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'I'm about to turn 40 - this is how I'm tackling my midlife crisis'

Ahead of turning 40, writer Georgie Duckworth challenged herself to step out of her comfort zone, throwing herself into the unknown at a Pagan wellness retreat.

georgie duckworth
February 16, 2023
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When I was invited to go on a three-day Pagan health and wellness retreat on the sacred grounds of Glastonbury, my first instinct was to hastily decline.

Just the thought of treatments and yoga and talking about feelings brings me out in a nervous sweat. Add the Pagan element and it's a whole new level of awkward discomfort.

No thank you. Not for me. No way. I've never quite understood why people would go on a retreat. Retreat from what? I assumed it was like going to a spa, but weirder.

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I’m not a 'wellness' person. Once upon a time, my husband misguidedly booked me a hot stone massage at a local spa. A kind gesture, but I spent the entire session wondering why the woman kept prodding me in the back with lukewarm rocks. I felt self-conscious and uneasy and vowed never to do it again.

But the retreat invitation came at an interesting moment in my life. This year, I'll be turning forty. I have a certain facial expression whenever I say that; it's something between 'yikes' and 'let's do this.'

To mark the momentous occasion, I've made a personal commitment to try new things, welcome new experiences and take a determined step out of my very well-defined comfort zone. It's a little like a mid-life crisis, but without the Porsche.

So, as I began to type my refusal, I hesitated. Surely this is the exact challenge I should embrace? Who knows, maybe I might even like it? So, I dove right in, and responded with an enthusiastic yes!

As 'retreat week' approached, my anxiety levels increased. Would people realise I was a fraud? I'm not spiritual or meditative. I giggle when I feel awkward and I don't even know what a sound bath is.

yoga session

Yoga has never been Georgie's thing

The more people that told me, 'You'll love it', the more I thought about staying home and catching up on Happy Valley.

I optimistically checked for any increase in my children's temperature, hoping that a winter bug might compel me to stay behind and nurse them.

Alas. With bags packed, I did one final read-through of the details to confirm that I was indeed mad to be doing this.

Fire ceremonies, cacao, full-body massage, private pool, seasonal yoga; hold on, was that a spark of excitement I just detected? Three days away from the daily grind, relaxing and being pampered. Maybe this could actually be pretty awesome.


Yoga was a big part of the retreat

As I arrived at the beautiful Middlewick farm, the sun broke through the mist that had shrouded my journey (and my mood), revealing views stretching for miles over the patchwork pastures of the Somerset Levels. Glastonbury's iconic Tor soared up and touched the sunlight just above me.

I'm not one for superstition, but this seemed like a good sign. I felt my anxiety begin to melt away.

Soon after, Jess, host of the retreat and founder of Luna-Flow, came to greet me. Clad in what I can only describe as 'witchy-chic', she exuded a welcoming aura of calm and mellowness. As we hugged, she reassured me that all would be well. And I found myself believing her.

For me, this was the turning point. Everything that followed was a gratifying blend of relaxation, reflection, hilarious new experiences and a lot of laughter.

sound bath

Georgie became fond of sound baths 

Across my three days at Middlewick, I put any scepticism to the side and allowed myself to succumb to the world of Pagan wellness. I learnt about Imbolc, oracle cards and mandalas. I huffed and puffed through yoga, getting all the moves wrong, and actually enjoyed a massage.

There were moments of wackiness, but I enjoyed being part of it. There were times that I wanted to giggle (people snoring during meditation will always be funny) but I soon realised that others giggled too and we didn't all have to be serious.

By my final day, I felt remarkably high-spirited and, dare I say it, zen. The connections I'd made with others in the group were new and exciting.

drumming ceremony

The retreat was eye-opening

I'd laughed a lot and drank more green tea than I thought was humanly possible. Some moments were pure magic; like hiking out at dusk to watch the sunrise over the Somerset Levels or hearing the sounds of rhythmical drums being played high up on the Tor through a moonlit night.

I felt proud of myself for saying yes; for plunging head first into my pool of trepidation, and realising that a little bit of awkwardness is all part of the fun.

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On returning home, I considered whether I'd be tempted to go on a retreat again. In truth, though I loved my time away, it's unlikely.

The joy for me was in taking a leap and experiencing something new; in challenging my anxiety and scepticism and embracing the unfamiliar. I suspect that the charm would be lost if I went back again, though I wouldn't mind a cheeky sound bath every once in a while.

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Instead, I'll be returning to Glastonbury to reunite with new friends, enjoy a cuppa and reminisce about our time together.

All the while, as my 40th year continues, I’ll be plotting other ways to throw myself out of my comfort zone and enjoy the thrill of the unknown. One friend has suggested naked hiking, but I think I’ll draw the line with that one.

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