Retreating to write – and being treated to so much more

I’m back from the writer’s retreat I did in Taos last week.  Wow, what a week that was!

I did some writing.  Not as much as I’d have liked to, but some, which is better than I had done in a long time.  I’ve had a project in the works for quite a while now, but I had trouble getting started on the writing part of it.  The retreat gave me the opportunity to give it a go, and that felt very good.  In fact, one day I have chosen to write in my journal instead of using the writing time to work on my project, and I missed it!  It was really awesome to feel that yearning to get back to it, that need to make it move forward.  I wish I could keep this feeling alive all the time.  I wish it was stronger than all the fears that keep me from even getting started.  But hey, I *did* get started, which is already awesome!  I’ll get back to the yearning and find ways to cultivate it; that should help me keep going.  I so want to put this thing out into the world!

What’s that thing, that project I’m talking about?  Well, I’ve recently started feeling (a little) more comfortable talking about it, and I’ll do it here too, but that will have to be another post.  I’m trying to get better at posting regularly, and writing shorter and more focused posts should help me get there, so this will have to go in the “ideas for future posts” folder for now!

Back to the retreat

The reason why I didn’t write all that much?  Well, the retreat wasn’t all about the writing…

First, there were the other participants, and Jen, the retreat leader.  Interesting how the human factor always end up being so important, right?  Interesting but not suprising, especially considering how amazing were the women I met there!

I didn’t know Jennifer Louden before signing up for her writer’s retreat.  I jumped in as soon as I saw that Havi Brooks would be teaching there, and this was enough for me to want to go.  It was so nice to get to know Jen!  She was a great retreat leader, and a wonderful human being.

Then, the group of participants was absolutely incredible.  I’m an introvert, naturally shy, and interacting in my second language adds another layer of difficulty.  Still, I had this strong feeling of belonging, the kind of belonging that I don’t get to experience often.  I hope this won’t sound pretentious, but I had the impression that the other women would have had a different experience had I not been there.  I know for a fact that my own experience would have been different if any of them hadn’t been part of the group, and it’s a very rare thing for the reciprocal to feel true to me, but it did.  And that’s a very powerful thing.

This alone would have been enough to make this retreat a memorable event, but there was more!

There was the food.  Oh yes, it’s worth a mention!  Actually, it was remarkable enough for two of the participants to spend some of their writing time writing about it, and feeling the need to catch up if they fell behind!  I’m pretty sure I was the only person eating a vegan diet (though there were a few vegetarians), and the kitchen staff at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House did a wonderful job of meeting my needs.  Actually, not being able to eat everything that was offered was a blessing: had I been in a position to do so, I’d have spent my days awfully overstuffed!  The food was delicious and plentiful and, best of all, we only had to sit down and enjoy…  I know I’m not the only one who was in no rush to come back home to my usual fare!

At least, I’m coming back inspired.  Inspired by the colorful dishes we were served, by the unusual ingredient combinations we got to enjoy, by the yummy fruit plate every morning (yes, it takes time to prepare, but I’m coming back of that week with the feeling that I am worth it!).  I can’t wait to get cooking!

Food for the body and soul

There were also (optional) daily yoga classes offered by the wonderful Havi, whom I was delighted to meet.  I had been wanting to try yoga for years now, but never got around to doing it, so I was really looking forward to attending these classes during the retreat to get me started.

It ended up being more than that.  It gave me the opportunity to learn that my body could do things I didn’t think it could do.  I’m not into sports – I do Shiva Nata and I love walking, but that’s it – so I was kind of expecting to simply do the best I could with a body that was unfit, and most certainly stiff.  Well, I was in for a surprise!  It all felt good, and so natural!  It was awesome to realise that my body could surprise me in such a positive way.  I can almost qualify it as a revelation, one which has profoundly transformed the way I see my body, and which will most certainly change the way I live with it too.

Doing yoga with Havi was such a treat that I finished the last class thinking that I would never be able to find a yoga class that even came close to how wonderful this had been.  She told me to look for classes labeled “restorative yoga”, but considering how extremely limited the choices are where I live now, I doubt I’d be able to find one in my area.  Also, I know that if I sign up for a class and it falls short of my (now very high) expectations, I simply won’t be able to keep going.  At the same time, I don’t want to stop altogether.  Hey, I had such a wonderful surprise that I can’t leave it at that!  My solution: ordering the Non-Sucky Yoga kit put together by Havi herself, because I know I can trust her recommandation*.  Until she makes a yoga DVD herself (hint, hint!), this is certainly the next best thing for me.  I can’t wait for the DVD to arrive: I miss my daily dose of yoga!
*besides, who could resist an introduction such as this one: “Here’s the thing.  Most yoga DVDs are pretty awful.  Sunsets, Hawaiian beaches, bikinis and people saying things like ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Now work those abs!’  Gross.  Also: you could sprain something rolling your eyes like that”?  Not me!  Havi really has a way with words…

Havi also served us generous dollops of Dance of Shiva, but I have quite a bit to say about that, so I’ll keep it for my next post!

There was so much more to the retreat – the readings, a collaborative Scrabble game, a tour of local art studios that I sadly had to miss, making new friends… – but that was it in a wholly inappropriate nutshell.  No nutshell is big enough to encapsulate that wonderful experience; this one will have to do for now.

Can I summarize this whole thing?  I can think of no other way to do so than by saying this: I’m extremely tempted to attend Jen’s retreat again next year!

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3 Responses to Retreating to write – and being treated to so much more

  1. celine says:

    I am so happy to hear you had a blast, J.! and I’m so happy that twitter finally let me access my account so that I could see that you updated your blog. sometimes, the planets are aligned right. right? right.

  2. Maria Rose says:

    Wow, what an amazing retreat. I am inspired after reading about your experience! Sounds like you really just let yourself give in and soak up the experience.

  3. Josiane says:

    Wow, seeing the dates by the comments marks very clearly that a month went by since my last post! Eek! I must get writing again…

    @Céline: I sure had a blast, and I’m glad the planet alignment led you here. It’s always a pleasure to know you’re around.

    @Maria Rose: I’m happy to know that my wholly inadequate report on my experience could inspire you. I find so much inspiration on your blog, it’s nice to know you could find some in here!

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