Celebrating the New Year often symbolizes a fresh start and a new beginning for each one of us. We reflect on the year past and give gratitude for our successes, think about what we wanted to do but didn't or what we tried to do but perhaps didn't work out. We celebrate our wins and mourn our losses. We reflect on what could have been and learn to embrace what is. We think about what we want our life to look like and why we want it. We also consider the obstacles we face. We gain fuel from all of this introspection and look at the start of a new year as a way to think about our new plans and how to start putting them into action.
Similar to many of you, I thought about how I wanted to bring in this New Year. Where do I want to be? What do I want to be doing and how do I want to feel? Well, I decided that because I am in the midst of writing my next book (Change Your Story, Change Your Life) that I would like to be at a writing retreat. I searched online and found a Wellness Immersion Retreat, a retreat geared towards wellness through writing, yoga, painting and healthy eating. When I read the description of this, it sounded like heaven to me. So, I decided to give it a try. I knew that it meant being away from home, friends and family for the celebration of the New Year but it also meant opening up myself to a whole new experience, new friends and new energy.
This particular retreat was in Tulum, Mexico, at a gorgeous resort (the Shambala Petit Hotel) nestled on the beach. I knew I loved this place as soon as I saw the coziness and the community of the grass huts and the plaque as you entered the hotel that read, "We are what we think. All that we are arises out of our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world." Each night at dinner we saw the owner, Roberto Hernandez, who made all of his guests feel as if we were part of his family. It was a very unique and memorable experience.
Stephen Lloyd Webber and his wife, Jade Webber, headed the retreat. Don't be fooled by their youth and beauty, they are the real deal. The Webbers have had successful retreats like this one all over the world. Stephen teaches the writing part and Jade teaches a daily yoga and meditation practice as well as painting. They both participate in the critiques of the writing every night. Stephen and Jade started the retreat with asking each one of us about our goals. I eagerly told them my goal and hoped in my heart that it would happen.
Fourteen writers/artists gathered to drink it all in and satiate their thirst for the experience. I made plans to meet a fellow author and good friend there. We are both writing our next book. Upon arrival, my friend and I were taken to our room, which was gorgeous and felt like a giant tree house. It had a phenomenal ocean view. As soon as I saw it, I thought to myself, this is where I am going to write my book. I knew that with this type of inspiration, the words would come. I was right. Everyone else came by themselves, with the exception of a mother and daughter. So, we started with a group of strangers and quickly, through the experience, became an instant family.
Each day started with yoga and meditation. Jade often started it with a discussion before jumping into the practice. After that, we'd write some personal pages and then, go to breakfast (which we ate in peaceful quiet). So, we sat and ate our meals and took it all in with our heart and soul. Glances at one another were full of peace and gratitude. After breakfast, we'd gather for a discussion with Stephen and for our writing exercise assignments. Then, we'd write for a few hours before meeting for lunch, which was always a delicious new surprise.
After lunch, we'd meet for discussion and then go and write again for several hours before dinner. I'd return to our room, sit on my bed with the ocean view and I would let the words flow. Every night we'd meet for dinner, which was always comparable to what you'd get at a five-star restaurant. After dinner, we'd go through our critiques of what we wrote that day. I LOVED this part. There was no greater opportunity for me than hearing the voices of the other participants, which included some very talented writers.
I collected so many beautiful memories on this trip: the ocean in every shade of blue imaginable, men raking leaves, dogs sleeping, Mayan ruins, footprints in the sand, hearts opening, sounds of drums and techno, a child's laughter, stories being revealed, voices emerging, wounds surfacing, and healing beginning.
I set my goal when I got there. I wanted to write 15,000 words of my book. Through the journey of the writing exercises, the experience of the place, the gift of my friend's companionship, and the energy and stories of the participants, I was able to hit my goal. I wrote four chapters. I made new friends. I found peace within. I started the year with putting a plan into action. I highly recommend this experience to anyone who wants to go on a vacation and accomplish a goal. It was a beautiful way to end one year and start another.