I’m just back from the annual doula retreat in North Wales.
Every year for the last 4 years I have joined a group of like minded doulas and birthworkers at the magical place that is Cae Mabon.
I am ever so grateful to doula Selina Wallis for organising it 🙂
Cae Mabon is an eco retreat located near LLanberis, in Snowdonia.
It looks like a cross between a Hobbit and a Viking village on the side of a mountain. There is a bubbling stream that runs down the side of the village, and leads into a lake.
It is by no mean luxury accommodation: the huts we share for sleeping have very basic beds and no running water or electricity. There are compost toilets, and a couple of washbasins and a gas heated shower which is pretty much outside (under a hut with minimal protection from the elements).
So why, you are probably asking yourself, do I look forward to this as one of the highlights of my year?
Well it’s several things.
The place is truly beautiful, with the mountain and the river and the lake and the ancient forest with moss and ferns. We spend most of our time outside near nature there, which feels very good when the rest of the time we live mostly in an urban environment.
Cae Mabon also happens to have a incredibly calming and nurturing energy to it. The place just feels very good. It’s difficult to describe to those who haven’t experienced it.
There is no internet access there at all, not even 3G, so this is the only time of the year where I am truly unplugged from the internet. In the busy connected world we live in, I believe we all need enforced internet breaks from time to time.
I am the mother of two young children, so this is the only time of the year when I am not needed to nurture my family, when there isn’t a little person calling for me one way or another from dawn to dusk. Someone cooks for us at the retreat (this year the gorgeous Alexandra Wilson whipped up amazing vegetarian feasts for us), so it is also one of the rare times of the year when I am not cooking myself (this in itself is worth the cost of the retreat!). I am also a doula, and so this is also one of those rare times of the year when I am not nurturing another family as well as my own.
Then there is the community. Each year the retreat is attended by a group of women I have come to know and love as my sisters. I look forward to seeing them again each time. We feel comfortable in each other’s presence, we share lovely big group meals, we hang out remaking the world in the outdoor wood fired hot tub (bliss!).
There is also the learning: the retreat has a couple of full day workshops, usually involving some kind of deep spiritual work and some kind of craft, sometimes mixed together. I have learnt a lot of new skills at these workshops (some of which I now teach, like closing the bones). I am especially grateful for being given the opportunity to experience stuff I would have dismissed completely (like sound healing-read more about that here) if I hadn’t happened to be there at the retreat and given it a go.
This year I deepened my learning about closing the bones with Rocio Alarcon, and there was a workshop on the Goddess Bridget, complete with shamanic journeying. I loved both of these workshops. They fed my soul.
In the evening we gather in the roundhouse around a fire for storytelling.
I go to bed earlier than I do any other times of the year because there is no electricity or screen keeping artificially awake.
We nurture each other and share skills and swap knowledge in a very natural and flowy way. This year, my doula friend Jo Gough organised the most beautiful opening ceremony in the roundhouse (this would deserve a whole blog post by itself-Jo specialises amongst other things in creating sacred space ceremonies), we did some story telling sharing using our own lives stories to create a powerful myth, we sang in groups, and I had the best reflexology treatment from doula Karen Williams and gave her a Reiki treatment in return.
There is no pressure to attend or do anything-you can find time alone whenever you need it.
This year I walked the labyrinth by myself in the forest and I swam in the (freezing) lake. I also found time to read, to whittle a walking stick and to practise my drumming. On the last day I climbed up the mountain to visit the 3 gorgeous waterfalls there.
This is the only time of the year when I have no obligations to do anything but do what my heart tells me to do, and no other people’s needs to meet. This is the only time of the year when I feel I can just “be”.
It feels incredibly resourcing.
I feel like my fuel tank has been refilled up to the brim, on both a physical, emotional and spiritual level. My friend Maddie McMahon wrote a beautiful poem about this year’s retreat-it really sums it up.
As I walked into the forest on the last day I promised myself to bring more of this stillness and “just being” time into my life and also spend more time in nature with my family. To spend more time to meditate and play my drum and treat myself with Reiki.
How do you bring more “just being” into in your life?