Part of the programme entailed taking a psychometric test which produced an Emergenetics Profile. Emergenetics is a combination of characteristics that emerge from people’s life experiences, plus the genetics that people are born with. This was my first experience of the revelation of my behavioural and thinking attributes. What this taught me is to know where my strengths or preferences lie, and also what areas I may need to work on or at least be aware of. I was happy to see that I was strong on social and conceptual preferences and not at all surprised to find out that structure and analysis is not really my thing!
The flow of the retreat involved morning rituals, some gentle stretching and exercises, followed by detailed discussions, guidance on mindfulness practice, silence, reflection and sharing of our experiences. During the day, we went out hiking in Glendalough, with its spectacular scenery, rich history, archaeology and abundant wildlife. The silence of the setting really does still your mind, inspire your heart and fill your soul.
The evenings were spent dining family style and we even had a sing-a-long by the fire on the last night. In the absence of knowing the words to any song and assisted by a glass or two of wine, I danced a wee Irish reel, something I haven’t done since I was a child! There was a remarkable and positive energy within our group, in that from the moment we all met, there was a deep connection and an eagerness to engage with each other. It was touching the way that everyone shared their stories so openly. Our leaders, Herm and Annie from America were an incredible inspiration to us all and credit to our amazing organiser and entertainer, Frankie D.
Over the course of the retreat, we explored the following mindfulness principles:
- Letting go
- Being completely present and patient in the moment
- Fostering a curious and non-judgemental mind
- Developing trust of one’s own experience
- Noticing and responding without agenda
The highlight for me was the exercise to try and ‘live in the moment’. I practiced my first ‘Walking Meditation’. I found a field and walked with my eyes closed while breathing deeply. The pace of my steps was slow and natural and I really paid attention to the heel of my foot touching the ground. I felt the soft grass of the earth and the rain upon my face. I heard the birds singing and the flow of the river nearby. It was a strange sensation to not see where I was going, and initially there was a fear of falling, of tripping over something or even stepping onto a message that a sheep had left earlier!
So many times, we walk outdoors with the goal of ‘getting there and back’ and we fail to notice nature in all its glory. In our group walk, I took time to study the trees and to see that no two trees are the same, just as no two people are the same. So many times, we operate ‘mindlessly’ and on automatic pilot, with our heads so busy with being busy, that we don’t even notice what is around us. If our minds are filled with clutter and noise, practicing mindfulness will clear away the trivia and needless worries about unimportant things, and nurture our passion for our work and our compassion for others. This in turn will make us better leaders.