Immediately following our inaugural Women’s Wellness Retreat in March, Rachel, Karen, and I set out to re-create the magic. What was the X factor that made it so special? Was it the chemistry of the group? Was it the location? Was it the yoga? Was it the group coaching? Was it the hummus? As a self-described efficiency aficionado, I was hoping that in this go-around we could identify the secret ingredients to this magical formula so that we could “plug and chug” for future iterations. We were all excited to give it another try so we circled a date on the calendar for the fall and started making plans.
Unfortunately, the original location was already booked so one of the control variables for my highly scientific experiment was already compromised. However, Rachel found a promising AirBnB in a neighboring town and put down a deposit. We started advertising and recruiting and promoting to our networks. Naturally, we expected a deluge of applications. People said they were excited and interested. In fact, they were craving something exactly like this. It turns out that the irony of planning a weekend of self-care for women who are burnt out, stretched thin, and overwhelmed is that they feel as though they are too busy to come.
Some people did sign up, though, and we knew the people who were saying yes were precisely the right people who needed to be there. Most were mission-driven and immersed in the nonprofit, education, or philanthropic sectors. Many were full-time working moms with young children. All were exhausted from carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders.
Two weeks before the event, Rachel reached out to me to say that she was getting a weird vibe from the AirBnB owners. She didn’t feel like the space was going to give us the kind of positive energy that we were looking to cultivate. She reminded me that we would lose our deposit and it would impact our already slim profit margin so she did not want to make the decision alone. Simultaneously, she had been wondering if this was the sign she needed from the universe to convert the old barn on her property to a retreat and wellness center. It would take a lot of work and we didn’t have much time, but her contractor was on-board to make it functional by the time the guests arrived. I wrote her back the following day, “You trust your gut and I do too. I want to live in a world in which more women trust their intuition.” And that was that.
Ten days later, seven women arrived from Los Angeles, Chicago, DC, and various parts of New York at the newly minted retreat center on Rachel’s property in the Hudson Valley. We took turns correcting each other and smiling when someone referred to it as the shed. Although the crew had made amazing progress in less than two weeks, the space was raw and unvarnished and very much a work in progress. It was a perfect metaphor for the vibe we were creating for the weekend. It also added a meaningful new layer to the experience because we were the first ones to see Rachel’s vision coming to fruition. We were the ones who got to encourage her to keep dreaming of what was to come. What a gift.
Although no one knew more than one other person before the retreat, by the end of the first night, everyone was familiar. There was something in each woman’s story that resonated and we could each see ourselves in each other; the paths we had walked to get here were different, but also very much the same. We are taught to believe that our fears and insecurities are uniquely ours which makes us feel both alone and lonely.
Instead, as we each shared pieces of our journeys throughout the weekend, including the capital “T” Traumas and the lowercase “t” traumas, the burdens felt lighter as we took them out of the darkness and brought them into the light. It felt revolutionary that despite all of the discord and heartache in the world, we created a cocoon where people felt brave enough to bring their true selves forward.
Whereas the spring retreat had an undercurrent of rebirth, regeneration, and re-emergence after an extended period of wintering, the fall retreat organically took on a rhythm of slowing down, taking stock, and building reserves for the long road ahead. We spent time reflecting on what gets in the way when we set out to make big changes and what limiting beliefs we were ready to release. The goodie bags filled with local Peekskill swag and self-care accessories had a picture of a sloth on them. We joked that in the spring, we had a group of runners while in the fall we had a group of resters.
The amazing team from Inner Being: Yoga for the Soul leaned into this theme of introspection and supported the group throughout the weekend with grounding meditation sessions, lengthy Shavasanas, and a powerful visioning exercise with the help of a skilled guide and her trusty drum. For our closing activity, we wrapped ourselves up in blankets around a fire pit and burned slips of paper that contained the things that we didn’t want to hold us back anymore.
So, I know you’re dying to know…did we recreate the magic?
Nope. Definitely not.
This retreat was differently magical.
My takeaway from this experience is that there’s no such thing as recreating, and we (OK, speaking to myself here) should release that as a goal or expectation. We can never go back and do it all over again because there are too many evolving variables and dynamic variables at play. Of course the participants are different and bring diverse needs to the group. Of course the seasons play a role in shifting the vibe of the retreat. Of course the location contributes to the energy of the experience.
Although the organizers, the yoga and meditation practitioners, and the caterer (Kristie Cooks) were the same ones from the spring, even we are different six months later in terms of our self-awareness, lived experiences, and aspirations.
I swear the hummus (AYA Hummus) had even leveled up. Plus, the presence of Chance the Pup just made everything better.
Even though we can confidently predict that the trees will lose their leaves in the fall and miraculously replenish them each spring, I’ve never thought about the fact that they are not exactly the same as they were the year before. The trees are not clones or replicas of themselves; they are older, wiser, changed – sometimes in subtle and sometimes in major ways - by their context and environment. There's no going back to how things were the season before. They can only aspire to be the best and truest version of themselves in this current moment.
Same with us.
And, I think that is pretty damn magical.
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