Length: 4 nights
Course Leader: Charlie Morley
Cost: £308 single room, £264 twin each, £232 dorm. All inclusive rate.
If like me you’re fascinated by dreams, then this weekend trip to the Holy Isle is perfect for you. It takes place once a year, usually in the spring or summer. Spaces are limited which is why I’m posting this now so that you can keep your eyes peeled – the dates are usually released every January.
Not to be confused with the Holy Island off the Northumberland coast, Holy Isle is located in the Frith of Clyde off the west coast of central Scotland, just a short boat trip from the nearby island of Arran. Holy Isle is around 2 miles long and half a mile wide. The island is owned by Samye Ling, a Buddhist community and the island is also includes the Centre for World Peace and Health on the North of the island. The environmentally designed residential centre holds courses and retreats throughout the year and extends into the former farmhouse. It has solar water heating and reed bed sewage treatment systems.
As you approach the island by boat you are greeted by Tibetan flags and stupas and on the other end of the island is a community of people in retreat. The rest of the island is a nature reserve with wild Eriskay ponies, Sannen goat, soay sheep and the replanting of native trees. The waters are a brilliant cobalt blue, sparkling and effervescent. The pictures here only really tell half the story, there is a special energy about the place that you can only experience first-hand.
It’s a stunning place to visit. However, this particular trip will only be of interest to you if you’re keen to explore your dreams, if you are, then do read on. But this isn’t just an ordinary dream retreat, this one teaches people how to have lucid dreams.
So what is a lucid dream exactly?
Lucid dreaming is when you are aware that you are dreaming. When this happens, you’re able to participate in your dream and have some sort of conscious involvement. Some people choose to fly above the rooftops, others use it for healing and many even use it to practise a skill such as breakdancing or yoga. Author Clare Jay even used it to help write her first novel – lucid dreaming helped her develop her characters and plot her novel – all while she was dreaming!
Lucid dreaming is basically a window into your subconscious mind, where the gold lies, and an opportunity to connect with a deeper well of resource and creativity. Think about it. We only use a small part of our conscious mind. Think of an iceberg, the top 10% floating above water is our conscious mind and the bottom part the 90%, hiding under the water is the unconscious mind. There’s so much more we can tap into, whether your motivation is to use your inner well to induce your creativity, learn how to surf or to overcome a fear such as public speaking.
Here’s something I said about lucid dreaming in Red magazine earlier this year:
I’m not making this stuff up, it became a recognised term at the turn of the century, coined by Dutch psychiatrist and writer Frederik van Eeden. In 1988, Snyder & Gackenback conducted a survey which found that 20% of people claimed to lucid dream frequently (every month) while 50% of people had done it at least once in their lives. It’s not as rare as you might think, it’s just that most people don’t realize that there’s a name for it.
I know what you’re thinking, how do I lucid dream?
There are lots of techniques you can read up on, too many to go into here (I feel another blog post coming). I’ve been lucid dreaming on and off since I was a teenager but it was only when I met Charlie Morley, my lucid dreaming teacher, around five years ago, that I fully realized how fascinating and helpful lucid dreaming could be. And it’s safe to say, ever since I’ve attended his workshops in London, and especially since I took part in the Holy Isle retreat, my lucid dreaming life has really began to flourish. If you’re not able to make the annual Holy Isle retreat next year, then Charlie also holds regular workshops and retreats all around the globe and in the UK too.
For a list of forthcoming events go to: http://www.charliemorley.com/?page_id=464
What happens at a lucid dreaming retreat?
An incredible amount of awesomeness! Where to begin. I met some really lovely people, all very inspired by dreams, their meanings and how they can help you in your everyday life. In fact, I’m still friends with at least a handful of the people I met from this retreat. We even have our own active Facebook group three years on.
The Holy Isle retreat lasts four days, and most importantly, four nights. During the day we stayed at the beautiful retreat centre. Dorminatries are available and private rooms too. There’s a beautiful communal lounge and dinning area in the converted farm house and a lovely spot with sofas nestled around the wood burner. The vegetarian food served, uses produce from the land and the menu each day was absolutely phenomenal, cooked by a host of dedicated and talented volunteers staying at the retreat centre. I can safely say it was some of the best vegetarian food I’ve ever eaten.
During the day, there are talks from Charlie, discussions and small group exercises (I’m not usually a big fan of this type of thing, but here it was perfect and no pressure to report back unless you wanted to, but I did, and it was cool). Charlie, who is quite possibly one of the best teachers I’ve ever encountered, has a lovely approach and is extremely engaging, insightful, entertaining and inspiring – a rare combination. Everyone who meets him instantly warms to him. I only wished he taught other things too beyond lucid dreaming, you can learn so much from someone like him.
By night, now this is the most exciting part, you have the choice whether to stay in your room and practise the lucid dreaming techniques learned during the day, or you can join the “sleep over” in the main hall – a beautiful space with wooden floor-boards and a pitched roof containing skylights, perfect dream-like surroundings for lucid dreaming, and so it goes, in ancient times sleeping under a pyramid shaped roof, boosted your chance of lucidity.
During the night, should you choose to stay in the main hall, Charlie sets several alarms at one hour intervals after 3am. The idea being, that these interruptions in sleep wake you momentarily and as you slip back into sleep again, you have a better chance of gaining lucidity in a dream. There are also special techniques you learn to put into practise just as you are dropping off.
I had some incredible dreams and a handful of lucid ones too during the retreat. And picked up some very rewarding and life-changing techniques. My dream life has become quite a fascinating place to be these last few years. It’s important to have the right attitude when aiming to lucid dream, as Lama Yeshe the founder of the centre says about life in general: “Be happy to fail, have no hopes to succeed”.
I travelled by train to Glasgow and then caught a second train to Ardrossan Harbour. The train stops at the ferry terminal, which is where you catch a ferry to the Isle of Iran. A bus ride later to a different ferry from Lamlash, you catch a small boat to the Holy Isle. The journey is well worth it.
For more general travel information go to: http://www.holyisland.org/index/getting-here
Course details will be published here: http://www.holyisland.org/index/courses