Recently I was discussing the “if money were no object” scenario with a friend, and I remarked, “if money were no object, I would go to a conference, retreat, or training once a month. I love learning and being with my tribe!” It just popped out of my mouth: not world travel, not a life of unadulterated leisure, not a mansion or a personal chef/trainer/housekeeper. Just feeding my brain and my spirit, being inspired and co-creating.
I am already living my dream to some degree. My absence on this blog last month was bookended by a writing and SoulCollage® retreat I co-led in Harrisonburg, VA in late April and a journal conference I attended in Hendersonville, NC a month later (I am pictured here with my friend Sue McCollum [left] and journal pioneer Kay Adams [center]). I can see that one side effect of my “if-money-were-no-object” dream is getting distracted from writing if I’m not careful. On the other hand, these events give me more material to write about!
There are so many benefits of getting away from it all with like-minded people. At a retreat, you rest and indulge your creative side. Your meals are prepared, your materials and programming are provided, you have time to nap or take a walk, and you quickly form a close bond with the other women who have made the same choice for self-care. It is my hope as a retreat leader that you leave feeling refreshed and inspired, and it is what I hope to carry with me when I am a participant in someone else’s retreat.
At a conference such as the one I just attended, Journal Conference 2016: Pioneering the Next 30 Years, the energy is very different. Although we were at the lovely Kanuga Conference Center and had our meals prepared, the 130 of us who attended were darting from one session to another like bees on speed (partly due to the torrential rains). Our schedule was full from 7:45 a.m. to 9 p.m. I’m including meals in this, because mealtimes were great opportunities to network. I talked with fascinating people who lead innovative, juicy writing workshops. Here are just a few:
Christina Baldwin, author of multiple books on journaling, including Life’s Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest and Story-Catching: Making Sense of Our Lives Through the Power and Practice of Story
Judy Reeves, author of A Writer’s Book of Days: A Spirited Companion and Lively Muse for the Writing Life and Wild Women, Wild Voices: Writing from Your Authentic Wildness
Deborah Ross, a therapist and co-author with Kathleen Adams of Your Brain on Ink: A Workbook on Neuroplasticity and the Journal Ladder (and she lives in McLean—we’re practically neighbors!)
Carolyn Koehnline, a therapist and author of Confronting Your Clutter: Releasing the excess baggage from your home, head, heart, and schedule, who led a powerful workshop on “Clearing Clutter as a Transition Tool”
I met many others who impressed, inspired, intrigued, and encouraged me, and I left the conference feeling excited about how I could bring what I learned to my own practice and teaching. I will share some of their wisdom in future posts.
If this gets you thinking about attending a retreat or conference yourself, I’d be glad to talk with you about it. One I know off the top of my head is Hippocamp 2016 in August (fellow Amherst Writers & Artists facilitator Joanne Lozar Glenn will be presenting), which focuses on creative nonfiction. A quick Google search will yield lots of information about writing conferences, as will the Poets & Writers website.
Go and meet your tribe! You won't regret it.