I have had the honor of facilitating three Women’s Empowerment retreats with my daughter McKenzie Raymond. Our most recent retreat we hosted less than a month ago with eight women who committed to climbing a mountain and staying in a backcountry hut. This location was a bit more rustic than the beautifully appointed lake home where we hosted the past two summers.
Regardless of the amenities and the location the memories that continue to surface in my mind are the organic examples of simple and deep unconditional love that is modeled, shared, and felt on our retreats. I feel inspired to share these magical experiences with you. The challenge I offer myself and you is how can I/we create more exchanges of unconditional love in my/our daily life?
Unconditional love I’ve witnessed recently…
- I’m struggling to hike up a mountain with a pack that weighs 45 pounds. Hilda, whom I only just met less than two hours earlier, noticed and commented, “Your pack looks heavier than mine, let’s pause and let us divide some weight.” The lightening of my load through sharing the burden from one person to two.
- Witnessing two women who have only just met that morning at the trailhead, sharing intimate details of their life. Each with a cup of tea, settled into a cozy corner without distractions. I witnessed one sharing and the other listening with such presence and love. How did she do that? I saw her listen without the intention to solve. She listened with her heart. Quietly nodding, words and solutions were not necessary. The power of non-verbal communication that wove these two women’s hearts together.
- Throughout the weekend we had tasks; cooking, cleanup, building a fire, pumping and boiling water to wash dishes, rearranging the cabin to create our yoga studio. There were no assigned tasks or sign up sheets for the ‘to do’s’. I witnessed women equally sharing the chores. It was an amazing example of collective effort. I was watchful for the woman who was always jumping up to help clear or do the dishes. The ‘over helper’ who takes care of others before herself. (She is present in most of us.) If I noticed her, my plan was to gently invite her to receive and let others help. She never appeared. I witnessed women giving and receiving unconditionally without expectation. I witnessed each woman taking care of herself and the community with a common goal of self care, retreat, and collective participation. The chores got done with ease and grace. I was not aware of anyone ‘over-doing’ or ‘slacking off’. The power of collective community vs. competition and fear of scarcity of time or energy.
- On the climb up the mountain, I’m at the back of the pack with another mid-western woman of similar age. We are both feeling challenged by the altitude and thin air. We were quite a ways behind the main group. When suddenly we look up and see my daughter, and her daughter-in-law running towards us without their packs on. They approach us and say, “allow us to take your pack, until we meet up with the entire group waiting for us up ahead.” Wow, that feeling of unconditional love feels like a memory that will always be seared into my heart. To receive the gift of my load being lifted from me by my daughter. Allowing me to get my mojo back. The energy that I received from their gift of lightening our load, was oxygen for the soul. The power in the unexpected gift of an offer to help carry the load.
- The deep sharing between women who have just met. The common human emotions that we all feel. The differences in ages and stages of life; however the sameness of common fears we share. Noticing that it is safe to share the feelings, release the fear, the feelings of lightness as heavy thoughts are released and space is held for unconditional love to fill in the gaps. The solutions that are discovered when we carve out the space to be in nature and community.
I see retreat as a time to remember, witness, experience the power of unconditional love that is not cloaked with expectations and end goals. The ‘work’ for me is to play with offering similar heartfelt exchanges in my day to day life. A smile to a passing stranger, a helpful hand to reach an item out of grasp for someone at a grocery store, a friendly text to someone who may be feeling alone. We each can make a difference everyday. How will you choose to share today?
We are planning our retreat schedule for 2023. If you want to be added to our invitation list please let me know.
Susie Raymond, Catalyst Life Coach, Reiki Master/Teacher, Esthetician