Six highlights from the Inspired and Intentional urban retreat
Inspired and Intentional was a two day urban retreat I recently hosted for women who want to create a life they love – one where they wake up inspired and energised every morning, and go to bed feeling grateful to be living their life.
If you’re curious what the experience was like, here are some highlights and photos!
1. Time and space to reflect
Twelve women courageously invested in themselves and gave themselves the precious gift of time to come to Inspired and Intentional.
I admired and appreciated each individual for making this choice because it’s easy to be so absorbed in the relentless pace of modern life that we don’t regularly pause to reflect on where we’re heading. And we’re often so ‘busy’ and exhausted from meeting everyone else’s needs and expectations that we put ourselves at the bottom of the priority list.
Yet nourishing and investing in ourselves benefits us and the world. By showing up as the best version of ourselves, we impact others with our positive energy and we can give generously from a place of overflow rather than resentful obligation.
2. Making empowering choices
A key focus of the retreat was getting off ‘achievement autopilot’ and making more conscious choices. This involved examining and peeling back the layers of expectation, obligation, ‘should’ and ‘supposed to be’, to re-connect with who we actually are, and who we want to be.
We identified the roles or labels given to us, looked at how they differed to the roles we take by choice (our ‘self’ or essence), and discussed how the overlap between the two represents our ‘authentic self’.
We redefined success and fulfilment by going beyond what success looks like or what we want to get or do in life. Instead, each woman asked herself, ‘How do I want to feel?’ It was wonderful to see the range of desired feelings that emerged: joy, connection, ease, vivacious, daring, truth, courage, and many others.
When we are clear on how we want to feel, we liberate ourselves from comparison to others. Our energy shifts as we become aware that we have the power to choose and create our life, and we start to take small, deliberate actions to generate our desired feelings every day. Life feels more aligned, and decisions are easier to make. We enjoy the journey, rather than endlessly striving for satisfaction and hoping we feel fulfilled when we reach the ever-elusive destination of ‘success’.
One of the activities each woman completed was writing a letter from her future self to her current self. It’s common to turn outwards for guidance and not trust our own intuition, so this was a powerful reminder that each of us can access our own inner voice of wisdom or ‘inner mentor’ who can offer compassionate advice and inspiration.
3. New perspectives and ‘a ha’ moments
The women who came to Inspired and Intentional showed up with open minds and open hearts, uncertain about what our two days together would involve but willing to surrender and trust the process. This was deep inner work and at times it involved stepping outside their comfort zones which could be challenging or confronting.
But it was also richly rewarding, and one of my favourite parts of the retreat was witnessing these women expand, as they considered new perspectives or experienced the liberation or lightness that comes from clarity.
The flashes of insight and breakthroughs were different for everyone. Some felt the power of genuine gratitude after writing a list of everything they appreciated in different areas of their life and recognising what they already have. Some realised how strong and resourceful they are. Others faced fears or old stories, and let go of what was no longer aligned with who they are now or who they want to be. I shared with the group my own recent ‘a ha’ moment that has transformed the way I think and feel about asking for what I need or want.
One participant reflected afterwards:
“One of the most surprising insights I gained from the workshop is finding out that everything I need and want is already within me. I did not realise it was going to be such an internal journey - I thought I would need to look outside myself to feel how I want to feel. I realised it's all within me. I have the power to feel how I want to feel.
By getting clear on how I want to feel, life changes and opens up, and everything becomes clearer, much easier.”
The retreat was held on two consecutive Saturdays (12th and 19th of August) to allow time to process and integrate what we did on Day 1, and also offer the opportunity to play with and refine desired feelings before returning for Day 2. At the beginning of the second day, I loved hearing women describe the small or profound ways their desired feelings had already had an impact during the week – providing comfort, encouraging them to try new things, and developing deeper, more honest relationships with their friends or colleagues.
4. Sharing experiences
Several women commented that one of the most valuable parts of the retreat was gathering with other women in a safe, supportive space and sharing questions, uncertainty, reflections, experiences, insight and wisdom.
The women who attended were from various backgrounds and at different stages of their life. Single, married, with or without children. Some were early in their career, others 10 or 15 years in. Several women had traditional corporate jobs, a few worked for purpose-driven companies, a couple were doctors. There were different cultural heritages and religious beliefs represented. A few women already had a regular contemplative practice or periodically set goals; for others this type of reflection was less familiar.
Wherever she was at in her journey, each woman was able to share honestly with the group, knowing that her vulnerability would be met with compassion and she would not be shamed, judged or ‘fixed’. Sometimes we sat in a circle on the floor and one-by-one each woman was invited – but never forced – to speak. At other times the sharing and connection was informal, during breaks or over lunch.
Each woman brought something unique to the group. Each woman belonged, simply because she chose to show up. Realising how similar we are, despite our differences, was a potent revelation for some women.
As one of the participants said,
“I really enjoyed the feedback and energy of the fellow participants. I loved hearing about the experiences of the other women and could not have revealed my core desired feelings as robustly myself.”
5. Retreat space and atmosphere
After months of planning and preparation, and having considered well over 50 (and closer to 100) venue options, the Rooftop at the boutique hotel The Cullen in Prahran was our luxurious retreat space. The room was flooded with natural light and, with its location less than 5km from the CBD, had clear views of the Melbourne city skyline. There was plenty of room to spread out, with a couch, cosy chairs and carpeted floor providing soft places to get comfortable while journalling or relaxing.
It was wonderful to see guests enjoy the little details I had planned: Beautiful arrangements of fragrant flowers. Candles to create a cosy, calming atmosphere. Feelings printed on pieces of paper and scattered on the table as thought-starters. Coloured markers to encourage creativity and fun. A music playlist curated to facilitate relaxed focus and quiet reflection. Nourishing, delicious food. (Plus chocolate treats, of course.) And gifts to take home, because who doesn’t love gifts?!
6. Supporting, and being supported by, other small businesses
Huge, heartfelt thanks to the two local small businesses whose generosity enhanced the experience and created an extraordinary treat for the senses at Inspired and Intentional.
Hi Petal – Shannan and the amazing Hi Petal team provided 12 gorgeous posies over the two days to beautify our space and for guests to take home and enjoy. Hi Petal offer three different posy styles online every week, and we were lucky to enjoy all three styles during the retreat (…it’s hard to choose a favourite!)
One Fine Secret – I’ve used natural skincare and home cleaning products for years, so I was delighted when my brother-in-law John and sister Kayla set up an online store a couple of years ago that shared the same values, offering premium natural beauty and living products.
One Fine Secret kindly provided essential oil soy candles to transform the Rooftop into a nurturing and uplifting retreat space. They also gave each guest a Trilogy gift set and an essential oil blend from The Aromatherapy Co.
Each of the twelve women who said YES to a more inspired and intentional life. It was a privilege and a pleasure to guide you through this experience, and I look forwarding to continuing the journey with you.
The team at The Cullen hotel, including Stacey, the events co-ordinator who patiently answered my numerous questions and gracefully handled my requested changes; Adam and Jamie from Gramercy Social who customised a healthier (but still delicious!) menu for us; Stephanie, Nathan, the guest experience crew, food & beverage staff and housekeeping team who helped things run more smoothly and managed issues on the day.
If you’d like to know the next time I run this retreat or other inspiring events, sign up below so I can keep you posted!