Women’s Retreats: Creating a “To Be” List by Andrea Cruz

Women’s Retreats: Creating a “To Be” List 
By Andrea Cruz

Sharing one’s innermost thoughts is emotionally intimidating for most, and mustering the courage to lay it all out there, not only to others but often to one’s own self, can be tough. However, doing so in order to grow as a person is often necessary.

Connection with others facing similar issues can be key to easing the discomfort of exposing personal truths. Local retreats for women providing that connection and outlet exist, and are led by visionary women who’ve felt the need to share their strengths in facilitating emotional growth.

Two such visionaries are Kelly Andrews and Maria Martinez. The Lakeland residents met through the downtown Lakeland chapter of American Business Women’s Association (ABWA). Both agree that their initial meeting and ensuing friendship has been magical – they share the same passions and ideals of wanting to help women reach their full potential.

Andrews, a yoga instructor and assistant dean of wellness at Florida Southern College, says she and Martinez felt compelled to offer something different to area women. She says at the time they met in 2011 there were an abundance of places offering yoga, business networking, or individual life coaching.

“But there wasn’t really a place for like-minded women to connect as a group and support each other,” Andrews says. “This is more than a networking group, it’s about self-care.”

Andrews and Martinez, a certified life coach, held their first retreat within a few months of meeting. They’ve since held their daylong retreats, “You From the Inside Out,” just about once every quarter.

Each retreat is held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on a Saturday in the Lakeland home of Andrews. A large, wooden space used for yoga during the week has picture windows overlooking a lush, manicured golf course. The tranquil setting is ideal, inviting and a “safe” space for women to open up and give themselves the gift of putting themselves first.

“As I work with individuals I realize that we all need somewhere where we can land, feel safe, and be heard,” Martinez says. “If we put ourselves first and feel good, then we can be even better as mothers, as wives, as business owners.”

In addition to group coaching, the retreats always include meditation and restorative yoga. Andrews says the yoga practiced is always complementary to whatever the focus is for the specific retreat.

“For instance, when we did love and gratitude I did all chest openers to open the heart center, so there’s more awareness around that space and bringing love and having gratitude and appreciation into your life,” she says.

Individual retreats have focused on topics such as positive living, confidence, bliss, energy, creating a vision, intention, being playful, and many others.

No matter the topic, helping women to be “authentic” is always a goal at each retreat. Andrews says sharing in a group setting isn’t as scary as it sounds. Many of the attendees have been to multiple retreats and are accustomed to opening up first, which then makes it easier for the newbies to share.

Whether they are women in the workforce, stay-at-home moms, or retirees, most of these attendees have found that, for whatever reason, this is the work they need to do at this point in their lives, Andrews says.

She adds that no two attendees are alike, and their reasons for attending a retreat run the gamut. Some are trying to overcome a major trauma they’ve experienced, while others are just busy, and are seeking ways to make friends and connect.

Lakeland resident Chrissanne Long has attended five or six retreats, and says that rarely has she felt so connected and comfortable in a room full of women.

“Maria and Kelly have created a space I didn’t know my soul was craving. I look forward to these retreats and always come away feeling refreshed. I almost wish they could be held monthly,” Long says.

Fellow Lakeland resident, Sylvia Colbert, echoes Long’s sentiments. Having attended all but three of the retreats, Colbert says that the safe place created by Andrews and Martinez is comfortable and sacred. She also appreciates her fellow attendees.

“The women who attend are powerful and intuitive,” Colbert says. “To have a group like this in Lakeland is amazing and I would suggest any woman who needs a day of relaxation and refocusing should attend. We all need to take care of ourselves so we can take care of others, our family and community.”

“You from the Inside Out” day retreats are $50, and lunch is provided. The next event, “Letting Go,” is April 12. The retreat on July 12 will be “Balance,” and October’s retreat will be on “Alignment.” For more info visit Facebook.com/YouFromTheInsideOut or call Kelly Andrews at 863-670-1717 or Maria Martinez at 863-899-2272.

Community focus has always been a top priority for Jane Waters Thomas, executive director for the Arts Ensemble Education Foundation in Winter Haven. A certified educator, personal trainer, and life and wellness coach, Waters Thomas has provided training and women’s outreach programming in Winter Haven and around Polk County for more than 10 years.

Her own journey began in Taking It Back in fitness and weight-loss. She lost a considerable amount of weight and gained a self-confidence and inner strength that empowered her to want to pay it forward to as many women as possible.

“I do a lot of workshop and retreat programming throughout the year in both Arts Ensemble and Boxing for Life (her fitness company),” Waters Thomas says. “My purpose and intention in every program is to provide strength, direction, and solution to the challenges and desires that individuals have in life. I specifically target women and teen girls as I am convinced that one woman working on self or in community can do a lot, but that when many come together they can do anything.”

Over the years, Waters Thomas has been witness to several life transformations.

“Several (women) have lost more than 100 pounds after workshop and life mapping, and others that have totally transformed their lives professionally and in community,” she says.

Retreats coordinated by Waters Thomas are offered for women in one, two, and three day sessions. They are done in small group sessions and focus on individual growth. A small group typically consists of 15 to 20 participants. All workshop sessions are done in community, while three and seven day retreats are held in beautiful, secluded locations in Florida and North Carolina.

Retreat themes have included “Centered and Healing,” which is designed to bring balance by practicing meditation, art, and journaling. “Turning Point” is meant to assist women in search of personal growth and life mapping for success. Others include “Community Outreach Leadership,” “Living Well,” and “Taking it Back.”

“‘Taking It Back’ is one of my favorite retreats and is only done in small group ‘get away’ format. We leave home for three to seven days and build personal strength by working out together, doing art together, and reaching deep within ourselves to map out direction for the next twelve months of life,” Waters Thomas says.

Her personal favorite part of the ‘get away’ retreats are later in the evenings, around the table, when the women share what they were really thinking during the discussions – or quiet times – throughout the day.

“Often in these retreats there are areas of personal growth and discovery when the entire group is totally quiet and I’m always thinking, ‘I wonder what’s going on in the heads and hearts right now?’” she says. “The moments when someone’s eyes fill with tears and it just isn’t the time to ask what’s happening because you know that they just experienced who they are or who they most desire to become.”

The 2014 retreat topics facilitated by Jane Waters Thomas will focus on Centered and Healing, Turning Points, Community Outreach Leadership, Taking It Back, and Living Well. For more info contact Jane Waters Thomas at 863-272-2258.

Becoming – or just being – are goals of the retreats of Bartow life coach and consultant Emily Rogers. Helping her clients find and live in alignment with their purpose is her passion.

Through her own coaches, Rogers herself found that a change was needed in her own life as a busy executive in the corporate domain. She started her own home-based life coaching and consulting business in January 2013. While many of her clients include businesses and individuals of both genders, Rogers facilitates twice-yearly weekend retreats for women at her family’s property on Crooked Lake near Babson Park.

“It’s always been a refuge for me, a place to unwind,” Rogers says. She believes that connecting with nature is key to getting back to that un-busy place that women crave.

The 3-day retreats are intimate with a maximum capacity of five guests, and have an agenda and framework, but not a specific theme. Rogers says that she prefers to find out what the commonalities are among the women who attend and go from there, focusing on what the collective needs for all of them are.

“We’ve explored things like looking at your wheel of life and is that in balance,” she says. “Also the bigger game board, and where are you in that game board and what your next move is.”

Rogers, whose personal motto is “busyness is overrated,” has been witness to many “aha” moments at her retreats. She relishes when women allow themselves me-time for the weekend.

“We all get so consumed by our ‘to do’ list and the things we’ve said yes to,” she says. “We just need to take more time like this to ‘just be.’ So, instead of creating these mile-long ‘to do’ lists, why don’t we create a simple ‘to be’ list?”

Each guest gets her own private room either in the property’s bungalow or cottage. The all-inclusive retreats include group coaching, restorative yoga, reflection sessions, inspirational readings, massage, and “experiential” meals.

Rogers says she is inspired each retreat by the energy of the women who’ve attended and the beautiful things they’ve shared. She says she’s learning from them just as much as they are from her.

Weekend retreats are as low as $475 if paid early. The May 2014 retreat is sold out but Rogers says the October (17th–19th) retreat has availability. For more info visit EmilyRogers.com or call Emily Rogers at 863-860-6036.