“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life” – Pablo Picasso
With these words still ringing true in my mind and body, I feel incredibly fortunate that I had the opportunity to join Karen Nebe on her recent weekend retreat in the beautiful Stanford Valley. I was looking forward to gaining new insights, greater perspective and being able to connect with like minded people and I’m happy to say that all of the above boxes were ticked. What I came away with far exceeded my expectations or hopes.
I had always imagined that a weekend retreat wouldn’t be as effective or as valuable as a longer retreat. I’m so pleased to have dispelled this assumption, especially as it’s not that easy to carve out time for a 10 day retreat or to have the financial means to do so. The key, of course, is in wisely choosing a retreat that resonates and fits with one’s needs.
Karen has been guiding retreats since 2014 and has trained as an Ontological Coach, Leadership Embodiment Coach and Process Art Facilitator. She offers Well-Being Coaching to individuals and groups.
Each one of Karen’s retreats has a different theme which is explored over the weekend however the underlying essence of self-compassion is always present. Being the beginning of the year, the theme was Gaining Clarity – Becoming clear on what is truly important to you and how you would like to BE in this world.
Karen guided us through various art processes which centred around the elements – Earth, Water, Air and Fire. We worked with clay and felt into the tactile experience of creating through touch and hands, we connected to the magical, imaginative world of as we blew bubbles and played with childlike wonder, we explored with different mediums; chalks, pastels, dyes, inks, charcoal, candle lit flame and water colours. I loved the wide variety of materials and artistic techniques as well as diving into the rich symbolism of the elements and the wisdom that can be received in working with them.
The beauty of process art is that there is no focus placed on the outcome or creating a ‘beautiful’ artwork. No art experience is required. The emphasis is on the experience of creating intuitively and allowing an image to develop and evolve. It’s an invitation to let go of the expectations and judgements, to be present and curious about what is unfolding. Karen’s gentle guidance and instructions for each process are the very same suggestions that one can apply to life. She reminds us, “We’re not starting with an end in mind. We’re gradually letting it emerge.” If we can truly learn to apply this lesson to our daily ways of being, how much more freedom, flow and ease would we experience? Can we ask ourselves the bigger questions and be ok with not knowing the answers? Can we live and allow our experiences to bring us the answers?
With each process, I was amazed at the final outcome and the ‘Aha moments’ that bubbled up. Being able to access deep seated and innate wisdom through the body and not via mental analysis always appeals to me.
Karen has the ability to create a nest of safety where she meets her retreat goers with deep care, respect and genuine presence. She holds this space expertly and gently encourages gentle and compassionate self-enquiry. Her soft guidance and invitations prompt inner exploration and encourages new ways of practicing loving kindness. Karen has a wealth of life experiences, resources and transformative modalities to draw from and she shared these with us in such an abundant way.
Throughout our time together she shared numerous powerful, moving poems and useful mindful approaches to empower ourselves. The art is to bring these new tools and insights into practice and embodiment. To assist with the integration, Karen includes a follow-up coaching session (either online or in person in Hermanus where she is based) as part of the retreat offering which is so useful. My journal is filled with ideas and sparks and I know that more insights are still unravelling.
We enjoyed restorative yoga sessions to start the mornings, guided meditations, delicious and wholesome vegetarian meals as well as lovely, luxurious accommodation surrounded by expansive green fields and mountain views. I experienced moments of joy, deep appreciation, melting tears of release, laughter and more. Karen’s retreat was exactly what I was needing and I feel incredibly rich as a result. I can highly recommend #theselfcompassionbreak – Thank you Karen!
Karen closed the weekend with this beautiful blessing by John O’Donohue…
All photography: Lana Kenney