My beloved annual Women's Goddess Retreat -- which held its first event in 2009 -- is a sacred pilgrimage for me. An act of cleansing in the holy waters of rebirth. I am washed there at the end of every summer with the saltwater of sanctified tears, blessed by a circle of women who are my Soul's Sisters. If ever there was a year that I needed to get away from the day-to-day stressors and just be among my Sister-Goddesses, 2020 has proven to be that year. And yet, with the cruelest sense of bitter irony, this is the year when joining together at our beloved Camp Midian could have been the most unwise.
I'm not really up for the Great Mask Debate or the "Maybe We Could Have Spaced Out Far Enough to Be SAFE -- maybe sorta" speculation. Just, no. We gather in August in the Midwest in a shady spot under the trees (so we don't burst into flame or great drenched by downpours) with about 35 of us in a 20'x40' open air pavilion. We spend 3 days and 2 nights there, laughing, crying, singing, and sometimes therapeutically shouting and shrieking. Aerosolized droplets are a thing. Move us anywhere else and nature would overwhelm us (me). Spread us out, and we can't hear each others' quiet confessions, can't feel each others' tender revelations, can't see each others' heartfelt empathy from across the Circle that is our container. And then, what was the point of having risked the contact -- if we didn't make real, true contact?
And honestly, I know we would have flung all barriers aside if we had come together. We would have hugged and held each other. We ached for it. Still ache for it. We're all mourning it, even now.
BUT! This isn't a post about the retreat that didn't happen! This is a post about the retreat that DID!
We didn't so much retreat into the woods this year, as made a tactical withdrawal -- into bedrooms and offices and sheds and whatever undisturbed nooks or slightly ignored crannies we could find in our homes for a "VR-WGR" (the virtual/online Women's Goddess Retreat).
Utilizing MS Teams (currently free project management software), we had our traditional Opening, Closing, and Great Goddess Circles, as well as 4 other Goddess Circles (each with their own lessons and activities), and 5 video calls at scheduled intervals to give everyone an opportunity to check in and chat. Some of us chatted and had video calls in the in-between times, too. We even set up virtual merch space.
I needed it. We all needed it. I know others who didn't partake needed it (despite being unable to join for whatever reason), and I plan to make more online retreats available in the future. We all got so much out of the format. Online retreats will never fully replace my own need to dive into the cleansing waters of renewal and rejuvenation that I get from my long-standing local community, nor will it for others who have that strong local bond. But I am so encouraged by the opportunity to bring something of real substance to people looking for the sort of deep work, real connection, and authentic experience that they know must exist but haven't been able to find near them. (This is what I am passionate about, in terms of event creation, you guys!)
So this year, I tactically withdrew to the bedroom my daughter recently vacated and strategically plugged in -- instead of retreating to the woods and completely un-plugging. And it worked! I got what I needed. I am renewed, refreshed, and reinvigorated!