It’s been just over a week since I attended the first Noi Club Retreat (also my first Noi Club event ever) and I am still glowing from the experience. Noi (Italian for ‘we’) was founded by Paola Garbini to be a group for ambitious women to meet and work together to achieve their purpose, whatever that may be, and she has successfully achieved that goal. Having only recently celebrated its 1st Birthday, Noi’s Facebook group now boasts over 330 members – all women who are passionate about their careers, their companies or their general purpose in life.
I was introduced to Noi by my friend Jane Pieterse, founder of Haleo, and I had been a member of the Facebook group for a while so I already knew I was in for a day with some awesome women. But the agenda for the day could not have been more perfectly designed for me – yoga, meditation & mindfulness, and meeting women who had started their own businesses?! I couldn’t sign up quickly enough!
The retreat was held at the beautiful and aptly named Goodenough College in London, lead by Paola and facilitated by Rachel Smith. We began with ice-breaking introductions but quickly moved outside to enjoy a peaceful yet invigorating hour of yoga in a ‘secret garden’ lead by Meg Jackson, founder of Real Life Yoga.
(Side note: One of the loveliest things about the day was being in comfortable clothes for the whole event! More events should be held in yoga clothes! It’s strangely freeing to not be in clothes that bind or constrain our actions. I’ve noticed this about leaving the house without a handbag as well – I feel freer and walk taller, taking on more of a dominant pose, as recommended by Amy Cuddy!)
We then returned indoors to finish our introductions and hear the stories of 3 women who had founded different ventures:
- Georgina Stober – Rebalance Retreat a rural weekend retreat for professional women
- Jenny Hautman – homeopathy & essential oils
- Emilie VanPoperinghe – Tasty Misfits delivering misshapen (but tasty!) fruit & veg
After the women had shared their stories, we were able to give our feedback, and share contacts, advice or recommendations. It was then time for lunch in the Great Hall (reminiscent of Harry Potter movies), and a chance to get to know our fellow retreaters a little better. It was lovely to see friends like Nina and Anna, and make new connections with many more!
After lunch, Rachel interviewed Paola on how she maintains a positive outlook and a balanced lifestyle while still managing to achieve so much! She recommended reading Laura Van Der Kam’s I Know How She Does It to learn how to make the most of your time. She also recommended we really look at the reasons why we are so busy, to focus our efforts with the most effect. Rachel helpfully reminded us that “Done is better than perfect”!
As Paola shared the benefit of her experience, and opened the floor to questions, the group engaged in meaningful discussion, providing our personal perspectives. This included sharing struggles and solutions, from ‘I Did This’ journalling to making positive daily affirmations. My daily routine includes yoga, meditation and journalling, so I felt I was in good company! I was also very much looking forward to the next session of the day – on mindfulness and meditation – lead by Jessie Zhu.
After inviting us to write down a challenge we’re currently facing, Jessie guided us through a meditation session – her calming, soothing voice almost hypnotically putting us at ease – before bringing us back to the present to face our challenge with a renewed sense of kindness and compassion. I was struck by how different it felt to meditate in a group – particularly in a circle – I felt vulnerable but empowered by the love and support in the room. I felt inspired to be kinder to myself simply by sensing the warmth in the room.
Rachel brought the energy back up in the room to finish off the day with an energetic and challenging session on play & creativity. This would normally be the kind of session I would dread, as I had always labelled myself as being firmly in the Not Creative camp, but I entered into it with an open heart and mind. And I am so glad I did – I learned quickly that my perception of ‘creative’ was extremely limited and apparently I am actually a creative person (who writes, and knits, and bakes!), but I just need to allow myself to own that part of myself and embrace it!
Rachel guided us through role play, artistic endeavours, writing exercises, and team bonding games, allowing ourselves to just play and be creative, and to shed our inhibitions or fear of judgement. It felt so empowering to shake off old fears, or old labels, and simply be present and have fun.
All too soon, the retreat had to come to an end but, reluctant to leave, we toasted each other with Prosecco and lingered a little longer, savouring the shared experience and the female friendships – both old and new.