I have wanted to create and lead a women’s retreat for many years. It was always in the backdrop as invitations had surfaced along the way. Finally, the right time came on the New Moon, March 30th. It was a remarkable and magical day—more special than my mind ever could have imagined.
You see, when we work on our dreams the seeds are planted in our hearts to support our purpose and beautiful things can happen. It reminds me of the following poem, which was read to 30 women from around the world in Banks Peninsula, NZ, where I attended my first retreat led by Donna Farhi, who has inspired my work:
You must give birth to your images.
They are the future waiting to be born.
Fear not the strangeness you feel.
The future must enter you
Long before it happens.
Just wait for the birth,
For the hour of new clarity.
—Rainer Maria Rilke
I have always said that it takes courage to live out your dreams. It looks quite easy from the outside, but it is not so. What has always moved me past that gulp and inner thought of, ‘Oh my goodness, what did I just sign myself for?’, is acknowledging and preparing myself the best I can. To move past it in mindful, positive ways, and as I learned in my 20’s from author Susan Jeffers to “feel the fear and do it anyway.” Instead, I listen to the whisperings of ‘believe in yourself, Paula’ and ‘this is what you are here to do. You are being called to step up and outside of your comfort zone.’ When the retreat was announced in the Ottawa Citizen, it was no different. But when I embark on my work with Uplift, I know it’s right. I get this overwhelming feeling of ‘I care about this,’ which is an important drive that’s constantly moving me forward. Along with the signs signaling right and left turns all pointing to this day, it was time and I was ready. (And so were the 20 other women who came together on this beautiful and blessed day!)
“I would recommend the Uplift Retreat to anyone who is looking for peace, tranquility and a way to reconnect with yourself and others as women. It was rejuvenating, inspiring and healing in a way that I never would have expected. I enjoyed every second and continue to feel the benefits of the day. Thank you, Paula.” – Tina
What moves me ahead isn’t necessarily all of the details, but it’s the vision that inspires me to go along and ride the waves—and sometimes the waves are, well, like the ocean, rocky and overwhelming. Sure, there were moments where I got in my own way and fear reared its head. I heard that negative chatter whispering words of worry and self-doubt. By allowing it to surface, I recognized it for what it was and happily moved on. At the fork in the road, when I was forced to stop, pause and breathe, I discovered it’s a blessing, something that I needed to learn to dissolve. But for the most part, when I was aligned with my purpose it was smooth sailing. What I learned through this process was a deep seeded realization: when there are rocky times working on the projects we care about, we need to fuel ourselves with self-love, as it will give us roots to fully awaken to our Unique Gifts, Wisdom and Inner Knowing. Earlier this year, I recalled a woman in my yoga class talking about this very concept of self-love, and that for her it was radical. I can also deeply relate to this; it is radical, yet so necessary on this path.
The retreat was a gift. It helped me to fully come into, embrace and express my gifts as well as to share them with the world. Although I know the things I’m good at, this was different. Now I’m stepping up and owning it in an embodied way, and that truly is empowered leadership.
It was a perfect day. Although it was technically spring, winter had returned and nature was telling us on this first day of the New Moon that we needed to go inside and rest in her arms for awhile. The message was to take moments of silence and refuge and listen to our heart by getting back to what we know deep inside, our most natural state. With the heavy snow came heavy hearts and heads—body, mind and soul. I felt the heaviness before we began; it was in the weather and in the planets, a certain palpable intensity.
As the women arrived one by one, quiet in their own way and not knowing what to expect, they were greeted with smiles, a cup of warm tea and a treat. To start, we all just hung out for a bit to get acquainted with one another before we assembled in a restored church dating back to the 1900s and located in Gilles Corners, ON, Canada. The soothing melodies of a warm fireplace crackling and the faint smell of burning wood combined with aromatherapy blends and lavender from the glowing beeswax candles filled the air. It was a feeling of warmth and welcome. When I sat and looked at everyone in silence, I closed my eyes and took a deep a breath. I silently prayed calling on my Angels, and as I felt their presence, it was time to begin. “Welcome,” I said. And in that moment, I felt like we were all in the right place and at the right time—it was much like coming home.
“I felt totally comfortable, and never like I didn’t know what we were doing, or what to expect, or indeed that I COULD be doing anything wrong. The language Paula used was always very encouraging, gentle and non-judgmental.”—Ann
So we began in a sacred circle to introduce ourselves and talk about what brought us there. We were from different walks and in various life stages, but every single one of us sat and listened intently with loving kindness and deep contemplation. There was a lot covered in that opening circle. The themes that surfaced were of letting go, seeking, being on the path to self-discovery, rest and self-care, to name a few. Tears came and there wasn’t any holding back. It was a tender authenticity of expression, a sharing of what needed to be said and voices heard in a safe space. This circle acted like a gateway for what was yet to come. I was truly amazed at the courage and vulnerability expressed; right from the start of the retreat, I felt such an honour to be an integral part of it all.
We then moved into a morning of profound rest, with meditation-constructive rest, somatic movement and restorative yoga—all to the nourishing and uplifting sounds of crystal bowls and Naomi Athena’s angelic voice raising the vibrations. We spent some much-needed, quality time inside just being quiet, resting for a while, letting go and creating a space for the new to emerge. After we awoke, there was time to write about what may have surfaced in this quiet space, which was done through guiding affirmations and questions of self-inquiry.
The comforting smells of the kitchen made there way down the hall and into the church. After blessings, we headed to the dining room for the Jeffersonian Lunch. We had great food and wonderful conversation. As a group, we pondered two questions that were emailed out to all participants prior to the retreat:
- At what moment did you become interested in the themes of the day (Feminine leadership, Self Empowerment, Self Care, Authenticity) and what brought you here?
- How can we move forward, building in practices like mindfulness, compassion, wisdom and feminine leadership into mainstream -daily life/work? What are obstacles and opportunities? How do we support each other, along the way?
The energy livened right up and something really special surfaced. Not only the sharing of stories, but also how we were all relating to and inspired by the new possibilities that lie ahead and were spurring us in new directions. At one point, all you could hear was laughter and all you could feel was a joy that had turned lunch into a celebration of sorts. I would like to think it was a celebration of our empowered feminine leadership. Our stories have an incredible power to inspire and uplift, so we shared the wisdom that had been dormant, waiting for this moment to rise up. We laughed and we cried. Things stirred and moved in the direction they needed to—without contriving or holding onto—and this led to powerful authentic conversations that uplifted the entire space and filled it with grace. It was quite glorious.
“Paula’s powerful guidance was delivered through a unique forum that was profoundly nurturing with its aura of femininity. She provided a quiet, reflective and restorative opportunity that challenged me to consider priorities and opportunities to increase the effectiveness of my personal contribution. The retreat provided an opportunity to strengthen my ability to stay grounded, focused and fulfilled -Sue
After a long, unencumbered lunch that included a celebration of discussions and the sharing of wisdom, we made our way back to the church where Naomi Athena led us through the breath work, voice and movement. So we breathed our bodies, igniting fuel to move in ways that were fresh and new by listening to and letting our inner wisdom and higher self lead the way. We found ourselves in a trance, moving in new ways that was supported by the music; we were going to the beat of our own drums. It was new for most of us, and it elicited this feeling of change. When it comes to change we naturally resist, but we did it anyway. Rattling our own cages awakened a joy within; we were saying ‘Hello, come on up, rise up.’ Then we settled, stood in a circle and harnessed the power of our voices in song. Through singing out, we listened to the songs in our hearts and beautiful voices emerged with power, clarity and grace. The room filled with love. After all, isn’t that exactly what the world needs?
Afterwards, it was time for rest with Yoga Nidra, which is otherwise known as yogic or psychic sleep. We nestled into our comfortable spaces, back to the comforts of home, as we lay down for a while and I guided the women on a journey. I lead them back in time to right up until that moment and then forward to envisioning themselves as older women who have lived this life to its fullest. I encouraged them to listen to what this wise old woman had to say at this point of her life. When I first heard her voice, many years ago, she said to me, “Paula, you are beautiful and loved. No need to worry, everything is going to be just fine, darling.” And then she laughed with a joy in her heart that lit up my life in that profound moment.
As the journey came to a close, we took our time to awaken, resurface and respect the moment by following the needs of our body and inviting our intuition to guide us. We refueled with a break where we focused on our intentions. After all, an auspicious time to let go of the old and embrace the new is during New Moon and the transition into spring. There was a lot of letting go on this day. Letting go and surrendering. We were ready for new beginnings.
Lastly, we journeyed back to the very beginning, as we ended the day with a sacred circle. We shared what had transpired and that where we had started was very different from where we had ended. It was a day of transformation that had given us all much more than we had bargained for. This is what happens when you allow things to unfold in spirited, compassionate and kind ways. We got out of our own ways on this day, and let it all happen. Everyone had a role to play. You see, we all have a role to play: to show up in this life just the way we are. And that truly is perfect. Accepting ourselves with great kindness and self-compassion provides us with the key ingredients to in turn support those around us in compassionate ways. Embracing these feminine qualities is what we so desperately need in our world.
We stood one last time in circle and chanted the words ‘I stand in my power and truth,’ and then one by one we burned our intentions in the fire. And off we went…
I’m grateful to have shared this day with you. It will always hold a deep place in my heart.
“Thanks for sharing in this beautiful vision. I know that this retreat is only the beginning of amazing work you are stepping into as a healer and visionary for our planet. It was a truly special day that touched the lives of many.”—Naomi Athena, Co-Facilitator