The Retreat For Which I Was Wildly Unprepared

When I was offered a spot on a Break Free retreat I was hesitant, at best. I had learned the hard way to be committed to offering myself time to retreat. The idea that time is required to recharge, to release pieces we have carried unnecessarily and reconnect with a true sense of self. So the concept of retreat, I was familiar with. The dynamic of a group, led by another, was new to me. In the end, I went with my gut and accepted. I chose to completely surrender, avoiding even doing research of the country to which I was traveling (one thing I do NOT recommend!) and placed my trust in the hosts and facilitators. In our pre-retreat one-on-one I told Dorothy, the coordinator and host, that I was going to allow her to ‘hold’ me completely. That I had no intention of holding space for others and would allow myself to experience her curated offering. It was utterly terrifying.

My first glimpse of the villa we called home for the week

I expected the intention to receive to be challenging to uphold. But when I arrived in Guatemala, a driver was kindly waving and waiting to drive me to our villa. I found a gorgeous home, the perfect blend of luxury and comfort waiting for me. My room was inviting and comfortable. I had a shower and when I mentioned feeling jet lagged and out of sorts Dorothy squeezed me gently and with a knowing smile, led me to the rooftop patio where a brilliant trauma-informed massage therapist was waiting to ease the tension in my body and was well equipped to hold space for any processing that came up. It felt like a dream. A dream that continued through every moment of the retreat. Before I could even realize a need and verbalize it, the hosts had already formed a solution. Before I could realize I needed rest, pool and sauna time (yes, both were present in our villa) were scheduled. I began to realize, this is the magic of Dorothy’s Break Free Retreats. 

I first met Dorothy as a colleague pursuing the same ICF Trauma-Informed Coaching certification. In those first few meetings, she scared the living shit out of me. We would enter a coaching dynamic and as the coachee she would begin to tell her story and break down into raw sorrow, pain and anger. She fearlessly expressed exactly what she felt – without apology. I found myself triggered, confused, a story filling my mind that her behavior was utterly unacceptable. Until one day, while she played the role of coach and I the coachee, I felt tears growing behind my eyes. I looked through the camera to her face and thought, well if anyone can hold this, it’s her, and the tears began to flow. I yelled. I howled. And Dorothy not only held me in perfect pressure, she celebrated my expression. Dorothy worked as a Child-Life Specialist, advocating for the needs of children as they underwent surgery and hospitalization. I believe this is a major contributor to her magic: my sweet misunderstood child self knows her to be safe, knows her to be a warrior on my behalf.

Yoga at Earthlodge where I was surprised to learn there are active volcanoes surrounding us

The retreat Dorothy curates is a perfect blend of luxury, space for emotional processing and physical release. Kind and stimulating yoga was offered twice daily within our own villa, nutritious meals were lovingly prepared by private chefs in our own kitchen, workshops (all optional) were available on topics like self-love and nervous system regulation. She lives in Guatemala herself and confidently led us around her own town, introducing us to locals and helping us feel like we absolutely belonged. Excursions invited finding an edge, whether via a hike, a cold plunge and sweat lodge or interfacing with locals in broken spanish. Dorothy recognized the healthcare provider in me, the instinct to control and care for others, and gently offered even more support so I would feel all the more held.


While each day I found more space within myself, I was blindsided by the true gift of such a retreat: the community. Here I found 9 other women, whom within each, I recognized a piece of myself. Each represented a chapter of my own journey and I saw my reflection in their shares, in their stories. Many years ago, I participated in a life-changing intensive group therapy program (a story for another day) and among these adventurous women I found a similar sense of acceptance and belonging. In the beginning I was hesitant of the connection, concerned to be seen, uncomfortable to share. By the end so many pieces of myself that I had avoided were brought lovingly by hand to my notice by these mirrors, these women, who surrounded me. We began to celebrate this moment in time together. We began to realize the value of accepting each other for who we are, at this very moment. We found peace in the faith for who each of us would become. Limitless support of our dreams, our intentions. 

Something old and wise within me perked up. I began to explore the magic found within the community, the value in togetherness.

Some may see my shares of the trip and find value in the sunshine, the gorgeous nature, the luxury accommodations. Yet the true value that I bring with me moving forward is this:

We need each other.

I realize, many wish to book a retreat and change their lives forever. Many wish to select the experience as a portal of transformation. I truly experienced these things and have been blown away to watch my life, my business, my world shift around the parts of myself I reclaimed within Dorothy’s loving embrace. And I think to surrender was the trick, after all.

My last day, returning a little more ‘whole’

My 1:1s are designed to hold heavy space for those who struggle with the asking,

so I’ve removed the asking from the equation.

Send me a note - and I’ll send you an offer of support.

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