03 Jul Where the brave go, part 1 – Sara Kessel, well-being expert and performance coach puts The Performance Retreat to the test
Where the brave go – part 1
By Sara Kessel
Extraordinary retreats for high performers
Having worked in the wellbeing industry for years and seen the trends come and go the introduction to me of yet another retreat promising life changing tools and believing in our full potential raised my eyebrow. Really? Been there. Done that. But as a transformative performance coach myself and not one to shut doors I was intrigued. So, after meeting the owners and after many a conservation I became even more curious- perhaps, just perhaps this one will actually live up to it’s promises.
The timing was perfect
It was perfect timing, I was personally invited by Johan and Bitten in the depths of a stressful December to join them in the new year on Jan the 8th for a 3day introduction to their retreat program. The programs normally run for 7 days to two weeks but due to time constraints on both our sides 3 days is what we had. ‘It will be intense, there won’t be as much down time and we will all work hard.’ Johan said. I’m in, I said,100%.
The invitation process is clever. Clients after 56 questions on your dreams, desires, what’s holding you back what you’d like to change etc. a blood test, an iris and tongue examination and an interview, you are then invited to join if they feel you are ‘ready’ to do the work. Those that do “pass’ are welcomed with open arms and you feel like you’re being given access to a very special club. Those that don’t cut the mustard are given reasons why and are always allowed to reapply. The deal, after all, is that they work with high performers that are 100% committed to putting the work in, challenge themselves with deep desire to burst the ceilings of their dreams. They don’t want to waste your time or money if you’re not.
Not one retreat is the same
From the second Johan and Bitten meet you they are working hard gathering information and developing the perfect retreat to fit your needs. Not one retreat is the same, they listen to everything. Not one moment passes without them understanding what would be best for the journey they are meticulously carving out for you. They will even remember your favourite song and have it piping through the house upon your arrival.
Clients don’t stay on the retreat but at boutique hotels or villas that they recommend close by. The work is that intense that Johan feels clients need down time to relax and internally calibrate their experience each day ‘…and to be honest’, Bitten explained ‘we need it too, so that we are at our optimum energy for the clients.’
So, on a crisp and sunny January morning with my kit bag packed for the day I find myself waiting for Johan at our designated pick up point with my Day 1 agenda emailed the night before. Each day is adjusted as the retreat evolves and clients are sent the days program the evening before. This is not new to retreats and it is something I like as it keeps you on your toes.
A giddy feeling
As we drive up to the rustic road in Johan’s 4×4 I feel the excitement bubble up in me. Three days may not seem like a lot but the idea of even one day off to myself makes me feel giddy. We drive to a large entrance and the gates open out to a stunning sight of an entrance filled deep green palms and fig and orange trees leading up to a bright inviting blue pool, a huge sweeping terrace and a beautiful Finca. Bitten, who literally looks like she’s stepped off the front cover of Vogue, exudes love and with a warm welcoming gesture sweeps you up into her home. ‘Welcome to The Performance retreat and your home for the next 3 days.’
“Take a minute”
We walk in and I pass a humming kitchen with enough vegetables and fruit that would make Whole Foods weep and then to a beautiful sun filled tranquil bedroom with candles lit a large bed and an en suite bathroom. “Take a few minutes to relax and we will be in the front room at the breakfast table when you’re ready.” She closes the door gently and I am left to breath (something I will be doing a lot of over the next 3 days).
No detail has been missed
I take in my surroundings. No detail has been missed. There are flowers on my bed and t-shirts laid out at exactly my size. Boxing gloves and wraps (neon pink for me) and a water bottle are on my table along with a welcome note, and my ‘Retreat Bible’ (more on that later).
I feel the stress leave my body
I take my jacket off and literally feel the stress of 2018 falling off me. Time for me. This is my first solo retreat and I really feel the impact. 3 days to myself to focus on my body, my health, my goals and my dreams.
And that’s when I understand it. When do we, especially as high performers with companies to build and run, kids running around and work deadlines to meet plus the constant juggle of ambition verses parenthood, do we actually give ourselves time for ourselves. I mean real unadulterated time not just the 15 mins of mindfulness we’ve cultivate between a 6 am meeting and the school run.
It might not be listed as one of their secrets but Bitten and Johan know it. Time For Yourself, no one else to distract you, an attention bath purely on you and your need….and that’s when the magic begins.
The PH test
Smiling with anticipation I enter their beautiful eating area. Candles are lit everywhere and jugs of purified water dotted about the place….as I reach the table, I see a strip of paper and a little pot.
Ahhh the saliva test. Let’s see how my PH levels are…? This is part of their program that doesn’t waver and every morning my PH levels are testing by spitting on a piece of litmus paper. There is an optimum level where one should be and I am happy and surprised to hear I rest very close to this number.
What don’t they know?
The kitchen door sweeps open and I’m served a delicious protein breakfast pot- “this is because we know you skip breakfast”, Bitten says and winks (Christ what don’t they know!)
Never usually one with a morning appetite I devour this lovely coconut chia berry pot and drink a delicious shot of lemon, turmeric and ginger (picked from the trees outside of course).
After an introduction chat about the day’s plan I am taken for a walk around the premises. The garden is abundant with fig, lemon, apple and orange trees. Herbs like fennel and rosemary and lavender grow everywhere and fill the air with a beautiful scent. I am told they have a plan to seed a vegetable patch.
After a walk to the outside and inside training areas I am to sit with Bitten for my health analysis. After which I will change into my training kit and meet Johan in the dojo in the basement.
To be continued….