It was an honour to host Mark as a guest at the Sanctuary in April. He has kindly offered to share his reflections with us in the first of our new Guest Interview series.
Why did you decide to come on retreat at Sen Wellness Sanctuary when you did?
I needed a break, and some friends who know me well suggested that this type of retreat might be just what I need. Had it not been for the pandemic, I may have opted to travel somewhere else. Thank heavens for COVID!
How did you find the wellness programme, including yoga classes and Ayurvedic treatments?
I was a tad hesitant at first. As a yoga newbie, I felt a little daunted coming into this experience, not knowing what to do or how to do it. The yoga teacher was excellent; she has this sunny manner that was infectious. You settle into the yoga bit by bit, day by day, and before you know it, it all becomes second nature. Each day the boundaries of what you can do increase further, and without realising, you improve.
The herbal medicine became a ritual that we’d laugh about over breakfast and dinner. We always made sure we left something sweet to balance the sharpness.
Balance and sharpness is a relevant metaphor for my overall experience. Other than balance, one of the other benefits of the wellness programme was increased sharpness. Rising early, more focused, a better mood in general and more energy to do whatever I needed to do, whether reading a book or my own workout session.
The biggest hurdle was the detox day, designed to clear the system. I put this off for a day or two, although it was much easier than I thought it would be. After the cleanse, my system felt much more efficient at processing everything I put into my body.
How did the food at the Sanctuary differ from your usual diet back home? And how did you feel after detoxing?
Ordinarily, I’d eat meat four or five times a week and have two to three cups of coffee and black tea a day, with biscuits. I rarely paid attention to whether what I was eating contained wheat, yeast, sugar, gluten, MSG, or other preservatives. Along with 20-40 units of alcohol a week, these habits meant that my stomach was almost always bloated.
It took me a few days to adjust to the food at the Sanctuary. I couldn’t taste much at first due to the amount of salt and pepper I usually add to my food sometimes without even trying what was in front of me. However, the effect on my system was almost immediate. The bloating subsided, and going to the bathroom was an easier and more pleasant experience.
What were the major shifts you experienced on retreat – on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels?
The physical changes were both internal and external. Internally my body functioned noticeably better. It also said, “thank you”. At bedtime, I especially noticed the absence of that uncomfortable feeling usually present before sleep.
Mentally, I noticed a new ability to calm my usually erratic thought patterns. At home, night time was the worst for me; problem-solving in bed was the norm, and sleep was broken and restless. At the Sanctuary, I read and had a sound, calm sleep. This may have been in part due to the lack of phone use in the bedroom, but I think it’s the complete package at Sen.
On the emotional and spiritual levels, I was much calmer whilst I was at the Sanctuary. I felt an almost immediate shift after walking into the retreat centre. I have retained some of this sense of peace since returning to the UK. It helps when I practice yoga.
Was there anything unexpected about your time at the Sanctuary?
I think that the warmth, kindness, and openness of the people – staff and guests – was unexpected for me at the Sanctuary.
Will you be making any changes to your lifestyle or self-care routine now that you are back home?
I hope to keep some of the changes in my day-to-day life, having returned from the Sanctuary. I know that this may be challenging at times, but it is worth persisting. I have one good week behind me, last week was less good, but this week will be better.
What are the stand out memories or impressions from your time with us?
The Sanctuary and the people that I met while I was there encouraged me to be aware. Aware of how I may be feeling. Of how the food, liquid and medicines that I put into my body affected me. Of how my surroundings infiltrated my senses. The sound of the sea, nature.
Without the constant distraction of gadgets distracting me, I could feel, see and be more me; a child-like me, more engaged and curious. From this place of heightened awareness, I was more tuned in to others and more connected.
What would you say to anyone who feels unsure about whether this is the right experience for them?
To anyone considering a trip to Sen Wellness Sanctuary, my advice is don’t give it a second thought! Something is drawing your eyes this way, so take the time to follow them.
Leave home without any expectations. Allow your mind to be empty as soon as you book your trip. Know that when you arrive that you will be made to feel comfortable and welcome. Soon you will start to feel better, very much better.
You have nothing to lose by trying something new. I had no idea what I was going to find when I left the UK. I trusted my friends’ judgement and that I would enjoy the experience and feel renewed by it. And that’s what transpired to be true.
Get in touch with our enquiries team today to book your transformational retreat at the Sanctuary.