I was feeling the need for silence.
I yearned for open spaces and fresh air, infinite peace and extreme quiet. Basically, a bit of 'me time' away from a busy and noisy household full of demanding kids (big and small).
I found myself heading towards a retreat centre in west Cork on the spur of the moment. It's a place I’d always wanted to go, since moving to this beautiful green isle 8 years ago, but I'd never had the chance. Until my health started to suffer and my hubby gave me the green light to go, saying he’d mind the kids for the weekend, so with permission granted, I raced away from my hectic life.
Three hours later I found myself in a different world - on the tip of a stunningly beautiful peninsula, overlooking nothing but sea and cliff-faces that jut into the jaw-dropping coastline.
It’s a place that forces you to slow down and do nothing. To take in the scenery and to stop. Stare in awe at the landscape, and breathe...
I wandered around Dzogchen Beara and found a silent, hidden garden and breathed a heavy sigh of relief that stretched down right to the bottom of my belly. In reply, my belly smiled, and demanded more and more lovely deep breaths. And so I kept breathing past the tightness in my chest, allowing my belly to wake up and my world to become bright again.
I kept breathing, loving the feeling of stress leaving my chest. I did nothing for the first hour – aside from re-programme my breathing: from tight busy, stressed out breathing, to long, slow, relaxed deep breathing.
It was manna for my soul. I strolled to the bottom of the centre and found happy donkeys and horses roaming in a neighbouring donkey sanctuary, streams that lead out into the vast Atlantic sea and beautifully coloured wild flowers that danced a lovely groove in the wind.
And all around, all that my eyes could see, for miles and miles and miles, was only sea...
Back at the Buddhist retreat centre I was surrounded by large colourful Buddhist prayer flags, circular white buildings and pretty little areas to rest and contemplate my lost naval. I was in heaven.
And I was all alone. Not a child to scream “Maaawwm”, not a husband to add to my stress, not a place in the world to be.... other than here. Right here, for the whole weekend, all on my own.
I love being alone. And I find I have the best time when I’m in my own company, when I remember to bring myself along as companion. Does anyone know what I mean? Do you like your own company?
I spent the weekend walking (getting lost), swimming in the sea, reading and writing, eating stunning vegetarian food, meeting interesting people from all over the world, and attending guided meditations that got me back in touch with my soul.
It was bliss.
As parents, and especially mums, we don’t normally put ourselves first. We think of the kids first and foremost and don’t normally give ourselves permission to take time off from them – especially not for the whole weekend. What luxury! By doing this for myself I gave myself the great gift I had ever given myself – the gift of prioritising me above my loved ones - before my health started to suffer.
I returned a different woman. A different mum. A panoramic picture of the view from the centre now sits in front of my desk so that when I’m working I look at it to remind myself of how I can practice self-care.
I’m also trying to practice more mindfulness and meditation, but the daily demands of trying to earn some money with 3 kids around sometimes stands in my way. I just have to remember to put myself first sometimes. If you see me, remind me, as I always forget.
And I just have to remember to take myself out of chaos every now and again and to go to this special place to get a glimpse of the person I was before the most demanding people in the world took over my life.
Because taking time out can be invaluable in keeping us sane and seeing life in a positive light.