Kathrine Brustad, born in London from Norwegian parents, enjoyed an international upbringing as her father, a banker, pursued a career at different parts of Europe. Her mother, a teacher had a feeling from a young age that Kathrine would go on a very special path. Kathrine grew up as a sensitive and outgoing child, together with her younger sister and brother. After having spent more than 8 years studying and living abroad, she found it very hard to fit in the traditional Oslo lifestyle.
We have half an hour before she has to rush to Karpathos airport where she and other members of staff of Kathy’s Island Retreat, the name of the retreat she is running together with her business and life partner Elias, are to pick up a new group arriving with a direct Oslo flight. They will join her for a week to practice yoga, meditation, soak up the sun, enjoy healthy Mediterranean meals, swim in the turquoise waters of the island, have massages and other complimentary therapies. After our quick coffee the chef asks for tomatoes and cucumbers for the salad she prepares and we rush to a part of the Retreat where the vegetable garden is.
So Kathrine what is attractive about what you do?
For many years I had a feeling that I wanted to make a difference in people’s life. I have always enjoyed working with people and feel inspired and motivated by working in teams and learning from others. After becoming a mother, and starting on my spiritual path, I changed a lot – I became a lot more introvert and had a big need for inner peace. While I was pregnant with my first child I experienced a burn out and struggled with anxiety. I started having heavy and deep sessions with a psychologist and around that time found an online book club where I would soak up information on complimentary and alternative therapies. It was like entering a new world and what inspired me the most was a sense that there is more to this world than what we see. I remember the first book I read was about hypnosis and how a psychiatrist would heal people through regressions in past lives, so the next 8 years while I was getting on with motherhood and building a happy family I also started working on my own personal growth which became more and more important to me.
The idea about the retreat grew over time, and I had no idea I would end up offering what we do. But it was a combination of wanting to grow myself, and offering it to others that created this place where we are standing now. The feeling I get when I see people relax, and allow themselves to just be is amazing. That is why I do what I do – the being a part of other people’s healing. And we see it all the time.
How did you end up on a Greek island?
It started with a spontaneous holiday and before I knew it, I was married and had three children. I met my ex husband on the island and we were planning already from the beginning that we wanted to move there. There was something about the Island’s energy that attracted us to the place.
How is life for you here?
Well, as a mother of three you don’t get to be bored. There is always something that needs to be done. The summers are busy with guests and juggling family and work, and the winters are calm. The winter is the time to think, reflect, build relationships and take care of each other (at home at least). I love being out in nature and I try not to take any of it for granted. The fresh air, the lack of any traffic whatsoever, the sun and the sea. It really is like living a dream.
When did you know you were going to create this retreat project?
Since moving to Karpathos, I had a feeling I was going to do something that had to do with meditation. But it took me 5 years before I started meditating myself. There was an inner resistance, maybe I was afraid of making a change or what I would find. The plan for the Retreat came gradually, and after living on the island for 5 years, it all came together. Initially I wanted to start something to support people, mostly women, who suffered from burnouts like I had and who needed to regain energy from being exhausted. At the same time, I had started on my own journey of personal growth and I was hoping to be able to participate in the retreats being offered, so that I can also further develop myself.
How are you involved in the retreats?
We try to facilitate for the best teachers, coming from different parts of the world. I am organizing the weeks according to how they would like it, and during the week, I am there to help and support with whatever is needed. I love connecting with people and finding out more about there lives. I find it amazing how we all have similar experiences and journeys through life, how we all share similar worries and concerns. In the mean time I became a yoga teacher myself and I am exited to be a part of a new approach to teaching yoga and I have also started studying the healing effect of Bach Remedies.
What kind of retreats take place?
We started doing yoga retreats, but soon we came in touch with different types of teachers, so now we offer more holistic programs. Meditation, breathing, healing, energy work, trekking, hypnosis, detox and of course different types of yoga. This is what we were aiming at – being able to offer a wide range of teachings, so that people find it interesting and have a choice of what suits them best at the moment.
How do people benefit?
For us it has always been important that they feel safe enough to be able to open up for healing. So a lot of it is about connecting with the people that join us and being genuine with them. We are fortunate because a lot of it as to do with the nature that surrounds us. The energy here is peaceful and calm, which gives them the opportunity to recharge. We are situated right in between mountain and sea – and it offers a very special energy that the majority of people pick up when they arrive. The fact that we are surrounded by pure nature with hardly anything else around, also give our guests the chance to lower their shoulders and start breathing.
Finally, it is about seeing all of us in a more holistic way. Its got to do with the body which requires a new way of nutrition, cleaner water and air, sun, the cleansing effect of the sea and proper rest. Then it is about the intellect. Having access to certain trainings allow for the mind to quieten down and also releases us from intense negative feelings. Then inner peace, clarity and a whole new dimension of wellbeing is possible.
What is your advice for Norwegian women?
I think we are all undergoing massive changes right now and most of us are a bit overwhelmed and even a bit lost in that process. Especially women as we are finding our true selves more and more and claim our rightful position in society while at the same time finding out that we can do it without losing any of our feminine qualities. It is more about how we can create a synthesis with the male qualities and energies rather than being transformed by them or having to fight them.
Having spent some much time abroad I think has given me a different perspective on how our society is back home. From where I stand it seems a lot of people back home have way too high expectations of themselves adding unnecessary strain to their life experience. So many of us live for others and the results are exhaustion, never feeling good enough and running in a constant circle where we forget to actually live.
We need to take better care of ourselves. To reconnect with who we really are, listen to our own needs, to take time to just be, is something we all should try to get better at – myself included! If I can be part of other people’s journey into finding that, now that would be a life worth living.
What is next for you?
I am excited to be a part of a new movement and organization in Yoga, called Conscious Yoga Academy. It has been a shared vision of a couple of Yogi friends and Elias. We love how Yoga is now touching the lives of hundreds of million of people worldwide which is great, but it could do so much more to help raise the consciousness of humanity and bring an end to a lot of the unnecessary suffering. In the eightfold path of Patanjali, asanas are only a part, and traditionally the postures have been there to prepare the body and the mind for meditation. It is like we have been given this amazing gift that can help us fly but we only use it to walk. By bringing more awareness to this issue, and by cultivating a new breed of more conscious Yoga teachers that work with the body but also with the mind and the energy, we are doing something about it and hopefully we can have some positive and meaningful impact.