Three must-have qualities of any transformational retreat

Posted on Oct 15, 2018

black man cuts white woman's hair in crowded street

I adore retreats! I have taken retreats by myself, from a Do Nothing Day at home to a quiet week at a state park cabin. I’ve also created and attended group retreats, both close to home and out of state. There’s something so special about setting the intention to simply “be” rather than “do.” To me, a retreat feels like lightness and freedom.

An intentional retreat from daily life feels like lightness and freedom.

There are endless types of retreats. Endless reasons you might want to take a retreat. What I most love to create — and the focus of this post — are retreats that have the potential to transform your life.

We’re talking about retreats that have the potential to transform your life.

Read on for three qualities a retreat should embrace to create space for its participants to transform their lives.


While solo retreats have brought me great insights, there’s something especially expansive about retreating with a group of others.

I led a workshop in April called “Life Lessons from My Dog.” (It was packed with some pretty stellar dog gifs.) I talked about forgiveness, authenticity, and gratitude. At the end, we shared our key takeaways.

One woman said, “I’m going to start a gratitude journal because I noticed I was the only one who didn’t raise my hand when Mandy asked if we’ve tried that!”

This wasn’t about me teaching a concept. She knew about gratitude journals! It was the collective experience of the people in the room that inspired her to action.

It’s about the collective experience of the people in the room.

Bringing together a community allows us to harness the group’s collective power, rather than one leader’s experience, to help each other take meaningful action in our lives.


I’ve enjoyed extended periods of silence by myself and with others. It’s always special. It might bring insight, connection, or even frustration — but something always comes up.

I once spent four hours in the city not communicating, verbally or with gestures. I did, however, set the intention to mentally and consistently feel love for each person I encountered. I’d engage with eye contact and genuine smiles. As I walked through the city that day secretly loving everyone I saw, I received SO much more love than what’s typical. An apparently homeless man offered me a hug, which I easily accepted. I felt safe. As we parted, he said — with zero creep factor — “I love you.” I’ve turned to that memory of feeling completely safe and loved many times since.

A transformational retreat provides space for meditation and silence. Magical things seem to happen in this stillness that our busy analytical minds alone can’t create.

“You cannot find yourself by going into the past. You find yourself by coming into the present.” – Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

Ways to incorporate stillness include ample breaks, guided group meditations, and an invitation to spend some time in silence during the retreat. For instance, this could be at the same time for everyone, or a more flexible setup where each person can flip or alter their name tag to indicate when they are practicing silence.


Not all retreats have been a fit for me.

A few years ago, stressed out by my job, I was excited to find a women’s retreat near Omaha. I noticed the venue was Catholic-affiliated. I’m no longer Christian, but I signed up because it was “open to all women.” I enjoyed walking the trails and journaling in my private room. However, the Christian-centric group conversations left me feeling like I didn’t belong. Even though the women had loving intentions, I felt eager to leave.

Each of us deserves and craves a sense of belonging. While there are benefits to retreating with people who share a common belief system, interest, or background, the most transformational retreats provide space for you, wherever you are on your life’s journey.

The most transformational retreats provide space for you, wherever you are on your life’s journey.

The topic of how to make an event inclusive is too complex for this post, but I will share one tip: clearly state upfront who all is welcome. For instance, I share who’s welcome and what’s expected prior to registration: “This retreat is open to anyone who identifies as a woman. It’s a judgement-free zone where we strive to make each other feel safe, heard, and valued.“

Join us!

Are you ready to transform your life while being treated all day long? Join us at my next retreat on Saturday, November 10, 2018. Be Your Own is about getting in touch with your own inner power. In this space of community, stillness, and inclusivity, we’ll explore how to be your own guide, leader, healer, and visionary. Read more and register here!