Have you ever been in this place: You’ve decided you are going to host a retreat. You spend hours researching venues online, feeling the excitement build. You LOVE this! You picture yourself inviting your clients to awesome fabulous environments and ‘going deep’ into the work you love.
Hours turn into days and weeks. Maybe you don’t love this quite as much as you thought. Why does it seem the perfect venue doesn’t exist?
You book your venue. Perhaps you got some coaching (we have a great venue selection and logistics module in our online course!) and you realized that it’s OK not have everything be absolutely perfect. You’re excited about your decision.
Now it’s time to begin to fill your retreat.
You post about your new retreat on Facebook. Crickets. You get a bit suspicious. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea?
You send an announcement of your new retreat to your email list. Two people click the link. One person responds to let you know that she is happy for you that you are following your dream. You find this condescending and feel mildly triggered. You’re quickly compiling evidence that you were crazy to book that venue!
You are instantly aligned with an energy of money stress – how will you pay for this venue you booked?
But you have no fear! You know that Jenna, your past client, is absolutely perfect for this retreat. You designed it with her in mind! You quickly get a call scheduled with her tomorrow.
Tomorrow comes and goes. Jenna tells you she doesn’t really feel that the retreat is a good fit for her right now. Maybe next time. (But you know that NOW is the time, so how could that be?)
Fear, even despair, begin to take hold… maybe if you just sleep on it tonight… or for the next week…
When Your Retreat Goes South
OK so does any of this sound familiar?
Maybe you haven’t yet made a move to book a retreat, but you’ve had a similar experience with bringing in new clients, and you know it sucks!
Or does it?
What if the pitfalls you encounter on the pathway to that totally badass transformational retreat are actually something different? What if they are a gift? What if the experience that everything seems to be going wrong is actually the Universe attempting to get your attention and guide you into a divinely aligned experience?
This is what I believe.
The steps that don’t go as expected are actually the soul of your retreat speaking to you.
Enter the Soul of Your Retreat
So birthing your retreat is a little like birthing a child (or so I imagine). For some of you, you may even need nine months! This is rare, but if you are starting from scratch with only moderate urgency, nine months may be recommended. (For most the sweet spot is 12 weeks!)
Back to having babies.
I believe that so many of the issues we have as humans on the planet with finding fulfillment and joy started when we were children. In some small way, we didn’t fit the image that our parents had for what their child would be like. We were shamed or controlled and redirected in ways that had us question and doubt ourselves, and we became insecure adults looking outside of ourselves for someone to show us how we should be. At least I did!!
So now imagine that you are the one giving birth. You are so excited to welcome this new little soul into the world! You created it, and you want all good things for it.
And you have a specific list of what those good things are! And as it starts to form in your womb, you can sense it… you think you know exactly what this child (or retreat) will be like. You hone the vision daily!
The Retreat Is Born
Then the child is born. And some of the things you envisioned are true. And then you realize that others are not! You thought he’d have your eyes, but he doesn’t. You wanted to throw the ball with him. But he loves music and stares into space for most of the day. You get the picture.
As your child starts to reveal himself to you, you have a choice. You can embrace who he is showing you that he is, or you can continue to hold the vision for who you thought he should be. And, if you find yourself reading my articles, you are probably the type of person who vehemently believes in allowing that child to be fully expressed as the unique soul that he is, rather than attempting to control him and shut down his power. Am I right?
So why is this not also true of your retreat (or your business or your program)? Why is it so difficult to relinquish control and allow the soul of your retreat to reveal itself?
Because we don’t know that our retreat has a soul!
The Soul WILL Get Your Attention… Then What?
After hosting fifty plus retreats, I have had more experiences than I can count of some version of the story recapped above. It is generally not so dramatic (anymore). Yet with each retreat I host, I encounter at least one ‘pitfall.’ There is at least one moment during the creating, booking, filling, or leading of the retreat in which I am forced to pause, tune in, and reconsider.
The thing is that if you DON’T KNOW that this is part of the process, you won’t hear the soul’s whispers (just like in the rest of life), and you’ll likely create a disempowering interpretation.
When you create for yourself the perspective that your retreat has a soul, what happens is that in the time and space in between the initial vision, and the committing, filling and hosting of the retreat, that soul will show up and guide you to the Truth. It’s the Truth of who you are meant to lead, what is meant to transpire, and, most importantly, who you need to become to hold the space for that particular form of transformation. And each transformation is unique.
So the first step is to understand that Spirit already had a vision for this before it came into your awareness. You are the vehicle through which a profound energetic shift can take place for all involved. And your job is to surrender to the process, and to OWN YOUR TRUTH along the way. You can’t shy away from the job that is yours to do. Well you can, but it quite simply won’t work.
I’ve seen people shy away in all kinds of different ways, from creating an impossible financial goal (booking a high end space across the world for their first retreat… which isn’t inherently impossible but is surely a challenge!), to outsourcing the marketing to someone who totally doesn’t ‘get it,’ to holding back or dumbing down their message to try to make it acceptable to more people, and then diluting their own personal power. The list goes on.
Misalignment Equals Loss of Power
If you do encounter pitfalls and you interpret them as the truth… like thinking that person who you outsourced your marketing to knows best and if they can’t market it, it must not be right… or assuming that Jenna’s “no” means that everyone will say no… and you stay in that faulty thinking, you’ll have a misalignment that will completely steal your power, have you spiral down, and likely quit.
Sadly this happens so often, and it breaks my heart. Because with just one shift of the lense, the outcome would be phenomenal.
But if you could choose to interpret ANY, and I mean ANY pitfall as simply the soul of the retreat attempting to speak and be heard, you will find yourself gaining energy and momentum.
Alignment Equals Power
What if your experience with the marketing person was simply to be a mirror to you, helping you to see your own self-doubt, and transform it into an even stronger belief in what you are doing? If you can stand your ground with her, what else might be possible?
What if Jenna said no to your upcoming retreat because someone else is meant for that seat? I could share countless examples of my own experience, or my client’s experiences in having that one person say no that they really thought should be there, only to be on the other side of the retreat to realize that she would have completely not been right for the energy of the room. Recently one of our participants became sick, dropping out the day before the retreat. This made space for a local registrant to join last minute – she was in the exact right room when something happened in her life we could have never predicted. That space had been saved by Spirit just for her.
In To Me See
The reason that retreats can create a large number of challenges for the hosts is that retreats hold within them the unique opportunity for you, the retreat leader, to be fully seen in all your glory.
The challenges that show up along the way are divine opportunities for you further own who you are and what you are creating, so that you can show up and be seen (create intimacy = in-to-me-see). I deepen my own intimacy with myself every single time I lead, and therefore increase my ability to create intimacy in the room, which is what makes retreats so healing and magical.
The 3 Big Pitfalls
There are major stages that the pitfalls show up in.
1. The Venue. The selection of the venue holds loads of pitfalls that can lead to further alignment and healing. Releasing the need to have the perfect space and look like the perfect host. Confronting your money fears and your belief in yourself to put your ass on the line. Negotiating and asking for what you want and need. Calendars and selecting the right dates (perfectly of course). There are many beautifully designed pits of despair that can allow you to heal and grow, if you let them.
2. The People. Oh the people. You love them, that’s why you want to do this in the first place. Yet with people, there are so many opportunities to get triggered or to take things personally. Why did nobody click the link? Why can’t Susie make it? Joe told me it was a damn expensive slumber party. And on and on. The people, and of course the money they will pay you, also hold a whole host of healing within them! If you allow yourself to see it!
3. The Transformation. This last category represents the experience that you create at your retreat. Each person is different – I’m excitedly developing a quiz to help you pinpoint quickly the type of agenda that will be most aligned for your retreat – but for most people there will be stages of overthinking the agenda, preparing too much content, avoiding preparing content altogether, and all sorts of other behaviors. And then there is all of the ‘stuff’ that your clients will bring to the room that will contribute to the transformation that happens at the retreat (if you haven’t read it, check out my article on the 4 Pillars of A Container of Support to see why you are not as important as you think!) If you are following the energy and hearing the Truth your retreat is revealing, who you will BECOME in the process will be the exact perfect person to hold space for the specific transformation this specific group needs. The unfolding of the soul of your retreat, which continues during your retreat, can be a delightful surprise and the most fun you’ve ever had… if you let it!
My goal is to encourage you to take some breaths, loosen up, and commit to this process of having the soul of your retreat unfold before your eyes as you move through the pitfalls with grace and ease. If they are there for your own personal growth, they will show up to nudge you into alignment (“Oh, so maybe I’m not actually meant to teach MARKETING at my retreat, maybe I’m meant to teach ALIGNMENT,” for example.)
I have no judgment of the problems you may encounter because I trust they are a perfect part of your growth journey (especially if you have help to interpret them!). That said, it is also my goal to save you from making the basic mistakes, so you can focus only on the ones you need for your growth! That’s why I’ve pulled out Chapter 13 from my book, Retreat and Grow Rich(™) just for you. It covers The Top 10 Mistakes and How to Avoid Them. If you’d like to learn from my mistakes so that you can make your own, GRAB A COPY HERE! And thanks for leading!