Life As It Is Retreat – A Reflection by Catherine Gilberd

“Life As It Is” Wangapeka Family Friendly Retreat 11 – 13 October 2019

Kia ora koutou katoa. It was with much anticipation that James and I travelled with our 9 year old daughter Lily from Wellington to Wangapeka for this family oriented retreat. Lily had been asking to return to Wangapeka, and this was the perfect opportunity.

On arrival we were greeted by the blossoms, trees, birds – the whenua/land was literally Springing to life. Kereru swooping, tui and bellbirds calling and singing, kea and weka up on the tracks.

Fortuitously there were 6 other girls of a similar age there too, and within a short space of time they were all running and playing in the courtyard together. Early on Nyima and Louise Petzold introduced us to a helpful practice that became a touchstone of the retreat – “pause (feel your feet upon the earth), breathe, smile”.

The children were led by Mark Schrader into experimenting with the sounds of the different bells – feeling the resonance, tuning into our senses. There were so many fun and interesting exercises over the 2 days led by the organisers. Jane Hobday invited us all to trace the outline of our feet and colour them in with pastels and coloured pencils then cut them out. Lily traced around my feet and then her own. We then each chose places on the Wangapeka paths to place our feet as a reminder ‘bell’ for us all to pause, breathe, smile. So lovely and whimsical, whilst reaffirming the theme of becoming present. We made mandalas from sand, flowers, leaves and stones – many had been collected by the children – the sandtray mandalas were so creative, exuding life and colour.

The mix of indoor and outdoor activities worked well, and the willingness of the facilitators to be flexible according to what the children and group needed, meant we could all stay involved and practice “life as it is”. Throughout the retreat there was spirited interest from the children in having a turn to ring the gong – a much desired job! Norman the new Wangapeka kitten, with his rainbow collar, was hugely popular and adored – displaying his own unique personality throughout our time there.

Overall a rich, enjoyable shared experience. Lily is now saying that Wangapeka “feels like my home”, the seed of belonging firmly planted.

Much gratitude to all who conceived, held, organised, led and supported this retreat.

Nga mihi nui ki a koutou

Catherine Gilberd (& James Herdman)