy summer evenings when the temperature stays in the mid-twenties until sunset at 10 o’clock at night…it is just the thought of having a sauna on site – such luxury!

I think our retreat could do with a live-in yoga instructor . I am seriously into yoga – I find it very relaxing (especially afterwards). I have come across hundreds (literally) of yoga retreats on the web. It would be great to have a yoga teacher here for our guests. Instead, we have to put up with nothing but miles of off-road footpaths through ancient woods, lush orchards, past quiet lakes, along manicured vineyards and flowered meadows for relaxing walks. I DO enjoy going for a long walk, maybe coming upon deer peacefully grazing in a lush green field, or a woodpecker building a 5* condo in an old oak tree in the woods or watching the swallows catching their dinner on the surface of a dark pond. I suppose I do enjoy doing some stretches on a hilltop in the middle of nowhere facing the rising sun, but a private yoga teacher, just for our retreat guests, would really make my day!

A detox diet regime might be a good idea too. I also saw loads of detox retreats on the web. I have hosted detox retreats in the past – my detox retreat was called the « Red Wine Retreat » (go figure) and was based on Prof Roger Corder’s research about the health benefits of red wine, specifically the famous Madiran wine of our region. The problem is, here in Gascony, we are surrounded and overwhelmed by nature’s bounty in every shape and form : fresh, home-grown fruit and vegetables, nuts from our neighbours’ trees, organic home-raised meat, fish from our own lake and free range poultry and eggs, some of the most delicious and excellent wines in all of France…a starvation diet here would be unthinkable. So we decided to feed our guests’ bodies as richly as we feed their minds. Gascony is, after all, a region famous for its extravagant gastronomy and exceptional wine

Silence might be beneficial too. I have also read about silent retreats on-line. Silent retreats are very popular. I can understand why people would refrain from talking during a retreat, in fact, we have a « no-talking » period to give our guests an idea of how this works, but we have no hope of creating total silence here, deep in the heart of a very active countryside. Sounds of nature keep shattering that so longed for silence: birdsong bursting our eardrums from sunrise to sunset, horses neighing and cantering up and down their paddocks, people joking and laughing while working in the vineyards surrounding us…it is only at night that silence reigns here profoundly and unperturbed.

Another thing I would appreciate would be a professionally designed and constructed meditation room. We have to make do with the deck by the lake – admittedly it is large, stretches out into the lake so that it feels as if you are sitting on water. There is a lot to be said for meditating outside, but when it rains we have to use the horses’ barn. It is true that the barn is very useful for equine-guided meditation, especially since we have installed sturdy tables for our guests to sit on when the horses join them for a meditation session, but I so admire the meditation rooms at huge retreats resorts in exotic locations! I suppose, for the time being, we will have to make do with our meditation labyrinth, our meditation station path on the island in the lake and the large number of secluded spots we have created for private meditation…

A small army of therapists to help us look after our guests would come in useful. All we have is a retired medical doctor (admittedly with many years of experience and a few decent qualifications), a wine expert (with a WSET diploma) and six supersmart horses. It does help that most of the horses also have many years of experience helping guests through equine-assisted experiential learning – (Belle de la Babinière has been on the job for nearly 10 years now) and that each of the horses bring their own individual characters and experiences to each session – some of our horses have suffered trauma eerily similar to the trauma our guests may have suffered in the past.. Aurileo d’Alegria, our cocky little Lusitano, was severely abused and on his way to the abattoir when we found out about his plight.

Sometimes I wish we were more isolated – like a lonely monastery on a mountain top – far from any interference from modern life. We are secluded, in our own little valley, on the edge of a typical south-of-France village, but we are not isolated. I suppose this does have the benefit that we are easy to reach. We are within less than 2 hours’ drive from 4 international airports: Bordeaux, Toulouse, Pau and Tarbes/Lourdes – our guests often spend a day on arrival or departure at the world famous Lourdes pilgrim site. I suppose it is also useful to have access to all mod con’s even though we are steadily working towards self-sufficiency and to be close to local weekly fresh food markets, as part of the aim of our retreat is to introduce our guests to the lifestyle that allows people of this region to live long, fit and healthy lives.

Huge bedrooms with every luxury imaginable would be interesting. We do not have bedrooms the size of aeroplane hangers. We have cosy bedrooms, with exposed, 200+-year-old oak beams supporting the ceiling, more oak beams in the half-timbered walls and terracotta tiles/oak floor boards. Each of our bedrooms is individually decorated, along the «Romantic French Country Style » (you can find out more about this style of interior decorating on my Pinterest board with the same name). Our guest accommodation is in a separate farmworker’s cottage, with its own kitchen (for that midnight cup of redbush tea), and its own sitting and dining room with an ancient open fireplace that now sports a cast-iron wood-burner. It also has a dainty little porch where our guests can sit and eat their breakfast looking out over the horse paddocks. No large and luxurious bedrooms, I am afraid, but the cottage does have free wifi.

Another thing on my wish list is a top-of-the-range, fully-fitted kitchen with every modern appliance/gadget ever invented. At the moment all our meals are cooked in a 200+-year-old farmhouse kitchen with a humongous bread oven; we often have an open fire going in the bread oven. It is true that we have spent many happy hours there, some in the company of our guests, cooking together, laughing and sampling a variety of wines (while pretending we are choosing the right wine to complement a specific dish). It is also true that our kitchen, in its current shape, is the inviting and welcoming hub of the house and that many a guest and I have shared and solved problems while sitting at the table shelling peas or skinning potatoes.

 I think, in retrospect, that I am quite perfectly happy and deeply grateful for what we already have – our retreat guests certainly appreciate what we have to offer them: “Ah, that brought a smile to my face:-) I think about you and your fur family SO often – your farm is my go-to daydreaming place. I smile just thinking about the space, the lake, all my horse friends (who thought I’d ever say that!) and the cats walking through the paddocks.” Claire-Marie M.

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“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.”  Seneca

Comparing Meditation Retreats

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10 thoughts on “Grateful for what we have”

  1. So very well written Margaretha. I am so enjoying your writing. It is not straightforward but it sneaks up on us. Just like your previous satirical piece. this one is telling us what you already have in abundance and how little need you have of luxuries. Thank you for sharing this eloquent piece with us at Sweet Inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for actually reading my post, Mary. I do not often take part in this sort of thing, but it is always a pleasure to join in and meet new bloggers at Sweet Inspiration. We have renovated our old farmhouse over the last year, and I even thought to do a before-and-after post just for Sweet Inspiration’ sake!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We would love that, to see how you have transformed the retreat and made it to suit your needs and style.

        Like

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