Mindfulness is all the rage for dealing with stress and finding a way for busy people to be in the moment – now a retreat company is taking it a step further, literally. Jane Eggington reports
Mindfulness Journeys have been lovingly created by Brian, a spiritual teacher in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and Shannon, a South African style expert. These retreat holidays are a living example of east meets west and of how perhaps we really can have it all. Brian, with his gift for and commitment to teaching and Shannon, who lives and breathes style, do something extraordinary, and perhaps even unique.
Their mission is for people to discover the joys of mindfulness while enjoying excellent local cuisine, barefoot luxury and fine wines in spectacular locations around the globe. My mindfulness retreat takes place in the Moroccan desert but they also offer one on a tiny, green Greek island with its own private beach near an ancient Apollo site and another in a stone country house in the rolling Tuscan countryside close to the world famous Assisi.
The Moroccan retreat, which has attracted people from around the world, begins, as it does every day, with the traditional exercise of Lu Jong (Inspired by Chinese medicine) on a desert hilltop with the Atlas Mountains in the background. We soon fall into the rhythm of the day and each morning the only thing on my mind during the end of this exercise, which is supposed to focus the mind, is breakfast. The spread of freshly made doughnuts, fruit salad, freshly squeezed orange juice and egg and tomato poached in a tagine, is probably the best breakfast I have had anywhere in my life.
What Mindfulness Journeys offers is something truly unique: a genuine opportunity to connect with oneself and one’s environment in lovingly chosen locations.
I feel a profound connection with the others in the group and a feeling of having experienced Morocco without having left the retreat. We all learn from each other, but it is Sara, who is generous and open, who teaches me most – about the importance of laughter. ‘These have been the most powerful five days of my life,’ announces Luisa, an Australian who has experienced retreats around the world.
Mindfulness Journeys is something very rare: a truly generous and genuine operation that fulfills the promise of its strapline: ‘Relax Nurture Celebrate’ with apparent effortlessness. We all appreciate the holistic, integrated approach, in which gin and tonics, fine wine and languishing over good food stand alongside an intense spiritual practice. Afternoons are spent walking through the nearby canyon with the local goat herder, camel riding to a local Berber village, and steaming it out in the traditional hammam.
Afternoons are spent walking through the nearby canyon with the local goat herder,
Shannon from Mindfulness Journeys has an eye for style and a gift for discovering places to stay that offer an authentic experience and the best of barefoot luxury. I love the ‘village’ of traditional mud and straw houses in the desert outside Marrakech. La Pause nestles in the arid landscape in the desert hills next to a beautiful oasis bordered by a river, in a dramatic landscape overlooking the vast Moroccan wilderness.
‘We want to give you the tools for wellbeing. We want to give you something sustainable, something that you can take with you into everyday life,’ Brian tells us.
These retreats are rooted in the environment in which they take place, but Brian and Shannon are committed to giving their guests something meaningful and long lasting to take home. Thanks to their seemingly endless generosity and love, something special happens.
We experience a magical week that while not without some hard work, results in something truly transformative that I continue to experience long after I have returned home.
Mindfulness Journeys offers luxurious, stylish retreats in Morocco, Greece and Italy. Aimed at anyone interested in meditation from any walk of life. Their holidays seek to make meditation and mindfulness more accessible by removing the jargon and approaching it in a lighthearted way. The date-specific group journeys run eight times a year at venues chosen for their tranquility, style and comfort.
Six nights Mindfulness Meditation retreats from £890 per person based two sharing or from £1,110 per person based on single occupancy (including food, accommodation and tuition) through Mindfulness Journeys.