Why Attend a Private Wellness Retreat?

I have been hosting small group Camino de Santiago hiking retreats and Meditation with Horses retreats for more than a decade, here at my house in the southwest of France. Last week, I came across this post in a group: “Would you go on a private wellness retreat?”

The response was such an overwhelming “Yes!” that I started wondering why so many people are interested in attending a retreat on their own. Would I want to attend a solo (private) retreat?

I can see the attraction of a tailor-made private retreat: escaping from the ever more urgent demands and digital overwhelm of everyday life, spending a few days on my own, focusing on my own needs, taking activities at my own pace and in my own time, with one-on-one attention from the retreat leader…the idea has a certain appeal.

My research revealed that a variety of solo (private) retreats are offered in various parts of the world. I discovered that people attend private retreats

  • To prevent/recover from burnout. A solo retreat offers you the privacy to gain deeper insight into yourself, your values, and your purpose in life. Spending time alone, away from the distractions and demands of daily life can empower you to identify your strengths and weaknesses clearly and adjust your lifestyle to avoid/bounce back from burnout.
  • To process overwhelm. If you feel overwhelmed by the multitude of decisions you face in your personal or professional life, a solo retreat can provide a secure environment where you can make important decisions with greater clarity and confidence.
  • To deal with past traumas, grief, or emotional injury, in a safe and supportive space. Being alone enables you to confront your emotions, process difficult experiences, and begin the journey towards healing, health and wholeness.
  • To reconnect with nature. Spending time alone in nature can be intensely rejuvenating and restorative, helping you to find inner peace, serenity, and rediscover your sense of awe and adventure.
  • To get unstuck. During a solo retreat, you’ll have the opportunity to reflect on your past experiences, evaluate your current circumstances, and set meaningful objectives for the future.
  • To escape your stifling, boring and monotonous daily routine. A private retreat allows you to explore a new location, a different culture, and alternative habits and gain a fresh perspective on your life, in your own time and at your own pace.
  • To unleash your creativity (and increase your ability to solve problems.) With time to yourself, you can often reignite the spark of inspiration that may have dimmed in the hustle and bustle of daily life.
  • To expand your spiritual practice. A solo retreat can enable you to commune with your innermost self and explore your relationship with the divine in a profound and meaningful way.
  • To disconnect from digital overload: If you struggle with technology addiction, a solo retreat provides a much-needed break from the constant bombardment of information allowing you to reduce your stress levels, reconnect with your senses and engage fully with the present moment.

A private wellness retreat offers a break from the demands and stresses of daily life, providing you with the chance to rest, relax, and replenish your energy reserves. It can be a catalyst for personal transformation, enabling you to confront challenges, overcome obstacles, and develop new skills, habits or perspectives.

Convinced of the possible benefits of solo retreats, I have added this option to my collection of onsite retreats in the southwest of France. I now also offer the option of adding a private coaching session to my online retreats.

A man can be himself only so long as he is alone, and if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom, for it is only when he is alone that he is really free. – Arthur Schopenhauer


Ditch the Act: Fake it until you make it

Don’t Fake It Until You Make It, Face It Until You Make It

In the world of personal development, the phrase “fake it until you make it” has been widely circulated as a mantra for success. It suggests that we should act confidently as if we are already successful, even if we haven’t achieved that yet what we are hoping to achieve. While this advice may offer a temporary confidence boost, it often falls short of fostering genuine growth. A more effective approach, one that encourages authentic growth and lasting resilience, is to “face it until you make it.”

Working with horses, I very quickly discovered that this suggestion was not a good idea. It provides a compelling illustration of why the “fake it until you make it” approach is ineffective and can even be potentially harmful. Horses are highly attuned to human emotions and intentions. When we interact with horses, we must communicate clearly, honestly and authentically, as any attempt to fake competence is quickly detected and interpreted.

Drop the Facade

The concept of “faking it” implies creating a facade, a superficial projection of confidence and/or competence that may not align with our actual abilities. It encourages us to suppress our insecurities, ignore our doubts, and pretend to be something we are not – yet. While this approach might lead to short-term gains, it often neglects the underlying issues that hinder progress.

Horses respond to nonverbal cues, body language, and emotional energy, rather than words alone. They can sense incongruence between what we are feeling internally and what we are projecting externally. For instance, if someone is anxious or unsure but attempts to appear confident, a horse will immediately pick up on this discrepancy. As a result, our interaction with the horses may become strained or unproductive.

Instead of masking our insecurities with a facade, “facing it” means that we confront challenges head-on, acknowledge our weaknesses, and that we actively work to overcome them. It requires you to be honest with yourself, to embrace your vulnerability, and to be willing to endure discomfort for the sake of growth. While this path may seem daunting, it ultimately leads to greater self-awareness and increased resilience.

Adopt Authenticity

When we approach horses facing any fears or uncertainties and authentically, we can establish a deeper connection with the horses. Being with horses also requires us to be present, aware, and responsive to the horse’s feedback. Faking confidence or competence may lead to ineffective communication and missed opportunities for learning more about the horses and about ourselves. Embracing your vulnerability authentically fosters trust and mutual respect between you and the horse, laying the foundation for a more meaningful partnership.

Authenticity breeds trust and credibility. When we are honest about our abilities and limitations, we earn the respect of others. This way, we can build stronger relationships, based on trust.

Increase Resilience

In addition, “facing it” cultivates resilience in the face of adversity. Rather than avoiding challenges or pretending they don’t exist, confronting obstacles head-on helps us develop the resilience needed to navigate life’s inevitable setbacks. It helps us adapt to changing circumstances, so that we can emerge stronger and more capable as a result.

I am launching a new business venture this year. My eye problems is forcing me to do less onsite retreats here in the south of France, so I’m taking as much of what is practically possible online, as horse-inspired virtual retreats. This time, instead of putting on a front of unwavering confidence, I’m acknowledging the risks and uncertainties inherent in this new endeavour, which might well be a complete disaster. I am actively seeking feedback, I’m doing my best to learn from challenges, and pivot when necessary, all while staying true to my vision and values for this new part of my business.

My horses taught me the importance of authenticity, and genuine communication at all times. “Facing it until you make it” involves self-reflection, introspection, and continuous learning. I constantly have to confront my fears, insecurities, and limiting beliefs, accept my vulnerability and seek opportunities for growth, which allows me to gradually build the skills needed to achieve my goals.

Mindset Matters

“Facing it” fosters a growth mindset—the belief that abilities and skills can be developed through dedication and hard work. Rather than fixating on external validation, a growth mindset enables us to view challenges as opportunities for learning.

A “Faking it until you make it” mentality can cause imposter syndrome, the fear that we will be exposed as frauds if we don’t maintain the facade of success. This constant pressure to prove yourself can lead to burnout, and a sense of emptiness despite repeated achievements. One of my virtual retreats addresses the current Burnout Epidemic.

Summary: To truly thrive in today’s fast-paced and unpredictable world, we must embrace authenticity, vulnerability, and increase our resilience. By facing challenges head-on, acknowledging our weaknesses, and committing to continuous growth, we can cultivate the inner strength needed to navigate life’s trials and tribulations. So, rather than faking it until you make it, have the courage to face it until you make it—the journey may be challenging, but the rewards are infinitely more fulfilling.

Journal Prompts

Navigating Challenges with Courage: Empowering Journal Prompts for Authentic Growth

  • Think about a time when you received feedback that was difficult to hear. Rather than dismissing or internalizing it, how can you approach this feedback with curiosity? What opportunities for learning might emerge from accepting constructive criticism?
  • Consider your long-term goals and aspirations. What fears or insecurities are holding you back from pursuing these goals wholeheartedly? How can you cultivate the courage to step outside your comfort zone and pursue your dreams with authenticity and determination?
  • Reflect on a recent situation where you felt the urge to “fake it” or put on a facade of confidence. What were the underlying reasons for this need? How might embracing vulnerability and authenticity have changed the outcome?

“Cultivating authenticity isn’t just about being genuine with others; it’s also about being genuine with ourselves. When we embrace vulnerability and face our fears with honesty, we forge deeper connections and achieve greater success in all aspects of life.” Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston and the author of several bestselling books, including “The Gifts of Imperfection” and “Daring Greatly.”


for more insight-giving articles

Silent Walking: Your Guide to Mindful Movement

A Moving Meditation for Stress Reduction and Inner Harmony

In our modern world, filled with constant noise and distractions, a “new” trend has emerged called “silent walking,” and it’s all about escaping the chaos that surrounds us. I had to smile when I first came across this “new” trend. So we have come full circle: we started with the great writers of our time recommending long, silent walks to increase creativity, we then slammed on our headphones so that we could listen first to the radio, then to our favourite music on tapes and CDs, then to podcasts and audiobooks, and now we are right back to walking in silence. We are, once again, seeking ways to reconnect with ourselves and the world around us. In this article, we’ll explore the “new” silent walking trend and its benefits.

The Surprising Power of Silence

What has changed since famous writers like Henry David Thoreau, who said “Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow,” started to encourage us to walk?

Mindfulness, enabling us to connect with our surroundings on a deeper level, has become a popular practice.

Mindful walking, in silence, has become more than just a leisurely stroll; it’s now a deliberate practice of walking in complete silence, without any external distractions.

Dr. Sarah Turner, a clinical psychologist, emphasizes the importance of silence in our busy lives. She states, “In a world that bombards us with constant noise and information, silence becomes a precious commodity. Silent walking offers a unique opportunity to escape the noise and rediscover the beauty of the world around us.” It’s often done in natural settings, such as parks, forests, or along the shoreline, where the sights, sounds and smells of nature can be appreciated.

On TikTok, people are taking part in a challenge to stroll without the accompaniment of music or podcasts. Is it just me, or is there a certain irony to this statement? Mady Maio, who started the trend, said: “Every time I finish a silent walk, I have a new idea for my business, I’ve untangled a weird situation in my head that I’ve been ruminating over and I feel like a lot of my current question marks get answered.”

Dr Raafat Girgis says, “Staying away from noise can cultivate a sense of awareness and connection with your environment, promoting mental clarity and reducing rumination or intrusive thoughts. Silently walking in nature allows the brain and body to focus on the present moment, thus reducing excessive, repetitive thinking that can increase stress. Also, external noise causes brain stimulation in the nervous system, which “responds by raising levels of stress hormones in the brain. While in nature, removing the stressors and replacing them with quiet thought with no interference … your mood improves naturally. Even though silent walking is now presenting itself as new and trendy, some religious groups have practised it as mental health treatment “for some time.”

Indeed. For several centuries, in fact.

Mindfulness Revisited

So focusing on each step and paying attention to the environment, helps us to clear our minds and reduce stress. This concept is echoed by mindfulness expert, Dr. Emily Roberts, who explains, “Silent walking is a form of moving meditation. It allows you to let go of your worries and immerse yourself in the sensory experience of walking. It’s a powerful tool for reducing anxiety and improving mental clarity.”

Physical and Mental Benefits

The silent walking trend isn’t just about finding inner peace; it also offers a range of physical and mental health benefits. Dr. Mark Davis, a physician and advocate of silent walking, notes, “Regular silent walking can improve cardiovascular health, strengthen muscles, and help with weight management. It’s a low-impact exercise that can be enjoyed by people of all fitness levels.”

Furthermore, silent walking has been linked to improved mental well-being. Dr. Lisa Patel, a psychiatrist, states, “The practice of silent walking can boost mood, reduce symptoms of depression, and enhance overall emotional well-being. It provides a break from the constant chatter of our minds and allows us to be in tune with our feelings.”

Disconnect to Reconnect

In today’s hyper-connected world, we are slowly realizing that for our mental well-being, we need to regularly disconnect from screens and digital distractions. Silent walking provides an opportunity to do just that. Julie Adams, a silent walking enthusiast, shares her experience, saying, “I used to spend hours scrolling through social media and watching TV, but I felt disconnected from the real world. Silent walking has helped me unplug and reconnect with nature and myself.”

So take your airpods out, and join the Silent Walking Movement.

An Insightgiving Way of Life

Silent walking isn’t just a passing trend; it’s becoming a way of life for many. As Dr. Davis aptly puts it, “Silent walking is a trend worth embracing. It’s a gentle reminder that in silence, we can find solace, clarity, and a renewed appreciation for the world around us,” and Maria Rodriguez, a dedicated practitioner, says, “Silent walking has become a daily ritual for me. It’s a time when I can reflect, recharge, and appreciate the simple beauty of life. It has transformed the way I see the world.”

Getting Started

If you’re interested in trying silent walking, all you need is a quiet place to walk and a willingness to embrace silence. Start with short walks in a park or nature reserve. Pay attention to each step, the sensation of your feet touching the ground, and the sounds of nature around you. As you become more comfortable, you can extend the duration of your walks.”

Here at Esprit Meraki, during our Camino de Santiago de Compostela walks, guests do exactly that, but we call it “walking meditation or “mindful walking.”


After a walking meditation, guests are encouraged to do a writing meditation here at Esprit Meraki using the following prompts: Did you notice any shifts in your thoughts, emotions, or mindset during your meditation? Did any insights emerge while you walked mindfully? Were there any challenges or distractions that arose during your walking meditation? How did you overcome these? Did you have any breakthrough moments? Consider how you can integrate the lessons learned from your walking meditation into your daily life. Are there specific actions or insights you can use to enhance your overall well-being?

The rise of the silent walking trend is a testament to our innate need for silence and connection in an increasingly noisy world. As more people seek refuge from the constant hustle and bustle of modern life, silent walking can provide a path to serenity and self-discovery.

So, if you’re looking for a way to escape the neverending noise and find peace in stillness, consider taking a silent walk – or even better, come on a Camino de Santiago de Compostela Walking Retreat here in the south of France, to discover how immersing yourself in nature and mindfully using all five senses – touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste – can become a feast for the senses and dramatically reduce stress.

Discover the Art of “Savoir Vivre” in the Picturesque Southwest of France!

Are you ready to embark on a captivating journey through the idyllic landscapes of the Southwest of France? Join me as I share the enchanting tales of life in this picturesque region. Each month, I pour my heart into crafting the Savoir Vivre Vignettes newsletter, a window into my world and the soul-stirring experiences that unfold here. To receive this monthly dose of inspiration, simply subscribe to Savoir Vivre Vignettes by clicking the link below. As a subscriber, you’ll be the first to receive exclusive stories, insightful articles, and early-bird/last-minute special offers on upcoming online and onsite retreats. Subscribe to my Savoir Vivre Vignettes Newsletter – and start my eye-opening, mind-altering and entirely free Journal Yourself Stressfree e-retreat and download my Top 10 Tips to Making Your Next Retreat Your Best Ever e-guide.

Emotional First Aid: Healing the Invisible Wounds Within

What do you do when you are emotionally injured? Do you realise when you need emotional First Aid?

When you accidentally cut yourself while preparing your dinner, you know that you need to stop what you are doing, wash your finger and stem the bleeding. Once that’s done, you know you have to disinfect the wound and then cover it with a band-aid, to keep it from getting infected.

We know what we need to do when we get physically injured.

But do we know what to do when we get emotionally injured?

Betrayal, rejection. bullying, abandonment, humiliation, failure, isolation and neglect are all examples of emotional injuries.

If you, for example, who barely ever ask for help, finally are forced by circumstances to reach out and ask for help, only to be refused and rejected, you have been emotionally wounded.

You need urgent emotional first aid.

You need to stop what you are doing. Recognise that you have been emotionally injured and accept your feelings about the injury without judgment: whether you are angry frustrated, hurt, lost or sad…validating your emotions is the first step towards healing.

Next, you need to stem the emotional bleeding – aka rumination – promptly. Dwelling on it, rerunning the incident again and again in your mind, wastes valuable emotional energy that can be used much more effectively to start the emotional healing process. The best way to disrupt unhealthy rumination is to distract yourself by engaging in a task that requires concentration, for example, completing a crossword, even if it’s just for 3 minutes.

How do you heal an emotional injury?

  1. Talk to someone you trust: Sharing your feelings with a trustworthy friend or family member can be both therapeutic and cathartic. If appropriate, join a support group: Connecting with others who have experienced similar emotional injuries can validate your feelings and help you cope with the injury. If the emotional injury is severe or persists despite your efforts, seeking help from a therapist can be immensely beneficial.
  2. Focus on activities that nourish your mind, body, and soul. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and sufficient rest can positively impact your emotional well-being. Writing, especially journalling, or any other creative activity can be a productive way to process emotions and gain new insights. Take care of your emotional health just as you do take care of your physical health.
  3. To avoid future emotional injury, set healthy boundaries with people who might be causing or exacerbating emotional injuries.
  4. Consider forgiving the person or situation that caused the emotional injury. Forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning their actions but can free you from carrying the burden of resentment.
  5. Notice emotional injury in others and reach out, a simple text is often enough: “Helping you make it through this dark phase in your life is my priority. I’m here for you, whenever you need me” or “This is a tough time for you. What can I do to help?” Helping others cope with emotional injuries is one of the best ways of learning how to cope better with your own.

To AVOID emotional injuries, you may want to investigate this popular and powerful online retreat :

This month’s TED talk, Emotional First Aid by Dr Guy Winch, has had 13,360,748 views and more than 400 000 likes.

Journaling can be a powerful tool for coping with emotional injuries and applying emotional first aid. These journaling prompts can help facilitate emotional healing:

Describe the emotion you are feeling right now. Explore its intensity, triggers, and any physical sensations associated with it.

Write a letter to the person or situation that caused the emotional injury. Express your feelings, but this time, allow yourself to release any anger or resentment you’ve been holding onto.

Make a list of your inner strengths, skills and qualities that have helped you cope with emotional injuries in the past. How can you leverage these strengths to heal from the current emotional injury?

Write down positive affirmations that counteract any negative self-talk or limiting beliefs you may have developed as a result of the emotional injury, ex.

  1. I am worthy of love and acceptance: I recognise that rejection does not define my worth. I am deserving of love and acceptance just as I am.
  2. Rejection does not diminish my value: I acknowledge that rejection is a part of life, and it does not diminish my value as a person. I am still valuable and deserving of support.
  3. I release the need for external validation: I no longer seek validation from others to define my self-worth. I love and accept myself unconditionally. I am good enough, regardless of any rejections I may face.
  4. I let go of past rejections: I release the grip of past rejections on my emotions and thoughts. I am free to embrace new opportunities and experiences. Rejection may shake me, but it will not break me.
  5. I am not defined by others’ opinions of me: I let go of the need to please everyone or to be universally liked. I am defined by my own values and beliefs.

Journaling regularly can help you gain insight into your emotions. If you find that emotional injuries are significantly impacting your daily life, seeking support from a mental health professional is essential for further guidance and assistance.

Pay attention to yourself and learn how you, personally, deal with common emotional wounds. For instance, do you shrug them off, get really upset but recover quickly, get upset and recover slowly, squelch your feelings, or …? Use this analysis to help yourself understand which emotional first aid treatments work best for you in various situations (just as you would identify which of the many pain relievers on the shelves works best for you). The same goes for building emotional resilience. Try out various techniques and figure out which are easiest for you to implement and which tend to be most effective for you. – Dr Guy Winch

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Starting Fresh: Making Monday Mornings more bearable with Coffee and Journaling

#MoreMeaningfulMondays Series

It’s Monday morning. Again.

I’m still at it, trying to help you (and me!) get through Mondays, and not only get through Mondays, but make Mondays a bit more MEANINGFUL.

I like to set myself challenges.

Monday mornings can be seriously depressing, I know…just for a moment, though, let’s look upon this Monday as a fresh start, a day to set one or more intentions, and embrace new opportunities. I make my Mondays more meaningful by combining two powerful practices: drinking coffee and journaling. This dynamic duo can help you start your day, and your week, with a certain amount of determination. So, grab your favourite mug, fill it with your best brew, find a cosy spot, and let’s explore how coffee and journaling can transform your Monday mornings.

Coffee is my Essential Monday Morning Fuel There’s something magical about that first sip of coffee in the morning, any morning, but especially Monday mornings. Beyond its invigorating smell and taste, coffee can provide a powerful boost of energy that can jumpstart your day. The caffeine can stimulate your mind, help you focus, and make you more alert, setting the stage for a (surprisingly) productive Monday. As you savour each sip, MINDFULLY, allow yourself to become fully present and appreciative of the moment and the potential this Monday holds.

Dispel the Monday Morning Blues Journaling can bring loads of interesting insights, so as you sit down with your coffee, take a few moments to write a couple of words in your journal. What and who are you grateful for this Monday morning? This act of putting pen to paper/fingers on keyboards, helps you set intentions for the day, acknowledge your emotions, and gain perspective on what actually matters to you:

Monday Morning Prompt: What are three intentions you want to set for yourself this Monday? How can these intentions positively impact your day, your week, and your overall sense of fulfilment? Take a few moments to write them down and explore why they are important to you. Consider how you can align your actions, mindset, and priorities with these intentions to create a truly meaningful Monday.

Grab another Cup if you are still not properly awake and write some morning pages. A popular form of journaling, writing morning pages is a concept introduced by Julia Cameron in her book “The Artist’s Way.” Morning Pages involve writing three pages of stream-of-consciousness thoughts, without any censorship or judgment. This practice helps clear mental clutter, unleashes creativity, and allows you to explore your innermost desires. More about Morning Pages.

Go to a Coffee Shop If you have difficulty waking up on Monday mornings, take it slow. Create your own Monday Morning ritual. Visit a local coffee shop. The ambient noise, gentle chatter, and cosy atmosphere can provide a soothing backdrop for your creativity (as in problem-solving ability) to flourish. Coffee shops also offer a sense of community, giving you the opportunity to connect with fellow coffee enthusiasts or observe the bustling Monday morning routines of others, sparking new ideas for your own. Find out how to unlock the transformative power of Journaling.

By dedicating this time to yourself at the beginning of the week, you’ll set a positive tone that can carry you through the rest of the day, and even the rest of the week.

May your Mondays be filled with meaning!

More Musings HERE.

Discover the Art of “Savoir Vivre” in the Picturesque Southwest of France!

Are you ready to embark on a captivating journey through the idyllic landscapes of the Southwest of France? Join me as I share the enchanting tales of life in this picturesque region. Each month, I pour my heart into crafting the Savoir Vivre Vignettes newsletter, a window into my world and the soul-stirring experiences that unfold here. To receive this monthly dose of inspiration, simply subscribe to Savoir Vivre Vignettes by clicking the link below. As a subscriber, you’ll be the first to receive exclusive stories, insightful articles, and early-bird/last-minute special offers on upcoming online and onsite retreats. Subscribe to my Savoir Vivre Vignettes Newsletter – and start my eye-opening, mind-altering and entirely free Journal Yourself Stressfree e-retreat and download my Top 10 Tips to Making Your Next Retreat Your Best Ever e-guide.


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Crafting Your Perfect Summer: Journal to Manifesting Your Dream Season

Radiate Your Best Self: Cultivate Physical and Mental Wellbeing this Summer


Good morning! I wish each and every one of you un très bon Dimanche!

It’s FINALLY summer here in the southwest of France – we had one last horrendous storm on Wednesday night – but now the sun is shining with all its might, and temperatures are soaring into the low thirties.

Today, I’m looking forward towards the summer months. Now that summer’s here, I’m determined to make the most of this until-now-elusive season. I will be hosting retreats, the Mind the Horses retreats are more popular than ever, with the Camino de Santiago Hiking retreats a close second.

This year I will also be hosting a couple of Midlife Rennaissance Retreats again.

I am seriously into journaling these days, and to make the most of the summer, I created a couple of journaling prompts to get me going. I’m adding them below, in case you want to use them to get the most from your summer too:

  1. Reflect on your favourite summer memories from childhood. How can you incorporate elements of those experiences into your plans for this summer?
  2. Write about your ideal summer day. Describe the sights, sounds, and activities that would make it perfect. How can you create moments that align with your vision?
  3. List five new places or attractions in your area that you’ve been meaning to explore. Make a plan to visit at least one of them this summer and write about your experience.
  4. Describe a skill you’ve always wanted to master. How can you dedicate time to pursuing this interest during the summer? What resources or tools will you need?
  5. What books have you’ve been wanting to read or movies do you want to watch? Create a summer reading/watching list and set aside dedicated time to indulge in these forms of entertainment -without feeling guilty!
  6. Reflect on your physical and mental health goals for the summer. Eh oui, a difficult one. What activities can you incorporate into your daily summer routine to support these objectives? How about walking regularly? How will you track your progress? Or come to the south of France for a Camino de Santiago walking retreat! It will do you loads of good, physically and psychologically.
  7. Write a gratitude list focusing on the summer. List at least five things you’re grateful for during this season and explain why they bring you joy. Make time to appreciate these things throughout the summer.
  8. Describe a challenging or uncomfortable experience you’ve had in the summer in the past. Getting sunstroke, for example, because you didn’t drink enough water. Reflect on the lessons you learned from it and consider how you can approach similar situations differently this summer.
  9. Write a letter to your future self, envisioning where you want to be at the end of the summer. Outline your aspirations and intentions. Reflect on this letter at the end of the season to see how far you’ve come.
  10. Take a moment to disconnect from technology and spend time in nature. Write about your experience and how it made you feel. Find ways to incorporate more outdoor activities into your summer plans. Did I mention the Camino de Santiago walking retreats? You can even do some Camino walking during the Mind the Horses retreats

My plans for the summer are ambitious, I want to finish my Horses Mending Broken Hearts: A Guided Journey to Finding Closure after the Loss of a Horse online retreat and invest some time in promoting my Write Your Way to Serenity: A Guided Journaling Retreat Inspired by Horses and my Hoofbeats to Your Heart’s Calling: Finding Your Life Purpose with Horses online retreats. I will be doing that sitting in a deck chair soaking up the sun or in the shade of the 200-year-old lime trees next to the house.

What are your plans for the summer?

If you haven’t decided yet, how about responding to a couple of the prompts above?

Wishing you a sun-drenched summer,

Don’t walk through the world looking for evidence that you don’t belong, you’ll always find it

Recommended TED talk of the month – lasts 10 minutes – June 2023

This is not strictly a TED Talk – Bréné Brown has done more than one of those, ex. The power of vulnerability – but it is such a powerful message that I felt compelled to share it there.


So many of the things she says resonate strongly, in this video and in her book Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone :

“People often silence themselves, or “agree to disagree” without fully exploring the actual nature of the disagreement, for the sake of protecting a relationship and maintaining connection. But when we avoid certain conversations, and never fully learn how the other person feels about all of the issues, we sometimes end up making assumptions that not only perpetuate but deepen misunderstandings, and that can generate resentment.”

“True belonging is not passive. It’s not the belonging that comes with just joining a group. It’s not fitting in or pretending or selling out because it’s safer. It’s a practice that requires us to be vulnerable, get uncomfortable, and learn how to be present with people without sacrificing who we are. We want true belonging, but it takes tremendous courage to knowingly walk into hard moments.”

“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”

And here is a reminder of what Braving stands for: B boundaries R reliability A accountability V vault I integrity N non-judgement G generosity

I am working on an online retreat that will help people cope with the grief caused by the loss of a horse – it is similar to losing any loved one, but also different. The need to belong was intense as I tried to come to terms with the loss of my soulmare Belle, and this video helped me to get everything into perspective. As you may know, what I am best at is helping people through life transitions, and the loss of someone we love certainly falls in this category. Creating this online retreat is difficult, but I’m persevering, as I am learning so much by doing this. I find myself spending much more time just being with the herd, and I wrote this post about the comfort I received from the horses I have left:

Emotional Resilience: Finding Strength from the Herd During Life Transitions as well as this one: Horses Mending Broken Hearts: Cultivating Resilience in the Face of Grief

If you have any ideas, comments or suggestions that I can incorporate into the grief retreat, please let me know.

Emotional Resilience: Finding Strength from the Herd During Life Transitions


When asked what I do, here in the deepest rural southwest of France, I usually reply that I host retreats, onsite but also online, for those who can’t escape to the south of France at the moment, to help my guests deal effectively with stress, specifically the stress that is caused by going through a life transition. My retreats are different from other similar retreats because I have two unique “aids:” a small herd of Friesian horses and the Camino de Santiago de Compostela on my doorstep.

Life transitions can be challenging and overwhelming, as they often involve significant change, uncertainty, insecurity and a range of complex emotions. Whether it’s starting a new job, getting married or divorced, becoming a parent for the first time or coping with an empty nest, moving to a new city or country, retiring from work or dealing with the loss of a loved one, managing a chronic illness, recovering from surgery, a significant inheritance or bankruptcy or starting a new business, navigating these transitions requires resilience and inner strength. In this blog post, we will explore the powerful role that interacting with horses can play in helping us find strength and build resilience during life transitions.

Because going through a life transition is a tremendous opportunity for emotional resilience development and growth. Margaretha Montagu

I am going through yet another life transition at the moment.

Emotionally, life transitions can have a profound impact on us. They often stir up a mixture of emotions, such as excitement, anticipation, joy, fear, anxiety, confusion, sadness, frustration, impatience, anger and even grief. The process of transitioning from one phase of life to another can be daunting, as it involves navigating unfamiliar territory, letting go of what we know and trust, and embracing (sometimes major) change. The inherent stress and uncertainty associated with these transitions can sometimes feel overwhelming, leaving us feeling vulnerable, uncertain, and lacking security and stability. It is during these times that horses can make an enormous difference.

This life transition made me feel all of that, and more.

Horses, as highly perceptive and sensitive prey animals, possess a remarkable ability to offer non-judgmental support that fosters deep emotional connection and trust. Their innate sensitivity allows them to sense and respond to subtle cues from us, offering us a soundboard to bounce our emotions off.

As always, my horses are supporting me during this life transition, but it was only when I realised that this life change is a tremendous opportunity to become more emotionally resilient that I stopped feeling as if I was trying to ride a bucking horse.

What a liberating feeling! I got off the horse and got on with my life.

When my retreat guests interact with my Friesian horses during life transitions, they often experience a similar positive impact on their emotional well-being.

The bonding process with horses is a transformative journey in itself, much like walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. Horses have an uncanny ability to tune into human emotions and reflect them back without prejudice. This creates a safe and supportive space for us to express and explore our feelings. Horses provide immediate feedback through body language and behaviour so that my guests can gain valuable insights into the complex emotions that arise during life transitions.

Horses offer a safe space for my guests to practice emotional regulation. When we are able to regulate our emotions, communicate calmly, and remain present in the moment, horses respond positively. This interaction provides a tangible experience of emotional regulation, helping my guests develop coping strategies to manage stress, anxiety, and other challenging emotions that arise during life transitions.

Additionally, horses can help us to develop coping strategies that also promote emotional resilience. As we engage in various activities with horses, we are challenged to adapt, problem-solve, and find effective ways to communicate with the herd. The process of overcoming challenges and establishing connections with horses instils a sense of accomplishment and builds confidence, strengthening clients’ ability to navigate emotional hurdles in life transitions.

Emotional resilience is not about suppressing emotions or denying the difficulties we may encounter. It is about acknowledging, understanding, and effectively managing emotions in order to navigate life’s challenges in a life-enhancing manner. By cultivating emotional resilience, we are better equipped to cope with the emotions life transitions generate, ultimately leading to greater well-being and a more impactful, rewarding, meaningful and fulfilling life.

This is why I do what I do, during both my online and onsite retreats, I empower my guests to become more emotionally resilient, so that they can live more impactful, meaningful and fulfilling lives.


Life transitions may present formidable challenges, but they also offer the opportunity to increase your emotional resilience. Interacting with horses can enable you to find strength, build resilience, and embark on a journey of personal empowerment during a life transition.

© Dr Margaretha Montagu

PS. My Online Retreats

🌟 Discover the Art of “Savoir Vivre” in the Picturesque Southwest of France!

Are you ready to embark on a captivating journey through the idyllic landscapes of the Southwest of France? Join me as I share the enchanting tales of life in this picturesque region, as well as my adventures with my beloved Friesian horses during our transformative Mindfulness and Meditation with Horses retreats. Each month, I pour my heart into crafting the Savoir Vivre Vignettes newsletter, a window into my world and the soul-stirring experiences that unfold here. From the rolling vineyards and charming villages to the gentle whispers of the horses grazing in the meadows, I’ll take you on a virtual voyage through the essence of the French countryside. We’ll explore the profound connection between humans and horses and learn about horses’ transformative power and the deep sense of peace and presence that arises when we open ourselves to their wisdom. 🐴 Whether you’ve experienced our retreats firsthand or have a deep admiration for horses and their remarkable ability to inspire personal growth, Savoir Vivre Vignettes will offer you a glimpse into the magic we create during our Mindfulness and Meditation with Horses retreats. To receive this monthly dose of inspiration, simply subscribe to Savoir Vivre Vignettes by clicking the link below. As a subscriber, you’ll be the first to receive exclusive stories, insightful articles, and updates on upcoming online and onsite retreats.


11 FAQs About Online Retreats Inspired by Horses: Everything You Need to Know


Since the pandemic, I have been working on making my retreats available online. I thought onlining the Camino de Santiago hikes would be the most difficult part, but it turned out to be the easiest. There already exists virtual Camino de Santiago Challenges and my favourite is the Conqueror Series of Virtual Challenges (https://www.theconqueror.events/camino/) The app maps your progress virtually along the Camino de Santiago. Great motivation to walk every day! Every time you go for a walk, you advance on the map. You can also explore your virtual surroundings on StreetView as if you are actually walking the Camino de Santiago.

The horse activities were more difficult to move online, but I persevered because although I enjoy the other retreats, I intend to shift my focus solely onto the horse retreats, including the “Teach Mindfulness and Meditation with Horses Trainingonsite and online.

You may be thinking: “How does that work?” Below I answer the 11 most frequently asked questions (FAQ) about Esprit Meraki’s Online Retreats facilitated by horses:

  1. What is an online retreat? An online retreat is a type of retreat that is accessed online, much like an online course. Esprit Meraki’s Online Retreats, designed by Dr Margaretha Montagu, cover a wide variety of topics ranging from Hoofbeates to the Heart: Creating Your Life Purpose Guided by Horses to Teaching Mindfulness and Meditation with Horses, and more.
  2. How do I participate in an online retreat? To participate in an online retreat, you need to register, choose the level of support you would like and then pay the associated fee. You will also need access to a computer or mobile device with a stable internet connection.
  3. Do I need to have prior experience with horses to participate in an online retreat inspired by horses? No, prior experience with horses is not required. The retreats are designed for individuals of all experience levels, including those who have never interacted with horses before.
  4. What type of activities can I expect to participate in during an Esprit Meraki online retreat with horses? Activities may include guided meditations, mindfulness practices, insight-giving assignments, and audio/video recordings.
  5. Can I participate in one of these online retreats if I don’t have a horse? Yes, absolutely, you do not need to have access to a horse in order to participate in these online retreats, except for the Teaching Mindfulness and Meditation with Horses Training.
  6. What are the benefits of an online retreat? The benefits of an online retreat include its convenience, cost savings, easy access to high-quality teachers and teachings, and the ability to connect with like-minded individuals from around the world.
  7. Can I interact with other participants during an online retreat? Yes, you can interact with other participants by reading and commenting on the course content as well as in my Retreat to ReConnect Facebook group.
  8. Are online retreats with horses as effective as in-person retreats? While online retreats may not offer the same level of physical interaction with horses as in-person retreats, they can still be highly effective in promoting personal growth. You can get an idea by accessing the open sections of each course.
  9. What if I have technical difficulties during an online retreat? Most online retreats provide technical support to help participants resolve any issues they may encounter during the retreat. Just send an email to espritmeraki@gmail.com if you get stuck.
  10. Are these online retreats suitable for beginners? Yes, these online retreats are designed for beginners, as well as intermediate and advanced students and especially offer a supportive environment for those who are new to online retreats.
  11. Is there a way I can gift this retreat to a friend or family member? Yes! What a thoughtful idea! You would just need to input their email address on the retreat registration form. Once you have paid the fee, the email you have submitted on the form will receive the retreat link.
My Hoofbeats to Your Heart’s Calling: Finding Your Life Purpose with Horses Online Retreat is finally live: CLICK HERE to find out more about it.

I would love to hear from you and I would love to stay in contact! I publish the Savoir Vivre Vignette newsletter from time to time, with news from our life here in the south of France, as well as last-minute/early-bird special offers on my online and onsite retreats. If you subscribe, I’ll send you my newsletter, when I get round to writing it (life with horses, you know…unpredictable) as well as my e-guide Top 10 Tips to Make Your Next Retreat Your Best Retreat Ever – works for all online and onsite retreats (not just mine!)


What did I learn from my Horses this week? My Strengths



My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.” —Jane Austen.

How to identify my strengths

I have just launched a new online retreat called “Create Your Life Purpose” – the content is largely based on what my horses have taught me. It’s a DIY, available-on-demand, in-your-own-time, where-you-are 2-hour long retreat, designed to help you clearly identify your current life purpose.

Most find-your-life-purpose experts recommend listing your strengths, as an essential step, towards identifying your life purpose. Since I test-drive all my retreats myself, before I launch them, I could not skip this step.

The horses are still subdued, none of their usual spring exuberance on display, nothing since we lost Belle de la Babinière, Aurore’s mother and Tess’ half-sister, in January.

I am doing my best to be strong, for all of us. Belle was my soulmare, the light of my life for more than 20 years, my strength and shield against the storms that so frequently came our way.

To be honest, I feel a bit lost. Vulnerable. Insecure. Overwhelmed. Emotionally exhausted.

I was struggling to name even a single one of my strengths.

Until this Easter weekend.

On Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn, I have just posted these 16 words:

Sometimes you don’t realise your own strengths until someone tries to take advantage of your weaknesses.

When I read these words, I froze on the spot. I had a light bulb moment, because this Easter weekend, outside forces were trying to take advantage of my weaknesses to threaten the wellbeing of my remaining two mares.

Nothing like a threat from the outside to remind us of our inner strengths.

If you have difficulty identifying your strengths, just ask yourself this question: What will you do if something or someone threatens those you love?

More questions to ask yourself that will help you identify your strengths:

  1. What have I achieved so far? Reflect on moments in your life when you have felt proud of your accomplishments. Think about the skills, talents, abilities and attributes that you used to help you succeed.
  2. What do my friends, family and colleagues think? Ask people who know you well what they think are your strengths. Think about times when others have praised you or you received recognition for your contribution.
  3. What skills, qualifications, knowledge and experience do I have? These may include communication skills, problem-solving abilities, leadership, organisational or technical expertise.
  4. Are there any assessments I can take to help me identify my strengths? There are various assessments available, such as personality assessments, skills assessments, and strengths assessments, that can provide insights into your strengths. Examples include the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), StrengthsFinder, and VIA Character Strengths.
  5. Do I have any strengths that I have not discovered yet? You may well have, so experiment, try new activities, learn something new, challenges yourself, take calculated risks, and move out of your comfort zone.

Remember that strengths can evolve over time. You may no longer be much good at what you excelled in 10 years ago (I can name several skills that I no longer use or need) and you may need to develop new strengths to cope with the challenges that come your way in future. Embrace your strengths, past, present and future, as they can be valuable assets in both your personal and professional life.

Your strengths can help you make your life more meaningful and help you to determine your life purpose. You can find out more about my new “Create Your Life Purpose” online retreat here.

“We need women who are so strong they can be gentle, so educated they can be humble, so fierce they can be compassionate, so passionate they can be rational, and so disciplined they can be free.” —Kavita Ramdas.