The Care Unbound Intensive Training Retreat

One of the mainstay offerings in the In Balance calendar for the past 4 years has been the residential retreat Here holds for a group of colleagues. The purpose of what has been dubbed the Care Unbound Intensive is to deliver a training experience that helps people access and develop resources for caring for themselves and others. This year was a particularly important year, as having previously been led by our Mindfulness teachers Joel and Michelle Levey, for the first time we were taking the hosting of the training in-house. It was time for Here’s investment in growing our capacity for mindful leadership to translate to holding space for ourselves and delivering a quality training for those taking part.

How does a staff retreat work?

The Care Unbound Intensive is offered as an open invitation to any staff who feel they might benefit from the experience. Fifteen people from across the organisation came together –from our corporate services team, our Practice Unbound arm, Sussex MSK Partnership, the Improved Access Service. The reasons for joining were varied, but centred around the need to deepen mindfulness practice or leadership abilities and the need to pause and reflect. Over five days Una Nicholson and Lindsay Coleman led a programme of mindfulness practices, guided time in nature and, with the support of artist Alinah Azadeh, creative exploration of care. This group, who do not typically spend much time working together, practiced together, shared meals together and went on their own learning journeys, together.

5 things learned from being on retreat… and bringing it back

  • Taking on the challenge of hosting the retreat ourselves paid off in spades

Those who took part felt they had a quality experience and valued being led through this space by colleagues they work with on a daily basis. This familiarity allowed the work to begin from a lived appreciation of the real challenges staff face in their work, and what would be required to bring the learning back to work.

  • We do not need to fix each other

In creating a safe space for people to be with each other and themselves and by providing tools to allow for deep reflection there inevitably arose for some difficult thoughts and feelings. This, in itself, is a normal part of showing up fully for our lives. It also is a lesson on how we choose to care for each other, and what our motivations are in doing so. Sometimes it is necessary for us to sit with pain or discomfort, though we may feel like retreating from it or remedying it in another. Bearing witness to another’s difficulty is also a way of caring –sometimes it is enough just to be present with someone.

  • People bring the insights and practices back

When we returned to the office and the day job, we appreciated all sorts of small ways that staff were applying what they had learned to their lives and work. Being more present and patient with colleagues, reassessing what is important to be developing in life, feeling better equipped to prioritise and manage the overwhelm of work. My favourite was witnessing someone offer advice to a colleague who had been managing a difficult phone call and was frustrated because of it. They invited the colleague to look beyond their frustration to consider how that angry person on the end of the phone was no different to them, that there was a universal need for care. It shifted the perspective: presence and compassion informing a practical change for the benefit of both parties.

  • It impacts the way we work together

There is a noticeable closer connection in formal and casual encounters between those who came. Their presence, connections and learning also ripples out in the other leadership work we do at Here. Our Courageous Conversations Clubs are designed to support staff with wholeness, connection to purpose and leadership and this work has received a huge boost from the new skills, courage and leadership the retreat goers are bringing  to the group. Greater presence, insight and openness benefit more than just those who took part.

  • There is huge appetite and potential for continuing this work

We see how we can harness the retreat experience to power and integrate deeper change in how we work. There are exciting applications for how we develop leadership at Here. It has also reinvigorated our daily mindfulness practice in our offices, a twice daily space open for all to pause, be present with their experience and to proceed with a greater awareness and care.

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