The Grace of Retreating

Today’s Grace post is going to be a slight departure from the types of posts that I’ve been doing.  Instead of focusing on a way that I’ve found Grace in situations in my life, today I’m going to focus on one way in which I have offered myself Grace in my everyday life. Because that’s a big part of what Grace is all about. Like I said in a previous post, Grace is a tender mercy, or more simply, a blessing, and it’s something that we can not only find in the events in our lives, but that we can offer to ourselves and others each and every day.

Over the last few years I’ve really made a point to make time for myself. I’ve set about deepening myself spiritually. I’ve done a lot of reading and watched a lot of documentaries and listened to many preachers. My life coach training was a part of that path of time for myself. It was self-improvement and learning how to be an awesome coach all rolled into one. I’ve done a lot of digging in to my past and have really discovered who I am and what I’m meant to be doing in the world. This past year specifically, in the work that I’ve done with horses (I’ll be writing more about that later if you have no clue to what I’m referring), I’ve profoundly reconnected with parts of myself that I had left behind for one reason or another (Talk about a blessing – it’s like meeting an old friend that you had forgotten you loved and missed so much.). Another thing that I’ve done for myself is to attend retreats. This is something that I hadn’t done since I was a kid – and then they were associated with school and the Catholic Church.

The very first retreat I ever went on I was 13-years-old. It was a one-day event and a thing happened there that changed my life (for the better). I honestly don’t remember most of what we did, but there is something about getting away and connecting with others outside of the norm that is deeply powerful. This thing that happened meant more to me than anything that had happened so far in my life. It was so big I still remember it. {I’m not telling, sorry – some retreat secrets must remain thus.}

The next retreat I went on was my senior year of high school. It was a several day affair put on by the Campus Ministry Department and was a much bigger deal and was MUCH more life changing on a lot of different levels. It was one of the first times in my life I remember really opening up and being vulnerable with my peers. Really being seen. It also opened my eyes to really see different people, outside of my usual groups of people, and hear their stories and hold a compassionate space for them. Again, it was amazing and life-changing.

When I was 19, I went on a backpacking retreat in the high sierras of California (I’m third from the left in that photo above). Seven days of backpacking with a priest and eight other individuals besides myself. We hiked and climbed and camped and sang and prayed and cooked our own meals out of food we trekked in. We even spent one night completely on our own. It was hard work and scary and awesome. I learned a lot about myself on that retreat. One of the things I learned is that I can hold poop for a REALLY long time.

As an adult I really craved that experience of retreating that I had in my youth. I wanted to get away and do something for myself that didn’t feel like “girls weekend away,” but that felt deeper and more meaningful to me. Something that would enrich my life and bring me back to my marriage as a better version of myself.

What I found was Brave Girls Camp led by sisters Melody Ross and Kathy Wilkins, the founders of Brave Girls Club.  Camp was amazing and life-changing. {Are you noticing a theme here???} I went in May of 2012 and it was actually what sparked the teeny tiny little fire that led me to coaching. But that is a story for another day.

Since then I’ve been on THREE other retreats!!!

Here are some of the reasons why I think that going on retreats is such a blessing – why I consider them offering yourself Grace:

  • Connection. You meet people. A lot of retreats will say in their blurb that you’ll connect with “like-minded” women and they don’t necessarily tell you what that means. Well, here is what it means from my experience with retreats; people that are willing to go deep and learn about themselves, people that are willing to take time out of their lives to offer themselves Grace and that KNOW they are worth it, people that know they have to put their own oxygen mask on before they can help anyone else with theirs, people that are ready to shake things up and make some changes. Those are the like-minded that will be on retreats. And you’ll connect with them there and hopefully remain in contact afterwards. I sure have.
  • Rest. Someone will cook for you. Someone will tell you where to go and what to do, even if it’s “go take a nap now if you want.” We don’t get a lot of that in our everyday lives. We don’t get to disconnect enough to not be worried about the bills or the children/pets or putting gas in the car. On retreat you get to rest. No TV, no internet. Just rest. You get to only be concerned about yourself. Nice, right?
  • Play. Lots of retreats offer crafting or art of some kind. This kind of thing really gets you out of your head and is also lovely for creating connection with the other retreatants. You can take lovely walks or hula hoop or dance or splash around in a pool, whatever feels like play to you.
  • Change. Lots of personal revelation happens at these retreats and it can really be the kickstart for life changes. Plus getting out of your life for a while and coming back to it as a refreshed, fully oxygenated version of yourself is its own kind of change and a very good thing.
  • New People. You’ll meet people from all different backgrounds and places in the world and they’ll think and believe different things from you and that’s fantastic. I absolutely LOVE to meet people that broaden my perspective of the world.
  • Circling. One of my favorite parts of retreating from the age of 13 on has to be the circling aspect of them. There is something very powerful that happens when women hold space for one another. Magic happens. Being a compassionate witness for another human being is a beautiful thing. It’s offering others Grace for sure, which is such a blessing to ourselves. See how that works?

I wouldn’t trade the experiences that I have had at retreats over the past couple of years for anything in the world. I’ve been blessed with new and deep friendships and I’ve been witness to magic. I’ve laughed and I’ve cried bucketfuls of tears. I’ve sung and I’ve listened. I’ve eaten well and really, really bad (in the best way). I’ve been at the ocean and in the forest and across the Pond. And in all of this I’ve offered myself Grace in the sweetest of ways.


This is the seventh of 31 {or more} posts that I am writing on the topic of Grace. Please leave a comment any time about what Grace means to you or if you have any questions for me about Grace.


I am pleased to announce that I have only ONE spot left at my retreat being held in March of 2015. Click here and indicate your interest!

1 Reply

One thought on “The Grace of Retreating

  1. Kelli

    Beautiful post, Elle Jaye. I loved the way you explained what a retreat can REALLY do for you. I know your retreat will encompass all that you have become as a result of the Grace you have allowed into your life.

    Much love to you!

    Reply

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