BEST FOR: Open-minded seekers who yearn to dump their baggage, open their hearts and feel the luurve NOT FOR: Prim prima donnas who shy away from snot, sweat and tears (though, truly, they probably need it the most!)
What curious mammals we are. We’re almost all wounded, often from a young age, and so we build barriers to prevent ourselves from feeling love, bliss, peace, joy, connection, all the good stuff in life. The Path of Love takes a flamethrower to those mile-high fences we construct around our hearts, our bodies, our minds and opens us up to the possibility of embodying, ensouling, our own true self. So far, so like many other week-long psychotherapy intensives and The Path of Love certainly shares common ground with the Hoffman Process, The Bridge, the Penninghame Process and others. Yet, if Hoffman and Penninghame are the wise parents, The Path of Love is the wild child savant, a firework burst of life and love.
The name summons images of a hippy sex-cult: the urge to drool ‘Path of Luurve’ is almost irresistible. Then you hear the founders were followers of Osho, dubbed the ‘Love Guru’, and you really do wonder if you should pack thongs and nipple tassles rather than the usual retreat staples of sheepskin slippers and snuggly poncho. But no. Maybe a more accurate name would be The Burn, for that’s basically what you do – burn away everything that stops you living life 100 percent. The evening you arrive, co-founder Rafia Morgan, possessor of the twinkliest eyes ever, quotes the Sufi poet Rumi:
“The time has come to turn your heart into a temple of fire. Your essence is gold hidden in dust. To reveal its splendour, you need to burn in the fire of Love.”
Burning isn’t an easy, comfortable, cosy process and, if you want to get the most out of this, you have to surrender to the flames. You need to be willing to dump your self-consciousness, your taboos, your shame and stand in front of your small group of 9-10 people, your two facilitators and team of supporting staff (it’s pretty much a ratio of 1:1 staff to participants) and bare your soul down to its grim, grimy, grubby dregs. You need to be willing to talk about the cruddy stuff – everything that makes you a shitty person as well as all the ingenious ways in which you squash down the bright, beautiful, innocent child you once were.
They say your small group will end up knowing more about you than your closest family and friends and it’s true. You speak with every ounce of honesty and vulnerability you possess and you’re met with – acceptance, compassion, empathy, love plain and simple. It starts to melt you; the defences start to buckle and bend.
Mornings kick off with Osho’s dynamic meditation – an hour of movement, catharsis and quiet awareness that stirs the pot on your emotions, bringing you up to a nice simmer. Then they turn up the heat with Burn meditations – long, intense sessions where the DJ (yes, they have a resident DJ) plays music designed to churn everything up, to help you release whatever monsters are lurking under the surface, whatever emotions have been tamped down, forced into hiding. There is no right or wrong way to do this. If you need to hurl yourself on a mattress and sob, that’s fine. If you want to scream and yell and shout as loud as you can, just go for it. Staff are there for you to project your stuff onto – if you’ve got an issue with an ex or a parent, they’ll happily take your vitriol, or hold up pillows for you to bash and belt. They really are incredible beings of utter compassion and sensitivity who intuitively know what you need, often before you even know it yourself. If that involves holding you for hours at a time while you sob up the legacy of a lousy childhood, or snarl away the hell of a grim marriage, they’re there. If you want to dance like a dervish, storm around like a wild goddess or simply crave the cheesy slow dancing you missed out on as a teenager, they’ll hold out a hand and whirl or waltz with you.
Once you clear away a swathe of crap, the fun begins. The Path of Love isn’t just dour worthy psych-camp; it’s playful, passionate, full-on joy. It’s also deeply spiritual (though strictly non-denominational) and somehow everyone, even the atheists, the agnostics, those purportedly phobic of the G word, end up feeling some kind of universal connection. No rainbows and unicorns here; it’s full on rapture.
After a while you don’t even blink when someone spontaneously hugs you as you wander down a corridor; you don’t bat an eye at people curled up in piles, like puppies. In fact, you’ll want to hurl yourself on top and snuggle down into the middle making snuffling noises. This stuff heals, and it heals deep, carving into every cell in your body the message that you’re okay, that you’re divine just as you are. Yes, it sounds like cringe-inducing New Age claptrap but it isn’t, truly it isn’t – it’s deeply wonderful.
Okay, so the Welsh mansion you stay in is a bit staid and corporate. The grounds are pure bliss but inside the décor is all traditional chandeliers and dull drapes, more suited to provincial weddings than this kind of supercharged spiritual love-fest. Bedrooms are comfortable but uninspiring: most accommodation is shared but extreme whining may land you a single. Food is hearty vegetarian fare of the Cranks variety (vegan and gluten-free options available) but some days you burn straight through without lunch, so you’re advised to bring a tuck box. Yes, this really is the boarding school of Love.
Aside from Wales, retreats are run in 14 countries around the world (Australia, Brazil, India, Israel and across Europe) but are generally conducted in English. Your fellow participants will tend to be mainly 30 – 50-something professionals with every type of angst under the sun – nobody will bat an eye, no matter what your ‘issues’. Aftercare is meticulous – you stay in touch with a buddy and your small group by Skype and virtual meetup boards. A large number of graduates go on follow-up retreats or return as staff themselves.
It may sound a bit corny but Path of Love really is all about the love, pure deep love and, unless your heart has been removed and stored in a deep freeze, you will melt and turn into a slush puppy of, yes, luurve. And you’ll love it.
CONTACT: www.pathretreats.com PRICE: The course costs £1,490 per person. Accommodation and full board in Wales starts from £420 per person. NEAREST TRAIN STATION: Abergavenny TRANSFER TIME: 25 minutes