Excerpted from an article written for the Sourced Certified Leader community.
I’ve been leading retreats since 2018 and as I was thinking about all the amazing transformation that happens through leading retreats – personally and for the people that show up - I thought I'd share about the more intangible aspects that go on behind the scenes to give you the flavor of a Rebel Sage Retreat.
Here are some of those intangible morsels I received from experiences during the Nature Medicine Retreat I led on the land I grew up on in Iowa – complete with horse experiences, mulberries plucked from the tree and running through a water sprinkler to activate the new energy one of the guests was stepping into!
Leave space for the spirit of your retreat to speak to you and through you. And don’t be surprised when you find yourself being worked on by your own curriculum!
Take time to connect with the spirit of your creation. There’s something spirit wants to express through you, and you’re the only one that can do it in your way. There’s often a ‘feel’ and energy to the creation that when harnessed, becomes your north star - what the retreat is in service of.
The spirit of the retreat ALWAYS requires you to do your own work as you lead up to retreat, or in parallel with your people! Sometimes it takes a minute to realize that you’re being forged, distilled and polished by your own retreat intention!
Coming home to my family’s land was about sharing the subtle aspects of connection with humans and other-than-humans. To learn the language of the natural world and rest in BEing rather than DOing.
During retreat planning, I got to this familiar place of agonizing over little details of content, sitting on my island of figureitout-itis among post-it notes, colored pens, note cards and words scribbled on scraps of paper. I would look out the window at the horses peacefully standing in their afternoon meditation under the pine trees and be reminded to drop the busyness to join them. This was spirit polishing me with my own curriculum.
Invite the Unknown into your process as an ally.
The Unknown is one of the greatest fears for us humans. We contort ourselves into the craziest positions and choices in order to create some semblance of known in our lives. Transformational retreats are no exception – in no way can we predict exactly what is going to happen with our clients from our well-laid plans. But what if we didn’t have to fear it, and could embrace it instead?
I have made it a practice to invite the Unknown as one of my allies during retreat. It’s what keeps things open-ended and exacts the best of me – to show up in the moment, curious, and in my body and being, not my head and doing. I’ve found that when I design with the Unknown as part of the curriculum, it always opens to the next best thing that moves the group forward.
One of the experiences I designed with the Unknown as ally was inviting people to connect to nature and listen for the wisdom it shared with them. I took them for a ride in my dad’s old pickup truck, dropped them in the middle of 200 acres of beautiful rolling hills, ponds, horses and ancient trees for a walkabout, and gave them 3 questions to ask any of the other-than-human beings around us.
One of the guests was very skeptical – in fact, this was her way of being the whole time up to this exercise. I had no idea what she, or others, would find through this experience but I could feel the spirit of the retreat and trusted she would get what she needed. Mother Nature did not disappoint. Turns out, she was shown pivotal stages of her life and each other-than-human being she spoke with told her of the strengths she had gained through these life experiences. Her grandfather who had passed earlier that year came to her at the end of the walkabout through a feather that found her. She was in tears as she shared with the rest of us. She got to have the new experience of dropping the skepticism and opening her heart and mind to receive exactly what she needed.
Trust what comes through – even if your mind tells you there’s not time on the agenda.
We were on the last day of retreat and there were a couple of different ways I could wrap things up. I was feeling a little pressed for time and could feel the pull between logical, action-oriented takeaways for the group and going a little deeper by pulling cards. I decided that instead of trying to ‘figure it out’ on my own, I would ask for wisdom from the group. It was unanimously decided that we pull cards. I take the same two decks on all of my retreats, and am always reminded of the depth and laser-like resonance they bring to each person that pulls one. After we went around the circle, each person getting exactly what they needed to both complete and take new steps in their lives (including one person committing to leaving a relationship that she knew was complete), all I could do was laugh. Spirit ties things up so much better than me.
Rebel Sage Retreats are designed to be experiential deep dives for seekers of adventure, connection and the mystical.