Jessica McGregor Johnson review | life coaching retreat, Spain
Private life coaching retreats in the mountains
The Quick Read: Mentor and guide Jessica McGregor Johnson is a highly qualified coach who has helped all sorts of people find the right way forward in their personal and professional lives over the last 12 years. Based in Spain, she’s grounded, light of heart and easy to be with, and particularly good at helping you access a truer path in any given situation if you feel you’ve chosen something that you think you should do rather than what suits you better. Have sessions with her by skype or attend ‘Get Unstuck in Two Days’ – a private one-to-one mentoring and coaching retreat with her at Casa Ana, a glorious, boutique guesthouse in the white washed village of Ferreirola in the Alpujarras in Spain.
What Jessica can help with: You might need help deciding something small, such as what to say at a business talk, or something big, such as whether to leave your job or relationship – or you might just want to check you’re on the right path in life.
More on the private life coaching retreats: Jessica’s speciality is private, one-to-one retreats lasting three nights and two days. Before attending a retreat you’ll have a ‘familiarity’ session with Jessica to check that she can help you and that you can connect. You’ll then arrange a mutually convenient time for your retreat.
They are held at Casa Ana, a delectably converted, 400 year old guesthouse with just 12 ensuite rooms arranged around a flower-filled garden courtyard in the gorgeous white-washed village of Ferreirola in the Alpujarra mountains of Andalucia in Spain – about a 2.5 hour drive from Malaga airport – read a word from the queen on her retreat.
The retreats feature two full days of coaching, and they’re deliberately very intense. Each day begins with a grounding meditation led by Jessica on the terrace if the weather is fine, or in your room if not, which Jessica can lead if you’ve never meditated before. Then there’s a four hour coaching session in the morning, followed by a few hours of downtime to digest what has gone on, which can be spent walking the local mule paths or just relaxing – these gaps are deliberately built in by Jessica to enable her clients to ‘get out of their heads’. A shorter follow up session takes place before supper every evening. As it is just the two of you, Jessica can vary the times according to your mood and energy levels.
You’ll have one massage with a decent local therapist included on the first evening – more can be booked in advance. During your retreat you’ll also visit one of the famous Alpujarra white villages and have the opportunity to buy local crafts and foods.
More on the group retreats: Jessica also offers 5 day group retreats at Casa Ana on request when there are a minimum of six people – drop her a line if are a group and you want to register your interest.
The group retreats are led by Jessica and her partner Beatrice, who is a Certified Passion Test Facilitator & Coach and Yoga teacher. The retreat is designed to help you take time out from your world and reconnect to yourself so you can see what is missing and begin to identify the elements that need rebalancing in your life. Mornings start with yoga and meditation and are then taken up with group coaching sessions, while afternoons give time for silent walks, rest or a massage. You can have individual chats with Jessica or Beatrice before supper each evening, and on one day of the week there will be formal individual sessions too. During your week you’ll visit one of the famous Alpujarra white villages and have the opportunity to buy local crafts and foods too – you can also book massages with a local therapist.
More on coaching by phone or skype: As well as running retreats Jessica can coach people by phone or by skype anywhere in the world. The initial programme is over six months because, Jessica says, experience has shown her it’s a good length of time to ensure change happens. This programme includes two 60-minute sessions per month, a follow-up email after each session, unlimited email support, laser calls between sessions if you are stuck trying to progress something, and specific next steps for you to take between each session to ensure the progress that you want.
More on Jessica’s life and techniques: During her sessions with you Jessica dips in and out of an impressive tool kit of techniques to help you brainstorm ideas, get clarity on your points of confusion and work out a practical way forward. She might do a ‘values test’, so you can get clarity on what your life values are and which of those you might not currently be honouring. She might use The Passion Test, a method for finding your passions and purpose in life devised by Janet Bray Attwood and Chris Attwood which we found particularly funny, clever and revelatory on our retreat with Jessica. She might draw on the The Work of Byron Katie, a form of meditation designed to raise your awareness of your thought processes in any situation.
Jessica lived on an ashram for four years in East Coast USA and believes that we are all on a spiritual path in life. She’ll ask you to close your eyes and focus on the ‘feeling’ of something – to check in if it feels right or not – so you can access your true path in something, instead of choosing something that you think you should do – this could be something as small as what to say at a business talk to whether to leave your job or relationship.
Crucially, Jessica calls herself a guide and mentor rather than a coach because she gives advice, drawing on her wide life experience – from getting married to the wrong person to being a hang gliding addict to spending four years living in an ashram – to offer guidance every step of the way. She’s clear that just talking to her isn’t going to change your life – there’s work to be done, by you, and she’s there as a guide to help facilitate it.
She’s fully aware that a chance comment can shift things too – which is why the one to one conversations you’ll have during a retreat are so worthwhile. In Jessica’s view, everything is interconnected, and an aspect of life that we might need to focus on is informed by something else – whether that’s to do with our careers or our personal lives.
More on Jessica’s qualifications: Jessica originally trained privately with Andrew Hunter, a coach and trainer in Spain, and went on to study NLP with Christopher Howard Trainings. She is certified as a Passion Test and Passion Test for Business Consultant with Enlightened Alliances (run by Chris and Janet Attwood). She’s also the author of two (self published) books – Remembering Perfection: Everyday Inspiration for Living Your Spirituality, and The Right T-Shirt: Write Your Own Rules and Live the Life You Want. These illustrations, taken from Jessica’s books, were devised by her partner Beatrice.
Food watch: During your retreat at Casa Ana you will have home-cooked, highly tasty meals using locally sourced produce. Breakfast (divine orange juice, fresh fruit, cereals, eggs) and lunches (homemade soups, salads and tortillas) are served daily, and Wes, a talented Canadian chef who lives locally, comes to cook evening meals here when there are at least four guests dining (these are divine – from goat cheese fitters with spinach and apple salad to coq-au-vin with parsnip cream). Otherwise, Jessica takes you out to eat each evening – there’s a simple bistro in the village, or you’ll drive to neighbouring white-washed villages for dinners in lively Spanish squares. You can drink or not drink alcohol – it’s up to you. All the meals are included in the price of the retreat.
People watch: The retreats are open to everyone, of any age and from all walks of life, but tend to attract professional men and women with a personal issue they want to deal with. You could have had some skype coaching with Jessica before, or you may just want to come on the retreat to focus on a particular personal or professional issue. Many people find that they continue coaching with Jessica by skype on return.
What’s queenly: Jessica has a fun, almost child-like, playfulness to her that keeps the energy light rather than heavy. She’s especially brilliant at giving practical help – such as how to manage your diary or find staff to do stuff you don’t want to do.
What’s lowly: If you are at Casa Ana on a private retreat, you’ll share the space with other B&B guests. Jessica ensures that you always have private spaces to talk and reflect in though, so it never feels like a big issue.
Getting there: Fly to Malaga airport, from where it’s a 2.5 hour drive – Jessica will pick you up. Aim to arrive for about 3pm on the first day.
Costs: Private retreats cost £2575 per person including 3 nights accommodation, all coaching (both on the retreat and one follow-up coaching session when you get home), morning meditation, all meals, a massage on the first evening of your retreat and transport to and from Malaga airport and around the local area.
A minimum of four months follow on coaching is recommended as part of your retreat. Coaching programmes by skype or phone cost £450 a month for a minimum of six months if you haven’t done a retreat beforehand. Group retreats (on request) cost £1575 per person including 6 nights accommodation, all coaching, morning yoga and meditation, all meals and transport to and from Malaga airport and around the local area.
Reviewed by Caroline Sylger Jones
© Queen of Retreats