A retreat for everyone

Lynn Jackson is an Energy Medicine Coach and Retreats Expert, she writes regularly for Natural Health magazine and is based in Chichester. She once gave Ketut – the healer in Bali who was featured in Eat, Pray, Love – healing rather than the other way round! She runs Bespoke Retreats where the clients get to help create their own retreat according to their personal needs at the time, and has recently founded Hotstuff to support women through the menopause.

How did you envision Bespoke Retreats?

As a meditation teacher and energy coach with some 25 years’ experience, I’d led many highly acclaimed retreats.  However, having more recently spent a few years in Bali where I’d seen some truly astonishing healings, I realised I still had a lot to learn. So I basically apprenticed myself to some of the shamans I met, including Ketut, the famous medicine man who was portrayed in ‘Eat, Pray, Love’. 

As I watched these amazing healers work, I began to realise that a big part of their magic is their multi-disciplinary approach. Their medicine is invariably a potent mix of energy work, plants and herbs, diet, movement, massage, chants and ritual which is delivered in one powerful ceremonial hit. 

I came home inspired to curate immersive, tailored retreats which would offer highly focused, personalised healing and transformation based upon this multi-layered approach.

Could you give me an example of someone who has benefitted from one?

Alex is a very senior banker.  When he approached me last summer, he was on the brink of burnout.  He wasn’t sleeping, had no interest in anything and his entire sensory system had shut down.

He was so busy that he could only spare two days with me.  And so I created a bold and very powerful retreat which completely removed him from his usual world of slick offices and luxurious living, and took him off to a yurt in the middle of nowhere, where we built fires and made magic using the elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. My idea was to basically bring him back to life.

He engaged enthusiastically in our ritual work, but aside from that, he pretty much slept through the whole two days, and I was really worried that the energy work wasn’t getting through to him.

However, when we caught up afterwards, it was obvious that he was a totally changed man.  He found himself waking up in the morning feeling happy.  He said he didn’t know why he felt happy, as ‘nothing had changed’.

But he had changed.  His whole demeanour had changed, he had spontaneously transformed from an ‘exhausted old man’ (his words) who secretly felt past it and was struggling to keep up with the rapidly changing and fast-paced workplace, into somebody with valuable wisdom and experience, who was able to stand up to his bully of a boss. This completely transformed their working relationship, and together, they have since created a more holistic and caring training programme within their company.

What does Bespoke mean in the context of your one-to-one retreats?

It means that the entire experience is tailored to the individual, and so no two retreats are ever quite the same.  Clients don’t come to a centre and undergo a pre-programmed treatment regime as with most retreats. Instead, Bespoke Retreats offer a truly holistic experience in which everything – from the choice of accommodation, to the food and the treatments, activities, therapies and rituals –is guided by the unique requirements of each client. 

Of course, I am not as multi-faceted as the Balinese shamans who train in their craft from childhood - my skills are vibrational energy medicine, meditation, and intuitive guidance. In order to provide the all-important range of healing modalities, I enlist the help of other expert therapists and practitioners in a variety of disciplines such as yoga, massage, tai chi, qigong, osteopathy, reflexology - or whatever my intuition tells me the client requires - in order to achieve the desired outcome.

What are the examples of different types of retreat that you offer?

Retreats can be anything from high octane to totally laid-back. They take place in a variety of hired accommodations which reflect the overall tenet of the retreat, which can, for example be centred upon health, relationship, various life transitions (e.g. a change of career or divorce) and/or life navigation. 

These themes are complemented by the accommodation - our most popular are luxury spas, beautiful country or coastal cottages, magical tree houses, amazing yurts (one even has a bath with hot running water!) and glamping tents with only the local wildlife for company.  Each of these places offers a totally different energy signature which is chosen to suit each individual client and the work that we’re doing.

How can they benefit people?

In essence, everything I do is about the facilitation of a beneficial transformation of some kind. 
Even if it is something as ostensibly basic as rest, for somebody who hasn’t slept or relaxed properly for a considerable length of time, the act of getting away from the daily grind and slipping gently into a quiet and supportive space for a few days - which just happens to have the most up-to-date sleep psychology and technology on the planet! - is enough to re-programme their subconscious and break the cycle of insomnia. Even something as apparently simple as this can have massive repercussions going forwards.

Others come to restore their health, their vitality and often their libido.  Many want to re-set their metabolism in order to lose weight; others seek innovative solutions to life’s challenges, often gaining insights and a new sense of direction and purpose.

Now you are also running Hotstuff for menopausal women, could you explain please?

Hotstuff came about as a result of a woman asking me to create a retreat to help her deal with some seriously debilitating menopausal symptoms.  She had no idea that I’d used energy work upon myself to navigate the process astonishingly quickly and easily, as I’d never publicly declared anything about my own transition. It just hadn’t been the right time.
I introduced this woman to the energy technique I’d used over the course of our retreat, and the results for her have been literally life-changing.

And so, the creation and outstandingly successful delivery of this retreat felt serendipitous and galvanised me into action.

What will happen at June’s retreat?

This is exciting for me because it is the first group retreat I have led for over five years! It will be held over the Summer Solstice weekend when the sun is at its zenith, and the focus will be very much about shining our light and embracing the power that menopause offers us. We will be looking at an array of holistic and lifestyle choices, and of course I shall be teaching the all-important energy technique that I used on myself.

Tell us a bit about your own menopause and why you wanted to share your way of dealing with it?

It was quite a journey!  Some eight years ago, I had a fibroid which had been causing me lots of problems, including anaemia that became so serious that I was almost hospitalised for a blood transfusion one Christmas Eve. Despite all the holistic therapies I’d tried over the course of a year, nothing had worked and it had grown to the size of a watermelon. In the end, I opted to have an embolization procedure to shrink it. 

This worked well for a couple of years, but then the fibroid began to re-grow, and I was told I needed a hysterectomy. This felt disastrous to me. Apart from not wanting to lose my womb, as a single parent, I simply couldn’t afford to take four months off work.

When I begged my consultant for an alternative, she said that the only way out of the mire was the menopause, which would effectively starve the fibroid into oblivion.  But she was adamant that blood tests showed no sign of this happening anytime soon, and so her advice was to get the operation done as soon as possible.

I was devastated. Having tried so many holistic therapies to no avail, I felt a complete failure and a fraud: a healer who couldn’t heal herself!  But still, there was a little voice within that kept nagging at me that there was something that I hadn’t tried. I had no idea what that might be, but I set about looking for it.

Eventually, I came across an ancient tantric energy technique which was purported to halt menstruation. This seemed very far-fetched to me and I was extremely sceptical, but it felt like my only chance of avoiding surgery, and so I gave it a go.

The results were astonishing. Within days I was experiencing heat rushes, which I assumed were mini hot flushes. I was getting a few night sweats too.  But the most extraordinary thing was that I never had a period again, and after just four months, even those mild menopause symptoms had disappeared.  And I never had the operation.

Around 20% of women have a similarly smooth ride through menopause. But the difference between them and me is that I positively embraced the process.  I intentionally brought it on using energy work.  And according to the accepted medical model, this is just not possible.

But that same medical model advocates the concept of menopause as a condition that needs to be medicated.  The counter-argument that it is a natural biological event that can be effectively managed with a carefully chosen regime of holistic and vibrational energy solutions is something of which most medics are unaware and/or unsupportive.  And yet, so many strides have been made in medical thinking in the last decade; for instance, the concept of stress as being related to ill-health was once debunked, whereas now it is pretty mainstream, and so I hope that the science will soon catch up with the wisdom of these ancient energy protocols. 

Fortunately, I have a medical doctor working alongside me in Hotstuff who is very forward-thinking and fully supportive of a holistic, lifestyle-led approach.

Why is Hotstuff important during this particular era?

A surprising fact is that whilst menopause happens to every woman who lives long enough, the symptoms vary across the globe. This has only recently been documented, and with the most severe symptoms being reported by women in the Western world, many researchers are beginning to suggest that the modern menopause is about a lot more than hormones. 

New research is pointing to the unprecedented amounts of stress, environmental pollutants and toxic chemical overload from things such as medications, food, and even the lotions and potions we put on our skin. This, they suggest, is instrumental in creating compromised physical systems that simply cannot process the biological shifts of menopause.

How do you see Hotstuff developing?

I would love to think there will be a wider debate about what menopause actually is, and how we can effectively and safely manage it and ultimately, embrace it. 

It seems to me that we’ve lost touch with our natural selves, and have allowed patriarchal conditioning and media spin to dupe us into forgetting about the inherent power and wisdom of the elder woman. 

Menopause is colloquially known as The Change for a reason; it changes us, and whilst the contemporary narrative focuses upon the loss of youth and beauty, what we gain is a devil-may-care chutzpah, which enables us to rise above the societal limitations that keep younger women in their place. In short, we no longer care what the world thinks of us. And there is a huge liberation in that.  That is a large part of the message I want to get out there.

I feel strongly that the time of the Elder Woman is coming. Her perspective and compassion are sorely needed in the world right now, and medicating that innate wisdom and power into submission is, in my view, an absolute travesty.

How will Hotstuff support women at this time in their lives?

As well as the retreats, there is a 12-week online group support programme, which deals with a whole range of lifestyle considerations such as energy awareness, meditation, healing foods, movement and exercise, dietary supplements, rituals, sexual energy, relational dynamics, self-nurturance, self-confidence, life-navigation and rites of passage.

We are also starting monthly Hotstuff meet-ups in Chichester to offer information, support and much-needed camaraderie, and I hope these will begin to spread across the country over the next year or two.

Do you think attitudes are changing towards the menopause?

The subject is at last being talked about openly, which is a massive step forwards, but I think attitudes are still very entrenched, and that it will take some time before the conditioned belief that it is simply about hormones is fully understood.

Much media coverage tends to give women the impression that their only real choice is whether or not to opt for HRT.  This is far from the truth, and that is the message that needs to change. 

My hope is that as a result of increasing awareness, women themselves will change. I hope they will allow themselves to grow older and bolder, to refuse to suffer in silence, to expect and demand consideration from their employers, to feel safe enough to ask their partners for a different type of slow, loving sex that their bodies often yearn for.

Attitudes will change when we change.