I’ve just returned from virtually a whole month away from work.
I started August with a week-long tai ji retreat in Herefordshire which was both calming and revitalising. I left there with my feet firmly on the ground, feeling centred, rested and balanced.
I then set off alone for a two-week retreat on the Greek island of Kefalonia, which I’m sure is a familiar holiday spot for many of us. I’ve been to Kefalonia a number of times now and I treasure the two weeks of quiet time. One of the best aspects of this is that I get up every morning as the sun is rising and go walking for a couple of hours in what I can only describe as ‘goat country’. The trails I follow are rocky, rugged and steep, and the trees and shrubs are typically Mediterranean with their coarse leaves and branches. I probably walk about 12-15 kms each morning, so it’s a strenuous activity.
So, what has this got to do with coaching or supervision?
Well, I can only describe these walks as a wonderful form of meditation. As I clamber up hill and down dale (a very English expression in a not very English environment) I have to concentrate on every step that I take to make sure that I don’t stumble or trip, or get scratched by an overhanging branch. The sound of the sea accompanies me on most of the routes I take, and I am immersed in nature with barely a human to be seen. The occasional sound of sheep and goats, some with bells around their necks, adds to the silence.
What is most striking for me is that I find as soon I start to ‘think work’ and my attention wanders from my path, I can catch my knee on a rocky outcrop or stumble over a not-steady rock, or I scratch my arm on a branch that I haven’t noticed. So, to keep myself balanced and safe from falling, I have to come back to ‘just here, just now’, and bring my attention back to the task in hand: that of simply walking.
I don’t speak to many people while I’m on retreat, relishing the quiet, not having to listen to anyone, not having to choose my words. Instead, I’m simply resting and being in nature, eating deliciously tasty fresh food, being in and by the sea, not wedded to my iPhone or emails as I recharge my batteries.
What I notice on my return is how much clearer I feel. I can make decisions quickly. I don’t procrastinate or faff around when confronted by the eternal series of choices that face me, from the muesli I eat for breakfast, to the books I could be reading, to the quickest route to the next meeting. And I’m not tempted by racing to respond to every email that pings into my inbox. I know that this time away is essential in helping me to keep fit for purpose.
Now, after two weeks back, I am still holding some of this calm clarity of purpose and way of working. I am delighted to reconnect with clients and colleagues, having had a complete break. I am also holding the question of how to sustain this well-being, and fending off or letting pass by the tsunami of stimuli that we are faced with in our everyday working lives.