A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to experience truly peaceful, mindful day on a Chilled Mama Retreat. I’d been looking forward to it for ages, and also a little nervous. It surpassed all my expectations, and was exactly what I needed.
I was invited* to go to the Chilled Mama Retreat by founder Cathy. She’s an antenatal teacher, trainee doula, pregnancy relaxation teacher and baby massage teacher, amongst lots of other talents. The Chilled Mama Retreat is described as “a day to totally relax and unwind” with “time to think and find yourself again.” And really, it’s as simple, and as complicated, as that.
Chilling Out at Tofte Manor
The Chilled Mama Retreat takes place in the grounds and gorgeous converted stables of a stunning manor house, Tofte Manor, Bedfordshire. It’s the perfect setting as it’s incredible peaceful.
We had the chance to explore the grounds, and spent time in the yoga studio and at the beautiful labyrinth. The weather wasn’t great sadly, but it was still beautiful in the drizzle.
Mindfulness and Relaxation at The Chilled Mama Retreat
Our host Cathy is naturally a warm, welcoming and nurturing lady and we were all immediately put at our ease. After drinks and home made snacks, we did a few mindfulness exercises, relaxations and meditations in the yoga room, and generally got to know each other.
Our group was quite diverse, with some brand new mums, some, like me, with primary school children, some with teens or grown up kids and even a mum and her mum. We all had diverse experiences and were looking for different things from the Chilled Mama Retreat.
Walking the Labyrinth
The lady who owns Tofte Manor installed the most wonderful Labyrinth. There’s a natural spring there, and the water is piped around the Labyrinth beneath the surface.
Cathy suggested we remove our shoes to get the best experience.I had planned to keep mine on as it was a really cold day. But then I realised that was silly, as when else would I get to do this? I’m so glad I took my boots off, as it really did make me feel more connected to the earth. At the end of the ritual we all washed our feet in the fresh spring water, and though our feet were practically frozen, it was totally worth it.
As we entered the Labyrinth, one by one, Cathy read a lovely poem to us, about our ancestors and how much we were loved. That was enough to set me off crying!
We were encouraged to spend a few minutes in the centre, and it felt right to say a little prayer for each of my family members and close friends.
The sensation of walking barefoot along the narrow paths is wonderful. As we all walked the labyrinth in silence, it was a very moving, spiritual and calming experience. It was so special to have time to actually think about things, rather than being in a rush all the time.
Closing the Bones Ceremony at The Chilled Mama Retreat
After lunch (more on that later) we all took part in a Closing the Bones ceremony. It’s an interpretation of an ancient Mexican tradition where the mother is anointed, massaged and wrapped, to mark her passage into motherhood.
Cathy’s version of this healing and nurturing ceremony is designed to support a mother’s recovery after childbirth, and recognise and celebrate the amazing abilities of our bodies.
We each said our name, daughter of our mum’s name and granddaughter to our grand mothers’ names. It helped us feel more connected to our ancestors. Even though one of my grandmas died before I was born, it was special to acknowledge the part she played in my life.
I think we all shed a few tears at this point. We took it in turns to perform the ceremony on each other, in small groups.
The woman being wrapped lies down on the cushions and shawls. A pair of other women wrap her up very slowly from head to foot. They lay their hands onto her, as Cathy reads a poem. Mine happened to be my favourite poem by Maya Angelou.
Here I am all cosily wrapped up. It’s such a relaxing experience and makes me realise why babies love being swaddled.
The other girls slowly unwrap each shawl and pop a blanket over the lady and leave her to sleep or relax for a little while. It is honestly the most moving and wonderful experience. Both when you’re being swaddled, and when you help perform the ceremony on the other ladies.
Although traditionally held fairly soon after giving birth, it’s perfect for any mother. We had a few grandmothers in our group and I think they got as much out of it as the newer mums.
Food at The Chilled Mama Retreat
I have to confess that I was a little worried about the food. Mainly because lentils were mentioned and I am a bit of a fussy eater. I even took snacks in my bag just in case. But I needn’t have worried. Everything was realy delicious and also felt like it was good for us.
Why Was I Nervous?
At the start of this post, I mentioned that I was a little nervous about the retreat. You might be wondering why. Well, it’s just a bit out of my comfort zone, and I wasn’t sure about talking about my feelings to a group of strangers. But firstly, you don’t have to talk if you don’t want to, and secondly, they don’t fee like strangers at all.
I was also worried it might make me cry. A lot. And it did, but in a good way. I think we all had a moment or two of emotions flooding out, as we let go of any anxiety and feelings of not being a good enough mum.
The Chilled Mama website makes it clear that the day is very relaxed. You don’t have to take part in everything if you don’t want to. We were free to roam around the estate, which was my plan if everything got a bit much. But once I got there, I was completely at ease. It didn’t even occur to me to not take part in anything. I think the other ladies felt the same as Cathy created such a nurturing atmosphere.
As cheesy as this may sound, we all left as friends, having shared a very special day together. It was a completely welcoming, relaxing and thought-provoking day.
Would I Recommend The Chilled Mama Retreat?
In a word, yes. With bells on! It’s genuine ‘me time’ – not just a manicure, or a glass of wine and your favourite TV show (as nice as they are!). It’s a time to reflect, and rejoice on your path as a mum, and really, that is something to be celebrated. I’m don’t normally struggle to find words (I am a freelance copywriter afterall) but I’m finding it hard to explain this experience. It really has to be experienced.
The Chilled Mama Retreat came at the perfect time for me, as my husband went away for a week with work a few days later. The retreat really helped me to mentally and physically prepare for the week ahead. It also reminded me to appreciate how lucky I am to have such a wonderful family.
I’d highly recommend treating yourself to the Chilled Mama Retreat, or buying it for a friend or loved one. The next Chilled Mama Retreat is on 26th May, and you can book on here. Cathy also does pregnancy retreats and Mumma and Bubba Nurture Days. I wish I’d gone on them when I was at that stage, they sound brilliant.
It’s the perfect chance to reflect on your life as a mum, and outside of being a mum too. In a wold of rush, rush, rush, it’s so precious to have some hush.