In designing group experiences, there are factors you can control, and many more you can’t.
You can design an agenda that facilitates deep learning, but also allows space for connection and serendipity. You can obsess over printed material, exercises, and a healthy menu. You can Google Map the venue and surrounding areas to plot out activities. You can tee up teachers and friends to drop wisdom that compliments, or counterbalances your own.
But you can’t account for the beauty of the souls who answer the call to join you.
You can also choose a location based on how deeply its joyous, spiritual vibrations have affected you over the years.
But you can’t quantify the profound, time-bending experience that unfolds in a group of 20 people, or the miracles that manifest.
We’re one week out from my latest retreat: The Integrated Life: Design. Practice. Live It.
It was scheduled 5 years following the release of the Full-Life Integration™ manifesto, which laid out a framework to align your life experience with your work. You can read an overview summary of the 5 Non-Negotiables (Soul, Vitality, Family, Art, and Work) below.
My coaching clients are well-acquainted with The Audacious Question: What if I’ve been preparing for this my entire my life? It comes in handy when the magnitude of your ambitions exceeds your confidence, or preparedness.
In processing the joyous swells of energy that blew through our lives last week, it all comes back to who showed up.
Many are current, or recent clients. Others are fellow seekers, or teachers. We had a father and son who lead a 900-person company back in my hometown of Akron, OH. There were also entrepreneurs doing their part to save the planet.
Everyone contributed to the miracles during our time together. Here are just a few.
THE CARTWHEELING MIRACLE
Meet Shauna Wetenkamp. You can see her in the video above rocking the “Best Cartwheel Ever” (according to my daughter Frankie), as well as many other high-vibe shenanigans. Even though Shauna was a guest, she insisted on bringing her arsenal of Doterra essential oils.
She created spot-on custom blends for each of the 5 Non-Negotiables. She then created a custom blend for every other guest to support their ongoing healing and Full-Life Integration.
But there’s more.
Shauna was told by doctors a year ago she’d never walk without a cane. Her body was completely run over by a Ford F150 in August 2016. In taking responsibility for her healing, forgiving the intoxicated driver, she then doubled-down on all things mindset, affirmations, and yes, oils.
In April, I photographed this Spiritual Wonderbeast rocking a defiant handstand in the intersection where her body was flattened. I cannot make this stuff up. Picture yourself doing that in the intersection where you nearly died, just 6 months prior.
Shauna’s resurrection, and dedication to Doing The Work has been a constant source of inspiration this past year. Witnessing her power as a healer and source of Divine Light, I’m reminded of something my friend Ani DiFranco wrote in a letter some years back:
“This seems like an alternate definition of Art: ‘As 1 is healed, many are healed’.”
Shauna’s integration is a blend of childlike joy, deep wisdom, and seeing possibility in impossible circumstances. In her strength and by her example, Shauna has raised 4 extraordinary kids (10-19) whose gifts and impact reach far beyond her own. Imagine children who see a parent transcend such circumstances.
Shauna blending oils for Aaron Christopher Klein, our sunbeam
of a yoga instructor who led morning classes on the beach.
Doctors told her she probably wouldn’t walk again unassisted, but she cartwheeled through most of Encinitas. Here, in front of Paramahansa Yogananda’s retreat office. Paramahansa is the highest spiritual title, meaning Supreme Swan.
This retreat office is connected to the Self-Realization Fellowship meditation gardens. My beloved guru’s blessings permeate the earth here, and flow out into everyone and everything.
LAYLA: SISTER OF MERCY
Layla joined us from the Florida Keys. Her daughter Bella (12) crashed our morning meditation and popped in throughout the last day. Layla is a chef who had been looking for ways to create more meaning in her work.
Be careful what you wish for.
When recent hurricanes literally wiped her job, and much of her community off the map, a new path emerged. Layla and her partners were featured in the Miami Herald last week for their work providing healthy meals to their neighbors who lost nearly everything.
Her daughter Bella also happens to be one of the youngest certified yoga instructors in the country. During meditation, and our closing commitments ceremony I couldn’t help but observe these 2 powerhouse females.
Mom was meditating, with her precious–yet clearly highly-evolved–daughter. As we sat in satsang (informal discourse), their presence struck me. Who is the teacher, and the student? The mother, and the daughter?
They are willing to learn from one another, and our planet benefits.
Photo above followed a group meditation + blessing
at Wisdom Heart with Eric Klein and Devi Bliss.
Layla back in her community, delivering healthy food, hugs, and #HOPE to her neighbors.
FAMILY OF FOOD MIRACLES
TK Smith of The Kitchen Skinny demonstrates plant-based, organic meal prep for a family of 4. TK and his wife Karen Friend Smith became close allies back in 2012. Karen partnered with me to provide healthy, happy food for our guests.
Their online library of 130+ menus with accompanying shopping lists are incredible. Both husband and wife support many others through coaching, and TK runs a transformative corporate wellness program. Both of their daughters are following suit in the culinary arts.
Admittedly, the thought of providing food for 20 guests was both daunting and stressful for me. Karen and TK are geniuses when it comes to navigating the overwhelm of food shopping, and cooking. By using their organizing principles for the shopping lists, we hit 4 stores in under 2 hours, and spent less than I did in Ohio for my first retreat last year.
And, I found the food to be overall healthier and more satisfying.
Even better, the guests got a chance to learn how simple it should be to do this at home.
THE MIRACLE OF RETREAT
The retreat experience delivers on the consistent failure of social media. I’ve always dreamed of gathering some favorite clients, teachers, and Rad Humans across all areas of my life. The intention to connect them to one another was my motivation.
By the last evening, this gorgeous crew was hanging (and dying laughing) like we had been up drinking together for 3 days straight. Except, it was only about meditation, wisdom and connection.
There was no booze, media, or gadgets.
An soul-centered exective was reading tarot to a CEO, while Shauna blended oils to uplift and heal everyone. Blanca was feverishly completing her workbook of Integration Points, while others had deep conversations.
The Vibe was Completely Other Level.
In that moment I was able to hang back, and quietly play my guitar thinking: my work is done here.
The real work of retreat isn’t creating a bubble from the outside world. It’s taking that loving awareness and calm center home with you. On our group follow-up calls we’ve been sharing what’s working, and where the struggles are.
Many in our group have had significant shifts over the past couple weeks, and everyone seems to be showing up differently in their work.
SNAPSHOT OF THE CONTENT
Out of all my adventures in corporate, adult learning + curriculum design were the most powerful.
A MIRACLE IN FULL-CIRCLE HD
I lovingly refer to this nook of Yogananda’s meditation gardens as my office. It’s rarely vacant because of The Vibes. But not this week. Each time I needed it, it was waiting.
On my way out of town, I stopped to say goodbye. Yogananda’s presence here reminds me how far I’ve traveled, or where I haven’t budged an inch since I last stood in this spot.
All the passion, the struggle, the allowing, the belly-laughs, and hard work caught up with me. I sobbed tears of victory. The gardens are outwardly silent, but inwardly I screamed to the ocean: “Jai, Guru!” (Victory to the Guru)
Absorbing the sunlight and salt air through upraised palms, I remembered living this moment already. I embodied it, in March 2015 at an Unleash The Power Within event. Tony Robbins was screaming about envisioning complete victory, and how that would feel in our bodies.
At that time I was still working in corporate and feeling largely outgrown in my current role. Our family had also outgrown our home. The vision I had was of myself standing on this cliff. I was now a spiritual teacher, splitting time between Encinitas, and a dream home in the woods in Akron, OH.
Students and clients were around me, and I was facilitating staggering levels of impact on the internal and external levels.
The 2+ years realizing this vision has been anything but easy. Transformation is alternately exhilarating and terrifying. My soul is firmly established in my work as a spiritual teacher, and my clients and allies continue to drop like angels onto my path.
The reason I have everyone memorize their Lens Statements and recite them multiple times a day is to hold their vision. We still can’t see around any corners, and often change course when something spooks us.
This particular dream of a 20-person dive into the Full-Life Integration™ Manifesto was the most extraordinary, crazy, hilarious, and Deep Heart event.
I’m grateful to each guest who made the trek from around the country, and took my requirements seriously: “We’re gonna have FUN, but we gotta go DEEP.”
It was YOU who delivered on that vision.
And it’s only the beginning. There will be two 20-person retreats in 2018. Learn more, and join the early registration list.
Watch the recap video at the top, or here.
THIS NOTE IS EVERYTHING.
All I create is through Gurudev’s grace and guidance.
Lately I’ve felt like his little toy he left behind for people to play with.