I’m sitting on a beach in Mauritius holding a coconut, thinking how good it would taste if I lopped off the top and mixed in some rum.
Instead I’m toying with a marker pen and trying to think of something, or someone, to write on its thick yellow husk in an emotional overhaul.
Life coach Kate Emmerson has given us each a coconut to help us identify and discard any people or emotions that are holding us back. Any relationships we can’t let go, people we won’t forgive, or emotions that prevent us from moving onwards and upwards. Soon we’ll all be hurling our coconuts into the ocean and walking away with a new lightness in our steps. Or if you’re a more tormented soul, you can answer a few salient questions to help verbalise the problem, confront it and move on.
But I can’t think of anything to let go off, so I rub my aching legs instead. They’re been throbbing since an 7am boot camp that had me swinging from monkey bars and attempting lunges by the loungers. This is island life as I’ve never experienced it before, with a series of physical and mental wellbeing sessions leaving little time for paperbacks by the pool.
I was, I admit, a fraction cynical about the whole affair. Sitting in a group session for some soul-searching seems an odd activity, since I’ve never thought of introspection as a team sport. Especially when I know that the hotel’s daily snorkelling trip is about to depart. Worse, my agenda shows that the only way to get a massage is to submit to a fitness assessment first.Yet after a few misgivings it turns out to be enormous fun. Therapeutic even - if only because my life seems pretty well sorted compared to the angsts expressed by some other participants.
When we all drew circles to assess the various facets of our lives, Emmerson didn’t mind when I used a colourful phrase to smugly announce that everything looked pretty perfect. Swear words are good, she nodded encouragingly.
South African Emmerson is a spunky Master Life Coach with a degree in Industrial Psychology and Industrial Relations. She’s teamed up with Lux* Resorts and Air Mauritius to run Wellbeing Retreats for people seeking inner happiness, with some sunshine on the side.
Workshops can be tailored to cover goal setting, time management, increased productivity, de-cluttering and preventing burn-out by leading a more balanced life. In a session on productivity Emmerson discusses the tendency to deal with smaller issues first and neglect the big jobs, and the Pareto principle that should see us tackling the two tasks that cover 80% of the work rather than the eight tasks that only deal with 20% of the workload.
Basing these retreats in the Lux* Grand Gaube Hotel on the northern tip of Mauritius is a fabulous idea. The hotel shuns over-the-top opulence by offering luxury with a lighter touch. The setting is beautiful, with the traditional swaying palms and soft white sand. The bedrooms are spacious and gorgeous, the food is delicious, and the huge swimming pools enticing. I made time for snorkelling and swimming, for reading on my balcony and phoning home from a free long-distance telephone, thoughtfully provided in an old-fashioned red phone booth.
The atmosphere is enhanced by unexpected quirks like a cinema on the beach, an ice cream bar driven around in a Mini, and gym instructors who devise an exercise regime that works on your weaknesses. The fitness test vehemently confirmed that I’m not, and threw in weak ankles, iffy calf muscles and a lack of balance. That meant the poor masseuse reading my ‘fitness’ report didn’t know which area to attend to first. I enjoyed it anyway, getting pummelled in the spa after loosening up in the Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room. Now that’s the type of island life I’m more accustomed to.
The food, thankfully, wasn’t pared down to cleanse our bodies, so we tucked into palm heart salads, grilled prawns and snapper, tiramisu and macaroons and litres of wine. They even serve chocolate biscuits between the wellness sessions, since there’s nothing like a chocolate treat to relieve some stress.
Yoga on the beach was a wonderful way to start the day, with the yogi master entertaining us with an exercise to summon the sun when splatters of rain threatened to interrupt the karma. It worked too, and he didn’t seem the least surprised.
The toughest part was a 7am boot camp, a stretch way beyond my normal level of open mindedness. But gym master Burwing Caetan was so hunky that most of the women were over-exerting themselves in the hope that he’d chivalrously catch them as they fell. Or was that just me?
He had us pounding along the beach, attempting to leapfrog, falling off monkey bars and planking by the pool. Which is a lot harder than it sounds if you do it properly. My legs ached for the next two days, but I’m sure my internal wellness scorecard had climbed astronomically.