If you asked me to describe Nine Retreat in 3 words I would say: vulnerable, authentic, and life-changing. It’s been several days since I’ve been back home from Nine Retreat and I can’t really begin to put to words what the experience was like. Earlier this year I remember declaring publicly that 2016 would be the year that I would get over my fear of public speaking and a few months later Kym Ventola reached out to me to ask me to speak at this year’s Nine Retreat. The universe and God have a crazy way of aligning opportunities and life together, when you ask for it.
For those who have known me for a very long time, they would remember me as the Joanne who had everything planned down to a “T”. One of my favorite mottos that I love to share is:
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
Some of these traits are still so very true, but 2016 has been such a year of dynamic growth and change for me. I’m learning to shed some of my old ways such as letting go of control on the things I can't and only controlling the things that I can control, which are my thoughts and actions.
In the early part of this year I started to define the things I did as relationships in my life. I realized that if I wanted to have a healthy life I needed to start looking at the experiences, people, and things as relationships that can help create that value of health in my life. I realized the importance of not only eating and moving for my health, but also including experiences and people in my life that would truly add to the relationship of giving and taking so that we can grow to live our best versions of ourselves. I came to Nine Retreat with an open heart and open mind. I didn’t know what my purpose of being there was to be completely honest. I was giving a talk on my journey and Life Balance: Incorporating health into a busy life. The 24 attendees and 8 other speakers are all women who live busy creative lives. By creative I don’t mean solely photographers or artists, but creators of a whole hearted living.
One of my favorite takeaways of Nine Retreat is this: we have to share our stories of struggle and hope. This is the only way we can learn from one another so that we can continue to grow. I left with so many great nuggets from how to improve my skills on compassionate communication to utilizing my strengths rather than putting the energy into strengthening my weaknesses. And even how important it is to share our mistakes in order to not only create a sense of belonging but how to improve our own creative workflow.
My absolute favorite gem of all is the realization that we’ve started to dismiss one of our greatest power as women, which is our intuition and learning to listen to our own truths. Often times we’ve dismissed what we deeply know about ourselves or others because of what society is telling us to be. We’ve come to a time in our society where we’ve started to seek outside validation rather than listening to the voice within that’s already saying, “You are beautiful. You are strong. You are enough.” How many times do we sell ourselves short to live just below our potential? How many times do we dismiss our truths in order to please other people and make them happy? I mean seriously, talk about mind blown!
When I take a step back to reflect on my life I think about all the times that I wasn’t living life lit. What I mean by that is doing or saying the things that were so deeply rooted in my heart because my gut says so. I think about all the heartbreaks I could’ve saved myself from if I had just been honest to the other person by telling them how I feel with compassion and standing firmly in my truth. Beyond the learning I was just so thrilled to be able to connect to other women who put down their guards, laid out their hearts, and gave to others as much as they were wiling to receive.
There’s already a date set for next year’s Nine Retreat in Vermont and I can’t wait to go back again. It’s something that my heart might need once a year to simply rekindle the fire that keeps my passions in life going. But until then I'll just keep all the memories of the conversations in the creek, the laughter by the late night fires, and the deep connections so firmly planted in my heart so that I can relive them over and over again.