Two weeks ago I led my first-ever writing retreat, and I want to give you a sneak peek inside.
The location was magical: a retreat center on Enders Island in Mystic, CT.
The retreat center itself is Catholic, but the actual island feels much older to me – ancient, pagan.
I arrived on Friday around 11:00 with my friend Tam, whom I hired as my event planner and designer for the weekend.
Here’s what the meeting room looked like when Tam and I arrived:
And here’s how Tam transformed it into a sacred space to share and practice writing:
I designed the weekend to include some teaching time, tons of writing time, and time and space to share meals and build community.
I designed the schedule to include lots of open space. Several times women remarked, “Wow, we have so much time!” No one felt rushed. Basically, I designed the weekend to be the opposite of a business conference I attended last year, during which I experienced a 14-hour day without a single moment to myself.
Here’s what went well:
Hiring Tam: best decision ever. Hiring my photographer, Daniel: best decision ever. Figuring out how to work with Tam and Daniel all the time is my new mission in life.
Shifting fully into my process of embodied writing. I taught a lot about embodied writing at the retreat and everyone shared that this work was impactful for them.
Getting to spend the weekend with six beautiful women writers was simply priceless. On Friday night, after dinner and teaching time, as we moved into our first writing block, I wrote in my journal: This is the greatest privilege of my life.
Showing up and being seen – I was really happy with how I showed up during the weekend. I cultivated my own power and used that power and energy to shape the experience.
Here are a few lessons learned and things I will do differently next time:
I’m going to host the next retreat at a different location. Enders Island was perfect for my first retreat – and next time I want to level up and provide a more luxurious experience for my guests.
Right off the bat, I had some stressful interactions with the island staff. I watched myself slip into people-pleasing mode and had trouble holding my energy and asking for what I wanted and needed. The work in my future is with Dr. Valerie Rein, author of Patriarchy Stress Disorder, to help me show up more powerfully in situations like this.
I realized right away that I need next-level self-care during weekends like this. I did all my normal self-care, and I discovered that I needed more. In particular, I had trouble sleeping both nights. Tam taught me one technique that helped a LOT: grounding. There was a lot of energy moving through the group – we shared deeply personal stories, wrote through past dark experiences, and encountered healing. To discharge some of that energy, I would take off my shoes and stand barefoot on the earth. (Weather check: it was in the 30’s and very windy.) It felt amazing. I’m starting next week to work with a kinesiologist on other ways to “power up” my energy before these live events, and “power down” between sessions.
Finally, Daniel and I did a photo shoot and I’m stepping into a bigger, more powerful version of me.