12 May 2017

An Instant Pause - Newcastle

Laura Beckingham, the facilitator of An Instant Pause and Coach at A Space Within contacted me months ago about doing a one day retreat. Life took over and it slipped my mind, but luckily it popped up in my Facebook feed just in time. I found out that it was being held at the Biscuit Factory, one of my favourite places in Newcastle (I'd tried to organise workshops there at one point). I instantly loved the idea of an opportunity to take some time out from the hectic pace of life in an art gallery. With a great cafe. I packed my yoga gear (even though yoga wasn't involved) and jumped on an early train.

Laura had emailed me the Welcome Pack well in advance, but I didn't have a chance to look at it until the day before (another reason to take a day out to pause). Described as a "pit-stop for super busy people," The Instant Pause was created by Danielle Marchant, an unconventional coach who leads with the heart. It's a one day workshop that gives you time and space to think about your life (who doesn't need that)? It's structured around a process that she learned ten years ago when she felt her get-up-and-go had got-up-and-gone; a simple process which helps you to see options and paths that you hadn't even realised were available to you (until you pause). It involves looking back to move forwards, and aims to bring you back into balance, be inspired and get clear about what to do next.

Our candles and speaking stone, the delicious vegetarian food, a great quote by Mark Twain and Laura's beautiful rug
It was perfect timing for me. After working on my online business for months and feeling deflated, a trip to a Greek Island had helped me to gain clarity that I wanted to write professionally. A major step forward, but still overwhelming and downright scary at times. My foundations had been shaken, but I knew deep down that the change of direction was necessary. I was excited for the first time in months.  But how to go about it? Lucky I had come to the right place.

As I walked in to the workshop space and saw Laura, I felt an instant connection. "I know you!" I blurted out, even though I'd never really seen a clear photo of her. She knew what I meant. Oh my God, her energy! I was instantly soothed. After the craziness of the past few weeks (coming back from Santorini after two weeks instead of the planned four month trip) and feeling completely out of balance, my soul knew that this was what I needed. And so did the Universe. I got changed into my yoga gear and took a seat, after making myself a chamomile tea and filling up on some fruit (the refreshments on offer were top notch).

Our amazing facilitator Laura 
We were arranged in a circle and a candle was placed underneath each chair. In the middle of the circle was a plate with what initially resembled a jammy dodger biscuit placed on it. It was actually a beautiful stone adorned with a heart that you hold when it's your turn to speak. Seven of us were taking part. Instead of volunteering to speak first (as per usual) I decided to hang back. Or maybe I was just too tired to push myself forward. As each person shared their reason for being there and what they hoped to get out of the day, they lit their candle and placed it in the centre. This was right up my street. How sacred! It appealed to my spiritual side immediately.

I didn't plan to tell my life story but it just kind of spilled out. I had just finished my book (a memoir about my struggle with mental health issues and finding my purpose) and was about to publish it on Amazon, and that was bringing up a lot of fear. I immediately felt like I was in a safe space and I could speak my truth. I identified with many of the stories that were being told, of hectic lifestyles, not enough time for ourselves and other life stressors.

The welcome pack mentioned the pre-work - part one involved a review of the past twelve months by looking back through your diary/journal, social media feeds and photos and making a list of significant events. In the morning we created timelines showing events over the past twelve months and charted our emotional state. It was such an eye-opening exercise. I was aware that I had hibernated over the winter and isolated myself, but the graph made me realise just how much. I had told myself that I'd been happy for most of the year, when actually all I can remember is struggling with technology for my online business and sitting in front of my laptop most of the time. It was interesting to see similar patterns reflected back by other members of the group. A simple yet deeply thought provoking and useful exercise.

After our morning task was over, we came back to the circle and shared. I fell in love with the format.  So simple but very effective. Our welcome pack mentioned a delicious vegetarian lunch, and having eaten at the Factory Kitchen cafe before, I was excited about the amazing salads that we would be served. The colours were stunning, and it felt so good to eat so healthily after consuming a bit too much Prosecco the night before.  I appreciated that Laura instructed us to only ask about other people's stories if they brought it up first (I wasn't keen on spilling my guts more with my mouth full). We were encouraged to get outside during the lunchbreak which was important, as although it didn't seem like we were doing a lot, at points I felt exhausted.

We came back to the room and started the afternoon session. After we'd looked to the past, it was time to look ahead. Laura had made a big effort to provide us with a lot of materials to create vision boards. Her collection of stickers and craft materials was truly impressive, and there were lots of magazines for inspiration. I have been doing vision boards for years (on paper and more recently online using Canva) but not since the beginning of the year, and certainly not since this big change of direction. I'd brought along some images and photos that I assumed I would use, but I felt a strong urge to go with the flow and see what spoke to me from the materials provided.

The first thing I saw was a drawing of a flamingo accompanied by the quote "be a flamingo amongst a flock of pigeons."  YES! I needed encouragement to take the path less travelled. Then I chose some stickers with French words and travel themes (travel is a non-negotiable in my life) and started cutting words out of magazines that appealed to me. I would like to manifest a spiritually based relationship, so that went in the middle. I absent-mindedly started drawing lots of little love hearts everywhere, as a symbol of the romance I crave. Then I was drawn to cosy home photos which I didn't expect. A large section was about writing for various magazines and working on other books.

It felt truly indulgent to spend a few hours focussed on this activity. Laura had brought a beautiful mandala rug which spoke to me, so I chose to sit on that and surround myself with magazines. In the past I have probably rushed my vision boards, so this was the best experience I've had making one. Laura asked helpful questions occasionally during the process, which guided me to focus on different things. It was really interesting to see what the others had made. Interestingly, I felt very connected to my inner child during the process, and nearly cried at one point when some stickers I picked up reminded me of stickers I had as a child. I realised that I didn't have that feeling very often, and I was full of gratitude.

When we had finished and shared our visions, Laura asked us to take a walk with our boards. So I took mine around the gallery, taking photos of pieces of art that stood out to me as I went. I loved the idea of walking with the board! I was inspired to create more as a result (I'd included the word create on my board with ideas for art classes).  I instantly felt calmer after doing the board, as I could more easily see the way forward. We came back to the circle, shared and placed our candles back into the middle (I love this ritual).

Inspiring art at The Biscuit Factory
I left (with a delicious doggie bag) with more clarity and a deep feeling of calm. I was grateful to have the time and space to reflect on the past year and the craziness of it all. I probably need longer to do more work on this, maybe a weekend away to completely relax and unwind. Taking a few hours to think about my vision for the future was exactly what I needed to do, but it wouldn't have been as effective if I'd done these activities at home. There was something special about the combination of the venue, Laura guiding us, being around others but reflecting and dreaming alone then sharing. Connection, not isolation was for me one of the biggest lessons of the day.

Thank you Laura for a truly special day x

Find out more about Laura and A Space Within here 

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