I have been a personal growth, spiritual and creativity retreat junkie most of my adult life.
Since the time when dinosaurs walked the earth and the term hippie was not prefaced by the world "old", I have participated in scads and scads of workshops and healing circles and time spent in the wilderness of my psyche exploring the depths of my soul and spirit with groups of other folks.
I love being on retreat so much that I have made a career of facilitating intensive workshop experiences so that I can spend as much time as possible in that holy space that gets created when a bunch of people intentionally come together to throw off their old skin and allow themselves to be transformed into something new. To risk coming home a different person from who they were when they walked out their front door to attend a workshop.
The transformative aspect of a really powerful retreat is one of the things that I can never get enough of.
As well as the innocence that everyone brings with them as part of the experience. Because no one ever really gets it, at least on a conscious level, how much going on a retreat actually IS going to change their lives.
You see it in the ads for these kinds of workshops all the time. "Change your life in 5 days... or 10 or a weekend... " and people read that and say to themselves "Yeah, yeah... sure... change my life... that sounds like something I need."
But they don't really believe it will actually happen.
As my students incredulously share with me their experience after a retreat I OFTEN hear things like:
" I came to this workshop thinking I was going to play and have some fun painting and learn a few things. I thought maybe I would get a couple of new insights. Possibly get re-energized around an existing intention or goal.
But not this. I didn't expect to have all the lights turned on inside my heart and mind. To really know who I am and what I want. To end up totally turned around, and at the same time feeling like I have found my way back home to a place I didn't even know I'd left."
I love that element of "oh-oh" that is the hallmark of a powerful retreat. That feeling of "oh shit, what have I gotten myself into here" which is often the only way the ego self will begin to let go of control.... because it doesn't know what else to do!
And I never get tired of witnessing the predictable magic that always shows up to facilitate a true sea change in someone's life. There's the experience of being pole axed by love and the power of a deeply accepting community to hold and help and heal. Or the unexpected joy that comes from allowing yourself to surrender to being the creativity goddesses bitch. Or discovering a source of grace so yummy and precious and luscious inside your VERY OWN SELF that you are swooning with the deliciousness of it.
These are the gifts of a true transformational experience. Of course we are constantly being reshaped just through life itself. Death, birth, illness, love, sex, aging. All of these things change us in ways where there's no going back.
When I fell in love with my husband my life was forever after demarcated into BT (Before Tim) and AT (after Tim). I was literally reborn. The person who I WAS is now no more. And I had no idea that I was even dying.
But you can also choose to go towards that experience of transformation in a more conscious way.
You can respond to the call of your soul to take refuge, to find sanctuary, to immerse yourself in experiences that are outside of what is all too familiar. To choose to be influenced by new ways of thinking and feeling. To risk putting yourself in a situation where you don't understand what's going on and being willing to try it anyway.
One of the other great things about retreats is that everyone is bringing their best selves to the party. And I don't mean that in a fakey, shallow kind of way. It's not about trotting out the superficial "best self" that was artificially created under circumstances of duress to allow us to survive and gain the most approval or brownie points.
When people come to a retreat they WANT to live up to their highest potential. To act as if they are the beautiful, wonderful, creative,amazing creative being that they suspect is lurking inside of them all along.
Which is exactly what happens.
I've been seeing these ads lately encouraging kids to spend more time being in nature. And the tagline for the ads is - go out into nature and discover where "the other me" lives.
These ads are implying that being out in the natural world allows parts of you to show up that might not get activated by spending all your time in a man made city environment. This other me comes across as someone freer and wilder and less encumbered by social expectations. The part of us that is more more real and authentic and essential.
I love that idea of "the other me."
A secret self that is just waiting for the invitation to come forth and express itself with it's wisdom and inner knowing about what is best for me in my life. A fully formed and spiritually connected me who knows what's most important for my soul's happiness and growth.
We don't get much support to be that "other me" in our daily lives. We get swallowed by stress. Beaten down by disappointment and loss. Overwhelmed by too much to do and not enough time to do it.
So we need places where we can go to find our way back to "the other me." Nature certainly works for me. As well as time spent in prayer, making art, spiritual practice.
But one of the most powerful ways that I know to reconnect with that deep inner source of power and magic is by taking yourself on a retreat.
It's like taking your car in for a tune up or making sure you get that physical exam. It keeps you healthy and in shape, spiritually speaking, and keeps you in honest and direct communication with your soul.
It's a profound act of self love and self nurturance. An opportunity to fill your emotional tank with all kinds of goodies that can sustain you as you make your way through all the challenges of your daily journey. It can provide you with a touchstone of deep joy and sustenance that reminds you of the magnificent being that you TRULY are.
And it can get you connected up with the rocket fuel of your own creative aliveness which can propel you into making the much needed and life affirming changes you have been wanting and needing.
So I hope that all of you can give yourself that gift of sacred sanctuary from time to time. You deserve it. And who knows... it might even REALLY transform your life.
One of the reasons I was inspired to write this post was because one of my precious, new friends in blogging land the fabulously huge hearted, creative powerhouse, Connie Hozvicka from Dirty Footprints Studio, attended one of my weekend retreats in March. And then she created a video based on her experience at the workshop. Which is a lot of fun!
In this video she talks about everything that I've been saying about the power of going to a creativity workshop/retreat but from the angle of being a participant.
As well as making me look like a pretty good aging sexpot... AND she's helping to support me and Fabeku Fatunmise in filling our upcoming ARTSOUNDYOU! workshop in August.