The Happiness Project (Curious Monkey) – #wearethecrownjewels

The Happiness Project was designed to support vulnerable groups such as older people and asylum seekers, to bring people together and bring moments of happiness.

Some of us involved in the Arriving project with Curious Monkey pitched ideas for how to spend the money we got from Co-Creating Change for projects that would promote happiness and wellbeing. My project was to run a yoga retreat. I am a qualified yoga teacher but I had no opportunity to practise my skills as I am unable to work or to get my own public liability insurance here in the UK.

There is all the difference in the world between having a quiet one to one breakfast in one’s own kitchen or being in the reception hall for a dinner party. There is all the difference in the world between watching a movie at home and going to the theatre with all that atmosphere.

Similarly there is all the difference in the world between a one to one yoga session and the experience of leading a group of people with all that dynamic energy, and the second one was very frightening for me because I had no idea how to give the proper attention to so many people.

Thanks to The Happiness Project I realised that going to the yoga-mat with a group it’s like being in the theatre: there is another message, a different kind of attention, a different type of energy, a different impact. It has that same collective experience.

It was so good to feel after a very long time the possibility to share what I can do with others, to give something good, to see the mind and body working together and create relaxation for a whole group of people who really needed it after the long lockdown and also to receive great feedback.

Zipporah said she had the best night sleep she had had in years. As she snuggled with a hot water bottle in the retreat centre in this beautiful countryside, her worries were gone and her body relaxed from the yoga. Amy was stressed and so worried about her father who was really ill in hospital, she was moving house the next week and had much to organise. She said she felt calm and restored after the sessions I lead, she went back ready to face the challenges when she got back in to the town. Many of the group including Jafar had not seen people in a long time, the lockdown bringing isolation to many of us, he was on brilliant sparkling form, happy to be socialising with friends in a safe and beautiful place.

I’m glad that our plans for this project have come true, that at last, despite Covid, the Minsteracres Retreat Centre was open again. We met in parks and on zoom to plan, we visited the centre in masks to work out the timetable and the  Covid safety measures. Realising everything that we had been planning before could still happen was so wonderful.

And we did it. We took 15 people there for yoga, relaxation, walks, creativity, good food and companionship. And that feeling  – nature, breathing with the giant sequoia trees, singing at night by the camper fire, the full moon, the stars so big like we never seen them in the town…

I’m so grateful to The Happiness Project for the chance to lead and co-create this project and for the hope that we could create to recharge people and make their lives brighter.

Thank you to all the great people who hold lifelines for the artists, actors, communities across the UK, who helped to make The Happiness Project possible.

Victoria Simanovski,

Co-creator working with Curious Monkey