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a sneak peek inside my retreat

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. 

March 13, 2020

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