Path of Love review | personal growth retreat, Wales
Learn about love in the heart of the Brecon Beacons
The Quick Read: A week-long personal growth retreat, Path of Love is a global phenomenon, operating in a dozen countries across the world. Blending a wide range of teachings, the process combines Western psychotherapeutic traditions with Eastern practices about meditation and prayer. The result is a hybrid of West-meets-East thinking to help you heal and integrate old wounds. The week is meticulously planned, each day being a preparation for the next, so the process unfolds seamlessly into a rigorous journey of self-examination. In the UK, the retreat is held twice a year at Buckland Hall near Abergavenny in Wales. It’s a profound and moving process aimed at melting your heart and helping you to face your demons.
Who it’s best for: Spiritual seekers, and anyone interested in their personal growth, including those who have never tried anything like this before as well as those who have done some psychotherapeutic work, either one to one or in an ongoing group. There is a responsible selection process too. All participants are interviewed by one of the course facilitators and there is more than one questionnaire to fill out before you are admitted. The week is both psychologically and physically demanding – it’s also much fun and liberating. The course is an inner adventure for those that love to explore their own personal edge and dive into the mysteries of our inner being.
What you can do: For seven days you are in a ‘process’, from early morning till late in the evening. Much of it is conducted in silence (outside of the group structures) and the week is vegetarian with no alcohol permitted. Every day starts with a dynamic meditation at 7am, followed by breakfast and then a morning of group work which involves emotional sharing and being witnessed. Lunch, then more group work which is often movement based, in the afternoon, followed by evening meditations and talks.
This course is psycho-spiritual rock and roll; it is an intersection of overlapping ideas and traditional thinking about the soul. This is mysticism (both Eastern and Western), meets Jung’s depth psychology, meets bodywork and celebration, and includes lots of hands-on group work and role-playing. The process is also influenced by the heart-based approaches of Sufism, which is founded on the belief that the heart is our centre of intelligence – it’s all about joining your head to your heart.
The founders of the process once lived with the late Osho Sri Rajneesh in Pune, India, and Osho appears throughout, on video one night and on audiotape at times. Followers of Osho were called ‘sannyasins’, which is the Sanskrit word for ‘wandering mendicant and ascetic’, though Osho’s sannyasins were encouraged to embrace, accept and transform, rather than eliminate their earthly desires – to be in the world but not of it. Those who are skeptical about the late Osho, fear not – we were too, and yet this course was so well managed, with the utmost care taken of every participant, that the Osho influence didn’t feel like anything to be concerned about.
As much of the content of this course is confidential, and with good reason, it is not possible to reveal the specifics of this intensive retreat. We would say, arrive open-minded and be prepared to expose yourself, your deepest longings as well as your dark side. There is no hiding on the Path of Love – if you are hoping for a fluffy, easy time, then this course is not for you. If, on the other hand, you are ready and willing to dive in deep and dig into difficult personal material, then we cannot recommend it highly enough.
Where you stay: Buckland Hall is an ancient country mansion which dates back to the time of King Arthur and is fabled to be J.R.R .Tolkien’s model for Frodo Baggin’s childhood home. With its Alice in Wonderland-esque topiaried gardens and lawns (60 acres in all), huge 400 year old trees and panoramic views across a wide green valley, there is a magical aspect to this old house. Huge firs wobble and dance in the wind; massive emerald hedges are cut in to blocks of what look like green sponge cake. There is an ornamental lake on which swans glide about and keyhole doorways cut into walls of hedge which lead to sudden drops (so we discovered). At lunchtime and in breaks, you can walk about in this ornate green landscape and marvel at its outlandish design, which is at one with the surrounding national parklands and valley. The house is surrounded by hills and dotted with farmhouses and the views are bucolic and gentle on the eye.
The rooms are small but clean and en suite. Most participants share in rooms of two or four, but you can have single rooms for an extra cost. Fresh towels are provided half way through. The décor is white and light and there was a huge window overlooking the valley to wake up to. Earplugs are essential, as well as an alarm clock (mobile phones are handed in on arrival) and also an eye mask. Given all this, the rooms felt cosy and warm and had a contemporary feel. There was a big cupboard and small chests of drawers for clothes. Easy to live in for a few days.
How was it for us: Even though I have attended many group retreats and have had years of one to one psychoanalysis, I felt the first few days of this one were big and blustery, as though I’d been in a heavy storm – the relentless self-inquiry was both heart-breaking and heart opening. I dived in totally, so I was highly stimulated and at times found it hard to sleep. Because it was so physically active, I often went to bed aching. Because it was so psychologically challenging, I ate more than I needed, perhaps as a form of comfort eating. I shared my room and this worked fine, though it was a little odd, as the retreat is silence, sharing with a woman I was supposed to not speak to, or, at least, not till quite late in the process.
The best part of this course for me was a deeply connecting walking meditation one morning, which took the form of hours of spiritual contemplation, with some of the course facilitators walking with us, hand in hand. It was an overwhelmingly spiritual meditation; the atmosphere in the room was full of love, and many of us were brought to our knees. I was also happy to hear Western mystics John O Donohue, Carolyn Myss and Leonard Jacobson talk throughout the retreat. It’s easy, in a time when Western religion has almost died, to forget our own tradition of spiritual wisdom.
What we took home: I’d had a difficult year, spiritually, emotionally and financially. I arrived very blown about and shut down. I left in a state of gratitude and deep connection with my heart. I burnt down my house, metaphorically speaking, destroyed things and people who had hurt and troubled me in the past.
Would we go back: To do the whole seven-day process again isn’t necessary, but once you have done the course, many other Path of Love related retreats are then open to you and I’ve already earmarked one to do next summer.
People watch: Path of Love therapists are generally very well trained in a wide range of psychological approaches. Many have expertise in trauma resolution and on our retreat they were all extremely capable.
Food watch: The week is vegetarian. Breakfast was serve-yourself buffet-style and included porridge, toast, cereals, fruit, coffee and tea was with some gluten-free bread and muesli. Lunch was light and included only soup and bread. On two days there was no lunch at all to stop us feeling sleepy. Dinnertime was the big meal of the day and was usually warm, wholesome, veggie food: pasta, risotto, curries. There was an abundance of salad and lots of cheese and fruit. You won’t go hungry, though non-vegetarians might find themselves eating lots of cheese to make up for the lack of protein. You are encouraged to bring snacks.
What’s queenly: The founders Rafia Morgan and Turiya Hanover are very inspirational. They are old friends, awesome therapists and they act like conscious loving parents. They are funny too. Utterly original.
What’s lowly: I am a meat eater and struggled with the veggie food and the silence during such a tough week. I found it hard not to chat to my room mate and I longed for a lamb chop throughout the seven days.
Insider Tip: You will cry a lot, so don’t even think about bringing make up. Bring indoor soft shoes such as slippers or flip flops, and lots and lots of comfy clothes you might go to the gym in.
Price: The course costs £1490 per person – on top you pay for accommodation and board which costs £475 per person in a shared double room or £420 per person in a shared room for four. Some single rooms are available on request at £625 per person.
Value for Money: This is genuinely one of those life changing courses. A shift will happen, so it’s worth every penny.
Sister Retreats: The Path of Love retreats run in different countries all over the world. See their website for details.
Reviewed by Monique Roffey
© Queen of Retreats