‘personal retreat’ is an evocative phrase, a portal to some special kind of magic. like water on parched desert soil, a marvelous inner adventure that reminds us of who we are, or a yearned-for exhale, personal retreats allow us come home to ourselves.
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 clearing in the lush 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 panic attacks every time.
on my Very First Personal Retreat Night Ever, I was ready for peace and inner tranquility, 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 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.
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.
I’ve created an entire robust, life-changing, 3-session offering around personal retreats with an initial healing session, skillful questions to learn what makes your heart sing, a planning session, list of detailed instructions and packing lists, and followup celebration and witnessing.
it’s awesome! I’m excited! I want to share this with you!
we can work with a modest budget and a small amount of time (takes creativity, it’s still doable) or send you on a hugely grand and exotic adventure (yesyesyes!). really, it’s up to you, and how the mystery calls you.
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.
together, we skillfully navigate the shadow when it arrives (and it will, we’ll turn this into power for you), we quiet doubts and habituated behaviors (cell phone, I see you), we address how to not reinvent the personal retreat wheel, and you learn how to open and close potent spaces where ease and wonder can come in.
helping folks create personal retreat is part of what I do in the world, and you can learn more about the whole magical flow here. I’d love to hear from you, and help you craft something wonderful.
to your one wild and precious life,