Why not try one of our optional extras during your stay at the Razès Gîtes? Some advance notice prior to your arrival will be required but this can be as little as several days. If you want to explore any of the options below further, simply Contact us for more information.
Massage in the comfort of your gîte
Whether your interest is in massage for relaxation, enhanced physical and spiritual well-being or to help treat a sports injury or nagging problem, a range of massages are available for you on site. Swedish, hot stone, deep tissue, warm bamboo and trigger point therapy are available ranging from €20 to €40, partial to full body to suit your needs. Discounts apply for multiple treatments.
Basic instruction in yoga
Why not learn a 30 minute daily yoga routine to take home and practice from the comfort of your own home? Many people think it would be a good idea to try yoga but don't quite get around to signing up for a full course. During your holiday at the Razès Gîtes, you have the opportunity to learn a basic Hatha yoga flow routine incorporating a number of standing and sitting yoga poses. Starting at €10 a session, discounts apply for multiple sessions.
Guided walks around the Razès & Cathar castles
Jo offers guided walks around the local countryside starting from your gîte doorstep. Walks are as long or short as you may require and range from 5 km to 40 km depending on your needs and physical fitness. You get to walk at your own pace and choose the routes which interest you most for as little as €10 a session (discounts apply for multiple sessions). For guided walks around the Cathar castles, there is a supplementary charge to cover transportation costs and entrance fees into the castles themselves where necessary.
Wine-tasting in the grange
There are over 350 wines in the local Malepère wine region alone and 99% of them have never made it out of the region. During your stay here, Jo & Bob can offer you the opportunity to sample some of the favourite local wines, covering a range of rosé, white, red and blanquette (the original champagne first produced here in Limoux).
The following is by no means a comprehensive list. We welcome discussion around other topics which are important to you.
Many renowned adepts such as Eckhart Tolle, Osho and Thich Nhat Hanh have written copiously on the importance of breathing and of its significance in approaching and attaining a meditative state. And, as with meditation, there are probably more than 1001 ways to breathe.
Breathing? You might say. Why, I do that every day without thought or effort.
And there perhaps lies the rub.
Breathing can be construed not as something we do, but as something that happens to us despite everything we do. Breath is the life-force that keeps us going but rarely do we consider it beyond keeping us alive, for example as a means of nourishing and improving health. Many extol its virtuous simplicity in having an immediate effect in countering upset, worry and stress. Then again, perhaps we should not be too self-castigating – we know that even counting 1 – 10 slowly has a calming effect, and it’s not the counting but the breathing that calms us.
And there are many exercises where breathing can be used to still the mind and body, calm upset and distress, and/or help us reach a meditative state. Just a short, selective list can include:
- Conscious, or mindful breathing,
- Feeling your inhalations in your chest, diaphragm, hands and feet,
- Slowing the breathing, making it deeper and more regular,
- Timed or equal breathing.
When you breathe consciously, focussing purely on feeling the inhalation and exhalation, you still the mind from its invasive clutter and calm the body.
Try the following as an example:
Counting 1-10 at a slow but comfortable rate, after 1 breathe in, hold briefly, then after 2 breathe out, hold briefly, after 3 breathe in, hold briefly, then after 4 breathe out… and so on up to 10. At 10, sit back and see how you feel.
After a minute or two of your normal breathing, try the same again, 1 – 10, this time breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Again sit back and see how you feel.
Another example is to breathe in through the nose counting 1-4. Then hold, counting 1-4. Then breathe out through the mouth counting 1-5. And really blow that breath out in a whooshing sound. Try this through 4 cycles and then sit back and see how you feel.
Most exercises are no longer than a couple of minutes at the most. Exercises which make you relax are ideal for continuing to still the mind.
The Pathways to Stillness Retreats in the Razès are based in the heart of the what is locally termed Cathar country. Every year, the Cathar heritage attracts hundreds and thousands of visitors who want to come see and experience the châteaux that served as the last dizzying strongholds of the Cathars before they eventually succumbed to the papal crusade against them.
Many individuals feel a curious sense of inner quiet and reverence when visiting some of the famous castles such as Montségur, Carcassonne, Lastours, Quéribus and Peyreperteuse. Half-day and full-day guided tours are available to those who choose to tune into the Cathar experience.
A Bit of History about the Cathars
The people who lived in Languedoc prior to the 13th century considered themselves to be separate from the rest of France through their allegiance to their local lord and through their own customs and culture (many still feel the same today!).
A large part of that culture included the growth and adoption of Cathar beliefs rejecting the moral, spiritual and political corruption of the orthodox Catholic church. The Cathars had one sacrament only - the Consolamentum - a brief ritual to remove all sin from the believer. The Consolamentum could only be taken once and was usually administered close to death in the belief that the sacrament spiritually moved the Cathar on to a higher level.
Considered by some to be closer to the earliest forms of what eventually evolved into Roman Christanity, in the 13th century Catharism was heretical to the pope who, with a little encouragement from the French king (Louis IX) who had his eyes set on the rich, fertile lands of the Languedoc, launched a crusade to convert the Cathars to Catholicism or burn them at the stake.
There are many documented atrocities perpetrated on the Cathars and, early on in the crusade campaign, there was one one such recorded assault at Béziers. Seeing the army approach, the inhabitants bolted all gates to the town, closing in both Catholics and Cathars who had peacefully co-existed together for years. Gaining entrance to the town more by chance than by military tactics, the crusade swiftly decided to take the sword to the population. One of the crusaders asked how they would be able to distinguish a Cathar from a Catholic. A leading abbot is claimed too have replied, "Kill them all, God will know his own." 11,000 men, women and children were slaughtered.
Montségur proved to be the final stronghold of the Cathars but that finally fell in 1244 with over 200 Cathars preferring death by burning to the hypocrisy of conversion. Montségur remains a place of mystery atracting thousands of pilgrim visitors each year.
Another infamous episode of this time was the inauguration of the mis-named 'Spanish inquisition'. It was in fact first deployed against the Cathars of Languedoc and continued on a wider scale for a further 600 years or more.
Catharism went underground after Montségur but it didn't die out. There are still places in the Languedoc practising Cathar initiation ceremonies today.
Our favourite Cathar Castles
Today much of the Languedoc is still called Cathar country. Many of the hilltop Cathar castles remain, some withstanding the elements for over 800 years amazingly well, while others are closer to ruin.
The last fortified stronghold of the Cathars, 200 of whom willingly flung themselves on the funeral pyres rather than undergo an enforced conversion to Catholic orthodoxy. Some say the Holy Grail is still hidden in the mountain of Montségur; others say that the Grail was carried off to escape capture by the crusaders.
The dizzying heights inspire awe and wonder to all because of its precipitous location at the southern end of the Corbières mountain range overlooking the valleys leading off to the Mediterranean sea. Its neighbour and sister château Quéribus formed part of the escape route for the fleeing Cathars heading into the Pyrenees and onto Spain.
The largest fortified castle in Europe, it dominates the Jurassic era valley at the foothills of the Montagne Noire. A 3 km walk around the ramparts, Carcassonne was besieged by Charlemagne giving rise to the legend of Dame Carcas for whom the bells rang out when Charlemagne's army left Carcassonne undefeated. Also besieged by the crusaders in 1209, the Liege Lord of the defenders, Raimond Roger Trencavel, was initially given safe conduct by the crusaders but was then captured. He died soon after imprisonment in his own city walls.
If there are 1001 different ways to meditate, then there’s certainly one or two for you!
If you search google ‘photos of meditation’ you will see hundreds of images of people sitting cross-legged, backs straight, hands on knees with forefingers touching the thumb – the classic position for a meditative state - but it's by no means essential. There are many positions that help you to find a meditative just as there many, many approaches towards attaining it, just as there many different definitions of what a meditation is:
"Meditation is neither focus (on an object) nor contemplation (of an object or issue, but somewhere between the two." (Osho)
"Neither force the mind too hard into concentration, nor let it wonder aimlessly. Meditation is to pay attention, to be aware of your breathing, your posture, your feelings, your perceptions, your thoughts and all that passes through your mind and the mind itself…" (The Buddha, in the Buddha and the Terrorist by Satish Kumar).
"There are two types of meditation: one that involves analysis and another that involves just placing the mind single-pointedly on an object without any analysis." (the Dalai Lama)
"Meditation is being aware of what you are doing, being aware of what is happening to you." (Osho).
"Meditation is a non-goal-oriented state of mind." (Osho).
"And what is meditation? Meditation is by and by becoming thoughtless; not falling into sleep - remaining alert and yet becoming thoughtless." (Osho)
"Meditation is nothing but a way to learn how to do a thing totally." (Osho)
But you don’t have to be sitting down, you can be lying down, standing, taking a walk, or carrying out some activity such as staring at the clouds passing by, watching leaves fall from a tree, following the flight of a butterfly, sawing wood, making bread. Much depends on giving yourself fully and wholeheartedly to the activity to the extent that you become the activity even momentarily. And you come back to realise that your mind had been emptied of clutter, that you had found a kind of peace.
Try the following, for example:
Take 10 minutes out in a quiet space. You may be playing some soothing music quietly in the background. Make yourself comfortable sitting with your spine as straight as you can. Close your eyes and focus your breathing to be quiet, slowish and regular. After a minute or two of focussing on your breathing, just breathe normally and focus on what you are thinking. If you are thinking nothing at all, that’s great because that’s where you want to be. Stilling the body, breathing steadily helps to still the mind. But let your mind wander to whatever comes and goes. Don’t force anything let your mind do as it likes. Now become aware of what you are thinking. Think about what you are thinking without judgement or criticism. Become the awareness of your thoughts and not the thought itself. This awareness or consciousness is putting you into a true meditative state.