We know that time spent in nature is deeply relaxing.
In Japan – a culture so attuned to the relationship between humans and their surroundings that cherry blossom appreciation has its own word, hanami – the practice of immersing oneself in nature is called shinrin-yoku, or nature bathing.
Accompanied by avid walker and breath coach Julie Ann Horrox, I am wandering mindfully in the Somerset countryside, not far from Glastonbury.
Last time I set foot on Castle Cary station, I was mud-caked and festival-addled. This time, I am here to heal under the guidance of Fiona Arrigo.
A psychotherapist and biodynamic psychologist, Fiona Arrigo has over 30 years of experience in emotional and physical recalibration, running programmes here in the UK as well as in India and Spain. A team of specialists in fields such as acupuncture, breath and homeopathy support her work.
New this year are series of four-day retreats, for which Ive escaped London by train. As the landscape shifts from cookie-cutter suburbia to gently rolling fields, the laptop screen in front of me cant hold my attention and I let my gaze take in blurs of cow-dotted green. Nature is already proving to be a potent off switch.
Dubbed Back to Nurture, these retreats allow guests to disconnect, to reconnect, to rest, to let go.
According to Arrigo and her team, modern life has left us deeply exhausted, struggling to care for ourselves, let alone all of the other people and tasks we must attend to. Surrounded by nature, we will instinctively realign with our natural rhythm, our inner wild… or so the retreats promise.
Comfort is by no means neglected. We stay in luxurious safari tents, warmed by wood burning stoves; chilly nights are further staved off by heavy duvets and hot water bottles, with the optional addition of electric blankets. The individual bathrooms – no grotty shower blocks here – are centrally heated and stocked with indulgent products and thick white towels. Alcohol is banned but Im so absorbed in the richness of my surroundings and the programme elements that juniper-based thoughts scarcely cross my mind.
Striding over fields and along bridleways, Julie Ann asks us to turn inwards and walk in silence. Earlier in the stay, she had encouraged us to look for relatable motifs in nature – those clustered knots of foliage in otherwise bare branches, for example, may remind us of balls of tension throughout our body.
Accustomed, as I am, to thinking that the natural world soothes by way of its vastness, reminding us how insignificant we and our problems are, this seems counterintuitive. Julie Ann tells me reassuringly to acknowledge such thoughts without judgement.
It takes some mental wrestling but before long Im honing in on details. Those bug-munch-riddled leaves are me, nourishing others but depleted in the process; that naked tree, housing a sturdy nest high in its boughs, is a visual symbol of everything Ive stripped from my own life in order to prioritise home and family.
Theres a remarkable absence of self-pity as we discuss such feelings, but its certainly emotional. Over the four days, our tears flow as freely as our laughter bubbles.
This precious time, complete with the gentle confiscation of our devices, allows us to tune in to deeper impulses that are so often muted by the busyness of our stuffocated lives. Held in the safety of the retreat, we convene several times daily in a womb-like yurt, upon which sheepskins, cushions, candles and bundles of wildflowers are lavished.
With strips of fabric, we weave intentions on a loom.
Around an altar of natural objects, we craft drums from supple deerskin and circles of ash.
We breathe deeply, sing loudly and dance wildly.
We hum, allowing sound and sensation to vibrate through our bodies.
We stand barefoot on the grass.
At a late night fire ceremony, accompanied by the hypnotic beat of drums and the rhythmic music of rattles, we release, by way of letters, mementoes and contemplation, our hurt, anguish and grief into the blaze.
Even I am taken aback when, crouched before the flames, I suddenly hear myself roaring primally into the heat, before collapsing, sobbing and emptied, on to the shoulder of the presiding Wild Woman.
Every aspect of the stay is wonderfully restorative, from the Arrigo Angel (as the members of Fionas team are called) who wakes me each morning with hot water and lemon, to the hearty and largely plant-based meals were served, to the giving of space and silent support when someone needs time alone.
My achingly tight body is soothed by acupuncture and massage, while frequent herbal teas feel like they cleanse me from the inside out. On our final afternoon, we return to the yurt to find our duvets arranged in a circle and snuggle down to the lullabies of musician Ruth Blake, whose angelic voice is accompanied by a symphony of deep breathing.
The calibration with natural rhythms has brought unexpected periods on in at least three of us and the Angels deftly and unobtrusively stock the bathrooms where rRead More – Source