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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qfbpBzqitA

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

Introduction

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.

Conclusion

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.

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

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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!)

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

#SavoirVivreVignette

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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. 

How to figure out your life purpose in 5 minutes

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

This 10 min 28 seconds TED talk by Adam Leipzig has 232 000 likes on Youtube, and for very good reason too – it is literally life-changing.

I have spent the last week creating a DIY retreat about identifying one’s life purpose.

Why? Because I clearly do not have enough to do, leading online retreats, leading onsite Camino de Santiago walking retreats here in the southwest of France, feeding my cats, dog and horses at relatively regular hours, keeping the house standing, the garden accessible and the paddocks securely fenced, and writing articles, newsletters and blog posts in the minutes during the one or two waking hours that are left.

Actually, that’s not true. I created this online retreat about identifying your life purpose because, since the pandemic, my retreat guests seem to be obsessed with it. Whether they are coming to Walk the Camino, Connect with the Horses, Fast Intermittently or even Binge Read over Christmas, sooner or later, they will bring this burning-a-hole-in-their-stomach-lining subject up.

As in, “I have been searching for my life’s purpose my whole life long! I honestly don’t know what to do anymore. I’ve read all the books, attended all the seminars, completed all the online courses (Really? You completed all the courses?) had counselling, had coaching, had my palm read…and I still don’t know!

That’s very sad.

In desperation, they come on a retreat to walk the Camino (it is an integral part of all my retreats) hoping that they will find their life’s purpose along the way.

When I tell them what I think of this brave endeavour, they are so shocked that they lose the power of speech, for several minutes.

Why? Well, that would be giving away the content of my online retreat, which I am going to resist doing here.

If you are interested in finding out more about my controversial and counter-intuitive approach, send a “Life Purpose” email to espritmeraki@gmail.com and I’ll put you on the waiting list.

Spoiler alert: If you watch this month’s recommended TED talk, you’ll get an idea of where I’m going with this.

If you have not identified your life purpose yet, you can do my online retreat the Hoofbeats to Your Heart’s Calling: Finding Your Life Purpose – guided by Horses.

How to Detect Burnout

In Yourself and In Others

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“I just need a break.”

Often, when people write to me to make enquiries about my stress management retreats, either online or onsite here in the south of France, this sentence features prominently in their email, most often in the last paragraph. I have learned to sit up and take notice when I come across this sentence, as it is often said by people who are either burnt out already or on the verge of burning out.

Have you said that to yourself or to others recently? Did someone else say this to you?

Take notice, especially if you are an employer and you heard one of your employees say this.

People who are suffering from burnout, sometimes without realising it, often make statements that give away their state of mind. Depending on their individual experience and circumstances, they may say:

“I just can’t keep going anymore.” – Burnout can leave people feeling physically and emotionally exhausted, making it difficult to cope with their personal and professional responsibilities.

“I feel like I’m just going through the motions.” – Burnout can make people feel disconnected from their work, and from the people around them, causing them to feel as if what they do has no purpose or meaning.

“I don’t care anymore.” – Burnout can lead to a sense of apathy or detachment, causing people to lose interest in things that used to be important to them.

“I feel completely overwhelmed.” – Burnout can cause people to feel incapable of completing even small tasks, making it difficult to do what they are getting paid to do.

“I can’t handle this anymore.” – Burnout can make people feel like they’ve reached their breaking point, causing them to feel like they can’t deal with stress or any additional pressure.

“I don’t feel like myself anymore.” – Burnout can cause people to lose their sense of identity and which can result in a significant loss of self-esteem.

“I’m so frustrated.” – Burnout can lead to an intense sense of frustration, especially if people feel like they’re not making progress or reaching their targets.

“I feel like I’m stuck in a rut.” – Burnout can cause people to feel trapped, making it difficult to move forward or make changes in their personal or professional lives.

“I’m uber-stressed, all the time.” – Burnout can cause chronic stress, which can cause serious physical and psychological diseases.

“I can’t sleep. I either lay awake for hours before I fall asleep or I wake up early. Or I wake up twenty times during the night.” – Burnout can cause insomnia, which increases exhaustion and decreases performance.

Statements that allow us to detect burnout early are not always made using these exact words, everyone expresses themselves differently and everyone’s experience of burnout is unique. People may also make any of the above statements without having burnout.

As you may know, it is my life’s mission, first as a medical doctor and now as a retreat leader, to help people manage stress, so they can avoid the permanent damage stress can cause.

The burnout epidemic has motivated me to create a 2-day online retreat (not sure I’m ever going to do that again, I nearly got burnt out in the process!) called the Burnout to Breakthrough Blueprint retreat. It is designed so that you can burnout-proof yourself during a weekend, by devoting four hours a day to the retreat, two in the morning and two in the afternoon. It has gotten excellent reviews so far, so I am hoping that it will serve as my contribution to reducing burnout worldwide.

Worldwide.

Isn’t that awe-inspiring? That I can now reach hundreds or even thousands of people online, instead of just the few that come to Esprit Meraki Retreats. Reaching people is so much easier since the pandemic.

My retreats focus on helping people who are going through life transitions, or those who have to make important decisions, by walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, both my standard retreats and my top-of-the-range retreats.

More often than not, my onsite retreat guests arrive burnt out by the stress they had to endure trying to cope with the life transition they are stuck in, whether it is an empty nest, retirement, redundancy, losing a loved one, changing careers, starting a business etc.

So my Burnout to Breakthrough online retreat can also help my guests before they arrive, ensuring that they get the most from their retreat. If you aren’t burned out, you can make sure that your next retreat is your best ever by clicking here.

We can detect burnout early, merely by paying attention to what others are saying, and to what we are saying to ourselves.

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“Just because you take breaks doesn’t mean you’re broken.”
― Curtis T. Jones

Subscribe to my Savoir Vivre Vignettes newsletter (thank you in advance!) to get access to my eye-opening, mind-altering and entirely free Journal Yourself Stressfree e-retreat and receive my insight-giving Top Ten Tips on How to Make Your Next Retreat Your Best Ever

Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves.

Recommended TED talk of the month – lasts 20 minutes – March 2023

Wednesday was International Women’s Day – a celebration of the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality – and also, March is Women’s History Month.

In this month’s recommended TED talk, social psychologist Amy Cuddy argues that using body language, ex “power posing” -standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident – can make us feel more confident.

In the comments on Youtube, Maggie says “I watched this for one of my classes and sometimes, I admit, I only half pay attention to required videos but this one completely captivated me. When she told her personal story I literally started to cry because I used to be that girl she was describing.”

During my Mindfulness Meditation with Horses retreats, I show my guests how horses communicate with remarkable accuracy using posture, gesture and breath to express their needs, wishes and emotions to each other. By discovering how effectively horses can communicate using body language, we can become more aware of how we communicate using body language ourselves. This TED talk, with practical examples, will help you adjust your body language so that you can communicate more confidently, intensionally and accurately. Especially if you are a woman.

This TED talk is one of the most powerful that I have ever watched. Incidentally, it reflects the subject I address in my latest LinkedIn article: Fight/Flight or Connect/Encourage?

My Burnout Breakthrough Online Retreat is now accessible. Please go and have a look and tell anyone you may know who already suffers from burnout already or teetering on the edge, about it. I want to help as many people as possible with this, my first every online retreat, while earning enough to keep the Friesian mares in the style they have come to expect!

I wanted to reach out and let you know how impressed I am with the Burnout to Breakthrough Blueprint retreat you’ve created. It’s such an important topic, and I think the way you’ve approached it is really insightful and helpful. In particular, I appreciate how you’ve focused not just on the emotional and mental aspects of burnout, but also on the physical symptoms that can come along with it. I also wanted to tell you that I’ve learned so much from the course already. Your explanations of what burnout is and how it can happen were really eye-opening for me, and I’ve already started to recognise some of the signs of burnout in my own life. The strategies you’ve shared for preventing and managing burnout are also really practical and useful. I found the guided meditation particularly engaging. Overall, I just wanted to say a huge thank you for creating this course. I think it has the potential to help so many people, and I’m really excited to continue learning from it. Keep up the great work! D.S. 2023

If you would like to increase your emotional resilience in 5 minutes a day, I invite you to attend my free online mini-retreat Journal Yourself Stress-free. You will get instant access to this online retreat when you subscribe to my mailing list and I’ll also let you know each time I publish the month’s (carefully curated) recommended TED talk.

If You Have Never Been On A Retreat Before…

…you may wonder why. people go on retreats.

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These days, a variety of people go on retreats, for a variety of reasons. There are many different types of retreats:

  • Yogis who are interested in practising yoga might go on a yoga retreat. These retreats often include daily yoga classes, meditation, healthy meals, and time for relaxation and reflection. I have incorporated Yoga Nidra into my retreats, it helps my clients get a solid night’s sleep from the very first night.
  • People who follow a particular faith may go on a retreat to deepen their spiritual practice and connect with others who share their beliefs. These retreats may include prayer, study, and reflection.
  • People who find themselves stuck in life transitions, or at a crossroads, might go on transformational retreats that are designed to help individuals grow and change in a meaningful way by providing a supportive environment and a range of experiences that promote personal development.
  • People who are looking to improve their physical or psychological health might go on a wellness retreat. These retreats often include activities like meditation, massage, healthy eating, exercise and workshops on stress management.
  • Creative people who are looking to immerse themselves in their art, such as writing or painting, might go on a creative retreat. These retreats provide a focused, distraction-free environment for artists to work on their craft.
  • Employees might go on a corporate retreat, sent by the companies they work for to foster teamwork, build leadership skills, and enhance productivity. These retreats may include team-building activities, workshops, and physical activity.

If you have never been on a retreat before, you might want to try one of mine. Here at Esprit Meraki, I host unique transformational retreats, for example, the life-changing Camino de Santiago de Compostela walking retreat.

My guests want to find solutions to their problems, and walking the Camino empowers them to do so, by offering an undisturbed and uninterrupted opportunity for:

Contemplation, reflection and introspection, while they walk: My Camino retreat encourages my guests to become more self-aware and to connect with their authentic selves, gain clarity about their life direction, and identify areas in which they would like to grow and change.

Non-judgemental support from the retreat leader as well as access to a supportive community of like-minded individuals who are on a similar journey of personal growth and transformation. This creates a safe and nurturing environment in which individuals can share their experiences, receive feedback, and gain support. Many of my guests, who met during a retreat, remain friends long after. This can lead to increased confidence, more supportive relationships, and a greater sense of purpose and direction in life.

Mind-body re-connection: My transformational retreats specifically focus on the mind-body connection and offer practices that promote physical and psychological health. For example, my Connect with Horses to master mindfulness retreats focus on mindfulness practices that have been shown to reduce stress, improve mood, and promote overall well-being.

A transformational retreat can be a powerful tool for personal growth. By creating a supportive environment, offering opportunities for personal development, and promoting mind-body connection, transformational retreats can help individuals gain new insights and perspectives.

If you are tempted, you can read more about my retreats at Esprit Meraki Retreats where you can also download my «How To Make Your Next Retreat Your Best Ever» e-book.  

Burnout seriously inhibits Creativity and Productivity

Recommended TED-talk of the Month duration 5 minutes February 2023

Early this morning, when I should have been getting out of bed to go and feed the horses, the -3°C reading on the thermometer and crackling frost on the fields was so discouraging that I resisted my coffee cravings to watch one more TED talk: Rahaf Harfoush’s talk “Burnout makes us less creative. “

I am in the process of creating an online retreat called Burnout Breakthrough, so I read everything I can lay my hands on about “burnout.” I actually hadn’t thought about the effect that burnout has on our creativity, but I should have because the more creative we are, the greater our ability to problem-solve. I reflected on my own experience and realised just how detrimental an effect burnout has on my own creativity – when I am stressed, I write to reduce stress, but burnout gives me complete writer’s block.

I thought I would share this talk with you here. It’s excellent, if you have 5 minutes, I recommend you watch it. Twice, if you have time, it makes so much sense. According to Rahaf Harfoush, a digital anthropologist (that sounds like an amazing job,) “Our obsession with productivity — to-do lists, life hacks, morning routines — is making us less productive. We need to redesign our workday around creativity – not just efficiency. She says the average American takes only half of their allocated leave…

Before I succumb to my coffee addiction, I wanted to ask a favour. I have finished the introductory page to my Burnout Breakthrough Online Retreat, could you have a look and give me some constructive criticism, please? You can have a look here: Burnout Breakthrough Online Retreat

If you would like to increase your resilience in 5 minutes a day, I invite you to attend my free online mini-retreat Journal Yourself Stress-free. You will get instant access to this retreat when you subscribe to my mailing list and I’ll also let you know each time I publish the month’s (carefully-curated) recommended TED-talk.

Slow Travel: Making the most of your next Travel Opportunity

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Sitting at home, thinking of all the places I wish I could travel to, I amuse myself by making lists of the places I would like to visit, as soon as it is possible again. I entertain the members of my group We live purposeful, meaningful and fulfilling Lives by asking them to name three places they would like to travel to.

I think about traveling rather a lot (no doubt because I desperately yearn to escape the lockdown.) My dearest wish is to go to the beach, only 90 minutes from here, and watch the sun go down over the sea.

Whenever I get the chance to go to the beach again, I intend to make the most of the experience by travelling slow, a subject that I find myself blogging about frequently since the pandemic started.

How I am going to make the most of my first chance to travel again:

1) I will plan my trip carefully – I have nothing against leaving for unexplored shore at the drop of a hat, but since I have loads of time, I will research my destination in detail, to find out more about the people who live there and to get a feeling for the geography of the place so that I will lose less time getting my bearings. A quick Google search will reveal the destination’s top attractions and its must-sees. From these I will choose one or two, to visit in-depth, and I will research these in detail.

2) To get a feeling for the place I want to travel to, I will read some books and blog posts, watch a couple of documentaries and even, if I have time, a few films set in the region which will strengthen my connection with the people living there, and give me a deeper appreciation of their culture. A few words of the local language will come in handy too.

3) To make the most of the experience, I will decide beforehand what I want to get from my trip. I know myself. Going to all the big tourist attractions just for a photo opportunity is not my thing. I love sitting at a café with a coffee in front of me and watching the world go by. I love talking to people about what is important to them, whether they are locals or fellow travellers. I love exploring vintage markets and shops. I love running, early in the morning, through a sleeping city, or on a deserted beach. So I will plan my trip to ensure that I can do as many of these things as possible.

4) I will make the trip there part of my travel experience. I will choose travel options less damaging to the environment when possible, by taking the train instead of a plane, for example, and use local communal transport once I get there. Whenever I can, I’ll walk – it’s good exercise and gives me time to take in the sights. I will aim to stay off the beaten path so that I will experience the emotions that travel is meant to be about: discovering, exploring and navigating unknown territory.  I would like to visit less famous sites and support those communities that need it more.

5) If at all possible, I choose to travel in the off-season when there are fewer people about because the other thing I love is to wander aimlessly, on foot, and explore the place I am visiting in my own time. What greater travel luxury is there than that? Staying in an impersonal hotel occasionally appeals to me when I am looking for anonymity, but I by far prefer to stay in a local guesthouse, where I can talk to the owners about their region and maybe even make a new friend or two. They will also be able to direct me to interesting (to me) local events, festivals and concerts. Getting involved in local activities will enable me to connect with the local community, learn from its people and make my trip unique and unforgettable.

6) I rarely buy souvenirs. I prefer to buy something that I will use once I get home. If I do buy something, it will be from a local producer or artist. Instead of buying several small things, I will often buy one item, even if it is a bit more expensive, and if possible, chat to the person who made/produced it. If it is a vintage item, I will want to know its origin. I want to support the local producers and artisans and they can only survive if we put our money where our values are.

7) I will keep a travel journal. This is something I so far have not been able to do. I might start a travel journal with good intentions, but I get so involved in my experiences that I have soon forgotten this noble intention of mine. It’s difficult enough for me to remember to take a couple of pictures. Travelling, while being fully present has got a lot going for it, but now, on the other side of 50, I feel the need to commemorate my travel experiences so that I can fondly look back on them during any future lockdowns. Making a few notes each day also allows me to process the experience, so I think putting aside 30 minutes every morning to remember and reflect on the previous day’s events would be of great benefit and might even give me a few surprising insights about myself.

8) As I mentioned, remembering to take pictures does not come naturally to me, but I do tend to waste time on my phone. Won’t be doing that next time I travel. I might take a couple of pictures, less so of the places I visit than of the people I meet, but otherwise, my phone will rest undisturbed in my rucksack until I get back to my lodgings in the evenings. I am going to aim for a digital detox, on my next holiday. Texts and e-mails will have to wait till the next morning when I usually answer them at home because I tend to stick to certain of my routines while travelling. Having said that, sharing my travelling experiences with the people I care about greatly enriches travelling for me, so I will get up a bit earlier every day to connect to friends and family. And to Facebook. And Pinterest, probably, for last-minute research. And I’ll post a couple of photos on Instagram. But that will be all. So if you need me urgently while I’m travelling, phone me and leave a message if I don’t answer.

9) While traveling back, I will make time to reflect on what I have learned about the places I visited and the people I met, as well as what I discovered about myself. I will adjust the way I do things accordingly. Maybe I took a watercolour painting class and discovered a hidden talent, so I’ll look around for lessons where I live. Maybe I discovered I like a dish that I never thought I would like, or I made a friend that I want to stay in contact with or I made a travelling mistake that I never intend to make again. All these valuable lessons I will consciously incorporate into my life once back home.

These will be my guidelines, whenever I get the opportunity to (slow) travel again. I call them guidelines, not rules because I want to remain flexible while traveling so that I can focus on the experience, rather than the objectives I have created for myself.

Choosing to come to one of my retreats here in the south of France would be a great idea if you would like to put your own guidelines of making the most of your next travel opportunity into practice.

My retreats: Introduction to Intermittent Fasting RetreatWrite Your Story Writers’ RetreatConnect and Communicate with Horses Retreat, reinvent yourself with the virtual/residential Your Magical Future Retreat.

If you liked this blog post, you can escape to the south of France for a virtual visit by subscribing to my mailing list HERE.