It’s been exactly one week since I’ve returned from the Guided Hermitage Retreat I hosted at the ARC Retreat Center in Stanchfield, MN. It began on a perfect October day in Minnesota. I pulled up the long driveway after an easy drive, took a deep breath and was greeted by the words, “Welcome Home.” I proceeded to unload my car full of gifts, binders and my massage table. I took all of my belongings to my room and continued to take many more deep breaths. The pace of this magic space gently guides one to sloooow dooown. After blessing each bedroom where my 6 guests would be staying, I placed a gift for each of them along with a welcome note. And then I waited.
One by one and then by two, they all arrived to the lodge. It was a mixture of hugs and tears of relief to be in a space of healing. I could feel each beautiful soul relax and yet also felt the anticipation about what was to unfold.
After settling in their rooms, we gathered for an exquisite meal. Each meal was intentionally prepared by the staff. The food was primarily vegetarian and absolutely divine! One benefit of slowing down is an appreciation for good food, great conversation, and honestly, yummy dessert with each meal. None of us went hungry. 🙂
The first night we met in the eaves of the library and set our intention on our communal altar. Each of us brought special items to be placed. Everything from elephants to ski poles. The tears flowed as we settled into the rhythm of our group. Some knew each other, some were family, and all of them were brave and vulnerable. We retired for the evening somewhat calm and ready for the next day.
We met the next morning for a silent meditation in the chapel. It was dark and we sat with each other until the singing bowl was done ringing. We emerged and headed to a delicious breakfast followed by a tour of the grounds. Suffice it to say, we each found our sacred places within the 90 acres of magic. From the labyrinth to the hermitage, from the cottage to the wooden swing, we were surrounded by another perfect autumn day complete with acorns and scrambling squirrels.
Monday was a mixture of intense solitude for each woman along with nourishing meals and healing touch from me. We completed our day with a fire burning ritual where tears and laughter flowed freely with the soundtrack of the hoot owls. S’mores were eaten in as many ways as I’ve ever experienced them too!
Tuesday morning we meditated, ate and gathered around our altar for the final time. The difference in anxiety levels from start to finish was palpable. The level of sharing and encouragement made me so proud and humbled to be amongst these great women. We completed our final group gathering with a song by Carrie Newcomer. The cd was divinely brought by a retreat member. In my mind Carrie is a combination of the Indigo Girls and Joni Mitchell. Yes, tears flowed easily.
As we packed to go home, the members of ARC encircled us and sang their ARC Blessing to us. What a special moment of prayer and thanksgiving. True embraces were shared and we each drove away in our own time with a trail of leaves following us home.
As I drove back to my home and family, I was serenaded by my new friend Carrie Newcomer. This song captures the essence of our time together: A Gathering of Spirits.
This is work I feel compelled to do. More dates will be released for 2016. If you have a group of women who are gathering, invite me. 🙂