I remember my first retreat. I was a teenager then, wanting desperately to find a meaning of life, longing for connection with God and trying different means of relief from inner distress. One of the avenues I did not reject was a spiritual ‘holiday’ in the mountains. I met there truly self-centred and light-at-soul individuals who at a time seemed ‘to hold the answers. I will never forget the admiration and the envy I felt for those who reached a state of inner peace and contentment. I remember saying to my self ‘God if I could only be that serene’.

I took this monologue on a side with retreat members, I took active part in group sessions and for most into the wild. During our trekking experience in the mountains I watched as the time passed , and absorbed the changes of the landscapes with features such as high forests, loud waterfalls, naked mountain tops and lakes reflecting the colours of the sky. I didn’t realise then that I was accessing my spirituality through grounding. I thought that I was simply gasping for breath during exhausting exercise . In reality, I was creating more space for awe to the creation of Al Khaliq.

“And the Earth, We spread it out, and cast therein firmly set mountains and We have made to grow therein of all beautiful kinds; to give sight and as a reminder to every servant who turns to Allah(ﷻ)” [50:7-8]

I remember talking to my self through struggles of trekking: ‘just one more step and I will surely reach the top’. Not only did I reach numerous symbolic tops ever since, but this inner motivation stayed with me until today. By proving to my teenager self that I can find strength to conquer a mountain I had changed something in my DNA on a fundamental level. The 1:1 sessions with retreat leaders, the therapeutic and spiritual workshops and the intimate encounters with nature changed me completely. I knew for a fact that my best mental health tools will forever be the right company, sports and grounding.

Few years ago, at one of my holistic workshops a sister came forth, congratulated me on presentation and asked if I will ever run retreats. It clicked. I realised that experiential and kinaesthetic techniques of learning are by far the most holding and meaningful. All my experiences gathered through years of passionate travelling, adjusting to new cultures and appreciating their languages, cuisines, natural landscapes, folklore and customary traditions slowly become my backbone, identity and pride. Personal wisdom should not only be expanded from encounters with teachers and literature but also from spiritual experiences of all halal means.

“If anyone travels on a road in search of knowledge, Allah (ﷻ) will cause him to travel on one of the roads in paradise.”(Abu Dawood)

Disentangling ourselves from mundane helps to rekindle the inner explorer, uplift the forever free spirit, rediscover our hidden strengths, expand the comfort zones and encourages to reflect. I can testify to this spiritual experience from the personal but also from the clinical practice. I could not be more grateful for the position of the facilitator and the witness of the real breakthroughs in my client’s lives. It’s thanks to female retreats that my clients could for the first time ride a horse, go fishing, climb a mountain, befriend a donkey, meet diversity in Muslim cultures, haggle in in Arabic or take exfoliation therapy.

And just like then – during the time of my teenager self-discovery retreat I am sure today, that the female outings are necessary, forever holding and by all means unforgettable.

AJ Swiecinska Founder of Nisaa Retreats