Off to The Living Well Center in Sancreed, Cornwall I go!
It was early spring 2018 and I was expecting a little holiday, some sea, some walks, great food, a massage. All of these I enjoyed, but what my guide, Rachel Smart, initiated in this trip to one of the most beauty-filled places on earth, defies commonplace description.
I didn’t know that I was to be given back a piece of my heart.
I live in NYC and in the midst of the hustle and bustle, I teach movement meditation and spiritual awakening. I truly live a blessed life, sharing what I love and despite the intensity of this clanging city that never sleeps or even naps, I feel deeply steeped in the Divine Feminine. Yet every year I dedicate time for deep self care and reflection by going away for my own retreats, so that I can fill up, recharge my batteries and also drop the mask of teacher, re-embrace beginner’s mind and be available for new growth and illuminations.
I wrote to The Living Well and signed up for a Sacred Healing Pilgrimage and Shamanic Healing Massage. I packed my “I can do anything! I can go anywhere!” Superwoman costume: star covered Wellies and my Radiant Maiden raincoat (that’s really the name of the coat, not kidding!)
I excitedly booked my flight to Heathrow and for the Great Western Railway Paddington train to Penzance.
I landed in London, not too worst for the wear, but a little wobbly and red-eyed. I looked forward to the relaxing train trip in the Quiet Car to unwind, nap, catch up on fun reading and of course dear, while in England… Drink tea!
The train passed through small towns and postcard picture countryside. Already my concrete jungle weary eyes were soothed by the soaring vistas and sloping hills. Where I was headed, Sancreed, Penwith, Cornwall is an area also known as the Holy Headland, an ancient place of sacred pilgrimage.
So I googled up some history.
Prior to Christianity, the Cornish lived with a deep recognition of their interconnection with the land. At different times of the year, men, women and children would walk along paths that follow lei lines, basically meridians in the earth that weave and intertwine like the snakes on the healing symbol of the caduceus. Sacred wells were visited to leave offerings and fires would be lit on hilltop beacons to celebrate and rejuvenate themselves as well as inject heat into the land, like a kind of moxibustion for the earth.
Fast forward to today, more and more people are re-kindling these precious western indigenous practices to help re-balance people and our current culture tortured by materialism and post modern isolation. Rachel Smart and The Living Well are on the crest of this wave; bringing us back to ourselves while healing the planet through conscious self-care and responsible stewardship of the earth, all based on the recognition that we are not separate from the earth, the elements and all beings.
Rachel picked me up at the train station and immediately a huge bee flew into the car when I opened the door. We love bees and we both giggled to have this fuzzy angel make such a grand appearance! Rachel and I met the year before at an introductory course on honeybee shamanism and my husband was Executive Producer of the documentary The Vanishing of the Bees, so there’s a lot of bee in my background. Little synchronicities like this are sweet affirmations that I am on the honeyed path.
We zipped though lovely Penzance and drove on winding single lane country roads. Fifteen minutes later we turned into the verdant driveway of The Living Well. It was early spring and the land was just coming out of slumber. The grass was that early bright green and everything lush with the rains. Daffodils and snowdrops danced in the breeze along the driveway. We passed by the beautiful hand honed cob and log buildings; the Moon Lodge, the Hobbit House, The Healing Heart. The whole property exudes, “Awaken! And Relax.”
After a little nap by the fire and a nourishing meal of country soup made of local swede, bay leaves and sage from the back garden, some hearty slices of delicious local sourdough bread and local butter, I was ready for the first stage of my retreat. The Healing massage. After the long trip I can say I flopped on the table like an eager seal.
A shamanic healing massage is a mix of the usual nurturing muscle relaxing, kneading and rubbing out tight spots with oil, but also includes more subtle energy healing through song, smudge and musical instruments like drums, rattles and the lovely jingling of copper belled sistrums. The healing is based on resonance and dissonance, where vibrations are understood to support and strengthen the qualities that support health, while gently releasing contractions that limit the flow of life force in the body.
Rachel with her 20+ years of experience and training is an adept at finding the knots that hold chronic physical and emotional tightness, as well as tuning into deeper and more hidden places, of fragmented parts of self, lost voices and deeper soul cravings.
In my case, an old trauma that lived in my neck that was deeply entwined in heartbreak was ready to be opened up and touched, both physically and emotionally. In the safety of the Healing Heart massage room, with care and compassion, gentle song, deep powerful sweeping strokes and powerful exhalations, a pathway to my heart, overgrown with hardened thorns, started to open up.
I instantly knew this was going to be exactly what the doctor, or in this case, Shaman, ordered.
I settled in that night to sleep under cozy down-filled blankets and was overjoyed that sweet Thalia, the resident cat goddess of the Living Well chose to snuggle up with me. Lulled to sleep by the crackling fire and gentle purr of a happy cat I fell asleep quickly and deeply.
I woke up to a powerful dream. Thalia carried a scared and emaciated half-puppy, half-kitten creature to me. This poor little thing, a female, was left on my lap as Thalia stared at me. Her big amber-emerald cat eyes communicated, “Now you take care of this!”
I fell back asleep, asking for deepening healing to continue in the dreamtime.
The next day was sunny and glorious. I looked out the window and to my amazement at that perfect moment, the sun was shining through a hole in the trunk of an ancient pine tree. Blazing orange like a dragoness’ eye!
We ate a quick breakfast made from the best eggs I’ve ever had, the yolks so flavorful and orange you’d swear it was cheese, with sourdough toast and that delicious local butter.
Then we jumped into our Wellies and out the door for part 2 – The Sacred Healing Pilgrimage.