Retreat for mind, body and soul

By Claire McCall

An Urban Reset retreat aims to recharge bodies and minds exhausted by the daily grind.

Writer Claire McCall sees the benefit of wellness retreats. 'Often we display the serenity of swans, but we're paddling like mad underwater to stay afloat.' Photo / Supplied
Writer Claire McCall sees the benefit of wellness retreats. 'Often we display the serenity of swans, but we're paddling like mad underwater to stay afloat.' Photo / Supplied

Do you ever feel like a plastic bag, drifting through the wind, wanting to start again? That's how sassy American songstress Katy Perry puts it. And, while my son is hooked on the hype, I find myself relating to the lyrics for a different reason. There's an unspoken malaise among those of us, typically in our 40s, who feel so shackled by busyness that we are tugged hither and thither by a mercurial breeze like Dr Doolittle's pushmi-pullyu.

Which is why I've come to Waiheke Island to take part in a three-day retreat called the Urban Reset. Launched by personal development coach, Julie Hazelhurst, it's billed as a sanctuary where we can recharge the body and mind.

"We get so buried in our lives that we need time to step away and ask: 'what do I really want?' says Hazelhurst of her vision.

So 14 women gather expectantly at Matiatia, many with mobile phones clamped to their ears. From here we head to the Te Toki Retreat in Palm Beach.

It's a lodge set in lovely tropical gardens and wood pigeons wooshing through the sky and slender nikau palms are the only reminder we are in Aotearoa, not Bali.

After a breakfast of homemade muesli and fresh fruit, we settle down on comfy sofas on the covered outdoor deck. This is the place where much of our structured learning will be done. Unsurprisingly, it's a mobile-free zone.

Introductions reveal a disparate line-up: a primary school teacher, a stay-at-home mum, and others who work in advertising, marketing, real estate, the beauty industry, at an open polytechnic, and law. When I receive the full itinerary I'm shocked to realise that, as a yoga fan, I've glossed over the part about exercise. There's boot camp each morning at 7am!

Hazelhurst is an energetic, superfit-looking coach, with a South African accent and a tongue-in-cheek, self-derisory attitude. She's an animated talker as well as a good listener and her goal, she says, is to ensure that everybody leaves here with one "aha" moment.

First up, she gives us a simple, psycho-geometric test and I discover I'm a "triangle", which apparently means I love making decisions both for myself - and everybody else. I am focused and a born leader, but can also be self-centred and impatient. I'm thinking I might keep these results secret from my partner.

There's laughter and nods of agreement from group members who recognise characteristics in themselves. It's a good conversation starter and discussion is animated. Next Hazelhurst hands out a list of negative and positive emotions. We're asked to circle the ones we experience most. It's a relief to acknowledge among us that all is not always hunky-dory. Often we display the serenity of swans, but we're paddling like mad underwater to stay afloat. We identify some triggers for these negative feelings: stress at work, difficult children, friends who betray us. One attendee confesses it's her meddling mother-in-law who makes her feel so inadequate and unloved. And, like girls the world over, this MIL-stone becomes a pet subject we can empathise with her on. Hazelhurst draws us gently back to the point. While we cannot control what others do, nor outside circumstances, it is actually our thoughts that make us feel so unhappy. The good news is: we can control those. We have a choice.

After lunch, cerebral matters are pushed away and the physical body comes in to focus.

Yoga teacher Denise Ferguson leads us in the fluid moves of a yogic dance, seated on mats on the grass in the open air. I am stretched in muscle and spirit. Even if at first it feels a little silly to press my palms to my heart, at the end I am so relaxed that I could fall asleep right here in the dappled sunlight.

I am later enchanted by the meditation which, like the yoga, is given by Denise. She's an attractive blonde with an exceptional body whom it would be very easy to hate. But I discover she is human too. Like me, she often turns to a glass of chardonnay to escape the stresses of her life. But here, among some of the world's best vineyards, wine is off the menu. Our means of escape is already inside ourselves.

At boot camp the next morning, while I'm still trying to come to terms with being awake so early, we are asked to play games that hark back to my childhood - stuck in the mud and tag.

While all activities on the retreat are voluntary, you get out what you put in. Throughout the weekend, while I attend talks on nutrition and mindful living and learn how to make a green smoothie (with spinach leaves, water and fruit), participate in breathing exercises, walk through the bush, have a massage or a spa, and generally just enjoy the company of new faces in a new place, I am listening to something else too: that inner voice. And believe me, I'm a fast learner. Should it begin to bring me down, I give it a stern telling off.

When we leave, with a list of goals, some tools to maintain our motivation and a body that is truly awakened, I leave with something more important: A new best friend - and I'm thrilled to discover it's me.

* For more information on the Urban Reset 1, 3 and 7-day programmes click here.

- NZ Herald

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