I’ve already written up an information page about the retreat I’ll be hosting in September, but I really wanted to blog about it, to have the meandering freedom to explain just what this thing is and why I think it’s going to be so incredibly awesome.
First, the place. I’ve been visiting Santa Sabina for hourlong to weeklong retreats for over twenty years now. I stumbled upon it when I first went to a week-long calligraphy retreat (I used to be a calligrapher! Little known fact!) and felt I’d found a piece of paradise. Santa Sabina was once a convent for Dominican nuns and is now a retreat center. But the lovely simple rooms, the chapel, the courtyard meditation garden, the Hermitage (where one can be a “hermit” for a time!) are all a true sanctuary for the soul. Since then, I have spent days there writing, reading, sleeping, dreaming. Just being in this beautiful is deeply healing and soothing. So it is a dream of mine to be able to host a retreat there (where I have attended many).
One of the beautiful things about Santa Sabina is the many opportunities for silence, which is so scarce in our everyday lives. We eat our meals (except for final lunch) in silence. It is truly an amazing experience. Have you ever tried it? We will pass certain parts of each day in quiet contemplation. Some of us might write. Or sleep. Or walk. But it is a gift to spend a part of a day without having to talk (or listen!). It can be astonishingly rich.
I’ve changed the name of this retreat three times now. First, I called it “Body My House: A Retreat” which was symbolic of this poem which I love so much by May Swenson:
Question Body my house my horse my hound what will I do when you are fallen Where will I sleep How will I ride What will I hunt Where can I go without my mount all eager and quick How will I know in thicket ahead is danger or treasure when Body my good bright dog is dead How will it be to lie in the sky without roof or door and wind for an eye With cloud for shift how will I hide?
I often think about my body – is it my horse, my hound, my house, my prison? Then I realized that perhaps this title was too abstract and people might not have any clue what it was about. So I changed it to “Writing the Body.” Which led to some people being wildly enthusiastic (writers!) and other people feeling maybe somewhat intimidated (“I’m not a writer”).
So I’ve now come to “Stories of the Body: A Retreat.” How many times will this evolve before September? Only time will tell! Because my intention is for the stories to emerge in whatever way we choose. Many of us will choose writing. We will share some poems and prose about the body to prime the pump. But I want to stress that no writing experience is necessary. At all. There will be some writing prompts, and this may inspire some of us in a wordy kind of way. But the lovely thing about Santa Sabina is that it invites so many different forms of expression. There is an absolutely wonderful art basement with separate rooms and nooks for collage making, painting, papermaking, calligraphy, crayons, oil pastels, water painting (it vanishes in a minute!) and more. There are numerous places to just sit and BE. The weekend will be a place to let the stories float to the surface in many forms. A time to just be with these bodies and see what they have to tell us. I’m also planning some lovely opportunities for moving (walking meditation, an optional hike, and maybe some Nia or yoga). People who want to treat their bodies to a massage can do so. There will be times for sharing and times for being alone and quiet.
The reason I’m organizing this event is to turn to another, deeper facet of seeking health and wholeness. I want to go beyond fitness challenges and counting calories – all of which have served me immensely – to a more contemplative place. Because I feel like this is the piece that is most often missing when we are seeking health, weight loss, transformation – really understanding the stories we have been told , the stories that we tell and that we deeply believe about ourselves.
I am currently seeking some event sponsors to see if I can get some kind of scholarship fund together, to lessen the costs or perhaps provide some travel stipends if possible. If there are any event sponsors out there who would like to support this weekend, please let me know!
This is not going to be a huge event. Maximum participation is 35 people and we already have quite a few registrations. There is a deep discount for Early Bird registrants, people who sign up with a buddy and people who spread the word. Full details are available here. Comment here if you have any questions. I am so looking forward to this event, and I am hoping that you will join us.