BIG READ

NEW RE­TREAT IN THE SUN­SHINE COAST HIN­TER­LAND AIMS TO HELP WOMEN REGATHER, RECENTRE AND CON­NECT

Life & Style Weekend - - WELCOME - WORDS: AN­NIE CAUGHEY The next re­treat will be held on April 20. To find out more or to book a place, visit atou­chofdeeplo­ve.com or fol­low Lay­ota on In­sta­gram @atou­chofdeeplo­ve.

Pic­ture this: your part­ner’s away and you’re look­ing af­ter four chil­dren – one of which is a new­born baby di­ag­nosed with lung dis­ease.

In his first two days of life, he’s al­ready had two surg­eries and now he’s about to be se­dated for eight days.

You’ve got no fam­ily in your area and you feel heart­break­ingly alone.

This was the end of 2018 for Lay­ota Thom­son.

The ded­i­cated mother is coura­geous about her story, open­ing up about her deep­est strug­gles, all for the em­pow­er­ment of oth­ers.

While these times were cer­tainly tough for Lay­ota, she be­lieves they were meant to be be­cause they pushed her to break­ing point and even­tu­ally re­sulted in re­ju­ve­na­tion.

“You don’t have time to do those things that make you who you are’” she said.

“So, I lost that and I didn’t know who I was. I went into sur­vival mode be­cause he was sick and I had three other kids.

“I didn’t go through what I went through for noth­ing, to just hide it.”

Pre­vi­ously Lay­ota owned Deep Love Pic­nics and Deep Love Wed­dings but now her heart has led her on a new path – a path to con­nect women during their time of need.

“I hit a dark place’” she said. “I fi­nally went ‘I can’t do this any­more. This is hor­ri­ble. I want that vil­lage back where women used to raise chil­dren with the sup­port of sis­ters and friends and aun­ties’.”

In Jan­uary this year, Lay­ota launched Chang­ing Habits Farm: an all-fe­male day re­treat that aims to help women take time out and re­con­nect with them­selves.

The all-in­clu­sive re­treat fo­cuses on men­tal health and spir­i­tual con­nec­tion. Guests can par­tic­i­pate in all kinds of re­ju­ve­nat­ing ac­tiv­i­ties such as yoga, med­i­ta­tion, craft, dried-flower work­shops, photo shoots, god­dess baths and more.

Lay­ota said the re­treat had been built around what she felt she was miss­ing during her low­est point. She hopes to help women find a sa­cred space where they can learn to just be.

“We tend to find, in this fast-paced way of liv­ing, we of­ten lose who we are – whether that be through our job, through a mar­riage, a re­la­tion­ship or chil­dren and we don’t work on that per­son we are in­side,” Lay­ota said.

“It’s about switch­ing off, re­lax­ing and mov­ing away from that neg­a­tive state of mind. I know mine used to be ‘you’re a mum: you don’t have time to do that’.”

At the re­treat, women can get cre­ative and im­merse them­selves in art ther­apy.

During these ses­sions, par­tic­i­pants get to ex­press them­selves in any way they de­sire by us­ing colours, pat­terns and tech­niques that speak to them.

“Some of the women last time were in fits of laugh­ter be­cause they started out fin­ger painting like you do in kindy but even­tu­ally they cre­ated some­thing that was so vis­ually ap­peal­ing,” Lay­ota said.

“One by one they are taken away by the pho­tog­ra­pher and she’ll talk to them about the same sort of thing.

“What’s hold­ing you back? Who are you? “What do you like to do?

“And then cap­ture that in a re­ally artis­tic way. Af­ter that, she goes home and ed­its them but blends their art­work with their photo to make an artis­tic piece. Then the girls get gifted that, too.

“I asked the pho­tog­ra­pher if we’d be able to do this heal­ing through pho­tog­ra­phy and we came up with this con­cept. By cap­tur­ing their flaws in such an in­cred­i­bly beau­ti­ful way, when they look at it, all they see is beauty.”

At the end of the night, guests en­joy a three-course din­ner un­der the stars that is catered with ta­ble ser­vice and live mu­sic.

Each re­treat will of­fer dif­fer­ent meal themes and en­ter­tain­ment.

For the up­com­ing re­treat in April, live Samba dancers will be per­form­ing.

The event is formed from a col­lec­tive of Sun­shine Coast busi­nesses such as Bloom­ing Lo­tus Yoga Stu­dio, Mag­no­lia Growth Flow­ers and White Square Art.

The full day, in­clud­ing all ac­tiv­i­ties and cater­ing, will cost each par­tic­i­pant about $480.

How­ever, the fee can be paid in in­stal­ments to help soften the blow.

“We give these women the tools and the con­tacts to re­con­nect,” Lay­ota said.

“The rea­son I’m do­ing this is to re-cre­ate that vil­lage.

“So even if you don’t know me, send me a mes­sage if you need a chat or want to meet up for a cof­fee.

“That’s what this is all about – reach­ing out and not be­ing afraid to do so.”

PHOTO: CON­TRIBUTED

NEW PATH: Mother-of-four La­toya Thom­son has started a one-day women's re­treat in the hin­ter­land.

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