Retreat to find a way forward

Red Retreats facilitators Tanette Hickey (left) and Lee Ball, of Lake Hawea, advocate a holistic...
Red Retreats facilitators Tanette Hickey (left) and Lee Ball, of Lake Hawea, advocate a holistic approach to life's activities. Photo by Marjorie Cook.
It's an increasingly fast-paced world, with more and sometimes seemingly pointless demands being made on people's time and resources. How do you sort the good from the bad? How do you find peace of mind? Wanaka reporter Marjorie Cook talks to the women behind Red Retreats, who advocate a programme of mindfulness, meditation and movement.

Fill in the gaps in this sentence: If only ( . . . ) I would be able to ( . . . ).

Now, see how many times you can write this sentence with a different middle and ending.

It should be easy. Most of us do it daily.

"If only I won Lotto I would be able to quit my job and do something I really liked."

"If only I had a boyfriend who really liked tramping I would be able to do the Milford Track."

"If only my mother hadn't made me wear that dress that everyone laughed at when I was a child I would be able to confidently go out in public."

The scenarios range from the ridiculous (a shocking experience with a tomato which means you can't eat them although you know they are good for you) to the deadly serious (the reason you hate your parents).

They are all valid experiences, but are examples of living your life because of things that happened in the past, or haven't happened and may not even happen.

Red Retreats facilitators Tanette Hickey, Lee Ball and Felicity Yellin would have you break that cycle and live in the present moment.

For some, it could be as easy as realising it is OK to go tramping with someone who isn't your boyfriend. (Or, ditching the lazy couch-bound layabout).

For others, the epiphany might take a lot more hard work, using things like counselling, life coaching or meditation.

On October 29, Red Retreats is holding a women's only retreat at the Lookout Lodge in the Maungawera Valley near Lake Hawea, based around "mindfulness, meditation and movement to increase personal wellbeing and greater peace of mind".

Lee Ball is a mother of six, has a BA in history, is an advanced toastmaster and public speaking trainer, a life coach, psychodrama trainee and artist.

She has been living for six months at Lake Hawea, which is also home to Tanette Hickey.

Tanette is a mother and artist with qualifications in parks and recreation management, life coaching and counselling.

She has lived in the Upper Clutha district for about 14 years.

Felicity Yellin
Felicity Yellin
Dunedin-based Felicity Yellin rounds out the Red Retreats trio.

Formerly a Lake Hawea resident, Felicity has a history degree in therapeutic recreation, is a youth social worker and a permaculture student.

All three women enjoy working with groups and have long held dreams of running retreats, with next month's initiative the first step in a programme they hope to offer to a wider range of people and not just women.

So how does living in the present moment help? Does it work for this busy, community-minded trio and are there any secrets to doing it?Tanette agrees being mindful of the present moment may mean backing off from the types of goal-centred action plans similar to what a personal trainer at the gym might give you.

Each person is different and what works for some may not suit others, she says.

"The overall thing is mindfulness. Become aware of how you operate, the thoughts that hold you back, visions you have for yourself, habits you know you have and even habits you don't know you have," she said.

Lee stresses it is important not to torture yourself by going over past mistakes while Tanette points out it's about recognising the falsities behind thoughts - especially the inner voices that say you will only be right once you meet the right person, get the right job or lose a certain amount of weight.

Once you have identified the blocking thoughts, it is up to you whether to deal with it.

For some, it is enough to know what the blocks are.

For others, it may mean confronting your mother about that childhood frock or letting go of the hateful things others might have done to you.

The women say it can be a jubilant and celebratory moment, realising "you are all right the way you are right now", although sometimes that comes after the tears.

Lee says a lot of her life was spent seeking external approval from others, resulting in her working hard to achieve and succeed rather than loving herself.

She uses meditation to understand her "inner voice".

"I don't beat myself up now. I am at a really good place in my life. I don't react so much to external things that come my way and I don't take things so personally.

"It is a work though. A work in progress. There's always something that will come up in life that will test you. And then you think: `Well, there I go'," Lee said.

From her meditative moments, Lee started doing art.

She is now starting a business to market the cards she has created.

That's a tangible result, although a tangible result is not compulsory.

"There is no standard of vision. Even a vision like being a really good mother or really good father, or planting a garden and growing your own food . . . a lot of the time it is about being able to let go of what you perceive to be success as well," Tanette said.

There are all sorts of retreats around the world - from hardcore boot camps to spa and sauna pamper sessions.

There's couples counselling, executive rark-ups and organisations focusing on living with a range of illnesses.

The Red Retreats facilitators place themselves around the "half-way" mark on the activities front, espousing good healthy food (including chocolate), music and movement, wonderful scenery, friendship and reflection.

The facilitators advocate a holistic approach to life's activities rather than creating a singled-focused career plan to become the chief executive officer of Telecom (for argument's sake) in six years.

In time, living in a state of mindfulness and in the present moment leads naturally to generosity and a desire to be of service to others, Tanette says.

"It is an evolution and happens as a matter of course once you get rid of that "I can't do that, I haven't got this, the I - I - I," Tanette said.

Participants will be given things to think about and tools to take away, but the women say it is not about leaving as a better model of yourself.

"The biggest secret to peace of mind in life is breathing - seriously," Lee says.

Think about it
Live in the present moment. You are fine the way you are now.

2: Discover what is right for you. Another person's tips for peace of mind may not work.

3: Try meditation.

4: Activities help you live in the present moment, whether they be yoga, walking, gardening or rock climbing.

5: Try to be alone or still. Can you last a minute before you are revving up, ringing friends, seeking company?

6: Be curious. Question the things you resist or the things that make you angry. There will be moments you don't want. Can you accept they are there, deal with them, move on? Can you understand or forgive? Can you recognise you are reacting and need to move on?

7: History repeats for a reason. Ask yourself: Why has this thing happened five times in my life already? Why am I in this predicament AGAIN?

8: At least know your brick walls. (These are things you know are blocks even if you don't do anything about them just yet).

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