The Wisdom of Water: morning retreat at Harewood Holistics

Ever been to a yoga class followed by a tea ceremony next to a lake? Ever shut your eyes and listened to the buzz and hums of nature, the nearby water stirring, and the sound of tea being poured?

Harewood Holistics’ morning retreat ‘The Wisdom of Water’ offered just that. This post is a about the retreat and my thoughts on whether a morning is enough.

Retreat: The Wisdom of Water

Location: Harewood Holistics (The Arch Barn, Harewood House Estate)

Duration: 10.00am – 1.00pm

Cost: £45 (price included 1 hour of yoga, a tea ceremony and refreshments)

Teacher: Ella @wellnesswins

To get there we travelled past the estate (including fields full of deer), through woods and over bridges, the shadows from the trees playing with patches of sunlight on the road. By the time we arrived, we already felt as though we had escaped the world to a little patch of serenity.

Ella, our teacher for the morning, was there to greet us and show us to the studio for an hour of yoga. It was a gentle vinyasa class and, as the theme of the morning was ‘the wisdom of water’, the postures and movements were chosen to encourage us to connect to the water within and around us. It was a slow and thoughtful flow, our spines rippling through half sun salutations and cat/cow movements, to stand strong in our Tadasana and Virabhadrasana II poses. To finish, we relaxed into a restorative child’s pose with blocks and bolsters as support, giving space to connect to the water within.

I love yoga for its ability to help me switch off my brain to the mindless, endless chatter that goes on in there. When I’m on the mat, it goes silent. Ella’s teaching style was also so gentle and intuitive that I felt deeply connected to the practice.

The studio was so beautiful and calming. The beams above us had been lit up with blue light and the mats arranged in a semi-circle around the centre where a sacred shine made up of branches, flowers, crystals and lit candles, had been created. At the top of each mat, a crystal and box of incense had been placed for us to take home, which was such a thoughtful touch.

Following the class, we were invited to stay silent as we walked from the Arch Barn to the lake in another part of the estate. The walk was longer than I expected (with a little hill) and if I had any comment on the day it would be that I would have liked more time to do the walk, as we were encouraged to look at what was around us, noticing textures and sounds. But I appreciate that it was only a half-day retreat.

We crossed a bridge over a little stream and past a few fields including one full of black sheep. The sun was shining and there was so much noise around us, from the sheep to the breeze in the leaves, to the sounds of other visitors enjoying the estate. When we got to the lake, we sat in the grass (on the mats provided), for a Rasa tea ceremony: it was such a beautiful morning for it.

Still in silence, we were invited to close our eyes to allow our other senses to enhance. There was so much to hear: the birds, the lake, and the grasshoppers that were in the grass all around us. Ella read to us from The Radiance Sutras (by Lorin Roche) about the importance and effect of ceremony and how it makes the mundane sacred. She then asked us to listen to the sound of the tea being poured into the cup.

Tasting dark chocolate,

A ripe apricot,

A luscious elixir –

Savor the expanding joy in your body.

Nature is offering herself to you.

How astonishing

To realize the world can taste so good.

The Radiance Sutras (49)

The tea was chocolate goji rose, and she spoke of why she had chosen this tea and the significance of the ingredients. She asked us to open our eyes and look at the cup she had placed on the grass in front of each of us. When I looked, I saw that a grasshopper had landed on the rim of mine; I watched it sit there for a moment before it hopped off. Then I saw the shadows on the surface of the tea, the colour of the liquid, the green of the grass and the earth around it.

We picked up our cups to hold them and feel the sensations from the warmth. Ella then invited us to lift them to the chest in front of the heart so we could feel the warmth there. We then brought the cup to the chin and then to the nose to have our first smells of the tea. Every part of the ceremony was done so slowly, leaving time to feel, to notice and to acknowledge. From arrival at the lake to the first sip, Ella created such a sensory journey.

For me, the first sip tasted so strongly of dark chocolate and then came the sweetness. I thought back to the sutra Ella had read to us and how this was such a special celebration of the tastes and wonders that the world has to offer.

We were given a few more moments in silence with our teas before the cake was cut and passed around along with the chance to chat and share. A quick note about the cake: it was a slice of lemon drizzle (yum), and a lemon muffin, so it was a very good morning for those of us with a sweet-tooth.

It was such an all-round gorgeous morning and it made me think that sometimes retreats are sold to us as needing to be a week or so break away in a far off land in order for us to properly relax. I’ll note here that I haven’t been on a yoga retreat abroad (yet!), so maybe I just don’t know what I’m missing. However, I thought on that Sunday morning by the lake, that we don’t have to go far from home to ‘escape’ and find relaxation, and that it can just be for a morning and you will leave feeling refreshed. It also doesn’t have to cost the earth, and you don’t have to do anything in the hours or days leading up to it so you can feel as though you have ‘earned’ it. You can just go down the road, into the fields, and find somewhere that you can sit in the silence and listen to what’s going on within.

I will be keeping an eye out for future retreats at Harewood Holistics as I enjoyed this morning so much.

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