A mindfulness retreat at The Restoration Yard

The Restoration Yard

The first time I was introduced to the concept of mindfulness was around 11 years ago now, during my first term at uni where our design tutor ran sessions on personal development as an integral part of our three year degree. He absolutely swore by a book called The Power Of Now by Eckhart Tolle, which is essentially a guide on how to live a healthier and happier life by living in the present moment. I never quite understood at the tender age of 18, studying a technical theatre degree, how this sort of mindset went hand in hand with my education and preparing me for the rest of my career, but I took it all on board at the time and ironically this was also the same tutor who also encouraged us to start a blog. Fast forward to today and I realise I have a lot to thank him for! 11 years later, I feel like mindfulness, wellbeing and self care is EVERYWHERE. Which is totally cool with me as I am a massive advocate of all of the above. A couple of months ago (at peak pregnancy stress) I was invited along to The Restoration Yard for a mindfulness day retreat. I've dabbled in various books and podcasts, and I was keen to see how an 'in person' approach to learning about mindfulness would pan out.

Wellbeing Lab
Wellbeing Lab
Moment Is Now Day Retreat

The Restoration Yard consists of a wellbeing lab, restaurant, and the most amazing gift shop in a restored courtyard in Dalkeith Country Park just outside Edinburgh. I made the drive from Glasgow with my friend Abby, who was also feeling a bit frazzled from general life and work stresses, for the day retreat which was ran by Gillian from The Moment Is Now. Gillian's coaching and teaching sessions are designed to give you the confidence to cope with whatever life throws at you - to 'ride life's waves instead of being swamped by them'.

The retreat ran from 10am to 4pm, with a decent amount of breaks throughout the day and then an hour break at lunch for you to grab a bite to eat, take a nosy in the gift shop or have a stroll through the grounds. I have dabbled in meditation very briefly in the past, but always found it difficult to fully switch off as I am SO easily distracted. The wellbeing lab its self was a really cosy and quiet environment, which made it easier to let your brain 'power down' as Gillian delivered a series of guided meditation sessions throughout the day. Some focused on your breathing, others were more visualisation based, and ultimately I enjoyed each and every one of them and found myself drifting off to sleep almost every single time! Especially the meditation where we lay on the floor with a blanket over us (I believe this was called a Body Scan) I was a total goner by that point haha. We also sat and discussed ideas as a group, of life experiences, what compassion means to us, how to practice self care and how to be kind to yourself even through the most difficult of times. It was extremely liberating to listen to other peoples stories, especially since the group was such a varied mix of ages and backgrounds.

The big fear I had looming over me at that moment in time was Reuben's birth, and I feel like the mindfulness retreat gave me a chance to unplug from my day to day routine and really reconnect with my body and my thoughts. Although I didn't need to use the breathing techniques in a natural labour setting, I found them to be extremely useful in dealing with my medical anxiety. During my hospital stay I was able to use the meditation and breathing I learned at the retreat to help ground me and calm me, whenever I was getting something invasive done such as my bloods, the catheter etc. Everyone in the class was so kind and supportive too and both myself and Abby left that day feeling really empowered - like we could take on the world! Meditation is absolutely awesome in helping manage anxious thoughts, and I couldn't recommend it enough if your head feels overwhelmed and busy with unhelpful thoughts and a constant worried mindset. Book wise, the most helpful and down to earth one I have read to do with the topic has got to be A Mindfulness Guide For The Frazzled by Ruby Wax - definitely a good place to start if you're looking to dip your toe into the waters of mindfulness and meditation.

“Thoughts are not who you are, they’re habitual patterns in the mind, nothing more and as soon as you see them that way, they lose their sting. I think of them as the noise of a radio in another room; I can pay attention, sing along with them if I want and also choose to ignore them.”
Ruby Wax

Restoration Cafe Dalkeith
Restoration Cafe menu
Restoration Cafe
Restoration Cafe lunch

At the lunch break we headed across the yard to the Restoration Cafe for a bite to eat. Both Abby and myself went for the Restoration burger on a pretzel bun, with bacon, halloumi, pineapple, tomato relish and hand cut chips. It was delicious! Really fresh and filling, we were too full to even contemplate one of the home made cakes or desserts on offer (I was v disappointed in my pregnant self for not getting something in a doggy bag for the drive home) The restaurant interior was lovely, and it started to snow just as we sat down for lunch which made for a rather lovely view out the window onto the grounds of the country park. There were so many other great looking dishes on the menu which I would love to try, so I think a little road trip with Pete and Reuben will definitely be on the cards soon!

Dalkeith Country Park
Restoration Yard Gift Shop
Restoration Yard Gift Shop
Gemma Correll
Restoration Yard Gift Shop
Emotional Baggage

I think the unsung hero of the Restoration Yard however has GOT to be the gift shop! It was huge! Every nook and cranny was full to the brim of the most amazing homewares, skincare, accessories, food, stationary and artwork. Basically the contents of all of my favourite online shops for quirky gifts rolled into one (Luckily they have an online store too, click here for a nosy) The only downside, I feel, to this place is that it's quite a drive away from Glasgow, so not an easy place for me to just nip over to. Edinburgh punters, consider yourself lucky! If you're local to Dalkeith I whole heartedly recommend you give it a visit. Or if you're a bit more further afield like me then it's a fantastic place to make a little day trip of. The country park is also home to Fort Douglas Adventure Park which looks amazing for the wee ones. Despite the snow we also saw lots of doggos while we were there too, but I forgot to ask before we left if the restaurant was dog friendly. If mindfulness isn't your thing, in the coming weeks you could try your hand at candle making, yoga, or even needle felted cactus making! Overall, I am extremely jealous that I don't have this sort of thing right on my doorstep, and once spring has sprung in Scotland I'll definitely be visiting again soon.

“With mindfulness the rumour is wrong that the point is to empty your mind; you need your mind to analyze, memorize, create and most importantly exist. It can never be empty while you’re alive, even in a coma your mind is still chattering away. The trick is to learn to live with the unrelenting sound track. It isn’t easy. Mindfulness is like training in a mental boot camp, it is not for the fainthearted because the mind is like a wild animal demanding you obey its every whim. And you’ve become so used to being the slave, you obey, ‘Gotta do this, gotta write email, gotta garden, gotta learn judo, gotta row across the Atlantic.’ The ‘gottas’ never stop and we always do as we are told. It’s so much easier to go along with what you’re used to; certainty is less threatening than uncertainty even if you suffer because of it.”
Ruby Wax

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