This summer has been a full one! Full of love (weddings), friends (bachelorette parties), planning and preparation (stay tuned for more on this!), travel (mid-day naps in a hammock by the lake is simply the best) and lots and lots of learnings. The Spring Retreat at the beginning of June was our first time with more than 18 people participating. It was our first time including a new face to co-lead the retreat. It was our first and last time holding a single day retreat. (Wait, what?!)
Justins Trails in Sparta, WI is a magical venue with it’s sprawling green pastures, gorgeous barn with views for days, pet llamas, and delightful owners. It was a no-brainer to host a retreat there. The forecast for the day of the event was sunny and 70’s; perfect. At 10AM the sun was already warm when all 30 of us started the first practice. At first I found myself apologizing for the heat, but then noticing the ridiculousness in that, invited everyone to embrace nature’s version of hot yoga. Practicing under the open sky feels like a homecoming of sorts; to breathe in the fresh air, feel the breeze on your face and remember that we’re apart of something bigger – in spite of all the very friendly gnats that got up close and personal. Post class we broke out the workbooks to take a self-care survey and take time for contemplation about how we’re pro-actively caring for the wellbeing of our whole self – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, professionally, and socially. Surely ignoring the wellbeing of one part of ourselves can have a ripple effect into other domains, right?
Our discussion on nutrition was kicked-off by asking people to consider the quality of the nutrients they take in – food, thoughts, images, feelings – and their ability to digest them. Dr. Erica Boland did an exceptional job providing information on rethinking how we look at fats, the connection between our gut and our brain, and the sadly ironic fact that most sunscreens contain ingredients linked to cancer (you can bet I went home that night and did some additional spring cleaning with my toiletries). You could see the wheels spinning in everyone’s head which was fantastic. We all could stand to get more curious and more conscious about what we’re consuming, why we’re purchasing what we’re purchasing and what’s the lasting impact of our decisions.
After lunch, some women joined us on a meditative walk along the property. The intention behind this was A) to feel your feet on the earth B) to simply BE in the company of others C) to practice the art of mindfulness in motion. Ideally the path would have been soft grass the entire time, much like ideally life would be comfortable all the time, but this was and is not the case. The ‘judge’ popped-up a few times in my head when the only way forward was across sticks, rough weeds, and other things of the ‘rough’ variety. I could see some of the poor willing souls grimace in discomfort who were probably wondering why the F they let these crazy hippy ladies guide them walk through this minefield. Then in the silence I could hear something rustling in the woods next to us. There were two sheep happily binging on some plants unconcerned with their two-legged friends walking by. This felt like a magical encounter that would have gone unnoticed had I been plugged into my favorite podcast or gabbing about last night’s events with the person next to me.
The afternoon rolled into Erica teaching us about the Functional Progression Series she created after studying the movement of little babes and how our bodies were designed to move. I was completely humbled by the difficulty in proper execution of this movement that at first glance may seem ‘easy.’ Learning how to use skillful movement to heal our bodies is self-care and Erica has a lot to offer in this arena. We capped off the day with a more restorative yoga practice aimed at opening up and filling up on sacred energy/divine light/love/peace/whatever you want to call it. This was my favorite part. The shift in energy in the room was palpable; we were getting a taste of the juicy, deep, meaningful stuff. These are the moments that I am madly in love with yoga and equally honored to be in the seat of a teacher. To be a witness to people shifting on the micro and macro level because of the outer and inner work they are doing; ‘it’s inspiring’ is a profound understatement.
One of my biggest learnings from this experience is that it really wasn’t a retreat. At the beginning it seemed like a one day retreat was a fantastic idea. One day could make it more accessible for people’s schedules and their wallets (instant gratification, anyone?). There certainly was great conversation and tastes of ‘shifting’ in the air, but at the end of the day I found myself saying ‘bye’ to women who’s name I barely knew — and I hated that! I wanted to know everyone’s name, what brought them to the experience, and little details about their life as I had for the previous retreats. To ‘retreat’ means to withdraw from daily life, unwind to rediscover a sense of calm, dive deeper into your Self and what it is to be alive, in order to reemerge with a renewed sense of gratitude, joy and clarity. Six hours isn’t enough time to create the meaningful connection, vulnerability and perspective shifting moments that make retreats so remarkable. PALM + PINE will certainly host more single day events or workshops but using the word ‘retreat’ will be reserved for only the multiple day events in order to truly give people the full experience that the word demands.
Last but certainly not least, one of my other big takeaway is that the Driftless Area continues to surprise me in the best way possible with people who are welcoming, supportive, and eager to learn more about yoga, self-care, mindfulness, and most importantly – themselves. Shoutout to all the women who were a part of the Spring Retreat. Thank you for sharing the day with Erica and I, letting us guide you and guiding us in return!
P.S. Major love to Jessica Sands who captured the day on film. You truly have a gift for capturing the real, human experience!