One January I gave myself time to dream up my new life. It was the best thing I ever did

During a dark January in Dublin three years ago, Sarah Shannon decided to move to the Algarve in Portugal. The former corporate lawyer has found love, got married and set up a yoga retreat

One dark January I dreamed the life that I live now in the Algarve in Portugal.

In my mind I created my lifestyle, my relationship and my yoga retreat business. I will never let a January go by without spending time with my dreams and visions.

Each year, I resist the cultural push to step out as a new person in the first month of the year.

I combat the lure of heavily discounted prices in the shops and that feeling of missing out (on I’m not sure what). I abstain from setting nNew year’s resolutions or putting pressure on myself to be “new” or “improved”.


Instead, I get quiet and ask myself questions: What do I want my life to look and feel like this year? How can I be of service to the world? What is my heart longing for? What will bring me joy this year?

These questions seem fun, almost self-indulgent, and something that we might have written about as a child in school. As an adult, however, these questions can be challenging and uncomfortable in our busy lives.

Our culture doesn’t give us much time for empty spaces or blank pages in our copybook. There is very little time to apply our imagination and creativity to our lives.

I have found another way.

Learning about Celtic spirituality and the Celtic Wheel has taught me the true meaning of this time of year.

The Celtic Wheel charts eight festivals over our calendar year and it begins at Samhain on October 31st. Our ancestors knew that everything begins in the dark. The following festivals – in particular, the winter solstice – charts our journey out of the dark and into the bright and blossoming time of year.

One dark January in Ireland, I used the tools that I learned from the Celtic Wheel and I resisted all urges to act. I refrained, at age 35, from deciding what to do with my life, my business and my quest for love.

I just stopped.

And it was the best thing I did.

I gave myself time to dream up my life. I found inspiration on Instagram and online; I found people with inspiring lives and instead of feeling jealous or resentful, I became curious.

I gathered pictures of the life I wanted to live – camper van trips, women’s circles and bohemian homes. I printed them, cut them out and stuck them in a lovely arrangement on a corkboard (something I call my “vision board”) and hung it in my apartment.

I wrote, in great detail, about my dream life in my journal. I wrote about the type of holistic women’s retreat I wanted to create, the relationship I wanted to be in and the woman I wanted to be.

I created a playlist on Spotify that reflected this dream life. Think Fleetwood Mac and Bob Marley. I found myself buzzing with excitement and literally dancing with the idea of my life.

This is the beauty of January; it’s a time to dream and vision. The time to take action will come soon. In February each year, around the Celtic festival of Imbolc, I choose three things to focus on for the year ahead – for example, to find a new home, to develop a skill or inner-quality or to find a new career. These focus points will arise from my January dream-time; and they are what I will pour my energy into this year.

You see, we must dream and then we must choose.

I chose, that dark January in Dublin three years ago, to move to the Algarve in Portugal; I chose to find love; and, I chose Wild & Free retreats as my next venture.

My retreats in the Algarve and my online workshops guide you through the process I have created; a process that is inspired by the Celtic Wheel and by my life. I am about to host my 15th Wild & Free women’s retreat soon.

I have hosted nearly 200 women since setting up my venture two years ago. I am living my dream life with a man I married here in Portugal last summer.

I will never let January go by without a vision, and a playlist to match it.

  • Sarah Shannon is from Dublin. She worked as a corporate lawyer until her early-30s when she became a yoga teacher. A few years later, she moved to the Algarve and set up Wild & Free women’s retreats. (Sarah on Instagram). Many of the women who have attended her retreats found her through the piece published in The Irish Times two years ago.
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