As of this week I will have taught 21 Well-Fed Woman Retreatshops.
I will have traveled, roughly, 38,445 miles over two years.
When I set out to circle with women, sharing what I know, I never ever thought I would travel so far, meet so many amazing people, or learn so much.
At the end of a journey like this I suppose it custom to check in and see what you learned.
Here are 21 lessons, one for each Retreatshop. Some are good to know for everyone, some are good if you want to travel and/or teach for work, and others are just for me to remember if I ever do it again.
1. The first time is never your best.
Poor Austin, Texas. I delivered a good experience. But there was simply no way to know how to do this until I did it. Austin was my very first stop and thanks to those Texas guinea pigs, I learned a lot. Things only got better – a lot better – from there. The lesson? You have to rip the band-aid at some point. All the preparation in the world can’t prepare you for the real thing.
2. Tears are a sign of impact.
I joke that I judge my success of a Retreatshop based on how many people cry. My track record is pretty impressive. Except for New York City. Those women wouldn’t crack even if we watched Beaches together while cutting onions. Nevertheless, have tissues ready. The truth is, you can’t really judge weather someone is having a positive experience of your event, but if they are crying, chances are you’re having an impact and impact is what I go for every time.
3. We need to hear each others stories.
The personal stories I shared, on most days, took the air right out of the room. Each person listening finding their own common thread in the weaving of my life and then invited out to share the things we too often keep in the back of the closet. It’s the kindred hearts, communicated through stories shared, that have stuck with me more than anything.
4. People are kind.
There are countless people who graciously opened their homes to me, fed me, picked me up from airports and dropped me off, and spent their precious hours helping to bring it all together. Most of these people I had never met before the day I descended on their city. I suppose I knew that people were kind before I did this, but the knowledge feels solid today, like a newly laid floor beneath me.
5. We are all the same.
It’s true. You + Me? Same cloth, cut up.
6. Sometimes the magic just isn’t there.
I didn’t hit it out of the park in all 21 cities. Why? Because sometimes the magic isn’t there. I can feel awesome. Be prepared and loose. Have enthusiastic attendees. Great weather and amazing food. And for whatever reason the vibration never elevated to a hum. Thankfully this was the rare exception, but it’s good to remember.
7. If you invite your mother, don’t sit opposite her.
Love my mom. Seriously. She is the very best. BUT…putting her in a chair opposite me doing my big thing. Not a great idea. I found myself analyzing her face the whole time (Was she liking it? Did she agree with my version of events?) and finally interrupting my talk to say “What is that face?!” only to be told “This is my face.” We all had a good laugh, but lesson learned.
8. Conference room lighting is the worst.
Avoid it at all cost.
9. Support independent caterers where possible.
In most of the cities this year I sought out small, independent caterers for our lunch. Every time they were reliable, enthusiastic about accommodating special dietary needs, prompt, affordable, and delicious. Special shout outs to Soulshine Kitchen in Andover, Mass.
10. Have an ice breaker with heart.
It might seem cheesy to start with an ice breaker, but it also works. When women come to gather for the kind of deep work that I facilitate they come with nerves. They fear the unknown of the day and are aware we’re likely going to dig into some pretty sticky topics. So, I start each Retreatshop asking everyone to share their favorite kind of pie. Immediately everyone goes to a happy place and common bonds start to form over shared favorites and sweet memories. For the record, my favorite is raspberry pie, double all-butter crust, with ice cream. Pie is holy.
11. Newsflash: Not everyone likes pie.
Every city had one person who didn’t like pie. I can’t explain this.
12. If you can have a dog in attendance, do.
Nothing makes vulnerability go down easier than a warm, soft pup curled up on your lap.
13. Invest in a suitcase you love.
The best money I spent, hands down. Thank you REI for making the 22″ Tech Beast. As I said, I traveled nearly 40,000 miles. Today, this suitcase looks good as new. I rarely checked it because it fit in the overhead compartment. I could lift it easily thanks to the many handles. It looks professional and fit everything I needed. So grateful.
While I couldn’t prepare for everything that was to cross my path on this journey, I did my best. I invested in the Transformation Speaking Immersion with Gail Larsen in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Cost a lot more than the suitcase. Also worth every penny.
15. Get credit cards that earn you miles.
Fact: most of my airfare was paid for simply because I had the right credit card.
16. Be selfish.
If I wasn’t out on the road teaching for myself, at least a little bit, I would have burnt out fast. If I had traveled that far and worked that hard out of pure altruism I would be a flat pancake right now. But I’m not. I feel pretty great. I did this to feed myself. I did this because I want to live as a Well-Fed Woman and I was hungry to sit with other women. I was hungry, so I set off to feed myself. Because each Retreatshop fed me (not just the attendees) I had fuel to keep going and arrived at the end so very satiated.
17. In person relationships trump internet relationships every time.
18. Don’t lie to the Canadian Border Police.
If you’re there for work, tell them. Trust me.
Canadians are nice people, unless they are border police and you lie to them.
19. Soul work takes time.
The first year I ran Retreatshops they were three hours in length. This is because a) I didn’t know what would work and b) I didn’t want to coordinate lunch.
The second year they were full day experiences. This worked MUCH better. Soul work takes time.
20. Presence. Curiosity. Love.
This is the invocation I did before each gathering. The three things I called into me. The three friends who supported me every time. They made all the difference.
21. The work I do is amazing.
It feels amazing for me and amazing for the women I work with.
It’s impactful. It’s imperfect. It’s authentic. It’s clear. It’s creative. It’s important. It’s totally unique.
I can say all of this wholeheartedly because unlike the day before I taught in Austin, Texas, today…I know. I’ve tested myself. I’ve seen the impact first hand.
I’ve gone into the arena, as Brene would say.
Here’s to the next 40,000 miles wherever they take me, even if it’s just a lot of trips to my kitchen table to sit, in my pajamas with a cup of tea, and write to you.
A change is in the air, can you feel it too?
My summer funk is so a thing of the past and this weekend, co-leading The Wise Body, Wise Hungers retreat with Anna Guest-Jelley was soul-satisfyingly good. I mean goooood. I’m ushering my Ease Huntresses through their summer to autumn transition and getting excited for my nephew to move from Berlin to the States next week. And, I’m writing to you on my long-overdue new computer where I’m in deep creation mode for you and 2014. Oh, and yeah, I’m wearing new, super awesome Warby Parkers…
Lately it’s just felt like it’s time for a new look. Something to punctuate what feels like a great and powerful time of transition…
Who’s ready for desktop wallpaper suited for being (or becoming) a Well-Fed Woman?!
I made you three versions, each in four sizes, because options are everyone’s best friend.
Each version has all four sizes in the zip files. Just click to download and choose the size that’s right for you.
Option 1 – Feast On Your Life
–> Download (zip)
Option 2 – Let Your Hungers Guide You
–> Download (zip)
Option 3 – What Are You Truly Hungry For?
That’s it really. It’s that simple.
It’s about the relationship we have with ourselves and with our hungers.
This is my work. This is my offer to you: deep communion with that which you naturally and deeply hunger for.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve mistrusted your hungers your entire life. I can help you befriend them today.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve made 99% of your hungers your BFF. I can help you to bring harmony to that remaining 1%.
I illuminate the relationship we have with our hungers so we can shift it to one that is even deeper and more connected.
From here, magic happens. Seriously. Life can taste so sweet.
I teach that how we relate to our hungers is the foundation from which a well-fed life is (or isn’t) built.
Do you wholeheartedly trust your desires? Do you fully embrace food? rest? touch? adventure? delight?
Are your career hungers and relationships hungers honored in your life?
Are you as well-fed a woman as you would like to be?
This is my life’s work. Let’s feast.
Last week I shared with you an interview I did with The San Francisco Zen Center about the upcoming Well-Fed Woman retreat at Tassajara in June. My hope was to let the Zen Center community know a bit more about me and to let everyone know more about what they can expect at the retreat.
Now I want to let you know more about the amazing woman who I will be co-leading the retreat with me: Dana Velden or Ikushin Dana Velden as she’s known in zen circles (Ikushin means she is a zen priest). In last week’s interview I shared how I met Dana and how the retreat came to be:
…before becoming a coach I worked in the Bay Area sustainable food community. In the summer of 2008 I was awarded a fellowship to attend a food conference in the Napa Valley. As part of the conference a large group of us were shepherded on a bus to a nearby vineyard and on the ride I struck up a conversation with woman seated in front of me. Low and behold it was Ikushin Dana Velden who I knew as the author of the Weekend Meditation column on The Kitchn website. I had been enamored with Dana’s wise writing and was thrilled to meet her in person. We’ve been good friends ever since and when Dana, who has a long-standing relationship with SFZC and Tassajara, approached me about collaborating on a retreat together, the answer was a wholehearted YES!
It goes without saying that to teach the Well-Fed Woman teachings alongside me you must be a pretty well-fed woman. Dana’s participation in this series is both overdue and right on time.
Dana, what are you truly hungry for?
Purpose, a more balanced life (both for me and for the planet) and a culture that is welcoming to diversity. Not just welcoming but excited by diversity, where all people can be celebrated and appreciated for whatever it is that they bring to the table. Also, this pretty corn-flower blue bike and the kind of life where I can ride it as much as possible. And maybe a backyard suitable for a few chickens. And a meyer lemon tree. And kissing. And breakfast. I always want breakfast.
What’s a craving that you previously denied that you now satisfy? How has that impacted you?
I lived for many years in Zen monasteries and training temples where the focus wasn’t really on personal adornment or an overtly feminine expression. I left my residency last year to step into the wider world. It’s been taking me a while to rediscover how to nourish and encourage my feminine spirit but last month I took a big step towards that when I splurged (really splurged!) on a bottle of perfume. It was worth every penny in that it reminds me to open up to a part of me that hasn’t had much attention these last several years. I think that this might be only the beginning as evidenced by my growing obsession for deep red lipstick. (The perfume is called Mythique by Parfums DelRae and it was inspired by Diane de Pointiers, the mistress of Henry II who is described to be a women of learning, compassion, glamour, and guile. Oh yeah.)
What are you a conduit for? What comes through with ease, meaning, and spark?
I am very focused on connection and deep friendships and the many people in my life. When I lived at Zen Center, we called it sangha which is the Buddhist name for the group of people you practice with, people who have a shared desire to wake up and engage with their lives in a more compassionate and wholesome way. I also really dig writing about food and the magic that happens in the kitchen.
Favorite bite in recent memory?
I recently wrote a post about the chickpeas stew with roasted egg at Boot & Shoe in Oakland and how it brought me back from the brink of despair. But I would add that the little picnic Rachel and I shared in early April with Il Facchino cheese on Firebrand bread was mighty wonderful, perhaps made more so by sharing it with each other!