REVIEW: Universal Medicine Retreats: Practical Wisdom (2018)

REVIEW: Universal Medicine Retreats: Practical Wisdom (2018)

Having booked holidays, work colleagues asked where I was going. When I told them I was going to a retreat they playfully asked, “Why do you need to retreat from life?” Many of us see retreats as Spas, luxury escapes from the world, into places of pampering, solitude and introspection, servicing the full spectrum of desired tastes from hippy alternatives to jet-set rich and famous.

The Universal Medicine Retreats are annual events offered in Australia, Vietnam and the UK and they are not offering bubble baths or a retreat from life. They are a five day submersion into philosophy, science and religion that focusses on deepening our understanding of life, and in particular the elements at play that can make life a messy misery or a joy.

Universal Medicine is an organisation that offers a deeper philosophy on life called ‘The Way of The Livingness’ that, like the philosophy of many philosophers of old, is based on a simple and ancient wisdom of living every day with love, joy, harmony and stillness – not from a mountain top, but in the mud and muck of our everyday ‘real’ stress-filled, complicated, busy lives.

Each year the retreat is the same but different. The same in that it has a basic structure to each day, from early morning to early evening, that incorporates Esoteric Yoga, presentations, group work and meal breaks. And different, in that we explore in depth together, specific aspects of life.

During the retreat we are invited to experiment with noticing the effects that the way we put ourselves to bed, the food we eat and the things we do have on us and our relationships with those around us and the day at hand. We have the opportunity in this home away from home to do these things slightly differently and see how it feels. For example, to bypass tv or anything stimulating after dinner and instead wind down and put ourselves to bed in a way that prepares us for sleeping.

It is simple, practical wisdom that can be brought into day to day life in a way that enriches it no matter what our living circumstances may be. As the name suggests, what is offered is Universal Medicine – it is not something secret or reserved for a select few, it is for everyone to experiment with, live and enjoy.

One area we explored this year was standards, and how they govern our experience. The further we went, the more we came to unfold and understand about standards – how we set them consciously or subconsciously and then live the benefits or consequences of them. One of the things I love about the Universal Medicine Retreats is the wisdom we tap into in ourselves and share with each other; expanding, deepening, building on and evolving our understanding as we go. It is not an intellectual exercise but an opportunity to unfold the intelligence of the heart, whose knowledge needs no certificate or degree to access.

In this the retreats are a gathering of equals regardless of the diversity of our backgrounds, age or gender.

Since returning from the retreat this year I have noticed that our home is cared for at a different level; we wash the floors every week. We now have a day when we clean, a day we shop and another where the washing is done. These standards we have set and not dropped, to the great benefit of our day to day lives. It is a pleasure to walk into a clean home, a cupboard and fridge full of choices, fresh clothes to wear and the absence of the feeling of overwhelm that came with these things being left unattended for whatever reason and having to scramble and make do as a result. We started with one day and built on this, experiencing the realisation of how it was more draining leaving these things for another day, than it was to simply get on with it lovingly and do them.

‘Charity begins at home’ with the way we treat ourselves and each other. Anything that invites more self care, appreciation and the bringing of spaciousness into our daily lives in the smallest of ways is truly priceless and absolutely inspiring for the quality it leaves behind for us to live in, to return home to at the end of the day and to share with each other.

It’s not "keep the house clean or else" . . . it’s not a rule – it’s a will to live connected with the grander aspect of ourselves that has a way of its own, The Way of the Livingness, that moves us in naturally nurturing, not self-destructive or self-diminishing ways; not just for our benefit but with the awareness that how we are affects everyone and everything. This connection is the true treasure on offer at each and every UM Retreat to experience and develop to whatever level we choose.

That’s it – nothing ‘rah rah’ or mystical about the Universal Medicine retreats. They offer, through our own exploration, a deeper understanding of the natural order and science behind something that can then be applied to everyday life and lived. It’s not about making life better or more comfortable, but about living with and building a quality of joy and simplicity, instead of misery, exhaustion and complication in our daily lives, and observing the flow-on effect this has on everything and everyone.

In a time when our mental and physical health continues to be compromised to degrees that leave people living much less than the joy, vitality and engagement with life we are made for, Universal Medicine retreats and therapies offer not pampering but the opportunity to re-connect with our innate sense of purpose and responsibility and the wisdom and clarity they deliver whenever we allow them to be at the heart of our lives for a moment, an hour, a day or a lifetime.

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  • By Adrienne Hutchins

    I’ve always been interested in understanding the underlying cause and effect behind what we experience in life and for this the heart is the greatest teacher any student could have.