When I made the first Sahara Retreat I thought it would be a bunch of hardcore travellers sitting around the fire trading outlandish stories from the road. When the first group turned up I discovered that while some people had been around the world and had some tales up their sleeves, most people were in search of something else – new directions, new friendships, new inspirations, new points of view…
There were students, workers, hippies, people from the corporate world, and all of them came ready to experience something new, to open their hearts. We danced and sang around the fire like crazy, went on walks in the dunes, laughed and chatted around the dinner table, and before we knew it it was time to leave the dunes. Everyone left with reluctance and I resolved to make the retreats longer and deepen the kind of experience we had just shared.
With each passing year I learned better how to run the retreats and provide the opportunities for everyone to open up and share their hearts with each other and I realised it didn’t really matter where people came from; there were those who had been on a bunch of meditation retreats and yoga courses before, while others were entering totally uncharted territory, but all anyone could bring with them was themselves. For some people it was an incredibly intimate experience just to hug someone for more than a few seconds. Others found that they could apply their knowledge from working for a big corporation to encouraging the dreams of those just starting out in life.
Every year I get emails from people who would like to come on the retreat but worry that they’re too old/too young/too conventional to come. Maybe they won’t fit in. They might not have anything in common with the others there. If they overcome these doubts and jump on a plane to Morocco to come, it’s wonderful to watch them relax into the group vibe over the week and leave with open hearts and radiant faces.
So often we exclude ourselves from groups in a kind of auto-sabotage. Afraid of not fitting in or being rejected we take the first move and assume that it just wouldn’t work out for us. Maybe we don’t consider ourselves group people so how could we join a retreat with 25 others in a desert?
Well, I’m not a group person either. And I have the greatest time each year because it’s all individuals who come – old, young, wise, innocent, energetic, calm – and each one of them has their own story to tell.