The soft whiffle of horse’s breath ruffles my hair but I don’t open my eyes. I’m too relaxed, too chilled, too blissed-out to do more than vaguely register that a 3/4 ton Clydesdale horse is towering over me, his gentle, protective energy calming and soothing. I’m on a Full Circle Retreats ‘Creative Day‘ in Cumbria, experiencing the power of meditating with horses in the tranquil surroundings of the Lake District in North West England.
Watch video: Meditating with horse at Whasdyke Farm
Set up by Debbie Henderson at Whasdyke Farm, Full Circle Retreats aim to “…use the healing qualities of nature, animal therapy, meditation, yoga, nutrition and soothing creative channeling to access your true potential.” This working farm has sheep and cattle, but most importantly for us, four magnificent Clydesdale horses called Otto, Sam, Paddy and Ferdy. They are the undisputed stars of this unique retreat.
I’d arrived at the farm earlier that day, driving along the winding gated road through beautiful scenery, past hardy sheep grazing on the fells, the waters of Windermere glinting in the hazy sunshine. After a welcoming cuppa and freshly-baked scones, Debbie introduced us to each other. The women had come from around the UK, all looking for some personal time out from their stressful lives. I was there as a participant and also to run the afternoon’s Creative Writing session. Our meditation teacher Katherine Beaumont of The Happiness Hub, then took us off for yoga in the barn. With an energetic series of Salute to the Sun routines, powerful breathing and fairly easy postures, I felt stretched, energised and ready for the rest of the day.
We moved to the stable yard where Clydesdales Otto and Sam were waiting patiently for us to join them. As we stood outside the gate, Katherine explained how the horses get in tune with us, our breathing aligns and our heart rate slows down so we are all connected and ‘part of the herd‘. We entered the yard and said hello to Sam and Otto, who seemed pretty chilled already. Sitting down on hay bales, Katherine then took us through a deep meditation, encouraging us to breathe deeply, let go of our daily stresses and allow our thoughts to flow by like clouds in the sky. As our group relaxed, the horses’s heads drooped and their lower lips quivered, a sure sign they were also relaxing with us. Eventually Otto, who is rapidly becoming an equine meditating superstar, walked slowly over to us and rested his head above each one of us in tranquil stillness. It was a sublimely uplifting moment.
After the meditation session (they are not trained to do this and clearly enjoy it) we are encouraged to get up close, thanking them for their participation. Everyone is very moved, a few almost to tears. Some had been very nervous about being so close to such huge animals, but now there are hugs all round as we embrace these gentle giants.
Full Circle Retreats provide solace for mind, body and spirit and lunch, made by Ashley Holden of Green House Floristry, feeds all three. We get a seasonal treat of nourishing, locally sourced food including tasty cheeses, freshly-baked bread, yummy chutney and crisp apple all wrapped up in a pretty cloth bag of goodness. We sit on a hillock near the farm, enjoying the food, chatting, laughing and admiring the stupendous view of the Lake District mountains.
In the afternoon we meet in the farmhouse for our Creative Writing session. Meditation and mindfulness are known to release creativity; when our mind is quieted it is free to roam and come up with more imaginative ways to connect with our inner artist. In the early 1980’s, Walt Disney was at a creative crossroads. In hopes of “accessing new creative directions,” executives called in high profile psychotherapist and meditation teacher Dr. Ron Alexander. After seeing massive creative leaps by those who finished his mindfulness course, the Walt Disney company adopted mindfulness on a broad scale. (From Benefits of Meditation for Creativity )
I take the group through a series of exercises and activities to encourage them to write about their experience at Full Circle Retreats. The results are truly impressive. Everyone writes in their own voice, describing an aspect of the day in eloquent language that affects us all. One lady says she hasn’t written anything creative since she was at school over 30 years ago. In the July/August edition of Kindred Spirit Magazine, Editor Claire Gillman writes, “Everyone was nervous about sharing their written words, but Zoë put each of us at our ease and coaxed some heartfelt prose from all of us … Each piece of writing was different but the uniting themes were feelings of euphoria, exhilaration and rapture inspired by the whole day.” It is a real pleasure to help the group express a little of what Full Circle Retreats means to them and be a part of this exceptional day.
Media coverage for Full Circle Retreats
Full Circle Reatreats have been featured on BBC and ITV, on the cover of Lancashire Life Magazine, in The Sunday Times, Spirit and Destiny Magazine, Westmorland Gazette and reviewed in Kindred Spirit Magazine 2019 Retreat Guide. Watch this ITV News Report to see for yourself why they are so special!
More about Full Circle Retreats
Each Full Circle Retreats Day is themed around a different creative activity. There are currently five for you to choose from, including photography, , floristry, painting and felting. You can book here for my 2020 Full Circle Retreat Creative Writing Day.
All the retreats take place at Whasdyke Farm in the south Lake District and are non-residential. Book your Full Circle Retreat now and escape to a more tranquil world.