Profoundly unfurling on The Arrigo Programme wellness retreat in Somerset
Caroline Sylger Jones reviews a remarkably attentive, deeply healing retreat in the Somerset countryside devised by internationally acclaimed healer Fiona Arrigo
I arrive at my private cottage, The Long Barn, and find there are candles burning everywhere, little tea lights surrounded at their base by dried rose petals, a roaring fire and an essential oil burner wafting the fragrance of basil around the room. My shoulders instantly drop, and I take a deeper breath than I have done in days. My ‘Angel’, Joanna, greets me dressed all in black, makes me mint tea and scrambled eggs with spinach on toast (for I am hungry) and settles me in. So begins three glorious days of treatments and total privacy.
My therapies for the duration (you get four daily) have been decided in advance after an in-depth chat with Fiona Arrigo on the phone, and pivot around sessions with Fiona herself. I enjoy my time with her enormously – she’s strong, warm and funny with a winning smile, her glasses perched permanently right on the end of her nose as she listens (brilliantly) and asks poignant questions to slowly tease out my issues. We chat mainly about mothering, the challenges of bringing up a child in today’s society, my perception of how much space and time I have (more than I think) and how to trust my creativity to create the flow in my life I need. She’s wise and perceptive, and I would love to spend hours with her. The best bit of advice? ‘We create so much better from space rather than pressure’. Ain’t that the truth.
Other treatments include a daily two hour long and extremely good deep tissue massage (one with Stacey, the other with Caroline, both brilliant therapist who live locally) – they are genuinely good and long enough to get truly madly deeply into my tight muscles. I also have wonderfully relaxing sessions of Five Elements acupuncture with Amanda, and of kinesiology and EFT with Louisa (‘to help rebalance my wood and fire elements’). An hour of Tibetan Pulsing is sensational with Anna, who turns up dressed all in white and settles me fully clothed on a a deeply comfortable orange mat with a white throw infront of the fire. Tibetan Pulsing is an extraordinary therapy invented by an American in India which works on the body to rebalance energy, and I totally switch off and bliss out during the session.
With all this deep therapy, my body doesn’t quite know what has hit it during my downtime. I amble about feeling a little flummoxed, sleep deeply, watch my skin colour turn from a light mustard to a gentle shade of peach, welcome back my sense of smell (I’d arrived with a heavy cold) and generally sit around a lot with my hair full of oil and a light detox headache at my temples.
I also have real time out: curling up to watch an episode of Mr Selfridge and sipping a delicious Thai soup with toast made for me by Caroline; going for plenty of short walks in the driving rain (the weather is suitably terrible on my February visit, which gives me even more of an excuse to really rest); soaking in hot epsom salt baths by candle light and listening (on Fiona’s advice) to The Power of the Crone by Jungian psychoanalyst Clarissa Pinkola Estés.
My final session takes me by surprise. Skeptical of astrology, I wasn’t sure what I’d make of Evolutionary Astrology with Simon Heathcote, but over tea with him I fully engage as he tells me I have the chart of a (wounded) healer and goes on to cite some uncannily accurate things about the recurring themes in my life (the best bit of his advice? ‘Discover the witness in myself’).
I leave with a pink hardback notebook which I’ve been journalling in throughout, some flowers that my Angel gave me, a tupperware of healthy snacks, an Alpine Mint Bush Bush Flower Remedy (for ‘overwhelm’), a mantra about space, a notebook full of insights and a determination to try to have a conversation with my inner child. I leave unwillingly, and over the following weeks continue to unfurl. Next time I go back it will be for a week to give me more space to further defrag and emerge.