Soul splashing at Villa Surya
At the end of 2017, I was in need of physical and spiritual restoration. It had been a high octane year, working full time in a busy job as Sales & Marketing Director at a large PR firm in London and commuting in from Brighton. I had also started to set up my own business on the side. Every spare hour of the day when I wasn’t working was poured into planning it.
I knew that I would be launching Tuesday Media, virtual PR agency, at the beginning of 2018. I wanted to start the year with a clear head, a detoxed body and with positive intention. The idea for the business had been inspired during my own travels around Asia. In fact, I had come up with the idea for it in the back of a tuk tuk in Cambodia.
The central ethos of my business is to empower people to work wherever they are in the world, without being chained to a desk. I decided to live by my own principles and launch the business remotely. I chose to begin 2018 with a yoga holiday in Villa Surya, in the remote village of Imi Ouaddar in Morocco. Run by DFrost, Villa Surya is nestled between the Antiatlas mountains and the North Atlantic Ocean. I went for a week long yoga retreat, staying in the beautiful house and participating in the daily schedule of yoga and meditation.
The peaceful tranquility of the house was occasionally disturbed by the tinkling of bells as a goat herd moved amongst the argan trees and the cacti in the surrounding scrub hills and the muezzin rising mournfully from the mosque a few hundred yards away.
Being in a predominantly muslim country and in a tiny village, there were none of the usual nightlife distractions and, with the exception of one notable evening on New Years Eve, I remained sober. I spent the week slowing down, tuning in to my mind and getting back into my body after months of hunching stressed shoulders over a laptop. A highlight was spending many hours in the hot tub on the roof, views of the mountains one side and the sea the other.
New Year’s day 2018 began with a silent walk on the beach directly in front of the house. We wandered down, wrapped in shawls and hoodies as the morning sun had not yet risen above us. Not to be left out, the stray dogs that lived on the beach and slept on the sand or in the skeletons of deserted boats padded alongside us, as we walked - a group of silent yogis.
We walked, with nothing but the sound of the waves accompanying us, for several kilometres along the Plage Aghroud. Walking silently and mindfully like this was the perfect start to the year to connect into what was happening around me, the sounds of the wash on the sand and the wind our only accompaniment.
Joining us almost instinctively as they would in the pack of the wild, the dogs remained constant alongside, always keeping up with the leader.
The sun rose into the sky and eventually hit my body, warming it from the chill morning breeze. We got to the end of the beach and moved into a circle. A few words of gratitude were spoken and we moved about in a circle.
Finally, we began to head back, I was itching to get into the water. I broke away from the from the still-meandering group and quickened my steps until I was jogging ahead. The dogs, intuitively needing to keep up with the ‘leader of the pack’ caught up to me and kept pace, just behind. The dog at the front kept butting his nose into the back of my leg every so often, a primordial way of keeping in contact.
Picking up my pace, I broke into a run, pulling my clothes off, and, chucking them into the damp sand with abandon (which I would later regret as I returned to collect random pieces of cloting, drenched and sand sodden whilst I shivered in the still chilly Atlantic air…) I plunged into the North Atlantic water, bathing, baptising and dunking myself in the freshness and purity of the salt, bringing in the year. Sadly the dogs didn’t follow me all the way in and so I enjoyed this moment of cleansing and beginning, alone
I had been reading Women Who Run with Wolves and delighted in the fact that I was ringing in the year, quite literally, as a woman running with wolves. A quote from the book came to mind:
“To be strong does not mean to sprout muscles and flex. It means meeting one's own luminosity without fleeing, actively living with the wild nature in one's own way. It means to be able to learn, to be able to stand what we know. It means to stand and live.”
Inge Beddari, a Finnish woman I met on the yoga retreat, is a mother, yoga teacher and all-round warrior. Living in Norway, she regularly cuts a hole in the ice of the lake she lives next to and dives in, with a rope around her waist. This is a ritual that she calls a #soulsplash, because it is as restorative for spirit as it is for body. Inga told me her extraordinary life story, over mint tea, in a Moroccan tiled house one evening in January. I have to credit Inga for coming up with the concept, and inspired by her, I’m taking it forward into the world. I hope that you will share it too.