WIND down, tune out, turn off. That is what many people hope to achieve when taking a break in France.
And whilst those making a permanent move hope to do similar, with a house build, restoration plans and many other obstacles put in the way it can prove a challenge.
But it is possible to create a point of calm, and as Nigel Bray writes, a Reiki centre in a small village to the east of Tours where people can find peace in their hectic lives.
My partner Simon and I are both Reiki Masters, having come to this place – both physically and spiritually - from professional backgrounds but opposite ends of the UK.
He worked in social and health care in London, I was a teacher, in Cornwall. We met, in the way that was planned from the start.
As well as being a deputy head I had also trained as a website designer. We met, on the internet, as he was looking for a new website.
It quickly became clear, once we realised we were both Reiki trained and practitioners that we were bound to meet in person. We did, and something amazing happened.
Simon already owned a little tumbledown house and barn in the middle of the French countryside. We just knew that it was the place we were destined to live and to do our work – not education, not social care, but healing. It was an unequivocal fact.
We moved in in September, with the cries of our ex–colleagues ringing in our ears, 'You’re mad' they said, but we knew, absolutely, we were not.
What we did know was that we were supposed to be here, and that one day, somehow, our retreat and healing centre would emerge from this old, neglected building.
We had both been trained in Reiki (me in Usui, Simon in Seichem) and had become masters some years back.
We knew that once we'd landed in France, that those years of being in the 'wrong job' were over, and that this is what we were supposed to do.
Slowly, the house took shape. Neither of us had any skills or any experience of DIY, what a wonderful thing the internet is. We just looked it up and had a go. Mostly it went right, sometimes not.
At first we lived, slept and ate in the one room, the kitchen, as winter approached. Gradually we moved through to the next room, then the upstairs.
Simon had luckily received a bequest and I became old enough to release some of my teacher's pension and so we were able to buy in tradesmen where we just unable to do things ourselves.
I was a primary school teacher, not a roofer. Simon worked with people with learning difficulties, he wasn’t an electrician.
What we could do though, and this earned us enormous respect in the Commune, was to restore the barn, built in 1567, using original materials and recycling wherever we could.
Four years have passed with, much heartache, much laughter but with the absolute knowledge we'd get there – and we have.
Opening Space exists. You see? We weren't mad.
The retreat time itself can take on many forms and people come for many reasons. They are lost, they have come to a time when they are not sure what’s next and Simon’s life-coaching skills often provides answers.
They come sick, in body or in spirit and the Reiki provides healing at all of its different levels or they just want some peace from their hectic lives and Couffy, the hamlet we live in, provides that absolutely.
There is no noise, but the birds, if that is what you want. There are no 'rules' here – you can do what you want, have treatment or not, eat with us, or not, sleep if you wish or have late nights at the fire pit, walk if you want or stay in your little house. Each visit is tailored to suit the needs of the visitor.
Opening Space is as beautiful as it looks. It is a wonderful place to come to and the result of that visit can be immeasurable, people’s testimony bear witness to that. They say they were well and truly 'Couffied'. Job done.
Website: Opening Space
If you found this useful...
+ Stay up-to-date: Get your free This French Life newsletter