Back in England, we used to be 'business' people.
In 2006, we managed to escape from that heavy and cloying, consumerist business world and found our inner peace and freedom in this largely unspoilt part of south west France. Tucked away in a small village surrounded by rolling hills dressed with vines, sunflowers, woods or wild orchids depending on the time of year, where the butterflies and bees still merrily sing as they go about their daily business of pollinating the planet, we are lucky to live and breathe in harmony with the sweetness and beauty of the natural world that surrounds us.
Survivors of a combined total of over 50 (ouch!) years of practising and teaching in the fields of management and marketing, we walked away from it all and moved here precisely to leave behind the seemingly endless and definitely meaningless hustle and bustle of a soul-sapping lifestyle to spend more time exploring our inner worlds and reconnecting with the 'real' natural living world that surrounds us.
Jo: "I have spent a lifetime of walking for physical and emotional pleasure and relief. Many years ago I recognised that nature was 'feeding' me every time I shut the front door, taking myself off on walks both near and far, always coming back feeling on top of the world or at least with huge inner peace. Whether I needed some time to reflect on a problem, some space to air an emotion or release some old locked-up grief, or simply for the pleasure of hearing the birdsong and my rhythmic pacing in tune with my own breath, walking has been my salvation in many things.
"In 2015, I decided to go walk the Camino de Santiago in order to learn more about myself - the product of a damaged and dysfunctional past shrouded by death, alcoholism, low self-esteem and lovelessness. A few years later, I did it again and, in my new addiction, I began to explore other pilgrim trails across France and Spain. Addicted to walking? I realised the cathartic power of walking as I let go of a tragic past, released all imagined worries about the future and now live mindfully and peacefully in the present. I was so moved by the healing power of walking that I wrote a book - one woman walking - which narrates my journey to self-discovery, self-expression and self-healing. I now spend my time sharing my passion for walking with others who want to walk for wellbeing, self-discovery and self-healing."
"I have walked the Sentier Cathare twice, the Camino de Santiago twice, and the Razès in all directions of the compass. The peace and tranquillity I experience while out walking, particularly on long walks, inspired me to start writing. I quite literally talk the content of my books into a voice recorder wherever and whenever I walk."
Bob: "I haven't experienced any major traumatic events in my life that I can recall. In fact, I think I've led a pretty normal life without great adversity. Of course, there are always challenges. Perhaps that's why I have spent a lot of time thinking and asking questions.
"We all ask ‘what are we here for?’ at some time or another in our lives. It is a question that won’t go away even if we choose to brush it under the carpet. For me, having given it some obsessive lifelong consideration, I have come to understand that my life purpose is to undergo experience, to learn from that experience and to express it. Experience and learning are personal in nature – they cannot be otherwise - and hence their expression can only be personal.
"Self-expression became a passion for me and, in my early twenties, I discovered that writing was the way in which I could best express myself. Having now authored, co-authored and contributed to over 20 books, it doesn't mean that I don’t still even now commit some howlers with the written word!
"First and foremost, the highest form of expression is your own because no-one else thinks as you do. Writing for yourself enables you to become who you are. It’s your own story. No one else has your story. Your story is your statement of who you are. Forget needing approval and fearing judgement. Instead, writing is and should be about creating and giving voice to what sits with you, what resonates deeply within, that which expresses what you really think once you shake off advice, convention, teaching and the thinking of others.
"Writing enables you to find the real you in the written word, come to peace with what you really think, and allow you to become the person you want to be. Being able to express yourself freely helps move you further down the road towards healing yourself."
Our Retreat Ethos
In general terms, many of the key support systems and mechanisms upon which we could once rely when we needed help are in a state of collapse, outdated and often no longer 'fit' our physical and emotional needs. It is our view that we are living in a world where we now need to finely hone our skills of self-discovery and self-expression if we are to stand a chance of healing ourselves and becoming the people of the future that we wish to be. We principally offer retreats to those in search of a deeper sense of personal wellbeing and want to walk and write their way to finding their own unique freedom.
Jo leads all the outdoor aspects and experiences: guided walks, one-to-ones, walking meditations and nature symbology, inner world journeys and hatha yoga flow series. Jo always feels happiest when exploring both her inner and outer worlds and helping others do the same. “Outdoors in nature, I feel replete and at peace with myself and the living world around me.”
Bob leads the creative writing and Cathare castle retreats. “Simple techniques can break our everyday moulds, releasing flow and inspiration, breathing life into a book or poem. Living in the Pays Cathare brings its own inspiration and I love sharing this with others so they leave here being able and inspired to do the same.”
"We absolutely love this place for its peace and quiet and the living countryside right on our doorstep - it allows us to attain a certain level of tranquillity in our lives helping us to avoid getting caught up in the highs and lows of everyday life. Many people come on retreat here precisely in order to do the same thing."