I wonder how Byron Katie, Wayne Dyer, Debbie Ford or Tony Robbins felt the days leading up to their first multi-day event. Were they calm, cool and collected? Or , were they working late hours, constantly tweaking their outline, and HOPING all the last minute details, vendors and attendees would come together in the final hours?
Sure, I’ve led 2 1/2 day weekend retreats several times, but it’s something different to hold the space for an event spanning over five days in a remote location. And, any time I do something NEW for the first time, I always wonder if I can really pull it off.
Turns out leading the Inner Peace Immersion Retreat was a TRUE JOY! And, in many ways it was easier than I imagined.
I’m grateful for all the “prep” hours, Divine Guidance, my amazing team — and an extraordinary group of people committed to upping their “inner peace quotient” who took trains, planes and automobiles in order to attend.
As I reflect back, here are some of the things I learned, which will be forever engrained in my mind as I lead future events.
1) The Power of Sacred Space. Deep transformational work occurs most abundantly in sacred spaces. With the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it’s no wonder most people don’t allow themselves the safe space they need to drop into the vulnerable nooks and crannies of our beings. When “everything is welcome”, it’s evident that “anything is possible.”
Joshua Tree Retreat Center’s Noble Hall (our meeting space) brought the sacred energy of its countless previous teachers – Paramahasna Yogananda, Swamiji Vethathiri Maharishi, Ram Dass, Byron Katie and the founder of Joshua Tree – Ding Le Mei who taught over 220,000 students. This made it easy for people who’d never experienced inner peace before to access it with a little guidance.
Sacred space isn’t just about me as the leader either. It’s co-created by each and every one of the participants. As soon as one person opened to a new level of vulnerability, it gave permission to everyone else to do the same.
2) The Power of a Multi-Day Event. One, two and three day events can be transformative. Yet, something even more magical arises when you combine “sacred space” over a FIVE day period…away from everyday distractions and responsibilities, and squarely focused on who you really are. Drop in daily “morning meditation walks” in the desert, powerful experiential exercises, valuable inner peace tools, instantaneously returning to stillness, exercises provoking laughter and 3 guest presenters complementing the teachings – and well, the learning sinks in all the way to the bones.
Each segment and each day builds on the next, taking an idea and giving it attention over a period of days (such as selecting one of the 12 Facets of Inner Peace) – setting up new habits of awareness, exaggerating and examining unconscious patterns and looking at “invisible barriers” to receiving (including HOLDING thousands of real d0llars in ca*sh).
It was also eye-opening to see how people stretched when we gave them $500,000 in play money for the week.
Humbly, I couldn’t keep up with all the breakthroughs, but the faces at mealtime told the story. I’m now a huge fan of multi-day events. You can accomplish a lot.
3) The Power of Feeling Fully. Of course, one of the keys to greater everyday inner peace is aligning with “what is.” That includes aligning with reality, other people and yourself. Feelings are one aspect of ourselves and most of us are consistently resisting certain feelings – like overwhelm, anger, frustration or sadness.
As Debbie Ford describes, “It’s like trying to hold a beach ball underwater. Ultimately, it’s going to come screaming to the surface.” That which we resist, persists.
One of the participants has shared how “overwhelm and frustration” were big patterns for her. Now when those feelings arise, she gently feels into them – connecting to her body – and she notices those feelings aren’t lingering, controlling her.
As we learn to welcome feelings, we can learn to welcome anything – including our power. This is just one of the big takeaways I’ve heard from participants.
4) The Power of the Inner Peace Reality Check Process. I have a confession. As I’ve taught the Inner Peace Reality Check process for a couple years now … I’ve always taught it as a self-journaling exercise because that’s how I have used it in my own life.
Well, I invited my mentor Arjuna Ardagh to speak on Friday afternoon and evening during the retreat… so I slipped into participant mode (why miss out on “experiencing” Arjuna?). Sounds good, right? But, a funny thing happened. By the end of the evening, I noticed the “comparison” thing kicking in.
Would everyone love Arjuna more than me? Are they getting more value from Arjuna? Yep, I felt my power slipping away… (that’s NOT supposed to happen at your own event, is it???)
Fortunately, my team member Gaile was at the event specifically to support me and hold “space” for the group. So, I went to her. Sure enough, I was caught in “my stuff” smack in the middle of my event.
Gaile used my own 6 questions from the Inner Peace Reality Check process with me. I’d never had someone “coach” me through them … and, wow, it was quite transformative! Presto … back to my inner peace and power.
It made for a vulnerable share the next day as I shared this experience with the group in the context of another inner peace process. I learned it’s okay to have mini-breakdowns at your own event…and it’s even more powerful to share it openly with the group.
5) The Power of Team. There is no way to run a first-class event without a support team. This is more clear to me than ever. My assistant Sam handled a gazillion behind the scenes details (so much so I gave her a big bonus at the end of the retreat). Gaile Burchill held space for the room to deliver on the outcomes we set forth (and you already heard how she supported me back to my power when I needed it).
My husband John handled all the A/V, recording and sound (you should have seen all the wires in our living room earlier in the week!). Randy did a first-class job with music … and throughout the event captured key phrases, found an image on the internet and made 100+ slides to flash on the big screen – real time! Truly a multi-media event! (imagine a more Zen-like Tony Robbins’ event).
My volunteer team members were like invisible angels handling a myriad of details, from microphone running to leading the “morning meditation” walks and supporting participants who needed some one-on-one attention work through a vulnerable spot. And they coordinated the entire “Talent Show” on Saturday night. I have huge gratitude to each and every one of these remarkable souls … Neil, Cynthia, Karen and Col.
My guest speakers added dimensions to the retreat that I knew were vitally important. Lisa Schrader, a sacred sensuality expert, guided everyone into their bodies and allowed us to explore what gets in the way of sensuality in our lives. She guided us in giving and receiving “love” in a safe way most had never experienced before (and no … no one got naked).
Lisa, Mary and Robert after the retreat.
Arjuna Ardagh guided us in a powerful experience leaving participants connected to who they truly are. Friday evening we paired up, and taught a partner how to do one of our least resourceful patterns – and one of the qualities we most hide from others. Laughter ensued when we got to “exaggerate” these patterns in a humorous way – introducing each other throughout the room.
Mark Romero brought the wisdom, humor, brilliance and energy from his speaking and music … which offered a grand finale to our talent show on Saturday night. Throughout the week, Mark played his guitar during breaks to allow for deeper integration of the learning.
Our yoga teacher Barti – and Qi Gong teacher Byrom allowed us all to drop deeper into our bodies, thus underlining the importance of physical integration at a transformational event like this one.
And, my dear friend, Chef Becky Trowbridge kept everyone’s taste buds dancing, providing not only scrumptious food… but healthy food throughout the week. (One participant even lost 6 pounds!) On the first night, when everyone was raving about the food… it was fun to point to all the event recipes in the back of the manual!
There is no way to describe the experience of “being at” the Grand Canyon, a movie, or receiving a massage. Unless you’re there “experiencing” it – it’s not quite the same.
In the same way… words and photos don’t quite capture the “Inner Peace Immersion Retreat.” Whether you run your own live events or are considering joining us for the next retreat – I hope you’ve received some inspiration to take with you today about what’s possible with 5 day events … for you and for others.
How quickly can you return to inner peace?