A return to oneself – experiences at Embercombe

By Amie Taylor

Amie shares her journey after Embercombe’s The Journey programme, an invitation for us to extract what we need and to chart a positive path forward.

In months of being disconnected from everything, myself, my body, the land, I find this delight sparks a new feeling of hope.

I arrived at Embercombe for the Journey after two years of significant losses; the deaths of two close friends, a relationship, a home, a garden, other friends having moved away and my freelance career having not quite recovered from lockdowns. I arrived feeling lost and directionless. It’s not my first time staying at Embercombe, and arriving throws up some difficult memories of a different time and place, and what in the moment feels like a better time and place in my life than the one I am in now.

Words don’t come easily as I begin to meet my fellow Journeyers and if I’m honest, smiles feel a little harder; not because of them, but because of me. I made the decision to join the Journey very last minute, and I’m wondering if it was the right decision or if I was a little impulsive. It’s a course that had been on my radar for years, having friends who have done it and highly recommended it, but it never felt like quite the right time for me; until suddenly it was. I needed to do some rebuilding, and having hunkered down through the Winter, I knew it was time to gently thaw, and find my Spring. I hoped the Journey might help me. By the first evening I found myself softening, the first sessions completed and having had some time out and about on the land, I felt a safety; I had been holding myself tightly together for so long, but here I thought maybe I could experiment with letting go a little and seeing where it took me. I felt held by these people, both the course facilitators, Mac, Tugba and Stefan, and also the Journeyers – we all had our own reasons for coming, some similar and some very different, but there was very much a deep respect for one another for taking the leap.

Something that was shifting and healing for me was the way in which grief was welcomed whenever it came, in a way I have found it so seldom is out in the everyday. It was the first time in a long time I had found the opportunity to grieve. Throughout the Journey the facilitators were good at telling stories of their dead. I felt a responsibility to allow their dead to live on through me by listening and holding on to those stories. In terms of my own losses, I saw a moment of hope, that maybe I could return home and tell more stories of my dead people too, to keep them alive through others. Talk of the Twin Trail reignited a flame in me that has been burning low in recent years. The idea of working on yourself, while simultaneously giving back to your community, society, the world; “inner healing and outer action”. This spoke to me deeply, I’ve always believed it’s impossible to be truly happy unless you are contributing to community in someway and leaving the world (or at least your little bit of it) better than it was when you arrived. Ideas started sparking about things I wanted to do on returning home, how I would embed this in my life. On the third morning a swift darts over our heads while we’re drinking tea outside the dining yurt ‘ the first one I’ve seen this year, I’ve been waiting for them’, a fellow Journeyer says with delight. Her delight is infectious. In months of being disconnected from everything, myself, my body, the land, I find this delight sparks a new feeling of hope. Spring is here. I heard the word retreat used often throughout to the week – but for me, this was anything but. The word retreat would make you think one was stepping back from their life but for me it was undoubtedly a return to myself. One afternoon whilst out on the land, I experienced a childlike feeling ripple up and through me, a return to a younger version of myself – a part of me that it’s vital I communicate with often; and yet I hadn’t been. I found myself wondering if I could engage one of my new found friends in a game of hide and seek or sardines in the land – why not? Across the rest of that day I laughed easily and felt lighter than I had in months.

As I headed towards the car park at the end of the week, I no longer believed that my other times at Embercome had been a better time and place of my life; the week had brought me back to myself in a way I had perhaps not been with myself for years; even long before the losses. It was life-changing. I developed entire new ways of thinking, being and approaching things in just a few days, and left with an entire crowd of new friends (just a WhatsApp group message away) to message if I ever need. That finger-snap decision just a week and a half before was the best decision I had made in a long time. Since returning from Embercombe and picking up my own Journey, I feel like I’ve found my reasons again; my ‘YES’ to the world (and where my ’NOs’ are). I have been considering the choices I make in every moment of every day, it’s easy to think we don’t have much control at all, but we do. I’ve started to think more about how to bring sustainability into my work at the cultural organisation I work part-time at, how we can really embed it at the core of our work. I’m making active choices to engage more, to passionately dedicate myself to the work I believe in. I have found myself a little happier in my days. There is an excitement to get up and out in the morning. As I start to think about ways in which to rebuild my career (and life), I want to do so with the ethos and lessons I learnt on Journey at the heart of it – I’m already starting to, and I pledge to continue.