As you might know, I will be co-leading The Creative Joy Retreat again this fall with the awesome Jen Louden and the amazing Marianne Elliott. I am looking so forward to another visit to the picturesque landscape and inspiring architecture of the historic Garrison Institute. Just being there is relaxing! And to reconnect again with Jen and Marianne, Danielle (our wonderful right-hand-woman) and all of the open-hearted and inspiring women that will gather with us just makes me swoon.
The retreat offers so many of the things that feed and nurture our feminine souls; community, connection, solitude, simplicity, a slow pace, rest, relaxation, reflection, deeply comforting food, creativity, stretching our bodies (yoga), exploring our thoughts (writing), honoring our unique perspective (photography), and the time and space to breathe and be.
Perhaps what I love best about this retreat is that there is no tangible “end result” we work towards. No figuring anything out. No creating any product. No cracking of any codes. The whole point is just to enJOY being; through breath, gentle movement, kind thoughts, quiet time, conversation, sharing, feeling, observing, and sleeping.
Although the photography part of the retreat might resonate with many of you what about the rest? Do the words yoga or writing trigger anything? I agree that yoga can sound so intimidating, especially if you’ve never tried it or haven’t practiced in months, even years. Rest assured, Marianne is the most patience, gentle and intuitive instructor I know. And sometimes when we consider writing, our inner-critic can be so loud and judgmental. But believe me, Jen is so supportive and reassuring a guide, you’ll feel not only free but totally taken care of. And if there is a hint of photography reservation, I promise I’m nothing but encouraging and you don’t need anything but your mobile camera (unless you want to bring the big camera which is totally welcome too)! We each share our thoughts with you here in our little video.
I know for me, anytime I consider taking care of myself in a way that takes effort like time and money, I often don’t do it. And this is exactly why an experience like The Creative Joy Retreat is so important. To me. To you. To the other women we care about. I cannot recall a simple instance when I regretting investing in myself. Not a single time. Can you?
With that said, I want to share with you an insightful interview that Marianne did with Amy Foltz who attended the retreat last year. I love hearing about her experience before, during and after the retreat.
Marianne: Amy, what would you say has stayed with you over the past six months since the Creative Joy retreat?
Amy: That it is about the little things I do to keep Creative Joy alive for me as much as the big gestures where I decide to do something for hours or days on end.
Marianne: What was it about the experience of the retreat that brought that home to you?
Amy: Well, maybe it goes back to why I found you guys. Basically something was missing in my everyday life. When I saw your retreat advertised I thought, ‘Wow, that just sounds absolutely glorious.’ Because I’d been living a lot in my head and in my hands, thinking and doing.
I wasn’t paying attention to the heart or what I think of as the whole body, that animating spirit of self-expression. The practical everyday had really taken over. So a big thing that I’ve taken away from Creative Joy is coming back to those things that are, I guess, what I would now call essentially Amy.
Marianne: And how does that make your life different?
Amy: It makes me a lot more connected and present to my life. I felt like I was doing a lot of things automatically and procedurally, and it’s like I’m actually here and doing things proactively. And trying to put as much of what is either my insight or my personality into what I’m doing.
Marianne: And so you say that Creative Joy, can be cultivated and sustained and experienced in the little things, not necessarily in the big things.
Marianne: Can you give me some examples? Like what are the little things that you do differently now than you would have before?
Amy: Well, I really make time for making things, and I pay attention to what it is that my animating spirit really wants to make, if that makes sense. Sometimes it’s words. Sometimes it’s pictures or colors. Sometimes it’s doing something physical like getting up and dancing or doing yoga, but it’s really ‘What does my whole being need right now?’, and understanding that it does actually need something; paying attention and being mindful.
Marianne: That’s beautiful. I love it.
Amy: Well, it’s made my life a whole lot more beautiful. So I love it too.
Marianne: It feels like when you saw the retreat, when you read about it, there was like already some degree of clarity for you of what was missing. Do you think you would need to have that clarity in order to benefit from Creative Joy?
Amy: No, no, not at all. I think one of the other amazing things I found about it was how impressed I was by a lot of the women who were already very in touch with that animating spirit; people who were incredibly energetic and enthusiastic and very open with sharing and expressing themselves. And obviously having a great time and wonderful role models for us; the small groups that we were in, I had four just amazing women in the small group that we met with who were really inspiring.
Marianne: So what I’m hearing from you is this is not just a retreat for people who feel completely disconnected from creative joy. Although it is absolutely for them. But it’s also an environment that could be really refreshing and nourishing for people who already cultivate this in their life, but there’s always room for more.
Amy: Absolutely. And the chance to get away to nurture it, even if it’s something that you’ve incorporated on a daily basis, the chance to really devote a whole period of time where you don’t have the normal responsibilities of day-to-day life helps you deepen those things.
Marianne: Absolutely. One of the questions a lot of people have about this retreat is either perhaps they don’t think they’re a writer, they don’t think they’re a photographer or perhaps they’ve never done yoga. And it’s all very well for Jen and Tracey and I to reassure people that there’s no need for any particular level of expertise; that these are simply tools we use to connect with our own animating force—to use your lovely language. But they might prefer to hear from somebody who was there. How did you experience Creative Joy in terms of the technical level of skill that you would need to have to enjoy the experience?
Amy: I think if you come with an open heart and an open mind and you’re willing to see what you can do, and not come in judging yourself, because ultimately the idea is that you can. But doing any of these things are an expression of yourself at whatever level you’re ready to do it.
I had not done yoga in very long time and was very nervous about doing that specifically, and it was wonderful. It was transformative for me to really remember that my body can do some of these things and if I ask it, it will do more.
The writing was probably the scariest because as a person that likes words, a lot of judgment goes into the words that come out of my mouth or out of my pen or keyboard, so really focusing on the joy and the process and not the product. And I think that was one of the things that Jen talked about and savoring the doing of it not necessarily for the sake of having some masterpiece at the end, but just exploring, expressing yourself.
Marianne: Yes. Jen has been a teacher for me in that regard. She really has a lot of insight into what gets in the way of our true creative force, and that desire to control the outcome, which I think a lot of us share. But it really does. It really blocks the possibility for what might emerge, and I think that’s one of the things that she teaches so wonderfully in this context.
Amy: Yes. And it’s there in the yoga as well. Thinking of these things not as an end result, but as a practice, as a process, has been a philosophy that I’ve tried to carry into really all aspects of my life. So when the perfectionist in me starts wigging out, I think ‘We’re just practicing. We’re just practicing. Look at the process.’
Marianne: Yes! I love the word practice. It gives me so much space in yoga and in meditation because we use it with both two beautiful senses. There’s the sense for me of being committed; when you practice something it means that you keep doing it- there’s a consistency in practice. But it also has that other lovely sense of rehearsing. It doesn’t have to be perfect yet, and I love that as well. I find those two things bring a nice balance between the kind of commitment that serves me, but with a lovely ease – without that sense of having to get it right.
Marianne: My last question, which I think in a sense you’ve already answered, is what changes do you think have taken place in yourself out of the experience of taking the time to be at Creative Joy this past summer?
Amy: Well, probably the first one has been how important it is to take the time to take care of yourself in all of the different ways that means: both physically and paying attention to that thing inside, that animating spirit that goes into every aspect of your life, your work, your relationships, your hobby. It really opens your eyes and your heart to life and not just going from day to day.
Marianne: Beautiful. Thank you so much, Amy.
Amy: It’s such a wonderful experience whatever people are coming to it for, and I think probably if you asked every woman, they got something different out of it, but something equally exciting for them. And I can’t say enough how great a time I had.
So much of what Amy said struck a chord with me personally. Especially the part of living and working in her own head and needing, wanting to be more in her whole body! I think it’s the story of my life. But, I am rewriting that story by participating in things like this retreat. Yay me. And yay Amy!
If nothing else, let me leave you with a very special invitation: To join Jen, Marianne and myself in a FREE mini-retreat of Creative Joy. You, yes you, can enjoy a small yet restorative does of creative joy right from the comfort of your own home on Friday, August 30th at 11am Pacific Time. All you need to do for the details is register with your name and email address on our sign-up page on Jen’s site. Easy-peasy. Oh, and by signing up, you could WIN free tuition for the October event. Huzzah! I sure do hope to see you there! You deserve this.