Allison Wiffen Logo

On Retreat

I have just come back from a four day retreat in Glastonbury lead by Simon Parke. Simon is an interesting character, an ex church of England priest, now mainly a writer and journalist following a two year spell working in a supermarket. I have been on retreat before but had somehow managed to forget how emotionally demanding it can be. I was looking forward to a week of quiet contemplation and relaxation and what I got was anything but.

Most of us spend our lives doing things, and when we are not doing things we are thinking about what we have done or about to do. Of course there is always the option of switching off by watching telly – but personally I rarely do this. I am however guilty of over doing and over thinking. So when you stop doing and try just to be with yourself for a while and even to still your chattering mind strange things can happen.

In the course of the week I cried, got cranky, laughed raucously, experienced a moment of pure bliss, and also felt peaceful. On the Thursday we had six hours of silence and this was for me undoubtedly the high point of the week. I didn’t really make plans for the day as I just wanted to go with the flow but I did think I would do some chi gung (a bit like tai chi but less racy), and I was determined not to go into the art room.

As it turned out I didn’t much feel like doing chi gung, and I had an hour of fun in the art room (you can see one of my masterpieces pictured). I did quite a lot of meditation and staring at bushes just outside the window, and I spent an hour romping around the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey (which we had free access to via a back gate). Thursday was a wild and windy day and it was great fun to be in the abbey grounds with the leaves whooshing around and the rain coming in fits and starts between bouts of beautiful sunshine. There were some gorgeous red leaves and I gathered them up and took them back to the house. I wrote “I Love You” on them and surreptitiously left them round the house for my fellow retreaters to find. I know that at least one person in the group found one and was uplifted by it – hopefully more did that I never knew about.

Allison's Retreat Artwork

It was a day of beautiful simple pleasures.

That evening we had a cabaret - and discovered that we were all immensely talented! Musicians, dancers and poets entertained us with things at times poignant, at times hilarious – what fun we had! Then we went outside and lit the bonfire that two of the group had spent the afternoon building. It was the perfect end to the perfect day.

What a curious experience a retreat is. Simon told us we were bold adventurers – and I think he was right. We are all on a journey but it takes guts to go deeper, to try to know yourself, and to take responsibility for your life.

I love you – all.

Subscribe to my newsletter