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the mystery wants to meet you on personal retreat, so you can come home to yourself.

‘personal retreat’ is an evocative phrase, a portal to some special kind of magic.  like water on parched desert soil, a marvelous inner adventure reminds you of who you are, or offers a yearned-for exhale.  ahhhhh!

here’s an armchair adventure for you, about how this fascination with personal retreat started for me, and why I devote myself now to helping others find their own versions.  a bit later, why personal retreats are so needed, so special…


my own personal retreat practice started in response to exhaustion and burnout.  I had lost my way, and was feeling crispy around the edges.  my spirit was crying out, and I committed to rearranging my life so I could take 3 days a month on retreat, for 13 months.

little did I know that commitment would change the entire shape of my life!

my first retreat started in a canvas yurt, with a potbellied stove and goats wandering outside in a small farm in a clearing in the woods.  I brought a small travel altar with objects I loved, a special journal just for the retreats, and some art supplies.  there was spaciousness for alchemy to come calling, if it would.

the first big medicine to arrive was…one of my greatest fears.  I’d been terrified of spiders my whole life, and they just kept on showing up.  waking visions of enormous spiders as a child.  spiders draped daily in entryways.  overflowing spiders in casitas in the wilds of new mexico.  I had full-blown panic attacks every time spider showed up.  eep!

on my Very First Personal Retreat Night Ever, I was ready for peace and inner tranquility to deliver itself.  I was curled up in bed with rain pattering on the roof of the yurt, and the fire merrily blazing when…an enormous, juicy spider descended swiftly from the yurt ceiling…

right onto my face!

I’d like to say I handled myself with grace.  I most certainly did not.  (laughter)  I squawked and scrambled out of bed faster than a cheetah, limbs flailing, and (to my deep chagrin today) squooshed that spider flatter than flat on the bedsheets.  I was adrenalized, terrified, and afraid.

I sat at the fire, shaking.  I remembered that I’d invited the mystery, and had declared that I was ready for big change.  I wrote long into the night.  I gathered the tattered remains of my dignity, and journeyed to talk to spider.  it was the first time I met the Spider Mother, and she taught me so, so much that night about why she’d been with me my whole life, and the gifts she wanted to share.

such generosity.


I built a friendship with spider, who is now a cherished helper and beloved guide.  she teaches me about the web of life, how interconnected we are, and the profound miracle of living.  I didn’t know it at the time, but she was delivering what I’d asked for in the retreats – how to get reconnected to my life.

there are hundreds of amazing moments from the 13 initial retreats, and I’ll summarize – they took me to posh hotels and remote desert temples.  I met teenage bodhisattvas and fierce ancient goddesses.  I learned how to really be with myself for the first time, how to step outside my daily narrative, and find the song in the silence.

personal retreat practice saved my life, and still does to this day.


now, I’m not saying that your retreat experience has to look like one of your greatest fears turning into one of your greatest teachers and friends.  (laughter)  maybe, maybe not.  my hope is that this opens a doorway of curiosity for you about how sentient personal retreats are, and how they provide – every time – what we didn’t know we needed.

magic, yes?

personal retreats are like gentle (or glorious) crucibles that help us shine brightly and come home to ourselves.  in a strong container, we push our edges just enough to truly learn and grow, and ‘put ourselves out’ with impeccable preparation so the mystery can come calling.

on retreat, you’ll skillfully navigate the shadow when it arrives (and it will, you can turn this into power if you know a bit about what to expect), quiet doubts and habituated behaviors (cell phone, I see you), and open and close potent spaces in a ceremonial way so that ease and wonder can come in.

helping folks create personal retreat is a true, deep joy of mine.  if you’d like to receive support creating your version, please email and we can bring something beautiful into form in a session, or you can join one of the occasional personal retreat workshops at the dreaming otter.  either one is nourishing, and a lovely adventure.

to sum it up – personal retreat is the singularly most effective and powerful healing tool I know of to restore people who hold space.  I send you highest blessings for you finding your own version, and I’m here to help if you wish.

to your one wild and precious life,

ps – do you know one or two folks who would benefit from receiving the dreaming otter articles?  if yes, please encourage them to subscribe to the email list here.  I would be so grateful – thanks, and may that kindness return to you a thousandfold.

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