• 12 - 14 Jul 2024
  • UK

The Heart of What Matters: Making Meaning in a Time of Crisis

Connect with self, nature and the heart of what truly matters on this weekend retreat deep in the English countryside.

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

This weekend Circle of Trust® retreat is an opportunity to pause and see ourselves and our world afresh.

We’re in a period of profound disruption and transition. Many of our institutions are faltering and failing: the old ways cannot hold. The multiple crises are calling for a radical response from each of us – radical meaning going to the root (radix).

What does a meaningful life look like now? What really matters?

During the weekend we will gently shift the focus of our attention drawing on intuitive and embodied ways of knowing, including the wisdom embedded in nature.

We’ll explore our sources of meaning, not as ideas but as lived experience. And we’ll give time to explore how you sustain yourself whilst living in the gap between your deepest aspirations and everyday reality.

The retreat is a call to come home to ourselves and connect to the heart of what truly matters.

Courage & Renewal facilitator John Watters will be joined by Céline McKeown. Céline is an experienced coach and facilitator, a Director and Lead Trainer with Map of Meaning International and Founder of Do What Matters.

Our time together will be shaped by a distinctive set of principles and practices, 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. During the weekend we will weave together a tapestry of colourful threads as we uncover our sources of meaning through poetry, music, silence, the sharing of stories, being immersed in nature, walking a hand-painted 11 circuit canvas labyrinth, somatic movement, 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. Our experience of meaning is paradoxically deeply personal and also universal. Meaning cannot be told or given to us by others. Yet, in the gentle process of witnessing someone else discovering and revealing their sources of meaning, we deepen our own understanding of the heart of what matters.

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.


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.

We are committed to making our programmes accessible to a wide range of people. Recognising that economic circumstances vary greatly we offer a choice of retreat fees. The retreat fee covers skilled facilitators, workshop materials, venue hire and the costs of meals (lunches on Friday, Staurday and Sunday, all breaks and supper on Friday and Saturday evenings). Please choose the fee that fits your economic circumstances.

Supporters Fee: £495. If you are on a higher income, we invite you to pay the supporters fee. This enables us to widen access to this retreat by offering reduced fee rates to individuals who are in need of further financial support.

Standard Fee: £395

Reduced Fee: £295. Please choose this fee if you are unable to afford the standard fee.

You book your accommodation separately. We recommend staying on site at Emerson or locally in or near Forest Row as there are evening sessions after dinner on Friday and Saturday. There are a range of accommodation options to suit different needs:

You can stay on site at Emerson College which offers single rooms with shared showers and toilets. There is also an option to camp at Emerson or bring your campervan. Book your accommodation on a bed & breakfast basis directly with Emerson College.

Local Bed & Breakfasts and small hotels in the village of Forest Row.

Ashdown Park Hotel is a comfortable country house hotel, a short drive from Emerson College.

“What I loved about it was the meticulous care with which all aspects of the weekend were carried out, which enabled a great sense of safety to develop, and so the possibility of deep and meaningful work. It all felt fresh, and as if it had been prepared with an attitude of love and care.” Pattie Horrocks

“I felt safely held, supported and free to roam where I could be with my inquiry and sense into my own rhythms and rhyme. This is powerful and heart-full work”. Rita McNulty

“The retreat gave me time and the inspiration to reflect on what’s important for me just now. The well-crafted programme was a good balance of reflective content, discussion, movement, reflection time, and private time. It was relaxed, well paced, and helped me value the joy and aliveness that is always available to me when I take the time to notice”. Jules Fell

The Circle of Trust retreat is an amazingly powerful and deeply profound and nourishing opportunity to explore your own sense of self and to be truly ‘seen’ and ‘held’ as your authentic self”. Gerry Andrews

“Wonderful retreat which is a tonic for the soul and truly inspiring to be in such a warm community in the beautiful surroundings of Emerson College”. Angela Risner

I felt like my essence was seen, acknowledged and reinforced. Wasn’t expecting that. Felt like a blessing. I think the process is a great way of shaping and reinforcing communities”. Salman Ahmad

“It changed my life. A healing experience where I felt seen and cared for.” Angela Cranmore


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.


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