It was months ago when my dear friend and I had dinner and talked about this crazy idea of taking off for the weekend to experience self-discovery by way of a Women’s Work/Life Integration Retreat at the Art of Living Retreat Center hosted by Jennifer Connelly of Triple W Forum. After discussing the program, the travel and all it would entail, we laughed and promised we’d investigate it, but honestly, we both knew the possibility of actually following through was slim for many reasons. However, the idea of experiencing clarity, centering and relaxation on the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina in the beautiful fall, continued to nag at me as the weeks passed by.
It was a morning on my way to work when the nagging turned into a question of “why not”? Why not travel to a mountain top of serenity?; Why not take time to focus on the one person that gets lost in the hustle…Me?; Why not go to a place filled with like-minded and inspiring women?; Why not go with the intention to find clarity for my heart, my mind and my soul? Why not? I couldn’t think of a good answer, so the second I shut the car off, I sent my friend a message and our journey began. Before we knew it, and after a few clicks of the keyboard, we were off on an adventure that would change our mindset, our hearts and set us on a course of incredible change.
It was an 11-hour drive through the most gorgeous scenery, filled with the colorful paintbrush of nature, and while it rained the entire ride, we barely noticed as we were engrossed in conversation, excitement and wonder for what was to come. Upon our arrival we were in awe of the view and the facility, which spans thirty acres of mountainous forest. After check-in, we explored the gift shop located near registration, and while entranced by the calming smell of incense, I of course, could not leave empty handed, believing I could read not just one, but two, inspirational books while we were there. We were then ready to head to our room which was a short trip down the winding mountain and, just our luck, located right next door to the Shankara Ayurveda Spa. We were pleasantly surprised with our lovely newly renovated room, comfortable beds and spectacular picture window that framed the landscape. Sleep turned out to be difficult only due to the anticipation of the weekend before us.
Waking Friday with excitement, as our schedules were full of 1:1 coaching sessions with Jennifer, massages, Ayurvedic lunch, and our initial group sessions with the 18 other women who chose to ask themselves Why Not? We were ready, even though we had no idea what to expect, but what we discovered is that sometimes, that’s the best way to make beautiful changes in your life. Walk without fear through the opportunities that present themselves.
While I want to include each and every detail in order to give all the events and experience justice, it may start to look like a novel, so from here on out I thought I would touch the highlights to leave some sense of mystery, so that, next time this retreat comes around, you ask yourself, Why Not?
TRIPLE W FORUM (Jennifer Connelly)
So, who was the brilliant mind behind this inspirational weekend? While I believe she would humbly list her tribe and her people, as we cannot walk our paths without the support of an army, our MC and our guide, Jennifer Connelly, showed up as a light for us all with breathing techniques, visualizations, yoga, including at sunrise, forest bathing and the Birkman Method, teaching us information about ourselves we didn’t even realize existed within. If I tell you nothing else about Jennifer, I will tell you this, she is without a doubt living in her truth, doing exactly what she was meant to do in this life.
The concept and flow of the events allowed for the program to be engaging, relaxing, and filled with tools for your tool belt to take with you on your journey home, and to think, she did it all right there on the mountain top. Facilitating the retreat with kindness and ease by way of her company, Triple W Forum, which she founded in 2009 as a way to provide a “transformative platform for professional and personal development for individuals and organizations” she provided an experience I will carry with me always, and plan to have again next year.
As part of the retreat activities we had the pleasure of being introduced to three wonderful speakers. Each bringing something a little different to the table, they presented us with thought provoking questions and practical solutions for implementing positive change in our lives.
Our first speaker was Walter Crawford, Personal & Life Development Coach at Crawford Corner, who with his easygoing and fun personality gave us insight on how expectations show up in our lives. We explored how to recognize these expectations, if they are fairly placed, how to assess their value, and understand that communication is key in managing any expectation in your life.
We then heard from Mary Beth Sawicki, founding partner at Trilogy Effect, a boutique consulting firm that works with people to surface potential. Mary Beth was a sweet soul who gave us a plan on how to face and resolve upsets and incompletion in our lives. Through her personal story (that I will be following up on) she took us through the steps of addressing our upsets by identifying, distinguishing and assessing the situation for what it really is, and moving forward in a positive way.
Last but certainly not least Ellen Burton, Leadership Coach of EJ Burton & Associates, and now Author of “The Civility Project: How Corporate Culture Impacts Wellness, Productivity and Profit” gave us her genuine take on Reverence and how kindness increases your prosperity. In an interactive presentation, Ellen took us through the emotional side of both a negative and positive workspace and how each affect productivity and essentially profit. Wrapping with the conclusion that kindness, respect and civility are the best practices for overall performance.
While each brought a special light to the group, we were also given the opportunity to meet with them one on one for the insight and advise in what was happening in our own individual worlds.
While I am beyond grateful for each of the events and people I have discussed above, the most incredible part of the retreat were the connections made with each and every individual who attended, participants and coaches alike. Getting to know the courageous women, and man, who showed up as their vulnerable, true selves is an experience that I will not forget. Inspired by their lives, their reasons, their passions, and their openness, my heart will forever be changed. Each of us there for our own personal reason, each of us there with very different stories, but all of us there to better ourselves so we can live as the best versions of us.
THE ART OF LIVING RETREAT CENTER
In addition to the Triple W retreat activities we also found plenty to do around the Center itself. Not the traditional cabin in the woods, The Art of Living Retreat Center practices and encourages the practice of Ayruveda, which in Sanskrit means “The Science of Life.” Ayruveda places great emphasis on prevention and encourages the maintenance of health through close attention to balance in one’s life, right thinking, diet, lifestyle and the use of herbs.
Specifically, you will not only find traditional American massage offered at the spa but the Ayruvedic massage therapy as well, which incorporates oils and rhythmic soft tissue massage that not only nourishes your muscles but also your nervous system.
Additionally, their food is an Ayurvedic diet, which is fresh (without pesticides, additives and other chemicals), seasonal, and as often as possible local. I was nervous about this part because I’m such a picky eater, but it turned out, the food was delicious, and it was even better to know I was eating clean.
Now, if you weren’t enjoying a massage or eating in the large beautiful dining room overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains, you could choose to attend one of the Center’s yoga or meditation classes, a guided tour of the grounds including a look inside the grand meditation hall, or make an appointment to create pottery (check out this post for info on Karen, who re-kickstarted her beautiful craft on one of these retreats), or hike the paths within the surrounding 30 acres of nature.
I really didn’t think there would be words to describe my weekend of self-discovery, but I sure did find them. To say the least, this trip was worth every cent spent, every schedule changed and every hour in the car. The experience was one I will carry with me as I walk in the version of me I like best, and I look forward to the next time. I cannot thank the coaches, Jennifer, Triple W and all the amazing connections I made on this journey as I was finding my truth on the mountain top.
Next time*, ask yourself, Why Not?
*November 8-10, 2019 🙂