Mindfulness Writing Retreat in Yosemite

All together, now!

All together, now!

The best, best, best thing I’ve ever done in my professional career was attend the week-long Creative Connections Mindfulness Retreat in Yosemite last month. This beautifully conceived retreat was organized by colleagues/super-women Tanya Golash-Boza and Zulema Valdez at UC-Merced and France Winddance Twine at UC-Santa Barbara. Words cannot express how life-changing and life-affirming this experience was.. but I’ll try anyway 🙂

Working on the deck.

Working on the deck.

Our schedule included everything from workshops, yoga, hiking, swimming, professional massage and meditation. Every morning, we got up around 6 AM for breakfast.  We were writing, in silence, by 7:30.  We prepared and ate healthy meals together, supported each other’s work and laughed incessantly — all in an incredibly gorgeous environment surrounded by natural, rustic beauty.

One thing I know for sure is that I would not have been invited to participate in such an auspicious gathering if I had not “come out” about my spiritual practice and commitment to holistic well-being via this blog two years ago.  Writing about my experience integrating mindfulness, self-care and meditation into my everyday life allowed me to build community with other scholars with similar perspectives. Those friendships, in turn, have fostered connections and opportunities I could have never imagined when I first sat down to pen this post.

One of the things that made this retreat such an incredible and unique academic environment is that it was a completely bullshit-free zone.  Amazingly, I was the only junior scholar in attendance (someone actually got tenure during the retreat!)  While everyone else there (with the exception of yours truly :)) was a senior scholar/rockstar, we all left our professional identities at the door.  There was no sense of “you should know who I am”, no “Dr. this” or “professor that”.  There was simply an assumed knowledge that everyone in attendance was valued and valuable on multiple levels.

This attention to creating a holistic space for creativity and productivity was evident in details big and small.  The conveners of the retreat selected participants with overlapping interests and areas of expertise.  Our small-groups were organized around specific themes pertaining to our research.  Every morning, we discussed issues of wellness, self-care and handling professional dilemmas. We worked together to cook delicious meals and keep our cabin clean.  The space we created was fun, productive, friendly and nurturing.  I wrote everyday, had breakthroughs with my book project and left feeling refreshed, invigorated, cared for, inspired and encouraged.   Most importantly? I left with new and renewed friendships as well as a sense of community unlike anything I’ve ever seen in academia before.

Here are some of the highlights…

Our lil' cabin in the woods.

One of our daily (7:30 AM) writing sessions.

The view from my room

Stunning views.

Our bunkbeds! Middle-school style!

Our bunkbeds! Middle-school style!

Breakfast!

Breakfast!

We ate very, very well..

We ate very, very well..

..and walked it off..

..and worked it off..

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I met a hummingbird and this stellar blue jay.

I met a hummingbird and this stellar blue jay.

 

 

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