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The Pause review | life coaching retreats, UK & Bali

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Thought-provoking life coaching with Danielle Marchant 

The Quick Read: The Pause life coaching holidays are an invitation to stop and take a look at your life – at what’s working and what really isn’t. Danielle Marchant is a beguiling leader – a refreshing mix of pragmatic and soulful – and she facilitates with a light hand and an engaged heart, creating a space where people can bring their ‘stuff’ and leave lighter. Danielle offers a one-day Instant Pause in London, a three or five-day residential Deep Pause in rural Berkshire or Cornwall, The Wild Pause, which is a UK based weekend of exploration in nature with wild camping, and The Sacred Pause, a five day spiritual retreat at Fivelements spa retreat in Bali. You can also book The Transformational Pause – a twelve month blended programme with quarterly retreats and coaching – or ongoing life coaching by Skype. We tried The Deep Pause and loved its integrity, its soulfulness and its pure magic.

Budget: ££

The Pause creator and coach Danielle Marchant

The Pause creator and coach Danielle Marchant

More on Danielle Marchant: Danielle is an international board level executive coach, consultant and facilitator, with more than 10 years experience working with leaders in 20 different countries. Her expertise includes executive coaching, leadership development, team facilitation, coach development and organisational change, and her corporate clients include Tesco, HSBC, Kraft Foods, Fonterra Brands and Inter Continental Hotel Group. She is one of only 200 coaches in the UK to hold the International Coach Federation Professional Certified Coach (PCC) credential.

She was the MD of a pioneering coaching company, Coach in a Box, and award winning leadership development consultancy, Bridge Partnerships, based in Singapore, where she lived and worked for several years. Alongside professional coaching trainings (with the ICF and Global Coach Trust) she also works on her own personal development with an ongoing programme of trainings, workshops and psychotherapy, enabling her to facilitate transformation in others. Read a word from the queen on our pause with Danielle.

Having burned out herself, Danielle knows what it’s like to be in tough places. Her coaching is about helping people move forwards towards a life that is fulfilling, passionate, fun and connected. It could so easily be naff, woolly and New Agey but it isn’t. It’s big-hearted, warm, and potentially life-changing. It isn’t glitzy or glam, and Danielle recognises that there are no easy solutions or pat answers.

The Pause health retreat for professionals Danielle Marchant Cornwall

Each guest receives a welcome pack

More on the private coaching: Usually conducted by Skype, you simply share what is going on in your life and Danielle listens, reflects and asks questions. She has an uncanny knack of asking the difficult questions, the real questions, the ones you would rather avoid. The idea, as she puts it, is to ‘Unravel what is happening in your inner world so you can flow more easily in the outer world.’ She helps you pinpoint your strengths, talents and desires and encourages you to find the courage you need to make new choices in life. It’s gentle yet extremely powerful.

While many people turn to Danielle when they are in crisis or feel they need to make big changes in their lives (whether personal or work), she also coaches on practical business matters, including business strategy, team development, leadership skills. All in all, she helps people come back to balance, to find out what is really important in life and how to rediscover its magic.

The Pause health retreat for professionals Danielle Marchant Cornwall

An individual welcome at The Pause

More on the Instant Pause day retreats in London: Described as a ‘pit stop for super busy people’ this is a day-long (10am-5pm) workshop usually held in a stylish space in Brixton, London. There’s nearly always an Instant Pause in December and January – offering the chance to look back, gaining insights from the year that’s passed so you can build a steady platform for the now and create a vision for the future. Danielle describes it as an ‘alternative to New Year’s resolutions.’

After checking in (a round-the-table sharing session), the first exercise involves drawing a timeline which is explored through the morning. After lunch people are invited to ponder on words to describe the year that’s passed and the one to come. It’s deceptively simple yet provides great insights. Lunch (soup and salads usually) and snacks are included. See dates here.

The Pause health retreat for professionals Danielle Marchant Cornwall

Art by the river on a 3-day Deep Pause retreat

More on the Deep Pause residential retreats: These are three or five-day residentials that let you sink deeper into your process.  They’re not about finding quick answers, but about ‘slowing down enough so you can start asking the right questions’. See dates here.

The three-day weekend Deep Pauses tend to be held in Berkshire. The group is never more than 12 (all bedrooms are shared). The weekend revolves around finding your ‘big question’ but nothing is forced or hurried:  you meander your way to it via meditations (think bee, candle or starlight meditations), walks in nature, sitting in silence by the river or lake, journaling or painting.

There’s time for 1:1 coaching sessions and free time just to relax and be.  If you wish, you can stay over on the Sunday night at no extra cost.

The five-day Deep Pause is a chance to sink even further into self-exploration. These are held on an organic farm in Cornwall. Everyone has their own bedroom (with ensuite bathroom) on these and group size depends on the season (no more than five in the summer and twelve in winter). Once again, the focus is on the ‘big question’ but the process is even more spacious, with time out at the beach, a long yoga class (two and a half hours of deep meditative yoga), a treatment and 1:1 coaching if you desire.

The Pause health retreat for professionals Danielle Marchant Cornwall

Sharing is an important element of the retreat

Sharing is a large part of all Pauses. You sit around with the ‘speaking stone’ and share your thoughts, feeling, insights with the group. Food is also a big deal – it’s plentiful, fresh, vegetarian fare cooked with love and mindfulness – it’s deeply nourishing. You don’t ever go hungry on a Pause.

The accommodation isn’t glitzy but it’s comfortable and cosy and Danielle puts a lot of work into making sure the atmosphere is warm, supportive and comforting. There are fresh flowers and candles everywhere and music softly playing in the background.

The ‘welcome packs’ proffer a thoughtful yet playful selection of goodies including incense sticks and mini holder, Green and Blacks chocolate, notebook and coloured gel pen, Tea pigs teabags and candle. Very smile-inducing.

The Pause health retreat for professionals Danielle Marchant Cornwall

You’ll be encouraged to find your ‘spot’

More on the coaching techniques: Some activities tend to run through each Pause: The Question (finding the question you need to ask right now) and The Letter (writing a letter to your future self) are both staples. There’s plenty of time for journaling, visioning, musing on dreams and for playing with paints, pens and other materials. You could find a stone that speaks to you, and paint it to remind you of your dreams or visions for the future. The ‘dream jar’ offers a chance to expand this by writing out your vision on a long strip of paper.

Danielle is big on nature and you’re encouraged to find your ‘spot’ – a place that feels safe and right to sit and find your question (and to ponder possible answers). In Cornwall there is the chance for swimming (both in the heated outdoor pool and also wild swimming in the river) and wandering around the many acres of fields, woodland and farmland. In Berkshire there are also extensive grounds with woodland, river and lake (plus a wild woodland swing) to enjoy.

The Pause health retreat for professionals Danielle Marchant Cornwall

You might just fancy reading through a pile of books

Everyone comes together for at least two sharing sessions a day – just checking in on how you are feeling. And each day ends with a gathering around the fire (in Cornwall, there’s a firepit within a stone circle that’s the perfect place to watch the sun set). Cornwall also offers the chance for a day on the beach at nearby Bude – for swimming, lazing, stone painting and a picnic.

Packs of oracle cards sit around on the tables (angel cards, medicine animal cards and Chuck Spezzano’s Enlightenment pack) and you’re invited to pick a card.

Nothing is compulsory – you can join in as much as you want, or just do your own thing, as your heart dictates. ‘If you want to sleep the whole time, that’s fine,’ says Danielle.

The five-day Pause also includes a two-and-a-half hour yoga session with local teacher Andrew Moon. Andrew comes from a Scaravelli tradition but now teaches his own ‘athayoga’, a very slow, meditative, gentle practice concentrating on awareness, acceptance and appreciation of the body. Everything is done mindfully and peacefully. It also includes a session with local practitioner Sarah Uren. You can choose between full body aromatherapy massage (one hour) or reflexology (45 minutes).

Wasing Park, The Pause’s Berkshire venue

Wasing Park, The Pause’s Berkshire venue

More on the venues

In Bali, the spiritual Pause will take place at the lush Fivelements wellness resort – read our full review at the link.

In Berkshire, The Pause takes over a lodge at a beautiful country estate called Wasing Park. The surroundings are luscious – acres of countryside with lakes, ancient woodlands (spread with bluebells during the spring) and a secret walled garden. There’s a timber shelter by the lake for picnicking and even a woodland swing.

The Lodge itself is not remotely glitzy or glamorous – but it has a warm, cosy, homely feel. There’s a log burner and comfortable sofas in the living room and a big farmhouse table in the dining room. Bedrooms, equally, aren’t plush or pampering – but cosy and comfortable. Two of the bedrooms have ensuite bathrooms; the rest have shared bathrooms.  Toiletries are the country estate’s own brand, locally produced.

The Berkshire venue is around an hour by car from central London.  The nearest train station is Aldermaston and the venue is a five minute taxi journey from the station – cost around £5.

timber shelter by the lake for picnicking and even a woodland swing

Inside Waterloo Farm, the venue for The Pause in Cornwall

In Cornwall, the venue is Waterloo Farm, a working organic farm (beef and lamb) which also lets out a number of cottages.  The Pause takes over two conjoined cottages, opening them up into one larger space.  So there are two sitting rooms, each having a log burner, a range of squishy sofas and long tables (ideal for journaling or artwork) plus two suntrap patios – there’s plenty of space to stretch out.

Décor is typical country style – slate floors, lots of bare wood, exposed stonework and simple comfortable furniture. The bedrooms are comfortable but on the small side and, if you’re tall, the upstairs rooms under the eaves require a bit of ducking. Our favourite is the one with stained glass inserts – it’s slightly larger than the others. Most bedrooms have ensuite bathrooms but sadly no products are provided here.

timber shelter by the lake for picnicking and even a woodland swing

Our favourite bedroom at Waterloo Farm in Cornwall

Outside there’s plenty of space in which to wander. It’s not all perfectly styled (remember it’s a working farm) and the odd fence splicing the holiday let areas from the farm workings is a bit of an eyesore, but it’s packed with heart and soul. The owners have built a small stone circle at the top of the hill at the back of the barns, with a firepit in the middle – perfect for evening fires. There’s a heated swimming pool down a set of steps with comfortable loungers around. Further afield you can lose yourself in meadows, cosy up to a tree or dunk yourself in the river for a spot of wild swimming.

The Cornish venue is around four hours by car from central London. The nearest train stations are Liskeard and Plymouth (and then it’s 40/60 minutes to the venue). Taxis cost around £30-40.

In London, The Instant Pause is held at The Lightworks, HQ of The Raw Chef. It’s an airy loft space – urban cool with a twist of spirituality. White walls, wooden floors, L-shaped squashy sofas all shout urban professional but the odd crystal here and there and the feeling of integrated calm hint at something deeper.  It’s deeply stylish but with a sense of play. There isn’t any private outdoor space here but it’s close to a park and a windmill and Danielle offers the group the chance to head out for contemplation in the afternoons. The London venue is in Brixton (on the  Victoria Line tube). Read our full review here.

Food and drink: Food is integral to The Pause retreats. The chefs vary according to the retreat but they all share a passion for vegetarian food cooked with mindfulness, using mainly organic and locally produced food where possible. This is real comfort food – nourishing, healthful, generous and distinctly moreish.

It’s very much a help-yourself regime with no standing on ceremony and no fancy presentation. Bowls of fruit, crackers, nuts and home-made biscuits and bars are out all day for picking, plus a loaf of bread for DIY toast. You also help yourself to the range of teas (builders or herbal/fruit teas).

timber shelter by the lake for picnicking and even a woodland swing

Food is plentiful, vegetarian and delicious

Breakfast is served at around 8.30 – 9.30am (earlier on some days when the schedule demands) and is substantial: home-made granola, freshly-made Bircher muesli or apple and cinnamon porridge. Some days there is also frittata (think smoked tofu and courgette for example) and there’s usually a smoothie or juice too. Lunch is usually a variety of scrumptious salads, hummus, baba ganoush, falafel and so forth. Maybe also home-made soup. Supper choices include Mexican courgette, bean and aubergine stew, butternut squash and chickpea curry, veggie chill with wild rice and home-made tortilla chips.

On the 5 day retreat you leave with a healthy packed lunch (on the Pause we attended it was an incredible avocado/pepper mix in an egg/tofu pancake wrap.

The Pause health retreat for professionals Danielle Marchant Cornwall

The Pause coaching retreat is relaxed and easy-going

Fellow guests:  The Pause tends to attract thoughtful, big-hearted people who want to work on their lives (be it work, love or just life in general) in a playful, mindful, soul-centred way. Danielle says they are often at a juncture in life and frequently in crisis. The age range is wide – from mid-twenties to sixties – and The Pause mainly (though not exclusively) attracts women. This isn’t for those who want high-end accommodation and fancy frills – there’s very much a muck-in atmosphere – filling the dishwasher, helping oneself to tea etc. People do need to be prepared to be quite open too – there’s a lot of sharing and a fair bit of hugging going on

crown What’s queenly: The feeling of safety – you really do feel ‘held’ and supported all the way. The little touches – ‘healthy’ raw chocolate truffles, the thoughtful welcome pack, the surprise glass of wine by the campfire.

What’s lowly: Sharing bedrooms at the Berkshire venue isn’t ideal but a new venue with solo options is on the cards. We had hoped for yummy Pause toiletries in the bathrooms at the Cornish venue but sadly not (but again, this is planned for future Pauses). You may have to share the outdoor spaces with other groups in Cornwall.

Costs: The Instant Pause day costs £129. The 3-day Deep Pause costs £429 per person, the 5-day Deep Pause costs £849 per person. The 5-day Sacred Pause in Bali costs £2,495.  Retreats include all coaching, activities, food and drink (plus yoga and a treatment on the 5-day Pause). Danielle’s 1:1 coaching by Skype costs £150 per hourly session.

Reviewed by Jane Alexander

© Queen of Retreats Other life coaching retreats

The Pause life coaching retreat

The three or five-day coaching retreats let you sink deeper into your process