Broughton Hall – where The Path Of Love retreat is held

The Path of Love Review: 7-Day Wellness Retreat

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Reviewing The Path of Love, a seven-day wellness retreat hosted at the Broughton Sanctuary, Clover Stroud delved into the darkest recesses of her being and resurfaced joyful and enlightened: does this retreat offer the ultimate emotional healing?

A line from the German poet Rilke (‘go to the limits of your longing’) rang in my head as I took a train from King’s Cross to Skipton in Yorkshire, then a taxi to Broughton Hall, to join a seven-day process called the Path of Love. I knew little about what it involved, but was intrigued and, crucially, open, to a process described as the most intensive and life-changing mediation and personal growth process in the world today. I was curious, too, about the ‘deep inner work’ it offered. I have had decades of therapy and am a writer specialising in confession. Most recently, I’ve written three memoirs, examining with unflinching honesty, the way trauma, motherhood, sex, grief, adventure, death has shaped my life. I’m 47, and since I was a teenager my life has been coloured by high levels of trauma and loss. I’ve also created a life rich in colour. I have five children and I want it all. Confession and self-examination are where I work and live every day, and thought none of my cupboards were closed. How could the Path of Love, hosted by Broughton Sanctuary, take me further?

Joy, though, had been in short supply, for a while. Standing in my kitchen at home, surrounded by the children and horses and energy I’d created or invited in, I’d been feeling numb and lost, separated from a joy I knew was there, but couldn’t touch or taste and certainly couldn’t see. A non-specific but pervading misery had coated everything around me, like lightly falling rain.

The Path To Love retreat, activities

You could say I went into the process with a pounding, wounded heart, sitting in that big room on the first morning, beside 32 other wounded hearts. Each had been through a rigorous selection process involving a Zoom interview with one of the facilitators, because the process is demanding, but deep longing and deeper pain had brought them all there. I didn’t know, on that first morning, that over the course of seven days, we would walk together into the blackest, darkest, and whitest, brightest corners of our lives. Path of Love demands bravery. There’s nowhere to hide, and you have to want to do this course.

In so-called normal life, we shy away from pain. We retract our hand when the flame burns too fierce. We shut down or shut away to protect ourselves, but we do the same with acute joy, too, perhaps for fear of looking ridiculous or silly, or simply because we forget what it feels like. What I witnessed around me, and underwent myself, was a process which enabled me to feel all that pain and all that light again, and not snatch my hand away, but instead dwell in it and watch the burn of the flame, while rediscovering pure golden joy. The group of 32 was broken into three smaller groups, each with a pair of ‘facilitators’ who supported and held, often quite literally, each participant as we went through hours of highly confessional, demanding group sharing every day. Beyond our facilitators was a staff of just under 30, so every single person in that room had a sense someone was there for them. The process is led by Rafia Morgan and Turiya Hanover, nothing short of the high priests of dark pain and highest joy, who founded the programme. Their work is a calling, not a job, inspired by years of inner work and a shared commitment to ‘wake up’ in this life. They met in the 1970s after joining Osho, in Pune, India. Over decades they honed a deeply wise, genre-defying, mind-blowing and somewhat iconoclastic process which broke me to my core, and took me to the heights of ecstasy, too.

Tree Planting

Surprise is important in this process, so that, as in life, you don’t know what’s coming next. It’s enough to say that the process uses intensive confessional group therapy, combined with both dynamic and peaceful meditation, and sessions of extreme physical movement and dance; over a week, we were all completely altered, bonded and, in so many ways, reborn. With them all, yet also entirely alone, I went through a cumulative process of grief, shock, joy, frustration, fury, frustration, rage, bliss and the purest ecstasy, culminating in a day so surprising and so beautiful, during which I reached a place where I became the actual embodiment of joy, it will enrich my life forever.

The swimming pool at Broughton Hall

© Heidi Marfitt

This is hard work, too, and the sumptuous surroundings of Broughton Hall, where Paris Ackrill and Roger Tempest have developed Avalon, a stunning, purpose-built space for self-exploration and transformation. After long days of pain and pleasure, returning to extra comfortable beds and eating delicious, vegetarian food surrounded by grandeur of the hall, was welcome. Outside the group rooms, we were sworn to silence, but there were gardens to walk in, woodlands to forest bathe, and many distant horizons where I could retreat for quiet contemplation to extend my vision. The days, however, were long and gruelling, so most often, I simply flopped into my delicious four poster bed.

Broughton Hall and its large estate

In my life full of extremes, Path of Love was unquestionably among the most extreme, most demanding, and most beautiful experiences of my life. It has completely changed me. The process exploded chambers I’d held locked deeper inside me which even my confessional writing hadn’t visited; greater than that, it showed me the source of a deep spring of joy and ecstasy I keep inside me but had completely lost. It’s helped me understand so much about the way I communicate, and I feel much gentler and calmer in the way I face the world.

I’m in nothing short of awe of the work Rafia and Turiya are doing. It defies definition, and is, quite literally, mind- blowing. I’ve returned to my family a much, much happier person, with old anguish and pain worked out of my body, clasping a talisman of pure joy that’s sitting inside me, infinitely precious. My husband says I’m happy in a way he hasn’t seen for a long time, freed from a certain crushing responsibility the world imposes, as if I am drunk on joy.

And the limits of my longing? Oh yes, I went there, and much, much further, too.

BOOK IT: The Path of Love 7-Day Retreat costs from £1,850 + VAT. Price does not include food and accommodation at Broughton Hall. Visit pathretreats.com or email [email protected] for details, avalonwellbeing.com

Featured image: © Soulfocus Media

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