When we first arrived here in 2006, we simply offered up gîte accommodation for people looking to spend a week or two self-catering or B&B in a largely, unspoilt part of southern France. The business soon evolved to offer walking and writing retreats because the stunning scenery begged nature lovers to explore it and budding writers to be inspired by it. Nowadays, in partnership with fellow professionals here in the Aude, we offer a regular series of walking, writing and wellbeing retreats throughout the year.
Our Core Modules
Our core modules draw on our individual specialist training, experiences, competencies as well as the richly historic nature of this beautiful part of Occitanie in which we live, the Pays Cathare. In the section below, we've outlined our core modules to give you a better idea of what to expect during your time here.
Walking for Wellbeing
Walking is the perfect pastime for re-energising, revitalising and re-engaging body and mind with the natural world and gently strolling through the beautiful Razès landscape, alone or in the like-minded company of a small group, promises to do just that. The many benefits of walking have been scientifically proven and include, among others:
- increased cardiovascular and pulmonary fitness, reduced risk of heart disease and body fat,
- improved management of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, joint and muscular pain or stiffness, and diabetes,
- stronger bones, increased muscle strength, endurance and improved balance,
- reduced stress, uplifted mood, increased productivity and creativity.
The Razès is a canton in the Aude located 90 km west of the Mediterranean coast, 90 km north of the Pyrenees and 25 minutes south of Carcassonne, and boasting magnificent views of the Malepère Massif, Corbières, Pyrenees and Montagne Noire. Your accommodation leads you straight out into the Razès, a beautiful, rolling landscape decorated with hills and dales, valleys and peaks, rivers and streams. There are vineyards, woods and old villages dotted throughout. Depending on the time of year, walkers typically pass vineyards and fields of sunflower, poppies and barley, and rocky scrub outcrops, farms, hamlets and villages. The area is renowned for its birds of prey and abundance of wild orchids. Wild fruit and herbs are thriving everywhere in this climate.
Whether guided or exploring the local pathways by yourself, the rural nature of this largely untouched area will have you leave here with your sense of inner peace and outer harmony restored to their natural balance.
The benefits of sitting meditation have been well documented and many people use sitting meditation to achieve one or more of the following: reduced stress, anxiety control, greater patience, tolerance and acceptance, increased self-awareness, consciousness and compassion, increased concentration, reduced memory loss.
Walking meditation offers a healthy alternative to sitting meditation and, in addition to achieving the usual benefits of sitting meditation, walking meditation is also known to be as effective as antidepressant medications, increases sleep, uplifts moods, eases pain, and improves overall wellbeing. Unlike sitting meditation, this method has you engage all your senses in moving gracefully and mindfully through woods, around lakes or up hills, connecting with the natural wonders that you encounter and thus helping you become more mindful and appreciative of the beauty that surrounds you. Spending time mindfully in nature gently helps you re-balance and heal the body, mind, and soul.
Inner World Journeys
Many people find sitting meditation extremely difficult and uncomfortable. Even the act of trying to empty the mind may be stressful for some. Guided meditations provide an alternative route to harnessing all the benefits of sitting meditation with a little external assistance.
Our Inner World Journeys use a unique blend of deep imagery, Jung's theory of active imagination, the Eastern philosophy working on the basis that humans are a system of interrelated energies (chakras), and the Native American practice of speaking to and learning from animals. The Inner World Journeys help you explore your inner landscape and encourage you to meet and communicate with your spirit guides, if you so choose. This form of guided meditation shows you how to harmonise and re-balance your chakras using Dr ES Gallegos' technique of creating a personal totem pole of healing animals. The result? You gently and comfortably enhance and grow your personal sense of wellbeing through development of mindfulness, inner peace, and better self awareness.
Stepping into the world of mindful walking inevitably has you focus more deeply on re-connecting with the natural, living world around you and your place within it. As you surrender yourself up to your environment, then it is only natural that nature will reciprocate and reveal itself to you in return. As such, spending time in nature can be healing for your body, mind, and soul.
Many nature-based tribes around the world believe that our every encounter in nature holds personal messages, guidance and warnings for us. Indeed, these tribes say that we have forgotten how to 'see' the apparent truth in all things as we have lost sight of the wood for the trees. Through a series of walks, this module offers to reintroduce you with the things you see, touch, taste, hear, smell or sense in the living landscape and, in so doing, help you discover how nature is in fact communicating with you all the time.
Experiencing how nature talks directly to you and understanding the messages which formerly went unnoticed changes your relationship with nature forever and you will find yourself compelled to move more harmoniously through the world as a result. Learning the lost art of reading nature's hidden signs and messages will expand your mindfulness experience beyond your known individual meditative state to a more inclusive universal consciousness.
Creative Writing for Yourself
Writing helps us to express ourselves and our intentions more fully, communicate with greater clarity, become more focused, productive and better decision-makers. Through writing, we can develop a greater sense of awareness, generally learn more, be happier, deal with emotional and stressful problems better and work through them more easily. Writing is arguably one of the best cathartic tools available to us all. And yet, many people don't know where or how to start.
But everyone has their own story to tell - be it in note, poem or prose form - and so learning to write freely and for yourself is a great tool for self-expression, healing and development.This module is perfect then for the creative expressive seeking guidance on how and where to start, how to find inspiration, develop themes and even discusses publishing techniques. Whether you want to learn how to harness your musings and experiences in the written word through games, workshops and feedback or simply have the time, space and place to write on your own with occasional support as and when you feel the need, is entirely your choice. Writing for yourself is about stepping away from your regular everyday routine to learn how to bring characters, settings and stories to life in your unique way or simply to follow your soul's voice and write from the heart to release everything you ever needed to let go of in order to move forward in life.
Yoga helps improve our flexibility, strength, and posture bringing about a better all round fitness and may even help some of us to shed a few unwanted pounds. Bringing attention to our breathing in each pose helps increase mindfulness, boosts energy levels and longevity, reduces stress and makes us feel happier and more peaceful within ourselves. As a form of meditation in its own right, yoga has all the associated benefits. For those who find sitting meditation uncomfortable, yoga is often an ideal way in which to bring focus to both our breathing and posture.
Over the course of the retreat, you will learn a simple 30 minute Hatha yoga flow routine - comprising both standing and sitting poses - designed for you to take home and practice daily to help you relax within the privacy of your own home. The routine has you fluidly and gracefully flowing through from one pose to the next with the outcome of balancing your energies and enhancing your sense of wellbeing. Practice yoga at a time that best suits you and you'll be giving yourself some much-deserved time out from what can often be an over-demanding and busy life.
Exploring Cathare Castles
What can we possibly say about the health benefits associated with exploring Cathare castles? Aside from all the usual pluses of exercising outdoors in the fresh air, walking up and down and in and around historic ruins set against a backdrop of majestic mountains, hill-clad vineyards or dense ancient forest is invigorating for the soul, helps us stay fit and inquisitive, playful and young at heart.
This module is a definite must for the historian, truth-seeker and lover of the outdoors. For people who want no more than to enjoy rambling through an enormously diverse landscape, walking in the footsteps of the legendary Cathare martyrs over ancient trails, in medieval towns and mysterious castles, learning of the plight of the Cathare people that folklore has interwoven with the Knights Templar and Mary Magdalene.
Exclusive Wellbeing Retreats
From time to time we team up with other specialists to offer popular exclusive wellbeing retreats such as:
- Mindfulness and the natural world;
- Wellbeing for Women – a balanced blend of walking, reflexology and aromatherapy;
- Iyengar yoga for beginners and intermediaries.