The 13 Key Differences Between A Boutique Business Retreat And Other Business Retreats

Red and yellow orchid flower at Being At The Cottage boutique business retreat

The word â€˜boutique’ originates from the French, meaning a small shop selling fashionable clothing and accessories.  More recently it has also come to mean a small company that offers highly specialised services in a specific area.

It goes without saying that at a boutique business retreat the surroundings are stunning, the food is delicious, and we have hand-picked massage therapists who will help you unwind soon after you arrive.  However, one of the key ingredients of a boutique business retreat is its matchless intimacy. 

Below are 13 more key differences between a boutique business retreat and other business retreats:

Bespoke V Off-The-Shelf 

The experience is tailored for you and your vision, so it’s important to get to know you.   We’ll begin working together a couple of months before your stay with initial conversations over the phone to learn about you and your vision.  We’ll talk about the plan, conundrum or vision you want to bring with you, your likes and dislikes, what you love to eat and what you hate and the little things that matter to you.  Every client will have a unique experience as a result of this preliminary work. This ensures that you have the optimum experience possible when you get to the cottage.

Private Space V Public Space 

You have the luxury, the intimacy and the privacy of having the cottage all to yourself for a minimum of 4 nights.  The time spent here is always all about you.  There’s no need to search for a quiet corner to snatch some time to reflect and ponder.  Time to reflect, go deeper and process is a natural part of this business retreat and gently runs in the background throughout your stay. 

Progressive, Provoking Conversations V Fact Finding

You may or may not have developed the art of self-enquiry.  Either way, having a skilled and impartial listener provides a counter-point to spending time alone, and is a fundamental part of the week. Probing, provoking and full of curiosity, the conversations are woven into the experience.  These can be held in the sitting room or talking while walking in the hills above the cottage. The conversations are intended to gently elicit answers or challenge ingrained assumptions and are woven into the experience to open up paths to your unconscious, helping you to discover information held in your hidden seams of inspiration.  They pull together all the threads of the insights gathered throughout the week.

Personalised horoscope notebook for creative ideas

Just You V A Group Of Colleagues

Spending time alone is an overlooked but important element of teamwork, dovetailing into and enhancing your work with your team.  In developing visions, taking time out to reflect, to process and to evolve is essential. It’s a time where you can glean information in a pure and uncluttered space, then return to share your findings.  Sometimes, other people, however important they are, can be an un-necessary distraction.  

Inspiration V Motivation

Inspiration is internal – motivation is external.  When you’re inspired, you’re pulled forward by something bigger and unstoppable.  You might not feel completely in charge of the process, but you can’t help but allow it to take you.  You trust that it will unfold.  Motivation needs to be generated from you or someone else.  It’s external.  When you’re motivated, you’re pushing things forward – it can be an effort. Being inspired is effortless.  

Your Agenda V Organiser’s Agenda

While there will be suggestions and pointers for you about how to get the most from your time at the cottage, including a loosely choreographed timetable, ultimately you can choose your agenda – when to eat, when to sleep, when you get up and when pay attention to your vision.  You can go with your gut instinct and choose what you do when.  The entire experience is designed to provoke intuitive nudges, get creative solutions and answer the bigger, deeper questions.  You won’t have a train of thought interrupted because you need to be somewhere else.  You’re in charge.   

Roam the Black Mountains plateau above the boutique retreat see mountain ponies

Creating V Analysing 

Everyone has an innate potential to create.  The intention of the boutique business retreat is to encourage more of your creative seeds to germinate and flourish while you’re there and to have put down deep enough roots so that they will continue to grow long after you’ve left. You won’t see any charts, graphs, modules or handouts at the cottage.  

Allowing Intuition V Thinking Hard

There’s no wracking your brain, searching online or thinking hard.  The experience is designed to help you connect with your intuition, to naturally trigger insights, answers, possibilities and new ideas.

A Unique Dynamic V Something A Bit Similar

Spending an extended amount of time on your own creates a unique dynamic and connection with your Self and your surroundings.   A boutique business retreat isn’t about deepening relationships with colleagues, although relationships are an important part of the experience.  It’s about helping you notice your part in something much bigger.  The relationships you’ll begin to notice evolving are with yourself, your surroundings and your vision, because you are free from the usual interactions with colleagues and the mundane distractions of the office. Spending time alone, and immersed in nature, it’s almost impossible not to become aware of a deeper connectedness at play. 

Being V Doing

When I was thinking of what to call the business, the phrasebeing at the cottage wouldn’t leave me alone; so it stayed.  When you stay at the cottage it’s all about being more and doing less.  In the peace, the solitude and the potential that is inherent in being immersed in nature, it’s about finding that extraordinary part of yourself which in turn supports you in pursuing something extraordinary and making a difference, potentially on a significant scale.   You pack your vision and you leave the rest behind.  Doing becomes insignificant.

Allowing V Making It Happen

This is about going with your own flow and allowing things to evolve.  You’ll begin to listen to your Self and learn to tap into the information your unconscious holds – mining those hidden seams of inspiration.  There’s no need to roll your sleeves up, brainstorm and ‘make this thing happen’.  When you get good at having a dialogue with your inner self, you’ll notice synchronistic events unfolding more and more.  The striving to â€˜make things happen’dissolves and life and events flow.  It all starts with allowing. 

Offline And Unplugged V Internet Connection

Research shows that deeply resting and relaxing your brain takes a minimum of 3 days.  For this to happen effectively it’s important to be offline and unplugged. In order for you to settle down and in to the experience of a boutique business retreat you need to be able to feel peaceful, unhurried and undistracted.  So, there’s no access to any of the usual tech stuff.  There’s nothing here to remind you of the office.   

Your Way V No-one Else’s Way

A boutique business retreat is about supporting you to optimise the realisation of your vision – your pursuit of something extraordinary.  The answers you’re looking for are already inside you. The experience is designed to help you to elicit those answers.  There are no â€˜done for you’ handouts.

How The Brain Makes Creative Solutions

‘The evidence that the brain responds to events that do not appear in consciousness is overwhelming’.  The Wayward Mind – Guy Claxton

I know that when I want to find solutions to puzzles or get into a creative flow, I need to access a different state of mind – make my brain work in a different way that never feels like work – to reach down into my unconscious to get the answers from my hidden seams of inspiration.  This isn’t news to creative people.  I’ve been reading Guy Claxton’s book recently, ‘The Wayward Mind’, and for the first time I came across the explanation of what is going on in the brain when we switch between expansive wondering and reverie to acting on the ideas and insights we retrieve from our unconscious and want to act on them. In other words what the brain does to trigger creative solutions.

Claxton writes that the most basic form of activation in the brain is excitation – when a pattern of connections becomes active and goes on to positively affect other patterns associated with it.  The yin to the excitatory yang is inhibitory, whose function is to suppress the activity in the connections further down the line.  Guy Claxton uses the analogy of the accelerator and brake in a car. Having both pedals gives us much finer control over our speed and consequently steering.  In the same way, the brain, with its ability to excite and inhibit has much finer control over its own stimulation, and instructions and information can be channelled much more precisely.

These are not recent discoveries. Over 150 years ago, the Russian physiologist Ivan Sechenov recognised inhibition in the brain of frogs and associated them with the human ability to override our own movements.

Sechenov argued that it was the inhibitory action that allows the brain to unhook thinking from action, allowing our minds to wander, meditate and come up with novel ways of ‘thinking’, keeping it internal without the need to turn into an external ‘thing’.

Through inhibition the brain can capture and constrict its own natural outpourings allowing its internal activity to become deeper and wider.

So, how does this affect creative solutions?  How is it that creative ideas just ‘pop’ into our heads (our conscious awareness) from out of the blue?  And is creativity nurture or nature?

According to what scientists have discovered, creativity has 2 phases: inspiration and elaboration and the thinking behind each process is different.

In order to encourage inspiration, we must let the excitation element in our brains have command over the inhibitory tendencies so that many ideas can flourish at once, overlapping, spreading out and allowing for new, expansive connections in the brain.  This musing means that different ideas can mingle together unconsciously, and when something gels, the concentration becomes increased so that it pops up into our conscious awareness.  

To arrest this phase of creativity, we want our brains to behave differently.  Rather than the wandering, random pattern of unconscious thoughts, we are looking to be more focused, purposeful and selective.  In other words, to inhibit the ideas that are no longer relevant so that we can keep the new thought process on track.

Creative people know intuitively that to lapse into reverie will allow ideas to bubble up.   But, when you let it, this is what the brain will do naturally.  

Creativity is, therefore accessible for everyone.  Recent research by Guy Claxton and Paul Howard-Jones at Bristol University, indicates that for those who seem to have forgotten how to use more of the excitatory aspect of their brains, undoing this rigidity is for many people quite easy.

Relax your brain and you open up to previously untapped inspiration and insights. 

4 Reasons To Have A Conversation

Conversations – The Counterpoint To Spending Time Alone

Being At The Cottage is about using the power of spending time alone to deepen the development of something extraordinary.

However, in order to add perspective and depth to that experience, the time spent alone is enhanced by conversations.   But calling them conversations doesn’t really do justice to what can happen when two people sit down and talk together with purpose, so I’ve borrowed a phrase from a special friend which conveys much more eloquently what it’s all about.

‘Conversing with an intelligent stranger with no agenda.’   

These words are the words of Ted Simon – a journalist and legend among the small tribe of overland bikers and a self-deprecating cult figure among motorcyclists generally, describing the importance to him of anticipating sharing the experience, insights and shifts in perspective that are triggered by spending time alone.  And he should know.  He spent 4 years travelling alone around the world on his motorbike – not once, but twice and 30 years apart.  So I value his words about the importance of the conversations at Being At The Cottage.  His Triumph Tiger 100, which he rode on his first journey, is in the Museum of Transport, Coventry.  

I realise that for many, the thought of coming face to face with yourself for an extended period of time may make the hairs stand up on your arms. After all, isn’t it just easier to let the habitual distractions roll over us while we succumb to the backlog of mundane problems that swirl around us like autumn leaves on a gusty day.

Having conversations with an intelligent stranger who has no agenda has the potential to stir the sediment that lies unexplored in the subconscious and create a space for expansion.

Being At The Cottage - Conversations Creating A Space For Expansion

There are at least 4 good reasons why, wherever you are and whatever you do, seeking out conversations like these are uplifting, affirming and food for the soul.

Dynamic interruption

Good conversations should be dynamic involving give and take, timing, patience and preferably well-judged humour. Dynamic interruption helps to organise and prioritise the flow of the conversation. Intentionally provoking, it challenges ideas and encourages development and clarity of a theme, or stream of consciousness that has arisen. Smoothing and teasing out the strands of thoughts, untangling and arranging them into well-organised skeins so that they may be used to weave the idea into existence.

Discovering And Discarding Potential Barriers To Success

We’re all governed by our conditioning and beliefs. They shape the reality that we perceive by distorting, deleting and generalizing the information.   This is what we want most of the time, because if the subconscious shared all of the 60,000 thoughts that we have on average each day we would achieve nothing.

However, to have a belief that deletes, distorts and diminishes the possibility of creating something extraordinary is a barrier to progress. During the course of the conversations if barriers to progress are discovered then they can be dealt with.

The Perfect Counterpoint To Spending Time Alone

Mulling over an idea while spending time alone encourages the mind to expand.  Warm but candid conversations assist the organisation of disparate patterns of thought and investigate the significance of apparently random thoughts. They create space for movement around persistent and under-developed ideas and provide refreshing, new perspectives.

Bringing It All Into Sharp Focus

While spending time alone stimulates expansive thinking and creativity, by its nature the process is introspective. Like photography before the digital era, the images and ideas need to be brought into sharp focus manually. Having conversations with an intelligent stranger with no agenda intentionally draws the mind back from the unstructured, free thinking and brings thoughts and ideas into sharp focus.

So, borrowing Ted’s description of ‘conversing with an intelligent stranger with no agenda’ sums up the process beautifully for me because each conversation provides delicate balance and is the counter point to spending time alone.   

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What Is The Boutique Business Retreat?

‘What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare. No time to stand beneath the boughs And stare as long as sheep or cows.’                
W H Davies 1911


It’s over 100 years since W H Davies wrote those words, and most of us are now hurtling through life so fast that when we do trip up, the momentum is so strong that we metaphorically end up taking those wild and uncoordinated strides, trying to avoid the impending crash to the ground. – Often we can’t stop ourselves falling.

Continue reading What Is The Boutique Business Retreat?

Hop Into The Bath And Unleash Creative Solutions

Create: ‘Bring something into existence’ – Oxford English Dictionary
‘To evolve from one’s own thought or imagination’

Creativity thrives in an expansively quiet mind.  It doesn’t happen while we are staring at a tablet or dealing with the daily grind of mundane problems in the office.  That’s why 72% of people get great ideas and insights in the bath or shower.   Being in water induces a meditative state and engages the brain’s default mode network.  Soaking in a steaming bath or being washed by a waterfall of water under the shower causes us to daydream in a way we wouldn’t when we remain focused on a particular task.

Activating the brain’s default mode network is extremely important for creativity.  The mind begins to relax and wander.  Free of stimulation, we are in the best position to produce some of the finest problem-solving and creative solutions that the mind can generate.

Being At The Cottge - 72% of people get creative solutions when they hop into a bath

Being creative doesn’t mean we need to be an artist, architect or sculptor.  Being creative is about bringing anything new into existence that wasn’t previously there – something that is demanding your attention.

Creativity is inherent in all of us and lying in a steaming bath can accelerate the potential for the creation of something extraordinary.

Sometimes group discussions, brainstorming and many heads are better than one.  At other times, the need for the solution we’re seeking drives us to take a break from the daily grind.  At those times, the sweetest answers often come while spending time alone in the bath or under the shower.

Taking time out to relax your brain, re-group your thoughts and recharge your batteries reassures the subconscious. As soon as the mind chatter and habitual distractions are put to one side then we can tap into the hidden seams of inspiration held by the subconscious.

Being At The Cottage - Bathe - soft towels and toiletries

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Why Walking Boosts Creativity

‘Walking is potent mood medicine that enhances thinking, sharpens memory and safeguards brain health.’  Forbes Magazine

Walking increases creative inspiration by an average of 60% versus sitting down. In experiments, the effect was evident during and shortly after walking anywhere between 5 and 16 minutes. Walking enables divergent thinking – an expansion of the mind which increases the generation of creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions.

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5 Reasons To Spend Time Alone When Pursuing Something Extraordinary

Reason No 1 – Get Away From Your Work Environment

When we separate ourselves from the white noise or our work environment, relinquishing the digital gadgetry that props us up, curious and wonderful things happen.

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6 Important Things You Need To Know About Your Subconscious

Thing No 1 – Giving you the edge you need

Developing the relationship with your subconscious will give you the edge you need to succeed.  The more you can connect with your subconscious the more extraordinary results and eureka moments it will give you.

Thing No 2 – Dissolving barriers to progress

As you pursue something extraordinary, accessing the hidden seams of inspiration held by your subconscious, you will trigger eureka moments and dissolve barriers to progress.

Thing No 3 – Stimulate creative solutions

Leaving behind habitual distractions and spending time alone while tapping into the Subtle Dynamics at the cottage deepens your connection to your subconscious. You get an Access All Areas pass to the infinite well of creativity and innovation stored there, and creative solutions will be stimulated as you develop a deeper connection with it.

Thing No 4 – You get what you think about most

It’s not so much about trying harder to think smarter, it’s about learning a style of non-thinking thinking.  It’s about being more, and doing less.  Gradually learning to spend time with this expansive awareness is important because the subconscious does not think independently.  It follows instructions absolutely, and will deliver whatever you repeatedly imagine, feel and tell it to. You get what you think about most.

Subtle Dynamics of Being At The Cottage

Thing No 5 – It stores all your memories, beliefs, experiences and emotions

The subconscious is your gut feeling and intuition and works in harmony with the Subtle Dynamics of being at the cottage in the forest. The subconscious is extraordinary.  It holds onto everything and never sleeps.  You will never feel alone once you engage your subconscious.  It stores all your memories, experiences, beliefs and emotions and is continually processing upwards of 15 million pieces of information in any single moment. In contrast, your conscious mind is only able to process 7 bits of information at any one time, plus or minus 2.

Thing No 6 – It works according to your conditioning and beliefs – always

Your subconscious has the job of taking this almost infinite amount of information and filtering it down to what must be used by your conscious mind.  This will be different for each individual and will depend on the conditioning and beliefs accumulated over time, some of which will be barriers to progress.

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To engage with the subconscious is to be able to see and create whatever you choose because it has direct access to Universal intelligence (your higher self), which your conscious mind does not.   Until you take control of your relationship with your subconscious, information from your hidden seams of inspiration is only passed onto the conscious mind if the subconscious determines that there is a need for it to do so. Otherwise it holds onto that information until you trigger its release.  You can open a dialogue with your subconscious through connecting with any of the Subtle Dynamics, opening up the streams of consciousness which contain the eureka moments you are looking for.

As your awareness of the power of your subconscious mind sharpens, and you allow the process to unfold naturally, trusting that everything you need to know is already here, your subconscious will gratefully offer up to you everything it has been holding onto.

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Why Getting Away From It All Unleashes Creative Solutions

When our mind is free of stimulation, we are in the best position to produce some of the finest problem-solving and creative solutions that it can generate.  By allowing the mind to relax and wander, we activate the brain’s default mode network, which is essential for creativity.

Continue reading Why Getting Away From It All Unleashes Creative Solutions