Our first one-day mindfulness retreat for people with learning disabilities

Gillian Hurren shares insights from the first one-day mindfulness retreat for people with learning disabilities, that she delivered with Celia Heneage. The retreat for Team Springwell was held at the end of the summer, in Portland House, Worthing.

After meeting virtually for the last two years, it was very exciting for us to be able to deliver an in-person day retreat for Team Springwell in Worthing. The retreat was delivered by Celia Heneage and myself, both mindfulness teachers from the learning disability service. The feedback we received was very encouraging.

“I really enjoyed it, it was great to actually see people and all be together to do mindfulness together. My favourite bit was doing the ‘breathe of joy’. I liked how I could sigh everything out and let go”.

Vicky, Team Springwell day retreat participant

Celia and I were keen to offer a typical day retreat experience, and to make adjustments so the day was accessible and enjoyable for everyone. The group experienced the usual retreat practices, such as spending time in silence, which they particularly liked. Participants also mentioned that the retreat helped them dispel some of the myths about mindfulness, for example that mindfulness is mystical and for ‘other’ people who are deeply spiritual.

Meeting in person also meant that a variety of new practices could be used. For instance, the group used their senses more by smelling, eating and drinking mindfully. Moreover, they practiced the body scan lying down for the first time.

There were a few things that helped the day run smoothly such as having some easy-to-read written material ,as well as drawing a visual representation. Lucy Westcott and Rebecca Harrison who work for Team Springwell produced some fantastic easy-to-read documents.

Photo of participants lying down for a body scan

In the feedback session at the end, Lucy drew a visual representation of the responses to guage what worked well and what might be done differently next time. Having a timetable in advance and regular breaks also felt useful for participants, as they knew what to expect.

It was lovely to hold an in-person retreat after meeting online for two years! Participants gave very positive feedback and expressed that they would like to join another day retreat in the future. We hope to be able to hold another retreat soon and experience the joy of practicing mindfulness all together in person.