Finding a less jagged version of myself on an Aluna Healing retreat in Scotland
Frances Trussell reviews a spiritual retreat in the Scottish Highlands and finds beautiful walks, a gentle guide, non judgmental yoga and a less jaded self.
As I hurled my enormous suitcase off the tiny luggage carousel at Inverness airport it was clear I’d overpacked. Along with too many thermals I’d brought a busy mind and a bag of nerves; would the kids behave for my mum for a week and how on earth would I cope without coffee?
I was soon soothed by the fresh Scottish air and the smiley welcome of a fellow retreater who had kindly offered me a lift. It was a stunning journey, along single-track roads flanked by ancient mountains until everything opened up to reveal the light gleaming across Loch Torridon.
Nestled just inside the woodland of the Torridon Estate we discovered our new home for the week, two cosy stone cottages, just moments from the Loch’s edge. We were welcomed by the calm Daniela Lanaia, our host and healer for the week looking ethereal all in white. Having learnt from the celtic ways and native peoples of the Americas, Daniela pairs her mentorship experiences with yoga, sound and energy healing and herbal medicine.
Together our small group of retreatants were an unlikely little crew, from our early twenties to fifties, drawn together through the pull of a common thread back to nature and to ourselves. Two American students, a Scottish carer, a research scientist, a trainee psychotherapist (our one male) and myself, an author and meditation teacher. Unlikely and yet beautifully balanced, there seemed just the right amount of space and sharing throughout the retreat – we all formed a supportive bond together and some genuine friendships.
My room was a real haven, large, bright and airy with a view across the water and peaks beyond. I’m used to being woken by traffic in Southwest London so with birdsong the only noise for miles around, I felt spacious and open.
Beginning the day with ‘oil-pulling’ was a new experience for me. Swilling coconut oil around my mouth for twenty minutes sounded like an unpleasant thing to do, but I soon got into the swing of it and learnt to love the clean feeling it left me with. But it was the juicing I was most nervous about, and the first couple of days were a real challenge, bringing with them discomfort and heavier emotions.
‘I was at first sceptical about greeting the day in a morning ritual by the loch but this soon melted, and being in and a part of nature began to feel an overlooked and obvious connection that I’d been missing from my day-to-day life’
By mid-morning on the second day the combination of hunger and caffeine withdrawal led to me feeling seriously ‘hangry’ – both irritable and tearful. The people around me also appeared to be dealing with ‘big’ stuff, including bereavement and recovery. Daniela held us with her soft and gentle manner, guiding us in an ongoing practice to clear and transmute the negative, and as we let go of ourselves through the yoga and walking in the clear fresh air, things began to shift in all of us, the group energy became lighter and brighter, and I found myself beaming and laughing with my companions.
I was at first sceptical about greeting each day in a morning ritual by the loch, but this soon melted and I found myself more at ease in general. Being in and a part of nature felt natural, an overlooked and obvious connection that I’d been missing from my day-to-day life.
The yoga and walks were perfectly paced to match the groups need and abilities, and I felt I could do as little or as much as I wanted without any judgement. I found a kundalini session followed by sound healing with Daniela’s crystal sing bowls and vocal work a powerful experience. The combination of breathwork and vibrations left me buzzing and energised.
Each day we worked on a different chakra and were given the opportunity to spend personal time delving into our lives by journaling, working on some well-considered questions. By answering questions such as ‘what negative thought patterns do I hold?’ I experienced some real shifts in awareness around my relationships with those close to me, addressing some issues I’d been carrying in recent months in a gently moving way.
A fire ceremony on the beach one evening was the perfect opportunity to let go of old hurts, offer gratitude and forgiveness, and make commitments to a new way forward. I especially loved our sunny day of silence on a pilgrimage around two stunning Lochs, which made space for further reflection.
I ended the retreat far softer and more sun kissed than I would have imagined, both physically and mentally lighter, with a clarity for a slightly different way of being. As I eased a less jaded and jagged version of myself home, I felt an enormous swell of gratitude for my highland adventure and the treasures I’d found in the waterfalls and ancient trees and also within myself.