Huddled on armchairs with blankets around an enormous roaring fire, fighting the chill of the winter air, I’m surrounded by 28 people. One week ago they were strangers. Now I not only know them strangely well, but really like them.
I was just coming to the end of six days at Eden Health Retreat, nestled in the postcard-worthy Gold Coast hinterland of the Currumbin Valley. Carpeted with luscious greenery and blessed with myriad native fauna, the retreat focuses on reconnecting with nature, relinquishing control and surrendering to self-care. (Hard gig, I know!)
Bri, our group coordinator and one of the most grounded women I’ve ever met, asks us to reflect on why we had come and what we had gained.
As we sit there under the stars, on the last hurrah of our six-night stay and breathing in the fresh air, there was a lot to say and share. This had been a week of seeing what we could gain by abstaining from common vices - coffee, alcohol, sugar and technology.
Many people come to the health retreat after illness, loss, burnout, breakdowns and hardships. Others come to simply get away from life’s treadmill.
For some, it was the complete focus on caring for themselves, instead of everyone else, that had been their greatest joy of the week. One woman is teary as she shares how she has abandoned caring for herself for the past few years. This week, she reflects, has taught her how important it is to actually practise self-care.
For another, it was the connection to people that was such a treasure. With Eden’s dining hall set up for communal mealtimes, days were filled talking to fellow guests. Without the distraction of constant phone notifications, it’s funny how quickly you can come to know a group of people. We talked about careers and kids, stresses and lessons, grief and beliefs. They are the kind of conversations you don’t always have the time to have back in ‘civilisation’.