Women, Painting, and Power

We are living through an incredibly powerful and transformative time that is calling for radical change on so many different levels. Personally. Politically. Socially. Economically. Environmentally. 

And like ALL transformative times this means we are thrust smack dab into the center of a vast unknown. Being in the middle of a transformation means feeling like you are living on a fault line and the ground is constantly trembling beneath your feet. Upheaval and disruption are the name of the game. And there is a huge part of us that ONLY wants to get the rocking and rolling to stop. To put the brakes on the fear and anxiety rumbling around in the collective consciousness and in our own psyche. We can feel almost desperate in our search to find a place to land that feels solid and stable again.

So we get hooked on the illusion of control. And we make vain and totally unsuccessful attempts to control the situations that make us feel so OUT of control. We try to control the news by not paying attention to what’s happening in the world. We try to control other people in our lives by demanding that they behave in certain very proscribed ways or don’t talk about the things that upset or scare us. And we try to control our own reactions to disturbing events and situations by shutting down our authentic emotional reactions.

But we can’t REALLY control any of these things. And this lack of control leads us to feeling more and more powerless. Which is the worst feeling of all.

During times like these when the outer world feels like it has no center it is more important than ever that we find ways to come back to our OWN center. Our own ground of being.  Our own core of strength and stability and fortitude. Our home place of inner authority and spiritual maturity. 

Our own power. 

I wrote an article a number of years ago called Women, Painting and Power and in that post I talked about how mainstream advertisers would NEVER use the word power in trying to market to women, because power was seen as a dirty word.

As women we have been conditioned from the moment we took our first breath to be anything BUT powerful.

We are taught that our primary value lies in being the Good Girl. Which means having been trained by the patriarchy to be nice and sweet and non-threatening under any and all circumstances. To not upset anyone with our boundaries by EVER saying No. To never state clearly and boldly exactly what we want. To smile and put on a brave face no matter how badly we are being treated. To stay calm and unruffled and NOT rock the boat ESPECIALLY when we are being abused, talked over, put down and devalued when we SHOULD be screaming at the top of our lungs that THIS SHIT NEEDS TO STO

But those days of women believing that they have to deny their power ( can I hear a rousing HALLELUIA) are thankfully headed to the dust bin of history. Women the world over are awakening to their power. Recognizing their power. And discovering that their power is an ESSENTIAL quality to embrace if we are going to truly remake the world into a place where justice prevails, equality is celebrated, resources are distributed fairly and every living being on the planet is treated with respect and reverence and love. 

A big part of my mission as a teacher, leader, healer and guide has been to support everyone, but women in particular, to throw off the patriarchal shackles that have conditioned us to deny our goddess given power.

And to RECLAIM and redefine power as a positive life affirming force. To reclaim accessing our power as a spiritual practice. To reclaim the power to speak up. To take action on our own behalf and the behalf of others. To honor our boundaries. To demand respect.  To embrace our authentic desires. To value ourselves and our unique gifts with no hesitation and no apology.  And to know that we are always, ALWAYS more than enough.



There are many different ways to reconnect with our power. But I have found that using the expressive arts, which includes wild heart intuitive painting, expressive dance and movement, ritual, group work in sacred circle and deep writing, IN a safe AND brave creative community is a particularly potent and effective way to find our way back home to our spiritual, emotional and creative power. 

During this Women, Painting and Power retreat you will be deeply encouraged and supported to address common issues around being a powerful woman such as:

  • Being BIG and taking up space
  • Asking for what you want and need without succumbing to feeling guilty or thinking of yourself as selfish
  • Healing wounds around visibility and being seen through the practice of receiving sacred recognition
  • Developing healthy boundaries
  • Staying grounded and centered in the face of both inner and outer turmoil
  • Trusting in your intuition and inner wisdom
  • Owning your natural brilliance and your native genius
  • Claiming your sense of inner authority, mastery and greatness
  • Celebrating the joyful expression of your divine feminine fierceness
  • Becoming more brave and courageous in raising your voice and speaking your truth
  • Walking your talk. Living your values. Standing up for what you believe.

This workshop is designed to take you DEEP!

Deep into those ancient wounds. Deep into the shadow realms of your soul and psyche. Deep into those places where you are still asleep and longing to awaken again. Deep into releasing old patterns, old stories, old beliefs around powerlessness and making room for the rebirth into power to happen.

But I also guarantee you will have LOTS of fun doing this profound and necessary healing work. There will be tears and raging and the discomfort of going to your edges and beyond. But there will also be laughter and celebration and riotous joy.

I’m also confident that you will leave this retreat feeling more energized than you’ve been in FOREVER, deeply nourished on ALL levels, wildly inspired, at home in your own skin and connected to the deep core of your true and authentic aliveness. In other words, you will be connected to your power.



Our schedule for the weekend


Arrive between 4-6 PM. Settle into your room. Explore the lovely grounds, peek into the gorgeous painting studios or drive ten minutes to chill at the beach.  We will have a scrumptious meal at 6:00 PM followed by an opening circle where we will get oriented, meet each other, feel into the energy of the circle, make the shift from the outer to the inner world and set our intentions for the retreat.

Saturday, Sunday, and Monday:

Each morning we will start the day with a delicious breakfast. After breakfast ( depending on the weather) we will either go to the movement studio or go outside and spend time getting out of our heads and into our bodies through expressive movement and dancing to GREAT music. Sneak preview: The movement part of the program often involves playing with drums and rattles and colorful scarves. Then we will convene for a morning witnessing circle that helps to bond us as a community and that will include some teaching and exploration about women and power.

After circle we will go to the studio to paint for an hour and a half.

A fabulous lunch will be served at 12:00 PM.

After lunch (because rest and integration is CRUCIAL to this expressive arts process) you will have time to yourself to rest or read or nap or hike around the 160 acre grounds of Bodega Sky Ranch. Or hang out and get to know some of the amazing women who will be attending this retreat. You can also hop in your car and explore Bodega Bay… which includes the beach as well as redwood forest and some cute shops. And of course, the studio is open 24 hours a day so you can always paint.

We will reconvene at 3:15 PM for either some kind of a transformational ritual or a writing exploration and then back to the studio to paint.

Every evening we will meet for delicious dinner at 6 PM followed by group process sharing and Q&A


Our final day together will include morning movement, a witnessing circle and painting. And of course one LAST fabulous lunch.

After lunch there will be studio clean-up and a closing circle and ritual that ends at 4 PM with some tips and discussion about how to bring your new found relationship with power and art back to your daily life.

How many people will be there?

One of the things I LOVE about the Bodega Sky Ranch is the intimacy that it affords. We can only have a maximum of 13 women at the workshop which means you will get plenty of time and attention to support you in diving DEEP into your healing process. And you will also feel like you are part of a welcoming and nourishing sisterhood of brave creative women.

Who is this retreat for?

This retreat is for ALL women…  gay women, trans women, straight women, gender fluid women, black women, brown women, white women, fat women, thin women, large women, small women, old women and young women.

If you are a WOMAN you will be welcomed with open arms at this retreat.

This retreat is for you if you are ready to say NO to oppression…. both inner AND outer.
NO to playing small.
NO to calming down and playing nice.
NO to believing the old stories of not enoughness
NO to perfectionism and trying too hard
NO to approval seeking and asking for permission to be yourself
NO to always putting other peoples needs before your own
NO to isolation and addictive self sufficiency

This retreat is also for you if you are ready to say YES to the idea that power can be a GOOD thing.
YES to your own self care
YES to being part of a community of strong and powerful women
YES to being a creative being
YES to being seen and loved and valued just the way you are
YES to facing your scary inner shit
YES to feeling ALL of your feelings
YES to your intuitive knowing 

YES to your wild and wondrous creative self expression
YES to being challenged, nudged and supported in stepping into your power
YES to breaking your allegiance to your internalized patriarchal conditioning
YES to becoming joyfully and brilliantly and incandescently ALIVE
YES to being honest and real and open to your truth

What if I’m not an artist?

I TOTALLY believe deep in my bones that EVERYONE is creative. It’s hard wired into your system and just waiting for you to open the door and let it out. This retreat is the ideal place to take that risk and discover for yourself just how truly creative you really are.

Plus, you need absolutely NO art experience to benefit tremendously from this retreat.

So if this workshop is calling to you… even if your judging mind is trying to scare you away… let yourself answer that call. Trust that it’s time for you to do this work. To claim yourself as a creative being… and so much more.

What if I have another question?

Feel free to send an contact us and my assistant Sandy will be happy to help.

I’m in! I’m in! I’m ready to reclaim my spiritual and creative power. How do I register?

Fill out the registration form below, choose your lodging, and pay your deposit and you’re IN. And I can’t WAIT to meet you and join you on this journey to your MOST amazingly powerful self.

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Due to the global pandemic our in-person retreats and workshops have been placed on hold. Please check out our online offerings and sign up for our newsletter to be notified of all upcoming events! We look forward to seeing you at our next creativity adventure!

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Policies, Disclaimers, and Agreements

Cancellation Policy

All deposits are non-refundable and non-transferable. If you have chosen to register with a deposit, an electronic invoice will be sent to you to be paid 60 days prior to the event. If you cancel before 60 days of the start of the event we will refund any amount you have paid in excess of the deposit minus a $25 processing fee. If you cancel within 60 days of an event, full payment of any and all remaining costs for the workshop, lodging, meals, taxes, and other fees will be due immediately. All payments are non-transferrable to other services, events, or workshops. Note that some of the retreat centers we work with may have additional cancellation policies that you will need to abide by.


Lodging is offered for some but not all of our events depending on the type of event and venue so please check the event details for lodging options and specifics. For those events where lodging is offered there are limited lodging options so we strongly encourage you to choose something that you feel meets your needs for comfort as well as expense for the entire event as you will not be able to change your lodging during the event.

We try to make sure that all amounts for lodging, taxes, and fees are accurate when you register. However, a venue may change their prices without notice and you will be required to pay the full amount to the venue for lodging, taxes, or fees that may change after you register.


Vegetarian, dairy free, and gluten free meal options are generally available at our events upon request with at least 30 day advanced notice. Other dietary concerns or issues may be accommodated for an extra fee and at least 30 day advanced notice. We cannot not guarantee that every food issue can be accommodated so please contact us regarding your specific concerns. 

We try to make sure that all amounts for meals, taxes, and fees are accurate when you register. However, meal prices are subject to change without notice and you will be required to pay the full amount for meals, taxes, or fees that may change after you register.

Art Supplies

Unless otherwise noted, all necessary art supplies will be provided at our live in-person events. We provide non-toxic water soluble paints and paper. The materials that we supply are chosen to enhance the intuitive process and your direct experience of creativity instead of emphasizing the outcome or product. You may bring your own additional water soluble non-toxic personal supplies such as brushes, colored pencils, or chalk pastels if you choose. However, please note that we do not allow oil paints, acrylic paints, spray paint, solvents or any toxic or permanent materials at any of our events. In addition, we do not allow loose glitter at any of our events due to the work and expense involved in clean up. If you plan on bringing additional art supplies not listed above please contact us before registering.

Alcohol & Drug Policy

All of our events, trainings, and workshops are intended to be healing experiences. Your successful participation in any of our events requires that you show up fully to yourself, your feelings, your creative process, your inner life and other members of the circle in a respectful and meaningful way. As a result we do not tolerate the use of alcohol or recreational drugs during the event. Our expectation is that you will not drink alcohol or use any other kind of recreational drug during the time that we are together so that we can all be focused on healing, learning and growing. If it comes to our attention that you are abusing alcohol or drugs during one of our events you will be asked to leave immediately without a refund or credit. 

Non-participants and Pets

We do not allow pets, friends, relatives, or other people to stay with you during our time together as they can be a distraction for you and other attendees that will keep you from focusing and participating fully in the event.

Health and Wellness Issues

We support and will accommodate those with special needs to the degree that we are able. However, you must fully disclose any health or mental health related issues that might interfere with your attendance or participation at any of our events. We expect that you will be able to take full responsibility for yourself and will follow any and all doctor's recommendations regarding medications, treatment plans, or other health guidance. Failure to do so in a way that puts yourself or others at risk will result in you being asked to leave the event immediately without a refund or credit. We do not provide nursing or psychiatric care services at our events. Please communicate all of your relevant health needs with us before registering.

Fragrances and Scents

Our events are not strictly fragrance free. However, for the comfort and health of ourselves and of all of our attendees, we request that you don’t wear perfumes or use other heavily scented products. If you have any concerns about scents or fragrances please contact us before registering.


By registering and attending one of our events you agree to abide by all of these policies.

I’ve been painting with Chris Zydel for many years, so I suppose it is no surprise that I LOVED the Women, Painting and Power retreat.
The setting was stunning.
The food was healthy and  fabulous.
The group work was deep, challenging, soul-feeding.
The painting, as always was painful, exuberant, joyous, sacred.
The group of women was loving, centered, caring, and thought-provoking.
And the guidance and leadership provided by Chris Zydel was wise, deep, loving, and growth generating.

I would sign up for this retreat again in a heartbeat.

Sandra Whisler

One week prior to attending the retreat, I had retired from a 42-year career. The last 17 of which was social work.  I was tired and confused about what the future held for me.  I took this time and experience to help me unfold a vision of what my new journey would hold. And for me the best part is it helped me to find, within myself, what was important to me, what my values are, and how I needed a nurturing and spiritual community to bring myself that happiness.  It helped me to look forward to the exciting exploration that my future will unfold. Chris has never failed me in the last 30 years and I thank God for her frequently.  I recommend taking yourself to a unique and genuine exploration.  Just for you!

Toni Berry


Women, Painting, and Power will return in 2022



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