Wholistic Woman Retreats Celebrates 10 Years of:
- Wholistic growth – heart, mind, body, and spirit
- Loving and learning together
- Laughter and joy
- Overcoming fears and a few tears
- Encouragement and Celebration
My heart is warmed as I look back over the last 10 years of wholistic women’s retreats that we have created and led. I tend to be a forward thinker so a recent walk down memory lane, looking at photographs from our past retreats, left quite an impact on me. It stirred similar emotions as those I experience when I look at pictures of my children in their various ages and stages. I exclaimed over how much development has occurred while simultaneously fondly remembering the moments that led to such growth.
It’s good to see how far we’ve come as a community, and as individuals. Since pictures tell the story so well we will be sharing photos and memories over the next 10 weeks. We hope you will enjoy the memories with us as you see the smiles, hugs, and positive energy that flows from the faces of the women who participated in our wholistic retreats. Perhaps you will see your own face among them. We encourage you to share your memories of experiences with us over the years.
Our Wholistic Woman Story – 10 years in the making…
My most important lifelong lesson has been learning how to recognize, trust, and act upon the nudges God sends my way. The creation of Wholistic Woman Retreats has taught me more about listening to the nudges God places on my heart, the seeds He plants in my mind, and the stirring of His call within my spirit.
Our story began with a dream
As so often happens, the dream started well before any action occurred. The seeds of a retreat idea were planted in my heart about 10 years before WWR ever took shape. It began when I joined the Family Life Committee at my church and helped with the coordination of many family retreats at West River Retreat Center on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Many friendships were formed through those retreats, and an especially important one was with a young woman on the committee named Pat.
Some friends lift you up and help you to be all that you are called to be. Pat has been such a friend for me. When I went to life coaching school, Pat volunteered to be my ‘guinea pig’ and allowed me to practice my coaching skills with her. As I did so, I shared a dream that was stirring in my heart. It was a dream to take what we had done for the church and offer it to women in our area. At that time, I was going through a difficult phase of my life and divorce was on the horizon. As my hopes for a happy marriage ended, I entered a valley of grief and looked fearfully ahead at the prospect of raising my two young sons as a single mother. I felt lost and alone in this disappointing and confusing time. I responded to an inner nudge and began to reach out to try new things, lift my spirits, and make new friends. I reconnected with yoga, meditated, and explored spiritual practices that expanded my perspective, just to name a few. Feeling isolated, I even started to a side jewelry business in the evenings to get out and socialize with other women. In these years, I often felt overwhelmed and overloaded and realized that many other women felt the same way, whether they were single mothers or not. It seemed to be a universal female experience. My gift of empathy led me to deeply care about the challenges that I saw in the women around me, and which I recognized within myself.
I wanted to give those struggling women a break. The memory of the rejuvenating benefits of those family retreats resurfaced. I recognize that when we get away from the day-to-day grind we can truly rest, reflect, gain new perspectives, learn skills to manage better, and feel recharged. Once filled we return to our family commitments, jobs, and activities with renewed energy.
My early retreat ideas were of a physical place where women could gather to enjoy coffee, connect with one another, perhaps take a yoga class, or learn new life skills while their children were well-cared for. I envisioned a coffee shop/retreat center that would provide a haven for stressed out young mothers, empty nesters, and women searching for something yet to be defined. I visited various locations and my faithful friend Pat would sit in my car, sometimes in the pouring rain, while we talked about what was possible.
The dream, however, took an important directional change when my cousin asked a significant question one day. He asked, “Do you want to own property or be a coach?” I quickly knew the answer. My gifts are clearly designed for coaching. I’m a teacher, listener, encourager, planner, and cheerleader at heart. I’m grateful for my cousin’s question because it steered me away from the responsibilities of commercial property ownership and directed me towards leading retreats. Little did I know that it would also mean leading a retreat team.
At the core of my dream was the desire to support, encourage, and pamper women like myself, who give a lot to their families, friends, community, and careers. Women who needed a break, and a chance to refill their ever-depleting tanks. My strategic strength kicked in and expanded the vision to include massages, body work options and even shopping. I also wanted to offer learning opportunities where they could discover strategies to improve and more consistently be their best…however they defined it.
As my dream continued to evolve in my mind and heart, I started speaking about it to others besides my friend Pat. I was encouraged when women would say to me, when you have your retreat, I want to come. My heart was touched even more when, occasionally, some women would say, when you do your retreat, I want to help. Those statements were water that sprouted the seeds within me and from which this organization ultimately grew.
The story takes shape
In the fall of 2009 I went for coffee with a new friend, Jeanette Eleff, who was a fellow coach and entrepreneur. She was curious to hear more about my dream of doing retreats and she asked great questions to help me give voice to my vision. In the end, she summarized with, “Carol, I can tell that you’re a mover and a shaker. I want to help you do this retreat.” My response indicated the self-doubt I was feeling, “Really? Do you mean that?” You see, my top strengths lie in relationship-building. I’m better at connecting with people and thoughts than with actually making a dream become a reality. I have found that I need people around me who activate me into action. Without Jeanette’s prompt, I might still be thinking about my vision to this day. Her reply of “Yes, I certainly do mean it” changed my life and, as a consequence, touched many, many other lives.
Jeanette and I met throughout the fall to plan a day retreat for women which would be held the following spring. As we planned, I mentioned that several women had offered their help once the dream was in motion. We agreed to invite those women to a planning meeting. So, on a January day in 2010, I lit a cozy fire, poured cups of hot tea, and sat in a circle with five women who shared the heartfelt call to lead a retreat. Jeanette and I welcomed Kelye, Laura, Sandie and Lisa into our circle and in doing so the Wholistic Coaching Coalition took shape. In three short months we planned and held what would be the first of many wonderful retreats to nurture women’s personal and professional development.
To be clear, we didn’t plan to start a retreat organization. We simply planned a retreat. We agreed on the core principle that it would be wholistic – and purposefully spelled it with a ‘W’ to remind us of our intention to provide programs focused on the whole women – her body, heart, mind, and spirit. The first wholistic retreat was held in the Catoctin Mountains at a beautiful lodge known as ThorpeWood. We invited practitioners to offer their services, thus providing an element of pampering and education about alternative bodywork – acupuncture, reiki, massage, chiropractic, and more rounded out a day of reflection, learning new life skills, good food, laughter, and mutual support. Forty-five women joined us for this day retreat in the woods. For me, it was a dream come true as I walked among them, felt their energy, and saw their glowing faces. It felt amazing to pour into others and to have our offerings received with such appreciation. We were providing a gentle, soaking rain of love onto the thirsty soil of these women’s lives…and in doing so we blessed our own lives.
Some dreams are too big to do alone.
At the closing session of the first retreat, I reflected that I couldn’t have done it without the team of women who showed up and offered their assistance. I still believe that today, 10 years later. Some visions require a team to make them a reality. My dream took flight with Jeanette’s spark of encouragement and the subsequent team that formed. We co-created something that was wonderfully enriching for women. Through this, I’ve learned that I thrive when I am interdependent with others whose talents complement mine. My developer and woo strengths expanded to initiate partnerships with other coaches and business partners. My dream became a shared vision, and we went on to hold many kinds of wholistic retreats over the past 10 years. Day retreats, overnight retreats, evening retreats, and most recently a long-desired destination retreat to Sedona, AZ. Each wholistic retreat provided a platform for founding and partner coaches to teach their area of expertise and to provide the attendees with new resources, tools, and strategies for personal and professional development.
We believe that each program attracted the women who were meant to be there. Each one attracted the sponsors who felt led to support us, allowing us to offer enhancements that would not have been possible without them. Expanding from our home base of Frederick Md, we have held retreats in Virginia, Pennsylvania, other parts of Maryland, and now Sedona, AZ. Over the years, a wonderful community of women as formed. We refer to them as women-on-the-grow. They are busy women who know how important it is to take time to recharge. Retreats are key to sustaining their well-being and to continuing their lifelong development. Some of these women have stayed with us for a season of their lives, others came for just a single event, and still others have stayed connected to us throughout our ten-year journey. We have welcomed and cared for them all.
Our belief is one of attraction.
We believe that the women who are meant to attend our programs will arrive right on time. Personally, I believe God is nudging and/or calling them to us. I trust that they know within themselves which of our coaches and partners they are meant to connect with and to follow.
As coaches, we are skillful at meeting each woman where she is and accepting her for how she is. We practice non-judgment with open minds and hearts. We give encouragement and celebrate progress. We believe in life-long learning and personal growth. We teach tips and strategies to expand self-awareness which ultimately leads to more choices. With increased awareness we can decide if we want to continue what we are doing or if we want to make changes, either slight or major shifts. We offer an environment of love and support. Women soak up knowledge and deepen the roots of their own spirit in our midst. Hearts, minds, bodies, and spirits grow stronger and more confident in this rich soil.
This beautiful organization has been a dream come true.
I celebrate our 10 years of living, loving, and growing together.
I celebrate the original team, and the subsequent team which evolved as some women moved on and others joined us on this journey.
I celebrate the many coaches (both founders and partner coaches) who have contributed their unique voices and expertise to our community.
I celebrate the alliance partners who offered their expertise providing necessary business skills to support the smooth operation of this impactful organization.
Most of all, I celebrate the women – in all their stages of life – who have attended our programs.
I am profoundly grateful for the growth I have been honored to witness. Thank you for being part of my life lesson as I continue to learn about following God’s nudges and the calling He stirs within my heart. My soul bows to each of yours in gratitude for being on the journey together…then – now – and in the days ahead.