Last month I embarked upon a journey to hike and hygge in the beautiful Lake District, with a group of total strangers upon a retreat which would help me release and heal some personal inner turmoil, about which I had not spoken about to another for fourteen months. Not even my family or friendship circle knew of the inner turmoil that crushed my world. Only sharing out of necessity, such is my privacy, with two of my very closest friends five months after the grenade exploded into my world. Shattering my world. Despite the chaos, fear and increasing pressures to combat each eventuality as it arose, I maintained the show must go on! Over a year has passed and I have driven myself beyond those fears and stablised my life and health sufficiently to still smile through the pain and ease myself into nurturing self. Self Love is only possible when forgiveness is offered to those who threaten and steal your security of joy of wellbeing.
Spontaneity and Inspiration are my friends, and they visited me upon booking my place at a lakeside country house in the Lake District for hours and hours of walking, taking in fresh air, snapping up beauty in memories forever in my mind and on my camera, and making friends with new faces, perhaps like me, taking the plunge to challenge themselves and overcome a few inner issues in peace and tranquility. Were they fitter than me? Would I struggle? Was I mad!?? I have to be honest, whilst I do enjoy to walk across sandy or rocky beaches, plodging and pouring my energy into capturing the salt sea air and photographs of each occasion to the coast, as well as gentle hill walking taking me through woodlands with exquisite beauty, too., I had never climbed for years, any great height. Certainly not with a rucksack upon my bag, nor poles in hand to secure my balance! This spontaneous booking of a three night retreat certainly plunged myself into the deep dive of personal challenge and yet, to be honest, I was silently confident that it would be fine and all would benefit me greatly. I knew it was a huge step forward in not only a literally sense, but mentally and emotionally. It was necessity.
When I told my lifelong friend, a seasoned explorer and fitness fanatic, black belt Karate veteran, cyclist, runner, pot holer, abseiler, kayaker, canoeist, fell runner, and mountain climber, along with creativity and musicality, making him a tremendous friend to have and close confidente, that I had booked this trip to push myself to my limits, his jaw dropped. He knew I had not been climbing for many years, he often tried to get me to accompany him to the Lake District to climb, encouraging me to take my camera and snap the magnificent views. But it was in my 30’s and 40’s that mountains were climbed by me, and in my 50’s only slight inclines and hilly terrain whilst out on picnics and leisurely strolls. Imagine his face! Such was his shock, he immediately suggested we set off one weekend to walk a ‘gentle’ route uphill to an easy to reach summit. And so, one Saturday in November, when mist hung upon the summit of his choice in the Yorkshire Dales, he indicated to me that my destination was sat like a black witch in the distance, when I pulled on my hiking boots and tugged tightly at the laces, before stomping up from the car park to the climb. His idea of a gentle stroll out and easy climb, was Pen Y Ghent! I have to say I love to walk, and that day, I nearly cried as I climbed and took in the fabulous view beneath me… ! My tears were not only joy, but it was bitter cold, wild gusts of wind licked my face and blew me like a party balloon across the rocky, muddy ascent to the foot of the steep climb. It was exhilerating! I was so proud of myself. A glow within me that spurred me on and I was digging in and powering up the mountainside with sheer grit. However, at this time, dusk fell and so did the rain, lots of it. Vision was poor, and so was my momentum when he suggested we descend before it put in dark and we risked slipping and sliding down the fell. Pointing out that most accidents occur upon the quick stomp downhill by most hikers, as they were tired and not watching where they placed their feet on rocks slippy and wet with mud and bogs snaring them into traps where ankles were sprained, and bones broken!
You can imagine due to that failed attempt to conquer what I had set out to do, had resulted in my being quite demoralised – sufficiently to fear the oncoming weekend of hiking with strangers in the lakes. Why had I not trained, why had I allowed myself to commit to something that should have been prepared for earlier in the year!? Well, we all do things impulsively, acting in the moment, and when I saw there were spaces still available, and knowing Paula Lawson of Be Happy, Be Bright, Be You, through my work with her, I jumped at the chance. The date neared, the days were extrememly busy with my working each hour and looking after elderly parents with critical health issues. I pushed the necessity to climb another peak before the retreat, and bit the bullet of consequences. I could not pull out, there was no way I would cancel the weekend, my full balance had been paid, I had cleared my diary and arranged my work around the retreat, and I would never, give in. I am quite focused when I want to be, and I desperately needed to smash this personal challenge I had set for myself, so, for the next ten days, instead of another climb, I made three visits to the north east coast, and briskly walked along coastline, up steps, across sand, up and over the cliff top walking briskly from Roker Pier to Souter Lighthouse and back again, so several miles clocked up and several more across the Durham and Northumberland countryside. Regaining my confidence that the upcoming Hiking Retreat in the Lake District, should not be feared. I knew within me I had enough drive and determination to kick out in style and achieve my goal of reaching the peak of the planned hikes. No guarantee of which hikes was given, as this would be determined by the weather over the second weekend of November.
We all need personal challenges. We all need to set goals. To step out of our comfort zone, and make moves forwards in our lives, not just physically, or mentally, but emotionally, too. I was determined to focus on only positive outcomes from the looming hiking retreat ahead. Excitement began to fizz within and the pages of my diary turned nearer to the date!
I journeyed to York on Thursday 15th November, on a train to meet up with a friend for spiritual debate. We strolled around the Christmas market and buzzing shops and I returned home at 8pm. Not a moment to spare the next morning due to appointments in my diary, I set off at noon on Friday, 16th. The sky was low and white, filled with the threat of downpour. I prayed for clear skies and clear roads, and even joked that I would see a rainbow. I had earlier that morning packed my bright electric blue suitcase with bobble hats, fleeces, thermal vests, three pairs of walking boots and socks, a jacket, rucksack and all the required packing list for our hikes and yoga restorative retreats. Ha! Yoga! the last time I practiced yoga, I was thirty five years younger! Never the less, in went yoga pants, vest and cream fluffy throw. I was so excited, yet apprehensive at the same time about the drive across to the Lake District. On I drove down the A1M switching to the A66 at Scotch Corner and joined the bumper to bumper traffic heading towards my destination. I loved the sight of the ruined castle of Kirby Stephen, Brough, and to my left hand side, Brougham Castle – followed by an ease of flow of traffic, once past Penrith. Sunshine broke the clouds and as I pulled up the narrow road to Castle Rigg, a huge rainbow appeared above Keswick. Inside I smiled. I knew this had been the right thing to do. I walked around the ancient stones of Castle Rigg, as always upon my arrival into Keswick, and took in the view. Orbs of spirit energy danced around the stones, and inside I felt a shift in the heaviness of my emotion. I smiled and my hips swung from side to side back down to the car. In Keswick I bought a slate house number for a friend’s Christmas stocking filler, fudge, and a new lilac fleece from a mountain retailer.
The itinerary for the weekend asked that we arrive at the country house between 4pm and 6pm. I pulled into Grasmere Village after a breathtaking drive down from Keswick and turned left onto the lakeside. Paula, the organiser, whom I had met on occasions previously, waved to greet me and shouted she would take Lauren to her room, before coming down to welcome me inside. Upon stepping into the Sun Lounge, she immediately explained that I had been upgraded to the Penthouse Suite, with my own balcony, and a complimentary bottle of red wine, along with gift bag, awaited me in the room. “Take some time out to unpack, relax and unwind after your drive, before the others arrive, and I will see you down in the sun lounge at 6pm”.
I did just that and set to one side the books I had planned to read, the writing journals I had planned to fill, and the laptop I had planned to rattle the keyboards of, perhaps late at night, when we had retired to our rooms after the walks and yoga experiences. At 6pm I met the other ladies, with whom we all connected and chatter ensued for the rest of the evening. Paula, explaining the itinerary for the weekend, the weather forecast, emergency and first aid procedures and brief mention of the route we would enjoy the following morning. Dinner was served across from the luxury country home, and had been pre-ordered upon confirmation of my booking. Candlelit dining experience with delicious food and lots of introductions along with stories of past hikes and honesty from all about their reasons for being upon the retreat. Some beginners, some never having had yoga experience, and so I felt right at home. I did not feel like I would hold up the group, nor hinder their advance on the hikes. No way! as I knew, no matter how much difficulty I may endure, no one would ever know. I was so looking forward to stepping out with everyone the next day. We were introduced and immediately warmed to Elaine, the yoga instructor, who was absolutely lovely. After our first evening dining, we all felt the complete harmony and union of the group, despite our coming from all different walks of life. One thing was for sure, we all had the same drive within us to tackle the challenges ahead.
We were all confident woman with families at home yet followed the instinct to attempt a personal challenge in one of the most spiritual places on earth.. answering that inner voice guiding us upon the retreat.
We all took to our rooms around 10pm and the moment my door closed behind me, the hot taps were turned on the free standing roll top bath. I lit the six rose scented candles, I had earlier unpacked, and switched on a string of twinkling gold lights I had brought from home. After a long soak, I retreated into the huge comfy bed, and with window open, listened to the owl outside hooting away, as I nibbled on popcorn and enjoyed a complimentary bottle of ginger beer. Bliss. Despite being excited about the forthcoming morning, I soon nestled my head into the soft pillows and dropped into a deep dreamstate.
My inner clock awakened me at 6am. I dressed and went down to meet everyone in the sun lounge before heading out to breakfast. Cliff, our professional hiking guide arrived and chatted about his past expeditions and stories of past groups with climbs and he was warm and filled with humour. Breakfast was so nutritious, I had opted for smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, and toast. Pots of tea and hot steaming coffee were served, along with apple and orange juices. We were packed full to the brim with food as was our packed lunch, prepared by Paula, in our rucksacks ready for our hike which would be enjoyed at the peak of Loughrigg Fell. Back at Lakeside Country House, Cliff and Paula explained the route ahead and their plans for the late afternoon and early evening Dinner.
We set off through the village and I shadowed Cliff as he paced out the rhythm of the hike with us following suit all along the road leading out of Grasmere Village. Twisting and turning on a brisk walk along the dry stone walls and trees, we admired the natural flora and fauna of the lakeside views. After a mile or so, we passed through a gate and took a drink of water before heading onto the lakeside, where low mist hung across the still lake hauntingly, two white swans glided gracefully and moorhens bleated out their early morning chorus. Despite not being able to see a hand in front of us, the pace was steady as we drank in the view. The group of ladies full of banter, speaking about their expectations, experiences hiking and sharing their excitement of the hike ahead. Cliff kept the banter flowing as he lead us along the lakes edge to the Loughrigg Terrace covered in bracken. The colours of the mountains were dimmed by the mists obscuring their intensity but by the time we had skimmed along the edge of Rydal Water, the colours popped! So did we, since the sun shone brightly, burning away the morning mist. We began the undulations across rocky terrain and the steep steady climb upwards.
Everyone stepping out in time as we weaved and stepped through trickling streams, past long necked mushrooms, tufts of shamrocks and through overgrown shrubs and trees that formed tunnels through which we ducked and threaded through. At the top elevation we stopped for drinks of water and nutritious flap jack. A little energy boost for the journey ahead. It was still morning and the sun’s heat was intensifying. My back hurt a little, as my rucksack sat upon my lower back, so with a tightening of the straps, on it returned to my back and it bobbed up and down as my arms swung in sequence to the landscape.
Another steep ascent ahead and I did what everyone told me not to do.. I looked up! Panting and gasping for air, I focused on the rocks cutting into the earth.. forming steps, and my legs felt like jelly! This was harder than any beach walk, for sure, but my mental focus far crushed any physical aches, as I motored on and on, until the climb eased and we viewed all around us mountains and Windermere, sprawling Ambleside, and the summit ahead. Breathtaking views, I couldn’t resist snapping the scenes on my camera, but onwards and upwards we drove each other, encouragement to all from all, and especially Cliff and Paula. As I stepped out more and more I knew this was more than just a hike for me, I was walking away, far away, mentally and emotionally from a period of my life that had rickashaded through me like an exploding grenade, and had left me reeling in shock. A shock which I suppressed and gulped down any rising emotion, but instead pushed on and through the experiences with courage, conviction and caution. Just like upon the hike. A personal journey taking me and leading onward, encouraging me to let go and move on. That no matter how high the mountain ahead, I would encircle and ascend it, right to the top! Then view everything from a new, higher perspective. This hike was just one of many I had ahead of me. I pushed on and mentally kept my focus on the return journey to safe ground. We were all safe, of course, and I can tell you now that when I sat to eat packed lunch, at the peak of our climb, my inner prayers were flown across the surrounding valleys, and up and over the highest peaks of spiritual mountains. I wasn’t too high, but I was touching the sky. Touching heaven up there. I had left the heaviness of everyday life and it’s responsibilities and demands, pitfalls and pains, and breathed in freedom. Like air I had not breathed before. Fresh, clear, untarnished, unpolluted air. Nourishment for my soul. My body loved the hike. My mind replayed it as I gazed down at the route we had taken. My heart embraced it. Beauty soaking into my skin. Sunlight and space. Smiles and sweet grapes. Surrendering to the summit I gave in. A tear for me, escaped and rolled down my cheek. I brushed it away and stood to pack up and move on.
Dusk fell upon the fell and I nearly fell. My eyesight is fading, as was the ground from my vision, as dusk clothed the valley. The realisation my eyesight was so poor, knocked my confidence. My grandmother went completely blind and so that fear grips myself, every now and again. I am sure that is why I love watching people, travelling to places, cities, countryside, venues and admire and appreciate beauty so much! Elaine gently steadied me down each slippery, wet, muddy rock. She was patient and caring. The other ladies following behind me, I turned and recognised the expressions each of them had upon their faces. The all had the same inner conversations with themselves. They each had answered the call to be here, to diffuse and relinquish past hurt within themselves. Finding joy once again within their growing confidences within themselves about their capabilities. I felt it. I witnessed it. I heard their acceptances chanted inwardly as they paced out the descent. Back to the world. Back to the new path that would carry them back into reality.
At the Lakeside Country House we quickly freshened up and changed into yoga gear. Wrapped in our fluffy throws we were led in torchlight across the lawn to the hidden yoga pod. Inside the canvas, a wooden floor with purple yoga mats, blocks and lavender eye masks, flickering candle flames and a roaring log burner. Flames throwing out their warmth and relaxing our tense muscles as we sat and began our bends and stretches, flops and flows, falling back into relaxed minds and bodies in meditation and gentle rocking of the body into ease of flow of breath and body rhythm. Bliss. Totally awesome. Elaine was soothing, professional, gentle and well experienced. It showed. After an hour or so, we returned to our rooms for hot bubbles and lotions to nourish the body as well as the soul. Restorative Yoga truly had done it’s magic. I knew my back had ached for hours during he walk and even during yoga, the ache continued to give me a wince every now and again. Elaine suggested I take the yoga easy, but me being me, wanted to achieve every expectation of the instructor, so kept up with everyone else. It was a joy. My body recalled every emotion I felt during yoga over thirty five years ago, only I had forgot for a moment that I was 57 years of age early next year, and three stones overweight. But, I loved it. I totally loved it. It has jumped onto my vision board for 2019 and I shall be commencing yoga regularly throughout the years ahead.
Everyone met up afterwards, once showered or bathed and changed, for Dinner in the sun lounge to head off up the track to the restaurant. We were tired yet we dined and chatted and exchanged emotions, openly and trusting, with fabulous food being served to us once more. Upon return to the Lakeside Country House, we all were eager to retreat to our rooms and chill out for the rest of the evening. I fell immediately into another deep dream-state but awoke at 4.30am with lower back pain. Tension from the climb upon my body. Nothing serious, but enough concern to make me decide I was not choosing to hike on Sunday. Instead I would listen to my body, walk a little around the village, and take in a book, a coffee, lunch and another stroll, perhaps sit down and write. I battled with myself, I did not want to give in, and yet I knew my body was speaking to me. Don’t go. It will be worse., steeper. Listen to your body.. yes, mentally you are determined, but honestly, don’t ignore the aches. I never give in. I always push on, no matter what the pain. Well, I have done it all my life, so why the surprise. The surprise was, I listened to my body. I was being sensible. There was no shame in not completing the next hike. I would enjoy yoga later with the group upon their return. So, I shared my plans with Paula. She understood. The weight of feeling defeated shortly after was lifted, when one of the other ladies, who had recognised her limits, also indicated she was not hiking, and so Elaine offered us an additional yoga session with her, before lunchtime. Yes! How fabulous! We all enjoyed another superb breakfast, notifying the others of our retreat into sanctuary of bliss, with another lady opting to join us. The four of us walked with the whole group through the village then said goodbye as they headed off to Helm Crag. We turned around and walked the entirety of the village the shot into a cafe for hot chocolate. No we didn’t feel guilty at all. It was luxuriously delicious.
We enjoyed both yoga and meditation twice that day along with a nutritious lunch and then strolled gently around the edge of Grasmere Lake – where brightly coloured canoes and paddlers gave us joy as we shot them with our cameras. Elaine posing in her yoga positions upon the lake was a delight, too. We just loved that we had taken it easy that day. he other ladies were equally delighted they embarked and conquered Helm Crag. they spoke at length about their adventure during Dinner. We were overjoyed for them, hearing about the personal journeys they had experienced. Everyone just came together in such harmony. New connections always result in new friends being made. Especially when you all share a soulful experience, such as this hiking and hygge retreat. I know this, the whole of the group had fantastic time and I look forward to meeting up with them again soon. We left on the Monday after a hearty breakfast with everyone smiling and wishing each other well. Paula, Cliff and Elaine, were amazing and I shall always recall how they each played a part in my healing journey. Albeit brief. Each experience you have, no matter how brief, when helped by another perosn, wherever you are in life, is eternally recalled by your soul.
I know the weekend was monumental in my personal expectations of myself and I am so proud I took that first step and the many thousand of steps afterwards, bravely, daringly, into proving something to myself and also in overcoming the huge dilema of my life. Which for the moment remains private.
Thank you for sharing all of the journeys you have undertaken over the years with me. I recall each one of you at this time, and wish you continued success in reaching your own personal goals in order to achieve peace, joy and harmony.
What steps are you avoiding?
Are you ready to conquer those mountains of issues within?
Have you set aside time for yourself?
Have you suppressed emotions in trying to stay strong?
Is it time for you to unwind and release those fears?
I know everyone has a story to tell, I know you have yours, and I assure you I have been through many situations in life of trauma, deceit, betrayal and fear.
I know how you can turn the page to write the new script of your next chapter of life. I walk my walk. I talk my talk. From experience.
Let me guide you through your next journey to self.
Get in touch with me today to learn how we can best embrace the very best version of you this year, and move through those issues you suppress within – spiritually guided, intuitively inspired & soulfully connected.