I had reached a point where I was completely drained from all aspects of my life. Energy was literally seeping out of me. I couldn’t stop it. My vitality was almost depleted. I was in a constant state of exhaustion.
City lifestyle, work stress, the lingering grief of my divorce compounded with the devastating sudden death of my father had left me completely drained. Something had to give. I realised that I was on the fast track to burn out if I was not careful. At that time, stress in my corporate life was at an all-time high. The pressure of leading a global team in a period of uncertainty, through an endless cycle of change with the ever-present threat of job losses on the horizon, was relentless.
On my home front the draw of being close to NYC was waning. Hours of my life were wasted commuting in rush hour traffic. By the time I got home in the evenings I was too wrecked to do much. Even on the weekends I had lost interest in the attractions of city life. I felt confined by the concrete jungle. The loud high-pitched emergency sirens became a source of aggravation and the sound track to my life.
Seeking ways to recharge, regular workouts with my trainer, yoga and meditation classes became my life savers to release the stress. Yet they were quick fixes to keep me going but didn’t address the underlying needs of my soul. I made an intention to look at how I could make some overdue changes in my life.
In an earlier post, I wrote about how I had made a vital self-discovery while working with my professional coach, Eve Simon. I was lacking a restorative connection to nature that was an essential part of my being. Growing up in the country side of Ireland had instilled in me a comfort in the stillness of Nature. The bright lights of a big city were at odds with this soul level need. An escape to the country was a yearning to soothe my soul. Recognising the need to address this I set off to explore upstate New York and felt drawn to the Catskills Mountains.
While in the region, I had made a heart centred connection with rural Ulster County. Not only with the name of Ulster which is synonymous with the Ulster Provence of Northern Ireland. Ulster Provence was in fact part of my ancestral heritage; my Father came from Belfast and in my earlier life I had studied at the University of Ulster for my Bachelor of Science degree.
Moreover, there was a familiarity that resonated with me about the rural life style. I felt a vibrational energy that made me want to slow right down and connect to myself. I felt a soul level knowing that this is where I needed to be. I started to spend weekends up there, exploring different towns and staying in Airbnb’s. All offered a welcomed respite from the demands of my stressed-out existence.
I visited Woodstock renowned for its hippie culture and the name sake to the famous musical festival of 1969 which I learnt was actually held 50 miles away at Bethel Woods. Woodstock had an allure for those seeking an alternate lifestyle. Along with the artist colony there is a community of soul seekers, looking to understand a deeper element of existence. I marvelled at this place of new age spirituality.
With each weekend I spent up in the Catskills I grew more and more relaxed. I felt rising levels of excitement when planning each weekend, where I was going to go and where I was going to stay. I finally started hiking again as a joyful stress reducer. Those of you who read my blog post on my close encounter with a Bear while hiking solo will already know that it instilled a renewed confidence in me to live a more courageous life.
The Catskills mountain area eluded a path to serenity that my soul needed. I started to yearn for more of its permanence in my life. The summer time was popular up there with weekenders from the city and getting a place to stay was becoming scarce.
It dawned on me that I should look for a long-term rental in the area. A place that I could call home from home. If I had such a place, I could spend more time here over the holidays and even midweek if I was desperate for a break. I couldn’t completely relocate here as I did need to be in the office during the week and a 200-mile round trip was too much for a daily commute.
The idea grew, I started telling my friends about it. They might have thought I was a little crazy but they recognised how excited I was. I reasoned that if I downsized to a smaller cheaper apartment during the week, the cost of running two households wouldn’t be too much more extravagant.
I started making enquiries with realtors for long term rental opportunities and before long I had an appointment to see a place in Bearsville, New York. Even the name was appealing and I felt it was another encouraging sign from the universe. My family nickname is C bear, I had met a Bear in the wilderness and now there was a possibility I would live in a place linked to Bears. It all seemed serendipitous to me.
Fortunate for me I was the first viewer. The realtor told me that a place liked this would be snapped up so if I liked it not to hesitate. She didn’t need to tell me twice. I fell in love with it on the spot. In a previous existence it had been a chicken coup that had been restyled into a cabin by the owner. The main room was a large combined kitchen, diner and living room with vaulted beamed ceiling and a wood burning stove. It was simple, rustic and very charming. Additionally, there were two bedrooms and a bathroom. Large windows looked out on the landscape of trees, grass and the silhouette of the mountains.
I put in my application that day along with a letter explaining more about me and why I would make a good tenant. The next day I got a call congratulating me on being selected. I was elated if not a little incredulous. The smoothness of the application process felt like it was meant to be for me. I went and signed the paper work and got the keys the following week.
I gave notice on my apartment in Hoboken and started to look for a smaller place closer to the office, cutting down on both the cost and the commute time. A friend of mine, Phyllis was also looking to move and she saved me a lot of time and effort by finding us affordable adjoining apartments in a brand-new apartment building. Everything was falling into place with an ease that was astonishing me.
I started to feel joie de vivre rising in me. I was so excited to move into the Cabin and start furnishing the place. I love the process of putting a home together. I got the basic flat packed furniture delivered and arduously built it mostly by myself. Then gradually I started gathering local arts and crafts to decorate it in a cozy cabin vibe.
I loved going to craft markets and fairs. I met and befriended local artists and was happy to be a patron when I could. I started to go to farmers markets and buy fresh produce. Nourishing my body through healthy home cooking became a self-love ritual. A hobby I had previously lost interest in after my divorce had finally returned.
My weekends soon took on a pattern of spending time outdoors exercising and exploring, balanced with restful sleep, meditation, mindfulness rituals, healthy eating, yoga, relaxation and an inner peace. I found a wonderful yoga teacher and had regular practice with her. I hiked to the peaks of many of the surrounding mountains. I walked around the beautiful lakes and reservoirs. My body, mind and soul were all benefitting from this change in lifestyle.
I never found that I got bored there. I read books, listened to music or podcasts, watched movies and journaled. There was a constant stream of wildlife passing through the yard, deer, groundhogs, squirrels, beavers and birds were regular visitors. It was fascinating to see them up close and undisturbed. I had a ring side view from my sofa. I put out feeders in the winter months to help protect them. Even though I bought the design marketed as Squirrel proof, they would spend hours trying to steal the seeds and eventually outsmarted my efforts to deter them. It was an entertaining show to watch!
In the cooler temperatures my wood burner became a source of heat and comfort. The red glow of the fire warmed my heart. I got a sense of living a simple life and getting back to basics. I loved to wake up early on the weekends and just listen to the birds chirping outside my window. The dawn chorus replaced the need for an alarm clock. I experienced immense gratitude for the privilege of having this lifestyle.
Living from a state of appreciation and gratitude elevated my mood and mindset. I felt an innate sense of childlike joy that I had not connected with in many years. Simple things brought me soul level rapture. Going for a walk in nature. Watching the sun rise and set. Drinking a cup of coffee.
I loved both the solitude of having quiet time as well as being sociable. Yet, I did not miss the buzz of the city. Often friends would invite me to events happening there over the weekend, I would always politely refrain, over time they stopped asking knowing that I would not be easily drawn away from my weekend retreat. Occasionally friends and family would visit, each of them understanding the appeal for themselves. Over time I made friends in the area and became involved in a woman’s group that met once a month and sat around my table sharing food and connecting in the spirit of community.
Being single I did receive some male concern that I might be too lonely along with unrequited offers to come keep me company. I was not afraid of being alone and rather this was a deliberate choice. I purposely created a safe haven and the only time I was disturbed was by unwelcome pests in the form of mice. Both occasions were a little harrowing and luckily with the help of plug in sonic devices I didn’t have a third time.
In the cooler temperatures my wood burner became a source of heat and comfort. The red glow of the fire warmed my heart. I got a sense of living a simple life and getting back to basics. While I had the privilege of being able to afford to have this lifestyle, I held immense gratitude for the privilege.
For the first time in my life I realised that I did not need any form of external happiness, it was right here inside me. I felt contentment and ease from just being still. Even though work was still as stressful I was able to manage that stress so much easier. I no longer felt the same level of exhaustion and depletion. On my weekly drive up I would feel tired but excited to be heading upstate. I would be so recharged over the weekend that I didn’t mind the early start on a Monday morning to drive down to work.
Most of the time I was dressed down in casual gear. It was less about caring what I looked like and more about caring what my needs where. I started using more natural products as a self-care practice. Taking a shower with natural soap became a mindful cleansing ritual. The practice of smelling the essential oils while lathering up the suds kept my senses present to experience the delightful feeling of water washing over me and stress washing away. Other mindful living practices kept me in the moment to experience life. I was no longer finding myself miles away lost in thought.
I felt more and more connected with myself. I operated on a higher vibrational energy level, I felt lighter and in a state of elevation. The best way to explain this is to imagine being able to soar up on high. I came to experience this level of elevation more frequently the longer I stayed there. It was a seismic shift from the place of exhaustion where I had come from.
I learnt to have a new relationship to my grief. While my heart was still broken, I had started the process of picking up the pieces. I was able to infuse the heaviness of grief with the elevation of joy. The joy I found in the simple pleasures of life reminded me of being a child again. I felt my senses and soul awaken from a state of disconnect to a state of alertness. I felt more alive than I had in decades.
I cannot over emphasise the power of my Catskill cabin retreat had on regaining vitality in all aspects of my mind body and soul. Giving myself the gift of time to slow down, letting go of the daily stress, immersing myself in nature, living in the mindset of gratitude, connecting to my inner guidance, intentionally taking care of my soul needs revived me to a new state of being.
I feel like I was reborn in the time I spent there. A wonderful transformation happened. I shed many protective layers of armour that I had built up over the years. I no longer felt the need for the purpose they served. The word retreat means to step back from the world. The ongoing benefits of the time I spent in my Catskills Cabin retreat are still with me now as I am settling back to life in Ireland.
I will be eternally grateful to the universal forces that led me to finding my Catskill Cabin and for all the wonderful memories I have. The lessons that I took from my Cabin Life have shaped the life style that I am purposely building now in following my Soul Purpose. To live my life connected to and surrounded by nature. To live mindfully in the present moment. To cultivate a spaciousness in my thinking to let inspiration seep in. To open up to the guidance of a higher force of life to guide me on my path. To let go of heavy thoughts and limiting beliefs. To surrender to the flow of life and have faith in the outcome.
Those lessons have led me to my new home, a wonderful old cottage on the shores of Clew Bay, where, I am sure in my mind, body and soul that amazing new adventures are going to unfold.