Let me start by painting a familiar picture. It’s Monday morning and you’re lying in bed. The brief glint of excitement that the sun is shining through your curtains is quickly replaced by the grim realisation that you need to be in work in an hour.
After playing tag with the snooze button on your mobile phone for 15 minutes, you eventually drag one leg at a time from your warm bed and into the cold, harsh world of your reality – and so it begins. Ouch. We’ve all been there and we know exactly how it feels. I remember that feeling well – dragging myself to a job I loathed, already wishing it was Friday and that I had the weekend to look forward to. The weekend. Those two words conjure up so many wonderful feelings of fun, football, fishing, friends and FREEDOM (said in my best Mel Gibson / Scottish accent).
Let’s go back to maths lessons at school for a moment (urgh – another time I hated Monday mornings) and talk ratios. Ratio is the comparison between two qualities and, in an ideal world, you want that comparison to reflect well on your circumstance. For example, we all remember the good old days of getting two Euros to the pound (2:1) when we could all dash to France and come back with a car boot full of plonk. Well, going back to weekends, here’s a ratio that quite frankly sucks: 5:2 or 2.5:1! That could well be your current ratio of work:play / captivity:freedom / boredom:fun. Oh dear. Two and a half days of Groundhog Day for one day of being footloose and fancy-free. Not good.
This might not be the same for everyone, but it seemed to be the common ratio for most of my clients as I stood by and listened to their horror stories as they pounded the treadmill in the gym. “My job is sooooo stressful I need a bottle of wine just to relax of an evening” or “I hate my job so much but it pays well so I have to do it”. How sad. This life that we have been given to make choices and experience all sorts of wondrous feelings; and somehow we find ourselves with a ratio of 2.5:1. Some clients didn’t even have it that good. There were a few who felt they had a 6:1 or even a 7:0 which frankly saddened me to my core.
It took me five years of working in one of the busiest gyms in England with hundreds of different clients to finally recognize that there was a simple answer to their plight. Why I don’t I give them one weekend to top all others? One weekend to convert a 2.5:1 into simply a ‘1’. I wanted my clients to have an experience that was like nothing they had ever had before. An adventure so amazing that it would make the snooze button a thing of the past. One Weekend – Change Your Life Forever was born.
So off to The Lake District I went with a vision of freedom and fun. After two years of preparation and tinkering, I’m proud to say I have formed a weekend that will quite frankly blast your ‘cobwebs’ into smithereens! I’m talking about a journey within – confronting yourself once and for all. A weekend of challenge, mystery and above all change. Don’t just take my word for it.
This is Amanda Quinn’s story of how a trip up the M6 on a Friday afternoon turned into an adventure like no other…….
Well… that is how he tells it anyway. I was one of those clients of his, with my ratio of 7:0 when I first met Elliot, some 5 years ago. I was a barrister through and through – a day off was a dream, a bottle of wine was my idea of a wonderful lake to dive into to forget the week. I had just turned 30, was carrying some weight from my second child, and my idea of exercise was legging it down a court landing in my 4inch heels.
I used to drive him to distraction – in fairness, I probably still do. I drank too much, smoked too much, exercised too little, and thought nothing of cancelling a holiday because of my work load. However, because he has wonderful powers of persuasion (and in fairness, because he has got me through some pretty crappy periods of my life) I found myself on the M6 to meet him on his promised adventure….
We met on Friday afternoon in the beautiful Book Town of Sedbergh (ten minutes off the M6). He took me off to my accommodation, The Cross Keys Inn, just outside of Sedbergh and at the foot of Cautley Spout – a mythical waterfall that Iron Age settlers worshiped for its healing powers. www.crosskeysinn.co.uk . He prised (and trust me – I am being polite with the word “prised”) my iPhone out of my hand, and ever so “gently” informed me that I was to hand over my laptop.
We chatted over dinner in the Temperance Inn (currently in The Times top 100 places to eat) but drank only water as the deeds of the Inn state alcohol can not be sold – apparently you can take your own, but Elliot all but frisked me to ensure I didn’t have any with me.
So I talked and he listened as I told him about my life and the things he felt that were holding me back – smoking, alcohol etc. Elliot took some notes, nodded and smiled – but said very little. Occasionally he would quote Lao Tzu – author of The Tao Te Ching. “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
After a lovely vegetarian meal and fresh fruit dessert, he showed me to my room – small but quaint. There are only two rooms in the inn and it’s owned by a lovely old couple, Chris and Anne. It’s 9 o’clock and Elliot informs me that I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow so could do with an early night. “I’ll be outside at 6am – don’t worry about breakfast” he says...disappearing into the night – while I remind myself that 6 o’clock occurs twice in a day.
Surprisingly, I awoke at 5:45am having had the best night sleep in a long time. Elliot met me outside and off to the waterfall we went. It was a beautiful morning and we talked about nature, stopping frequently to admire the wild horses and swooping swallows (please note Elliot wrote that sentence… all I could think of was coffee and nicotine).
There wasn’t another soul in sight – just us and nature. It was pretty tough work climbing the fell but the sound of the waterfall was enticing us to press on... or so Elliot tells me. He was, in fairness, knowledgeable of the area, and told me where the Iron Age settlement was and how they came to worship the water gods. Eventually we got to the breathtaking waterfall (longest in Britain) and were in awe of its shear power and beauty. I never had myself down as a “nature chick” but I have to say, this was incredibly beautiful.
It was 7:30am (I know!!) and time for breakfast. Elliot pulled out all sorts of fruit, smoothies, bread and eggs from his rucksack and we sat at the foot of the waterfall whilst we ate. He then dragged me to the top of the waterfall and up and over the fell. I have to say by this stage I was getting pretty into the process, and was loving just chatting away with Elliot – I had forgotten how much we just used to talk.
The view from the top was awesome and we stopped to watch the sun rising. I assumed the plan at that stage was back down and to the inn. No chance. On we walked over the fells and only stopped to notice nature’s treats. Elliot showed me how the water flowed perfectly in the trickling streams and told me to just notice it – urging me to ‘flow like water’ in my life – meander through whatever comes my way and not worry.
Before I knew it we were at the top of Winder Fell – overlooking sunny Sedbergh. The view was wonderful and the wind was strong. We just stood and felt the wind’s power for a while.
We wandered down the fell and into Sedbergh where we walked through the pretty main street and stopped to look in the numerous book shop windows. We carried on through the town and looped back up to Cautley. All the while we chatted and laughed – occasionally admittedly he had to drag me on as my feet began to ache.
It was 3 o’clock and we were back at Cross Keys – a twenty mile loop! I collapsed in the living room of the inn and got warm by the fire. Anne and Chris supplied the toast and jam – never before has toast tasted so good! I went off for a hot bath and soak leaving Elliot to read downstairs. On my return he offered me reflexology on my achy feet. After a good foot rub Elliot kindly informed me of my ‘weak points’ – areas on my feet where I tended to flinch when slight pressure was applied. Lungs were sore, possibly from smoking and liver was tender – I’m not saying anything!
It’s dinner time and we chomp on home-made veggie lasagne. Again no alcohol, but it’s not an issue. Tonight Elliot talks more and I listen as he gives me feedback on what he ‘digested’ from me last night. He talks about ‘living in the moment’ and the ‘power of NOW’.
It’s 9 o’clock and we move back to the fireplace. Elliot talks about meditation – the ultimate way of ‘finding the moment’. He leaves me by the fire and I find myself staring at the flames and being aware of my breathing. “Am I meditating?” I wonder…
I had a Sunday morning ‘lie-in’ till 6:30am, finding Elliot waiting for me outside. He drives me to his gym in Sedbergh where we have a really good workout together. Rowing, jogging, stretching – he talks me through everything and describes exactly what’s going on in my body. He ‘floods’ me with glasses of water – reminding me just how important it is to stay hydrated. We spend a lot of time on the gym ball – focusing on my core strength. We meditate for about 20 minutes at the end of our hour workout and I have to say, I felt fantastic. Off we went back to Cross Keys for a healthy brekkie.
After breakfast we drive to Keswick and arrive at Whinlatter Forest. We have a snack at one of the picnic tables – again from Elliot’s magic rucksack. Then it’s up the hill to the log cabin of Go Ape! Elliot is a trained climbing instructor and before I know it I’m wearing a harness and climbing a rope ladder!
The weather isn’t fantastic but it all adds to a pretty scary experience. One obstacle at a time we climb through barrels, wobble over rope bridges and ‘tarzan swing’ from tree to tree. The thought of jumping from the tree at 50ft in the air and swinging into a net seemed absurd to me but Elliot told me to “feel the fear and do it anyway” and before I knew it I was safely at the other side. What a buzz! The death-defying experience lasted for three hours and it was amazing. What an achievement! I had completed the whole course and even went back for more. I received my certificate from the cabin and an ‘I did it’ sticker – which will take pride of place on my mantelpiece with the stickers and certificates my kids get from the dentist.
Back to the Cross Keys for 4 o’clock in the afternoon and we sit by the fire and talk about the weekend. I have to admit I feel alive. My body is knackered as it hasn’t stopped moving for 48 hours but I feel full of energy – a strange combination. My lungs feel strong and my mind alert – Elliot is convinced that is probably due to no cigarettes or alcohol since Friday – I’m not so sure I agree with that presumption!
The main theme of the weekend was nature – I lost count of the amount of times Elliot quoted The Tao (pronounced Dow and meaning ‘The Way’).
Nature is complete
because it does not serve itself.
The best of man is like water
Which benefits all things
And does not contend with them
Which flows in places
That others disdain
Where it is in harmony with the Way
Fill a cup to the brim
And it is easily spilled
Temper a sword to its hardest
And it is easily broken
Amass the greatest treasure
And it’s easily stolen
Claim credit and honour
And you easily fall
Retire once your purpose is achieved
- this is natural
Elliot reminded me how nature does nothing yet leaves nothing undone. I have to admit I felt warm inside – and I will take everything I learned from the weekend back to ‘reality’ and aspire to be more like nature. Less worrying and stress. I looked up at Cautley Spout at the wild horses by the waterfall and smiled as I realised that those beautiful animals don’t even know what stress means.
With a hug and a smile Elliot leaves me to drive back down the M6. He handed me a copy of the The Tao Te Ching and reminded me that meditation is the key.
I headed home with a warm glow inside – ‘life is good’. I am not so sure what Elliot did that weekend – but whatever it was he did, it will have a lasting effect.