It’s a Love (Lution) Thing
On a Friday evening last August (high summer – yes it was cold, grey and raining), I reluctantly made my way to a farm and campsite in Cragg Vale with a borrowed tent and sleeping bag. Camping has never been a great love of mine since I spent a week in North Wales one summer in torrential storms with two kids and an ex boyfriend. What is it they say? Ah character building, yes that’s the one.
I’m on my way to the last farm on the map that has a Hebden Bridge postcode – Aaron’s Farm, to take part in a wellbeing retreat organised by Lovelution.
I first came across Lovelution in my quest to research events in the Calder Valley for the website whatsonhebdenbridge.com and I was immediately intrigued. I’m a wellbeing journalist, specialising in yoga and I like to think that I’m pretty up to date with everything going on namaste wise, but I’d never heard of them.
Lovelution – ‘The Institute for the Elevation of People’ is a newly founded grass-roots based collaborative organisation which is focused on the idea of the ever-evolving self.” What was this ever-evolving self I wondered? I needed to know. Certainly when I read that there was a fancy dress box and an open mic night.
James Mallinder is the guy behind it and I ask him how it all started:
“My friend Joe, his uncle Iggy owns the farm, and I met him in Trinity Shopping Centre in Leeds. He was freestyle rappin’ wearing a mask and holding a big sign that said ‘Lovelution – be the change you wish to see in the world’ and he was rappin’ about the same kind of stuff that I’d been thinking.”
This began a firm friendship between the two and when Joe had a birthday party James was invited. This was the first time he had seen the farm and met the rest of the family. And so Lovelution was born.
Let’s get this party started
Proceedings didn’t start well when I got lost on the tops and accidentally set up my pop-up tent in the wrong field, I couldn’t get it back down (as anyone who’s ever tried knows) so I had to carry it through bushes and trees in the rain to get to the right campsite.
When I finally arrived at the correct place there’s about fifteen other people all setting their tents up. When everyone’s sorted we go straight into the barn (the pop-up restaurant) for a welcome dinner. All of the food is plant-based and it is absolutely delicious. There are four courses, and each one is made with precise care and attention and the Thai curry is perhaps the best I’ve ever tasted.
This isn’t festival or camping food – this is gourmet dining, and later James tells me that the chefs are professionally trained. Other retreaters are warm and friendly as we eat and chat at the banquet style tables and I’m immediately glad that I came.
A warm welcome
After dinner we’re invited to take part in a fire ceremony. We’re each given a pen and some paper and told to write down something that we’d like to ‘let go of’ this weekend. I consider writing my overdraft balance as it’s the first thing that pops into my mind but change my mind and write something more meaningful and appropriate. We then have a meditation and all throw our paper into the fire – it feels surprisingly good to do this and I find myself wondering if it could possibly work?
For my reiki session (everyone gets a reiki session or a massage included) I’m taken to a secluded hut at the side of the farm which is beautifully decorated with a big healing bed and crystals, it smells of incense and it’s very inviting. I’d only had reiki once before and didn’t know much about it. I got onto the bed and Felicity Weston starts her magic – Felicity is the owner of Ookushana Workshop in Leeds, a Reiki Master and Holistic Wellness Coach. She is a lovely young woman and I find myself spilling my deepest and darkest secrets to her, and I have a feeling that many people do – such is the kind and gentle way that she responds.
It’s hard to explain what happened in the session or how it works, but she placed her hands gently all over my body and it felt like rushes of powerful energy somehow running through it and I went into a deeply relaxed, trance like state. I felt extremely calm and collected afterwards and like I’d experienced something very special.
Throughout the day I realised that reiki can have very different effects on different people and some of the women cry, although not through sadness, but through a release of negative emotions and they tell me they feel relieved.
Yoga in a barn, massage in a bell-tent
I’m lucky to also get a massage and this is delivered by Chelsey Elizabeth Needham, from Inner Sense Guru and who is also the resident yoga teacher. Chelsey trained in India and teaches her own style of InnerFlow Yoga. InnerFlow Yoga is an all-encompassing sequence combining ancient techniques including Mudra, Pranayama, Asana, Meditation and Mantra music.This reminded me of a previous experience with the mother of all Yoga – Kundalini. If you’re never heard of some of these Yogic words or of Kundalini Yoga you are not alone! But I can tell you everything combined gracefully to make you feel incredible after each yoga session and it was a great group bonding experience.
Chelsey specialises in Tibetan massage, using a holistic approach which reflects the Tibetan medical system – viewing the body as not just physical, but energetic and spiritual as well, and god she’s good.
The sun finally comes out and I breathe a sigh of relief. It’s an unusual scene – people are having reiki, or sat chatting in small groups, someone brings some sofas onto the field and we sit there with the sun on our faces staring out at the vast Yorkshire hills, it’s a spectacular setting. There is an option for a personal training session but I’ve never been one for self-induced pain so I happily just relax with a book in the sunshine.
A very special and spontaneous thing happened that weekend and I felt very privilidged to be a part of it. Almost by accident a few of us seemed to be sat in a circle outside on the grass. Angel, another reiki healer who’s part of the Lovelution family suggested that we do a ‘women’s circle’. This filled me with utter fear, what did she mean? If it meant speaking in public they could count me out. But it was too late, everyone was already holding hands, I took a deep breath, held hands, and waited in anticipation, having never taken part in anything like it before.
One by one we all went around the circle and opened up about why we were there, because let’s face it, if we find ourselves in a field in Cragg Vale with strangers then we have to admit that we’re looking for something. I’ve met many people on retreats and there are often common themes:
~ Getting over a relationship breakup
~ Trying to find the strength to finish a relationship
~ Trying to abstain from alcohol or drugs
~ Trying to find a new direction in their lives
~ Looking for creative influences
~ Looking for like minded souls
~ Grieving from bereavement
~ People who have had a scary health diagnosis
~ Looking for answers to the meaning of things
This was eight strangers, all sat there opening their hearts to each other in such an honest way. There was laughter, tears, confessions, hugs, and there were friendships made. I’ve never come across anything like it before or since and I felt so honoured that these women shared these stories and their hopes and fears with me, and me with them.
This is the key to what Lovelution offers, it’s a safe and supportive space for everyone and anyone to explore who they are and what they want in the peace and harmony of nature.
Open mic night
The open mic night was even greater than I expected. Nearly everyone (apart from me – I was thinking about doing a poem about veganism but bottled it at the last minute) took part, there was singing, rappin’, belly dancing, poetry and games. It was brilliant, it seemed like everyone had a hidden talent.
Lovelution community and family
I have to mention the structure of Lovelution – The Institute for the Elevation of People. The whole show is run by James and it is run as a collective, or a cooperative even – everyone’s paid the same and everyone who now works at the retreats are previous guests. James explains:
Everyone who comes is invited to be part of the Lovelution and help with the project. Lots of people who have attended a retreat have changed their lives and followed their dreams since being part of it. The weekend has the power to unlock a person’s true potential and empower them. They will be accepted and supported from a place of love. Our community keeps growing and the project is ever evolving and open to all people who want to find meaning and live the best possible life for them and the world.
So who goes on retreats?
I get asked this question a lot so I may as well answer it here. Anyone and everyone really, and if you ever think you’d like to go on a retreat but don’t have anyone to go with I can almost 100% guarantee that you won’t be the only person alone. What I’ve also found is that most people are not who you’d expect, they’re just regular people from all walks of life.
How did I feel after my retreat?
I felt brilliant, but it was more than the calm, refreshed and refocused feeling that I normally get after a retreat. I felt like I’d found a new community, something that I wanted to be part of, people who accepted me fully for who I am, and it opened the doors for a bigger journey that I was to embark on afterwards – more on that in another post maybe.
I’ve been on tonnes of retreats all over the world and they’ve all been amazing in their own way but this one will always have a very special place in my heart. Thanks James and thanks Lovelution team!
**Please note: Lovelution is strictly an alcohol and drug free zone.**
If you’d like to attend a Lovelution retreat in summer 2018 the price is £222 and is all-inclusive of weekend camping, all plant-based gourmet meals, snacks and all treatments, classes and workshops.
For more information please go to: theiep.co.uk
Please do sign up to my newsletter below folks or LIKE my Facebook page for updates.