• 29 Sep - 01 Oct 2023
  • East Sussex, UK

Finding Joy and Aliveness in Chaotic Times

Take a radical step to pause and renew your sense of joy and aliveness on this weekend retreat at the wonderful Emerson College in Sussex, England.

 “Don’t ask what the world needs.
Ask what makes you come alive, and go do that,
because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

~Howard Thurman

We are living in chaotic times, with multiple, urgent, complex challenges in almost every domain. We have lost trust in many of our institutions and institutional leaders. We have forgotten our deeper connection to who we are and our place in the living world. It’s understandable to sometimes feel discouraged and disheartened, perhaps even overwhelmed at times.

Yet if we give ourselves the space to listen deeply, beneath the din of clamorous voices, beyond our feverish reactivity, we may hear that we are being quietly called to a radical (meaning root) response. Sensing the roots of who we are, requires us to pause from the repetitive action of our everyday lives, soften our focus and allow our attention to be drawn in different directions. We connect anew with the source and the ground of what brings us life. It’s then that joy and aliveness naturally arise. And as Howard Thurman reminds us the ‘world needs people who have come alive’.

Join us on this weekend retreat at the wonderful Emerson College as we take a radical step to pause, and renew our sense of joy and aliveness.

Courage & Renewal Programs
During our time together you will be introduced to a distinctive set of principles and practices —The Courage & Renewal® approach pioneered by Dr. Parker J. Palmer and developed through the Center for Courage & Renewal – practices that help create gracious, trustworthy space for your individual reflection and which will guide our interactions as a group. As well as being the foundation of our Circle of Trust® you will find that these practices can be of great value in your everyday life and work.

We will weave together a tapestry of colourful threads as we explore what brings joy and aliveness using poetry, silence, sharing of stories, being immersed in nature, walking a hand-painted 11 circuit canvas labyrinth, somatic movement practice, creative activities and simple meditative practices. Everything we do is by invitation, based on the understanding that you know best what you need. We will alternate time for individual reflection and journaling with opportunities for time in small groups and the larger circle to share and listen.

On Saturday evening, you will experience a powerful discernment process adapted from the Quaker tradition for Courage & Renewal programs. A number of people will be invited to be a ‘Focus Person’. Each focus person will have the opportunity to explore in depth a dilemma, an important question they are facing or a personal challenge with four to six other participants, who will be members of their Clearness Committee. The members of the Clearness Committee will listen attentively and ask honest, open questions. The practices underpinning Clearness Committees date back to the 1660s and are unique, gentle and powerful, and above all trustworthy, enabling the focus person to access a new depth of self-awareness and insight about the questions they are holding.


A word from your facilitators:  As facilitators we will join you in this shared inquiry, as fellow participants, and also hold the space and process for the retreat, using the Circle of Trust touchstones as the guiding principles for how we gather. We aim to create an inclusive and welcoming space for everyone and invite you to join us in this shared endeavour.

John Watters, a Facilitator with the Center for Courage & Renewal will be joined by Jackie Thoms, a facilitator, coach and consultant. She co-founded Fraendi: a European network of consultants, coaches and creative people to bring pioneering work to leaders in organisations in these transition times. Jackie’s intention with her work is for people to be aware of the living systems they are and are part of, to influence how we live and work and what decisions we make.


Emerson College
Pixton Lane
Forest Row
East Sussex
RH18 5JX
United Kingdom

Venue Website https://emerson.org.uk/about-us/



Emerson College, an education charity whose purpose is to develop, practice and teach sustainable ways of working and living through experiential teaching and inner-led change. The campus is set in 22 acres of beautiful botanic gardens.

The food is vegetarian made from seasonal, locally sourced, organic produce wherever possible. Much of the food is grown in Emerson’s own biodynamic garden and greenhouses. Emmerson can also cater for vegan, gluten free or dairy-free diets.

Emerson College is well connected to transport hubs. Regular direct trains run between London Bridge and East Grinstead train station and the journey time is one hour. Taxis can be booked from East Grinstead station to Emerson College (15 minute journey). The closest major airport is London Gatwick airport, which is 14 miles from Emerson College. Taxis can be booked (30 minute journey) from Gatwick airport or alternatively local buses also connect Gatwick Airport with Forest Row.

Photos of the venue courtesy of Emerson College Trust ltd

Main photo by James Wheeler on Unsplash

COSTS We want to make our programs accessible to a wide range of people. Recognising that economic circumstances vary greatly we offer a choice of ticket fees. Please choose the fee that fits your economic circumstances.

Supporters Fee: £395. When you choose the Supporters fee you make the retreat more accessible to a wider range of people. Paying this fee enables us to offer a reduced fee rate to individuals who are in need of further financial support.

Standard Fee: £295

Reduced Fee: £195

Information about Cancellation Policy, Financial Aid, etc. if applicable Cancellations: Eventbrite registrations can be cancelled up to 30 days prior to the retreat, a full refund will be given, minus the non-refundable booking/processing fee taken by Eventbrite. No refund is possible within 30 days of the event. In the unlikely event that, due to unforeseen circumstances, the retreat must be cancelled by us, we will refund all retreat fees paid by participants. Our liability is limited to the retreat fee.
We recommend participants have adequate insurance to cover any travel or personal expenses resulting from cancellation or your inability to attend due to for example illness.

This is a residential retreat with evening sessions on Friday and Saturday. There is an option of on-site accommodation in single rooms with shared showers and toilets at Emerson College.

Accommodation and meals are booked and paid directly to Emerson College. If you are staying on site the cost of accommodation in single rooms and all meals from Friday lunchtime to Sunday lunchtime is an additional £220.

If you want to bring your own campervan or camp at Emerson the cost for the weekend including all meals is £120.

If you live locally, or prefer to stay in a local B&B or hotel in Forest Row, the cost for a meals-only package (all breaks, 3 lunches and supper on Saturday evening) will be £70.

Once you have registered for the retreat, we will send you a link where you choose your accommodation and meal options and book these direct with Emerson College.


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