Owner Cynthia Miller in front of Sechelt Inlet at the Pacific Peace Retreat. (photo by Efraim Gavrilovich)
Travel can be one of the most stressful activities there is. The challenges of packing “light” so you don’t have to pay for a carry-on; getting to flights at ridiculously early times of the day; not to mention dealing with foreign currency, travel insurance, airport lineups, lost luggage, strange food and the fear of contracting some exotic illness while away.
When was the last time you took a trip that not only caused minimal anxiety but actually resulted in you coming home more relaxed and truly blissful? And, more than that, with the knowledge of how to maintain that calm once you’re back at home and the stress threatens to build again? Thankfully, we live in an area of the world where such vacations are an easy option within a day’s drive of the Lower Mainland.
Along the Sunshine Coast, less than two hours’ drive from Langdale, is the Pacific Peace Retreat, where owner Cynthia Miller enables visitors to learn how to shift their mindset by being mindful and aware in the moment.
“I help them see the bigger picture instead of focusing on the problem,” she explained. “Too many people talk about the problem without really seeing the deeper aspect of what’s holding them stagnant.”
Miller provides transformation and relaxation through hypnotherapy, reiki, yoga, aromatherapy, creative arts and mindset coaching.
“I believe that we inherently want to move forward and feel a sense of growth,” she said. “And, when you step back and see your life or past from a different viewpoint, you begin to open up to something new, and that’s when growth takes place. Being mindful of the energy you want to put into every situation – that’s what we practise here.”
Miller cautions that mindfulness does take repetition. “As you practise, it becomes automatic,” she said. “I think that’s why people come here.”
At Hollyhock Leadership Learning Centre on Cortes Island, guests can take one of 90 courses offered on everything from discovering your life’s purpose to mindful self-compassion. They range from several days to several weeks.
“It’s learning about yourself and how you operate in the world,” said Loretta Laurin, Hollyhock’s communications manager. “We play a part in making the world better through our own development.”
Although many of the courses are geared toward people who are in a leadership or change-maker role, there are also courses that focus on health and wellness, such as cooking courses that help boost the immune system, pilates, qi gong, and self-expression with sound, as well as excursions such as sea-kayaking and nature walks. Everyone is welcome to attend, said Laurin.
Calling itself a “centre for transformative learning,” the Haven on Gabriola Island helps bring balance to people’s lives through coursework, meditation and yoga.
“There’s a real shift in energy level and transformation,” said Jo-Ann Kevala, a Haven faculty member. “People feel more connected to others.”
Even simple activities like walking can be very mindful and meditative and a way to relax into the present, said Kevala.
The Haven offers courses for women or men, couples or singles, those with high stress and those with addictions. Its signature five-day Come Alive program is an “opportunity to revitalize your life, discover and activate your resources and realize your full potential.”
A little further afield, in Golden, visitors can participate in shamanic drumming, Buddhist philosophies and First Nations activities, such as sweat lodges or vision quests, at Quantum Leaps Retreats.
Owners Brian Olynek and Annette Boelman have accumulated a wide variety of self-discovery practices.
One of the more popular activities is the transformational labyrinth, with several spots to sit and think about specific ideas or create something, according to instructions at each spot. The concepts for the labyrinth are based on those of Buddhist monk and world spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh, known for his writings on mindfulness and peace. People are encouraged to walk the labyrinth as often as they want and not worry about time.
While much of the world encourages stress and materialism, at Quantum Leaps, said Olynek, “people step out of fear and stress and tap into their own happiness and joyfulness.”
Baila Lazarus is a Vancouver-based writer and principal media strategist at bailalazarus.com.