Digital Detox at Middle Piccadilly
Digital Detox: does just reading the term make you a little antsy?
Rather than staying away from easy addictions like alcohol or sugar, you are expected to dis-avow the very oxygen of 21st century life: the internet. For me this is complicated by two contradictory facts: I have founded a business on the internet; the business is to promote well-ness, which can be destroyed by the downsides of the internet. And yet I craved the chance to detach myself from its distractions.
So when I was offered a couple of days retreat at Middle Piccadilly in Dorset, I was immediately attracted/frightened to see that they offered a “digital detox”. This was my opportunity to step away from the Twitter talk, the Google Analytics percentages, the Facebook friendships, the BBC News feed and see what was going on in my own mind/body space, unmediated, un-fractured, unplugged.
This is no flash, all mod-cons place, but a down-to-earth, authentic centre for wellbeing.
Middle Piccadilly is a small, holistic retreat housed in a thatched cottage and outlying buildings, near Sherborne in Dorset. It was opened in 1986 by Gerry and Eliana Harvey and is now run by their son Dominic and his wife Lisa.
This is no flash, all mod-cons place, but a down-to-earth, authentic centre for wellbeing, with a reputation for great treatments and a large dollop of spirituality thrown in for those who are that way inclined.
Rooms are small, clean and warm, but by today's spa-standards fairly basic; only a few are en suite and the plumbing is a tad eccentric. Vegetarian meals are taken communally – in a kitchen made from reclaimed wood by a chap found working in the local health food shop – but this Middle Earth feel doesn't extend to the clientele, most of whom are stressed-out high-flyers from London.
My days were dotted with treatments: my favourite was the Hand on Heart, a deeply relaxing massage of feet and hands using great-smelling unguents from Cornish organic beauty products company Spiezia and involving the re-alignment of my chakras; also very soothing was Maya's Head Massage, which also took in the my crunchy laptop-rounded shoulders.
But the beauty of Middle Piccadilly is that there isn't that much to do. The weather was sunny but cold, and each day I walked an hour circuit down Peaceful Lane (yes, truly) and around through the township of Holwell. I also practised yoga alone in the rather lovely Star House, where Eliana Harvey (now in her 80s) leads courses in her Shamanka School of Shamanism for Women.
But mostly, I sat. Finally I had the time to actually practise the mindfulness meditation that welldoing.org advises. Aided by Ed Halliwell's Mindfulness: How to Live Well by Paying Attention (Hay House Basics) I sank into practising meditation, and read about mindfulness. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to uncouple myself from digital distraction.
As Halliwell writes: “The body is always in the present. When we take our attention to it, we're naturally drawn to the here and now … unlike thought, which have no corporeal existence, the body has form. It offers a good counterweight to the flighty mind that's continually zooming off into past and future”.
I won't pretend that during my long weekend at Middle Piccadilly I never, ever picked up that damned phone and looked at a single email, tweet or news story, but I can say that I didn't spend long on it. I was happy to put it down and leave myself with myself for once.
Find out more: Middle Piccadilly