My first retreat was the summer of 1995, I was 14 and on "holiday" with a school friend and her parents.
It was a Family Camp Retreat called Canafest held by The Redemptorist Community in Esker in Galway.
We had a great week, connection, spirituality, fun, community, activities, communal living, like minded people, shared values, what more could you ask for...
Well maybe beds, slightly more comfortable than the sleeping bags in the ex Irish Army canvas tents. The 14 year old me obviously didn't care as we went back again the following year.
Until recently I would have said my first retreat was when I was 25. More recently as I prepared for a Retreat and at the same time heard that Esker was closing, I remembered "Canafest" and realised that that experience had a much greater impact on me than I consciously realised.
Since that tender age of 14 I have attended and hosted numerous retreats. I have come to realise that they are essential for my soul and also that there is a common misconception of what a Retreat is and what it can offer. It is more than a holiday, though can certainly bring all that a holiday offers.
Me: "I'm going on/hosting a retreat next week" other person "Oh lovely that sounds amazing"
Me: I was on a retreat/hosting a retreat last week" other person " Lucky you, I am sure you had a lovely time" or similar conversations. Often I go along with it and say yes it was fab. That's often the easiest response, because it is difficult to explain exactly what can happen when we retreat.
Yes, they are often in beautiful surroundings and yes my Italy Retreat is a chance to relax and unwind, to enjoy the beautiful spa and incredible Italian food it is designed to allow the women who attend to rest, recharge and reconnect with themselves. You can here me talk more about it here.
HOWEVER and yes it is a big however, Retreats can be deep, the can be vulnerable, they can bring up stuff that we have been too busy to see, or too disconnected from ourselves to feel. Sister hood wounding can appear, the vulnerability of being in an space with other people, people you don't know can certainly raise it's head.
The roles that we adapt in life often come into the space and we might meet ourselves in a way that we haven't for a very long time or indeed ever. When we consciously spend time on personal development, we see what needs to change and that can be challenging. Even the very act of prioritising ourselves, booking a retreat, taking the time out can create ripple effects in so many areas of life.
In the deeper retreats that I have attended over the last few years they have been raw, vulnerable, intense, nourishing, healing, tiring, energising the list goes on, we have screamed in forests, swam in lakes, cried, laughed, danced, shared, held and been held, sat at fires, drummed and meet the deepest aspects of ourselves and each other.
A Retreat never ends as the ripple effects created will carry on for many months and years to come recently one of the women who has attended my Italy Retreat for the last few years told me that a work colleague said to her " you haven't been the same since you started doing going to Italy" and that's exactly why she went. Sometimes the changes are subtle, sometimes immediate and rapid.
Like all personal & spiritual development when you choose a Retreat or a Retreat chooses you, "you may not always get what you want, you will most certainly get what you need".
Your job is to surrender, trust and follow the guidance of your higher self, the knowledge that all is divinely guided and your soul knows the way.
In the couple of weeks before I wrote this I have both hosted and attended a Retreat. The Retreat I attended activated at a different level than I could have imagined, we explored all that holds us back from being in true service to love in this world, from being all that we came here to be and to using our true gifts to shine light in our world.
Over the last few years the challenges people are facing appear to have intensified. I am supporting and holding clients through bigger stuff and so it is more important than ever that I nourish myself in order to be able to nourish and support others. When I invest in me, I invest in you. My healing and growth can become your healing and growth as we walk this path with each other. Thank you for choosing me.
I am deeply grateful for all who shared Retreat spaces with me, for those that have trusted me to hold space for them and for the Teachers who have held space for me. Through our shared spaces I grow, heal, learn and come to a deeper awareness of myself.
Solas agus Grá