If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you may have noticed that I snuck away to an art retreat this past weekend.
Ever since I’ve returned home, I’ve been trying to find words to describe my experience. But, there are none that will fully capture the mixed emotions and magic that flowed through me. All I can do is try to share my story as it unfolded…
As an introvert and someone who’s recovering from childhood shyness, stepping into this experience was SCARY. Sure, I’ve had practice showing up through You-Tube videos and over the phone doing life coaching – but this was IN PERSON and with people I’ve never met. This was the very first time I was leaping with faith to meet new people and show up as the “real me”.
The sheer amount of people at Squam was overwhelming at first. Stepping into the dining hall almost had me spiraling back to my high school days of overwhelm and isolation. But luckily, our first meal had assigned seats. And every person I encountered greeted me with a smile and was genuinely interested in getting to know me.
I was trying to keep an open mind. To stay open to whatever experience wanted to unfold for me. But for the first day or so, I started to think this wasn’t for me. I was telling myself that I would do better with a smaller retreat. One where you’re with the same people for the whole duration. One where I am forced to be with the same group so I wouldn’t have to be thrown into the unknown so often. But of course, that was only fear talking. I was stretching my comfort zone.
I was grateful that it was easy to honor my introverted nature throughout the trip. We were surrounded by fresh air, trees, water, animals, and pockets of quiet. Any time I felt overwhelmed, I was able to slip away to the woods or my cabin to find peace.
I continued to stay open, and allow myself to have the best experience possible; even though I was feeling that I would probably never do this again. As time went on, my ego mind began to realize that this environment was different than any I had ever experienced before. There was an overall vibe of inclusion and love and understanding that was refreshing and comforting. The community held each other up like we were all long lost sisters. There was no exclusion, or judgement, or drama – there was just love and excitement and openness.
And slowly I began to form bonds with the women that I saw most often – those that shared a cabin with me and the others nearby. The world of Squam began to shrink – in a good way. I was no longer lost in a sea of strangers. The closeness and connection I was seeking began to unfold naturally within the expansiveness. But it wouldn’t have happened if I had closed down, if I had run away in fear, if I had given in to the thoughts that I did not belong there.
The magic and transformation I felt within has no words, for I still don’t even understand it fully myself. “It was amazing!” is all I can muster when someone asks me how it went.
I laughed, I cried, I connected, I withdrew, I created, I shopped, I danced, I painted, I ate, I hugged, I hiked, I swam, I stretched, I grew… I experienced what it was like to live in a world run by creativity and love.
And now that it’s over, do I feel like I would do it again?
OH, HELL YES!!
PS I’ve been growing a lot these past few weeks… it’s been quite an adventure! I need to sit with it and let it all sink in. But in the meantime, my secret artist collaboration is coming up quick and I can no longer keep it a secret! I’ll be spilling the beans on Monday. I started this project months ago, and of course, had no idea the shifts I’d be going through now – but it’s a welcome distraction and something that will begin to ground me. I can’t wait to share it with all of you!
(special thanks to @ondakay, @pagesargissonjewelry, @gofetchgretch, and @fifieldhouse for the amazing photos!)
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Sannie Cook says
Keep it up.
Paula Devi says
I’m so happy for you and the experience that was waiting for you to be ready to have. I am also an introvert and will always be one, but slowly we open bits at a time. I Found it hard to be among lots of people. I was terrified attending my first retreat. While it was a very wonderful experience I still came away knowing this kind of sosialization will always be hard for me though these many years later I have lost the discomfort. I have never been to an all women’s retreat and I thingk that would be so different with just feminine energy. I used to go to a Hamam for many years. With just women & it was amazing. Very ancient and tribal in that sisterhood of women. I am sure that During those years it was what kept me sane through some trying times. I miss that so much- the community of sister/women. What a gift,isn’t it.
I didn’t know I was an introvert or that my daughter was one, not to mention my husband, lol, until I met someone who is and learned SO much! I put it together that my daughter was, but did not know what kind of things went through her head when faced with certain situations. As time went on and I would reflect on my own youth I had quite a few Ah Ha! moments. I always felt out of place when I would go to a big scrapbook weekend and wondered why I felt alone there in a big room full of women. I always felt like that kid at school always looking at the group from the corner. So glad you had a memorable weekend!!
This sounds very much like my experience of doing an art retreat. :) I was so anxious beforehand I almost didn’t go, even though I really REALLY wanted to! And like you I was SO glad I did, and got to experience that kind of recalibrating of what being amongst groups of other women can be like. Wonderful that it was such an expansive and enriching experience for you!
Amy Maricle says
What a WONDERFUL experience. As soon as you told me about Squam I was on their site. I can’t wait to book my own retreat. Good for you for being open to it all.
Oh Kristal this is beautiful! Love how you describe the transformative process you felt and LOVE your photos – you really capture a sense of warmth and joy. What an adventure :D
You’re so brave! I couldnt have done this. I think i would have freaked out! I just cant deal with lots of people, so i think you did amazingly well!
Eve Ruby says
Would love to win a spot in 2016 spectrum. Love your blog. Will be sharing it on FB.