Retreats Crack You Open


Alchemy for Personal Growth

Retreats crack you open. They bring you right up to the mirror and show you the rawness of being human. You’re exposed to the truths of who you are. You leave your everyday life behind and leap into uncertainty. All you know is the location you’re traveling to and your loose itinerary for once you get there, but you don’t know what experiences you’ll have or how you’re going to feel about them. This uncertainty, this unfamiliarity, is the perfect catalyst for learning and transformation. When a retreat cracks you open, light shines in. Everything that no longer serves you is given the opportunity to be alchemized into something true and aligned.

When I refer to ‘retreats’ here, I am talking about a transformational retreat that challenges you in a spiritual or physical way, as opposed to a relaxing getaway where comfort and pampering are the goals (that does sound kinda nice though...).

Retreats quantum leap you into self-awareness. Whether you’re accompanied by other people on a group retreat, or doing a solo journey, or a combination of both, you’re nose to nose with YOU. Your reason for being, your loves, your dislikes, your magic and your darkness are all staring you in the face when you step into a retreat. 

This is why people have gone on transformational retreats in some form or another as far back in time as we know: from the Dreamtime walkabouts of Australia’s Aboriginal people; to the far pre-Christian pilgrimages of Western Europeans to ancient Greece; to the pre-Columbian long-distance travel to Ayuhasca ceremonies throughout Central and South America. When humans travel for growth, growth and magic happen. It’s just how it works.

My First Retreat

When I was 28, I was working flat-out. My job had taken me away from home and into a situation where I was in action for 12-14 hours a day. My down-time was anything but: if I wasn’t out at a local bar with new friends, I was withdrawing with a glass of wine (or three) to chill myself out. Sleep and self-care dwindled. I was exhausted. I got in a couple of car accidents and my body was breaking down. I knew I couldn’t keep this pace up, but I didn’t know how to change up my routine and physical environment in a way that would enable me to slow down. 

Then, I came across a flyer for a x-day Kundalini yoga retreat held at Omega Institute in the Berkshires, and I decided to go for it. I took a leap of faith and jumped in. Talk about an awakening. I camped out in a field by a pond, ate super-clean vegetarian meals, and spent each day chanting and moving and crying my eyes out. I was cracked open. I couldn’t NOT see what wasn’t working in my life and I knew I had to change, or else continue to suffer. All my problems, all the messy things I had been avoiding dealing with or burying inside myself, were glaring at me from under a really uncomfortable spotlight.

Since that incredible first retreat, I have been on 6 more destination retreats in the US and Central America. Each one packed its own lessons: difficult travel, interesting (ha!) accomodations, food poisoning, challenging participants and especially, amazing content. I began organizing my own through my company Travel Asana, where I merge personal discovery with service activities

Personal Transformation

Nosara Costa Rica, February 201 8

Nosara Costa Rica, February 2018

Why are transformational retreats so effective at bringing you to the brink of a shift? Why are you more likely to experience a breakthrough when you’re simply removed from your daily life? For me, it has something to do with the lack of control I have over what happens and over my environment. When I’m at home, doing the grind, I always know what to expect: I know what’s for dinner because I did the grocery shopping, I can count on my schedule because I made it, and I know I will interact with my usual friends and acquaintances in a somewhat predictable way. Everything stays within my comfort zone, my routine, my sense of security. In other words, I can have relationships on my terms.

On a retreat, all that is familiar is stripped away. I’m hurled out of my comfort zone and left with only myself. How I respond to people, places and things brings all my human qualities into sharp focus: a crappy flight, an angry co-traveler, or an inedible meal could make me miserable – or I could choose to see these events as opportunities to become a more compassionate, more connected individual. When a retreat has a powerful agenda of growth, and I am able to work through my ‘stuff’; it moves even closer to transformational. I get out of my own way and can better see the ‘truth’. I can choose to either fight against the unfamiliar, or surrender to it. I lean in to the discomfort and welcome the unpredictability of each moment: fight, flight, freeze, or make friends. When a retreat brings me into nature, where I can connect with Source, I can process the transformations and integrate them in a profound and healing way.

New Life

Retreats have always benefited humankind. Many cultures have fostered coming of age journeys, rituals of isolation, or travels of collective growth. Knowing that the daily work would still be there when the journey is done, a retreat-goer would return to their ‘real life’ as a new person, and their ‘real life’ would, in some ways, be a ‘new life’ to be navigated. With new awareness, they would be challenged to put the insights from their journey into practice.. Perhaps we can all carry this wisdom into our modern lives.

Sueno Azul, Sarapiqui Costa Rica 2005

Sueno Azul, Sarapiqui Costa Rica 2005

Next Steps:

    1. Think about what you want to work on

    2. Consider what would make a retreat magical for you

    3. Where might you want to go?

    4. Ask the Universe to put you on the path to get there

    5. Join us in Costa Rica for She Thrives!

SHE THRIVES! Vagabondess & all-around power woman, Toby Israel and I are  doing a retreat called She Thrives! at Selva Armonia in Uvita, Costa Rica March 20 - 25 where we’ll focus on women’s empowerment, challenging asana, deeply restorative healing and service work with Costas Verdes, an organization devoted to repopulating the diverse Pacific shoreline with native trees. With this work and other crucial projects, we’re committed to reducing our carbon footprint and truly making a difference in the health of our planet. 

We’d love to see you there! 

For more details:

Interested in getting up to date info on upcoming retreats and service projects? Shoot me a line!

Acadia National Park, Maine 2015

Acadia National Park, Maine 2015

Kim Hall