It was the autumnal equinox and summer held on a bit longer to greet eleven young changemakers from nine countries and welcome them to our Summer Wellbeing Lab in Brisighella, Italy. Over the course of 2.5 days, we turned the Agriturismo Ca’ di Mezzo into a space for relaxation, exploration, reflection, and action.

“Beautiful environment, delicious food, rich culture, and meaningful conversations are only a part of the recipes that I tasted this weekend. Two days felt like two weeks because of the in-depth ways I was able to look within and understand the way I connect with the world. This retreat was deeply thought-provoking and inspiring; I am truly happy and grateful.” (Hyewon Rho)

As I explored in one of my previous posts, “Wellbeing labs: spaces to savour wellbeing recipes”, our immersive wellbeing retreats invite participants to our kitchen to taste the different ingredients of wellbeing through our recipes for the mind, body, heart, and soul. What’s unique about our kitchen is that everyone contributes: participants personalise the wellbeing menu they wish to experience in order to meet their wellbeing nutritional needs.

And here is a little bit of a taste of the wellbeing menu we savoured in Italy last month…

Connection with ourselves

One of the main intentions behind many recipes we tasted was to enable participants to increase their self-awareness and to deepen their connection with their own mind, body, heart, and soul. Most of them had walked into the retreat after weeks of exhausting work and intense travelling (despite the summer holidays) and were feeling stretched right to the edge. Others had reached fascinating yet uncertain turning points in their personal and professional lives and were wobbling, unsure about where to go next. And some landed knowing that they needed to make some drastic changes to their lifestyle to avoid burnout.

All this considered, it is with gentleness and kindness that we explored recipes such as “managing stress”, “strengthening your immune system”, and “finding your inner refuge”, to create a space for self-care and self-compassion. One participant reported how these practices allowed them to get deeper into meditation and reach a state where they mind does not “run away” from the struggles and does not get exhausted and overwhelmed.

Connection with others

Whilst deepening this connection with themselves, our participants also worked on expanding their circle of empathy to include others in the group (and beyond). The realisation that individual wellbeing is intrinsically linked with collective wellbeing gave them the courage to take a step forward into compassion towards others. In fact, contrary to what many of us think, shielding ourselves from discomfort and pain causes us to suffer. Separation becomes like a prison that limits our ability to care for others outside our inner circle of compassion.

So we challenged our participants to apply the encouragement offered by the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa: “You take it all in. You let the pain of the world touch your heart and you turn it into compassion.” Our participants engaged with recipes such as “<a href=”http://www.recipesforwellbeing.org/recipe/finding-your-inner-refuge/”>unlimited empathy</a>”, “<a href=”http://www.recipesforwellbeing.org/recipe/the-wheel-of-burnout/”>the wheel of burnout</a>”, and the “<a href=”http://www.recipesforwellbeing.org/recipe/privilege-walk/”>privilege walk</a>” to feel into the lives of others and to use that understanding to guide their actions. For instance, one participant shared that their favourite recipe was the privilege walk because it opened their eyes to how privileged they are but also offered them insights into how they can use it to create positive change in society.

<strong>Connection with the land</strong>

Importantly, all of this individual and collective inner work happened with the acknowledgment that we are not separate from Nature; we are Nature. Reclaiming our interconnectedness with Nature is critical for changemakers to break away from the patterns of the old paradigm, driven by fear and scarcity, to embrace life’s abundance. To rekindle this innate wisdom, we guided our participants through Nature-immersed recipes such as “<a href=”http://www.recipesforwellbeing.org/recipe/walking-meditation/”>walking meditation</a>”, but also created several opportunities for them to appreciate the richness of the land that hosted our retreat.

For example, we hosted an olive oil tasting with <a href=”http://www.ulivita.it/en/16271-2/it/il-blog-ulivita-2/it/properties/franco-spada-agronomo/”>Mr Franco Spada</a>, the current President of the Consortium of “Brisighella” Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Producers and of the Regional Association of Olive Oil Producers. Mr Spada led us through a rich experience where we learned how to (really) taste olive oil and savoured Brisighella’s top three products. We didn’t stop at the olive oil though! We also enjoyed a wine tasting experience with our host Mr Claudio Delle Fabbriche, who shared his expertise as a producer of Albana and Sangiovese, two local wines. And we also interacted with Brisighella mayor Davide Missiroli, who told us the story of this Medieval town and shared his passion for his community. These are some of the elements that contributed to create a safe and nurturing space for our participants to cultivate their wellbeing.

<em>“The Summer Wellbeing Lab has been the perfect experience to recharge my batteries and get ready for all that is about to begin. Not only have I learnt more about what wellbeing means to me, but I’ve also had the great opportunity to discover a wonderful corner of my beautiful Italy. We focussed on collective and individual practices to foster our wellbeing in all aspects of our life – be it at work, with our families, or any other setting. I highly recommend it to all changemakers and people who want to keep giving at their best!” (Luisa Meneghetti)</em>

I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to have hosted our Summer Wellbeing Lab in the place I call home. The positive feedback received from our participants increases my confidence to start planning our next Wellbeing Lab!

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