Have you ever been ‘smudged’?
I certainly hadn’t until I attended RestFest, a wellness festival geared up to help busy women press pause. I’d gathered outside Field Place Manor House, Worthing on a crisp March morning for the opening ceremony when out of nowhere, a number of ladies descended upon us clutching bundles of burning sage. My eyes were on stalks as they proceeded to fan the fragrant smoke all around us.
Some people were giggling, others were animatedly chatting. And a few remained perfectly still – their eyelids closed – as they fully immersed themselves in what I later learned was an ancient spiritual cleansing tradition said to clear away any negative energy.
In the middle of the circle, RestFest founder Naomi Newland encouraged us – a collective of busy professionals, mums, entrepreneurs, spiritual seekers and personal development explorers – to release any burdens, family concerns, or worries that were dragging us down.
The hypnotherapist and confidence coach explained in no uncertain terms that this was our day, an essential pit stop for self-care and, by just being here, we’d given ourselves permission to do whatever the heck we wanted for the next eight hours at least.
If Naomi, a whirlwind of positive energy, could bottle her contagious zest for life she’d be a billionaire yet she is the first to admit her life and outlook hasn’t always been this way.
In 2014/15 she burnt out while running what she describes as unprofitable pregnancy fairs, alongside a hypnobirthing business and raising three small children.
The mother and wife knew she needed to slow down and spent 2016 consciously living life at a slower, simpler pace and learning, in her words, to put her “own oxygen mask” on first.
She spent quality time with her family and invested in a quest of rediscovery to unearth the parts of her that had become hidden during the years of full-on parenting. In fact, she asked herself who she was without the identity that her career and lifestyle had created.
The break helped her see clearly that she was drowning in debt, struggling in her marriage and stressed out to the max. So she downsized, rented out the family house and completely retrained as a hypnotherapist. Along the way, Naomi became so inspired by the “wise and wonderful” women she’d met on her inward-looking journey that she decided to create an event that would help not only help them take time out, but also bolster their sense of self-acceptance and self-worth.
The timetable was themed on the intentions of joy, rest, empowerment and inspiration and was jam-packed with all sorts of activities from mask painting, boob printing, laughter yoga and making your own natural beauty products, to talks on things like addressing your inner critic and how to float away stress and anxiety.
There were workshops aplenty, too, covering topics from how to declutter your mind through journalling to creative writing for inspiration, as well as holistic and pampering treatments, angel card readings and lovely stalls to browse.
Naomi reminded us that this was “RestFest, not a stressfest,” and advised against over scheduling – something I had already done (surprise, surprise) before encouraging us to shout out our intention for the day.
Overcome with self-consciousness, I whispered mine but when she urged us to do it again, I plucked up the courage to chime in.
I felt inexplicably uplifted and was ready to embrace the day ahead. So how did I get on?
RESTFEST 2019: MY HIGHLIGHTS
MASK PAINTING ART THERAPY
The last time I got up close and personal to paint, glitter, glue guns, ribbons and feathers was when I was a schoolgirl, so imagine my delight at discovering this workshop run by Melanie Maelo, a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, and accredited EFT practitioner.
We were handed a plain white cardboard mask and given a short time limit in which to decorate the outside with how we thought our friends and family perceived us. Truth be told, I was so excited at the opportunity to ‘get crafty’ that I forgot this aspect halfway through so the end result was a mixture of what I liked and how I believed the world saw me!
According to Melanie, when we engage in creative arts the subconscious has a chance to explore and release what it feels appropriate. We all wear masks – either to protect ourselves or project something that we are not – and, often, we are so focused on the outward projection that we don’t allow our awareness to rest on the true self hiding behind the mask.
Mine featured plenty of magenta pink – I wear bold colours and people often describe me as bright and bubbly – but according to Melanie, this colour also represents harmony, common sense (!) and a balanced outlook.
Next up we were asked to decorate the inside of the mask. Mine was filled with indigo feathers, a blue block of colour across the brain and grey squiggles. It couldn’t be more different to the outside and, I assumed, represented the inner turmoil I’d been experiencing with the daily struggle of my health issues and some personal bits and pieces.
However, the indigo, I was told, represented a spiritual awakening while the design suggested I was ready to process my worries. I wasn’t alone in creating a contrasting mask. Plenty of other women did the same thing and openly shared their stories which made for both a wonderfully creative and brilliantly empowering session.
DECLUTTER YOUR MIND THROUGH MINDFUL JOURNALING
My pen flew across the page as Shirley Gain, a professional declutterer, mindfulness and Feng Shui coach urged us to grab our notebooks and scribble down our thoughts and concerns. Within five minutes I’d written down 39, yes 39 things! Shirley then asked us how we felt. The responses were a mixture of calm and relief. I was simply astonished by the volume of clutter residing in my bonce. Shirley explained that the morning is the best time to do this type of physical ‘brain dump’ and even if we discard the list each day, the very act of mindful journaling would bring awareness to our thoughts enabling us to us to offload and organise them thus gaining clarity and insight.
We were then asked to split the thoughts into various categories ranging from urgent and important to urgent and non-important before segregating them into colour-coordinated or symbolised themes and diarising them. In so doing, we were able to see which aspects were out of balance and where to take action. It was also fascinating to see how the stuff we’d built up in our heads was perhaps not as pressing as we thought. During this exercise, it became obviously clear that my work-life balance was hugely out of kilter despite my best intentions. I vowed there and then to make journaling a daily habit.
SOUND HEALING JOURNEY TO ACCESS INNER WISDOM
I’d never tried sound healing before but was intrigued and found myself in a room scattered with yoga mats and bolsters. The session was being led by yoga teacher, reiki healer and life coach Louise Windsor who was sitting behind an array of instruments, from quartz crystal and metal singing bowls to a drum. We were asked to lie down and find a comfortable position.
Louise then guided us through a body awareness scan before beginning the sound bathing element. The idea was that the vibrations would wash over us and guide us into a deep mode of relaxation and restoration. In turn, this stressless state would activate our inner wisdom, which is easily lost in the busyness of daily life.
Towards the end, the sound of one instrument, I believe it may have been the crystal quartz singing bowl, didn’t resonate too well with me. I found the pitch overbearing, and felt this most peculiar pressure around my ears and head but then I do have tinnitus and suspected mast cell activation syndrome so this might have been why! According to Louise, this type of reaction can indicate where energy needs to be cleared and the intensity then helps you appreciate the peace when it comes. Nonetheless, the sensation didn’t last long and, overall, I enjoyed the experience, especially as I rarely get the chance to lie down during the day for any length of time let alone at 10.30am.
BOOB PRINTING WORKSHOP
Now I’ve never gone topless on a beach and I don’t have children so I’ve never really given much thought to my bosom but when I recently found a lump in my right breast (which was thankfully clear) I began thinking about ‘my girls’ in an altogether different fashion. Whereas once I would have shunned such a class, my recent experience made me think it would be quite fun to appreciate my bazookas in the form of artwork. The only snag was that I had an interview scheduled at the same time so I missed the session. Run by Anti Diet Riot Club founder Becky Young and body acceptance coach’ Harri Rose, this workshop encouraged women to celebrate the ‘awesomeness’ of their breasts no matter their shape, size, or tone by painting and printing them. Although I wasn’t there, Natalie Brown from Confessions of a Crummy Mummy whipped her baps out for the experience. You can read about how she got on here.
OH. MY. WORD. This day opened my eyes in SO many ways and I left feeling wonderfully uplifted, empowered and educated. The mask painting class was unquestionably my favourite but I learned bits and pieces about myself in each session and honestly felt as though I’d undergone a total mind, body, spirit overhaul by the end of the day! As some of you know I have suspected MCAS and certain perfumes and essential oils can be problematic for me.
Truthfully, I was a little worried about attending RestFest for this reason but I dosed up on meds before I went and, thankfully, did not experience any adverse reactions. If you’re a busy lady that needs to ‘schedule’ in rest time, or you’re simply looking to work on your personal or spiritual development and find your sparkle again, this event is for you. I’ll definitely be back.
Relax Ya Self To Health was gifted a bronze ticket in exchange for this review. As always, all views are based on my own honest experience. The next RestFest event takes place in October 2019. For more information click here
First two pictures credits: Rest Fest
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