A month ago I took a leap to the unknown – to a yoga, meditation and surf retreat in West Portugal that I’d read about in The Guardian. My aim was to cut off gently from a nine-year long “shift” in my previous job and to recharge my batteries before new projects. I was amazed to discover how much one week in a retreat can enrich creative thinking, help with writing and make you feel that just about anything is possible.
At Shamballah Retreats, near the mystical town of Sintra, I met the owners Zarqa Correa, an ex-Assistant Director from the commercial film industry and his partner, Patricia Graca, a yoga and pilates instructor. After finding each other in their forties and discovering that they want to travel in the same direction both personally and professionally, they decided to create a place where wound-up multi-taskers can stop juggling and be present in the moment – often finding their lost selves in the process.
Yoga as a writing and surfing tool
The best part of any journey is being open to the unknown. Because the unknown often arrives with many gifts. Like the fact that the first yoga session in the morning was at the time of the sun going up – and the last one was at sunset! I can still visualise the light and neon green colour of spring flooding in from the huge windows. If you opened the doors to the garden, you could hear the roar of the Atlantic waves.
To support the journey within, Patricia and Zarqa use essential oils from doTERRA. With the oils they “woke us up” every morning and helped us balance our moods, aches and pains amazingly well. And by us, by the way, I mean the two lovely ladies I met at the retreat: Anja from Berlin and Marie from Belfast. We really hit it off.
After a hearty gluten-free breakfast every morning we were given packed vegetarian and vegan lunches to enjoy during our spare time in the afternoon. At the end of each day we sat at the same table for dinner and chatted about this and that about life. There was much laughter – and yes, without coffee, sugar or alcohol. I must say I was a little worried about how to survive a week without meat, but I really shouldn’t have been.
At the very start of the week I noticed how my body began to accept the detox and how well the concept worked for me as a whole. I had come to change my “channel” of thought somewhat and that’s exactly what happened. The Atlantic powered my writing so much that I poured out texts that I hadn’t even planned. One of them was a big #metoo story for Fuell Finland’s blog. I also wrote my first post for Thrive Global.
At the age of 41 I now feel ready to learn just about anything new – such as how to surf! After watching local surfers in Ericeira, I noticed how they did yoga and meditation before going in the water. It was as if they were working on a rite of passage from their daily routines into the unknown – a bit like me jumping from my life to a plane to Lisbon where I’d never been.
In Portugal both waves and thoughts can be bigger than you could ever imagine. So be prepared for that.
Retreat as a rite of passage
I now urge anyone working in the creative industry to try a week’s retreat at some point in their career. As a journalist I feel it really is essential to stop the story mill from time to time without worry. You and your work will benefit enormously from this, trust me.
At the moment there are already a couple of possible return trips to Portugal in the making. And I can tell you I cannot wait! My dream of becoming a travelling health and wellness journalist and documentarist could just come true. Because I can do it. Stay tuned to my blog to see how things go. Later in the spring you can also read health and beauty features by me in the Finnish magazine Kauneus ja Terveys.
If you’d like to try my retreat in Portugal, be sure to book early. Retreats are extremely popular at the moment and places during high season can be hard to come by. At Shamballah Retreats, Patricia and Zarqa are always happy to help you at www.shamballahretreats.com. Drop them a line and say “hello”.