I’ve always been a bit suspicious about quick fixes so when a colleague told me that this 24 hour retreat that would change my life – I was more than a little sceptical. However, I found myself suddenly child-free for a weekend and available so I decided to accept a last-minute invitation to visit Agape Cottage.
A tiny wooden cabin at the end of track in the wilds of Essex, with a wood-burning stove inside and a hot tub outside, Agape Cottage promises you 24 hours of one to one care with Sharon Agates, a qualified counsellor/therapist ‘with extensive experience in human dynamics, cellular healing, art and transformational therapy, stress management and natural juice nutrition’.
I wasn’t really sure what exactly I was signing up for but never a fan of the conveyer-belt pampering where you sit in a spa with strangers in white bathrobes, I was attracted to the idea of one-to-one care. I also loved the fact that our office dog Oscar was invited too. (He fell in love with Sharon’s little pug, Stevie.)
A cabin with chandeliers, a pink sofa and a roaring fire was our home for 24 hours. Sharon became our surrogate mum – and turned out to be the best mum you could ever wish for. I began my stay with a home-cooked lunch of bean soup and salad with a green juice – although wine was on offer. An hour to unpack and then Sharon joined me for the legendary fireside counselling session. I’ve had lots of therapy in my past and because of my job – have had the privilege to be coached by some of the best coaches in the world so I was surprised and deeply impressed by Sharon’s skill and compassionate presence. I found myself talking to Sharon about everything from my spiritual path to some old childhood wounds. But in a gentle, easy way that allowed me to see some old scars in a different light. After the session, I felt uplifted and positive.
After walking the dog in the fields, a long nap and a beautiful dinner of venison and vegetables and huge slab of cheesecake, I relaxed in the hot tub in the candle lit garden while Sharon prepared a massage table in the cabin in front of the log stove. You can have soothing music of your choice playing inside and out – which creates a magical atmosphere as well as blocking out some distance traffic noise. I ended the day with a golden light meditation and massage that with seemed to penetrate my soul not just my pores – to the heart-breaking tunes of Ella Fitzgerald.
I usually wake at 6am every morning and Sharon asked me to text the main house when I awoke so she could bring me breakfast in bed. I thought my watch was broken when I opened my eyes and saw it was nearly 9am. I had practically slept for 11 hours straight – something I hadn’t done since I was about seven.
After a breakfast of a ginger shot, salmon and scrambled eggs, and a green juice, Sharon worked with me on a brilliant mind-mapping exercise about the future. What did I want to create next in my life? I drew a time-line of my life to date – and there were a few tears as I realised I’d gone through quite a lot so far in life – from deaths in the family to a recent divorce. But as I worked with coloured pens, I noticed that I had a ‘saviour’ working for me in the background. I noticed one theme that ran throughout my life, one outlet that had saved me again and again in my ‘all is lost’ moments. Be it training to be a journalist in my twenties, to writing books in my thirties to becoming editor of Psychologies in my forties – my creativity was the thing that enabled me bounce back from anything. And from the session we had the afternoon before, I joined up the dots with my spiritual beliefs – and I felt a huge sense of integration about my past and my new future path.
There is something about Sharon and Agape Cottage that makes you feel very safe and cocooned. It feels like the perfect place to recover from life’s knocks. Sharon is a skilled counsellor and coach – and she magically helps you weave seemingly spurious themes and events of your life together until they start to make a rather beautiful magic carpet – even if it’s a bit battered round the edges – on which to take your next adventure on.
For more information: http://www.agapecottage.co.uk/