Tag Archives: Mexico

Haven– Los Cabos– one “E” away from Heaven

bruno_3We hear the phrase “if you build it, they will come.” I take that to heart. I’ve built a lot of things in my life from scratch. Sometimes the soufflé doesn’t rise and the cookies burn. But sometimes my raw efforts meld into a delicious concoction, and last week in Los Cabos, Mexico, I swallowed it whole at the Hotel El Ganzo.

This hotel is dedicated to promoting the arts and artists, offering residencies, as well as being a fabulous boutique hotel gem in the more quiet part of San Jose del Cabo. (about 40 minutes from Cabo San Lucas)

I came early to have a personal writing retreat after a long Montana winter, and then lead a Haven retreat there with an intimate group of inspiring retreaters who swallowed the experience whole too. Ocean breezes coming through our modern, clean-lined classroom, lunches at the beach club and Container café with complimentary boat shuttle across the marina, a roof-deck infinity pool and bar, and our opening and closing ceremonies in a state-of-the art recording studio in the womb-like basement of the hotel.

It is rare to meet people who can combine top quality service with a commitment to promoting the Arts without it being underground/indie or exclusive, and El Ganzo delivered in spades. I’ve been leading retreats in all sorts of places in the last few years, mostly in Montana where I live. This was a truly rare Haven locale and whether or not you are interested in attending one of my retreats, I encourage you to build what your dreams want to build. And to believe that if you build “it,” “they” will indeed come.

Here’s a Q & A which might inspire you, replete with local, off-the-beaten-path info for your next trip to Baja:

Q: Welcome to El Ganzo, Laura! We are honored that you chose to lead your esteemed Haven Writing Retreats with us. Tell us how you found us.
A: I have been leading my Haven Retreats in the US, mostly in Montana where I live, and after working with hundreds of people in the rugged wilderness of the mountains, I wanted to take Haven to the ocean. And I wanted to do it at a place that would offer comfort as well as inspiration for people who are doing this powerful work. A local friend told me that El Ganzo offers a truly unique boutique hotel experience, and immediately in my research, I knew that with El Ganzo’s commitment to supporting the arts and artists, this would be the perfect place for Haven Mexico. I also was looking for a place that was relatively easy to get to, and even from my remote part of Montana, I still got here faster than it takes to get to New York!
Q: Tell us about the Haven Retreat experience.
A: Haven retreats are NOT for writers specifically. They are for anyone who wants to dig deeper into their creative self-expression. We have four intensive days of class, workshops, and activities that encourage people to go places they might never go in the realm of expression on the page. This sort of work causes deep personal transformation. I’ve seen Haven change lives over and over again!

Q: How has El Ganzo and this part of Cabo inspired you so far?
A: I’ve been to San Jose del Cabo before, and I love its vibe with its historical village, art galleries, great restaurants— from a small taco stand to fine dining, organic Farmer’s Market, Thursday night Art Walk, fishing culture, beautiful beaches. I like to stay off the tourist track and find more local things to do. In just the first few days here I’ve found deep inspiration both personally, and for my Haven retreats:
• I took a bike ride from El Ganzo to an incredible Sculpture Garden which inspired me to create a writing prompt to use on the Haven Retreat inspired by the surrealist Leonora Carrington.
• Went to the beach-front fishing pavilion where fishermen were bringing in the catch of the day, so fresh that the color of the Dorado still had some of its vibrant blue and yellow. I’ve always thought it such a powerful metaphor that as the Dorado is hunting, and/or fighting for its life, its color becomes more vibrant—almost electric, and then as it dies, it loses its color. To see the fish in the midst of this process inspired another writing prompt to use at Haven.
• Spent the morning at the local organic Farmer’s Market, reveling in the color of the produce—the tomatoes, squash blossoms, radishes, zucchini… We don’t have a lot of color in Montana in the winter, and this was a techno-color feast my eyes dearly needed. Sipping on Mango juice felt about as decadent as anything I can remember in recent history!
• Bought two pieces of art: one at the Farmer’s Market, a print of a 57 pound Dorado on a long swath of muslin, created by local artist Lyle Brunson …which seemed almost like a totem experience after my time at the fishing pier. (we will also use this fish print at Haven!) And at the Art Walk in San Jose, a painting of a woman surrounded by vines with a feather nest crowning her head. She is painted over the text from an ornithology book. It looks so much like my logo and what it feels to be a retreat facilitator, creating and holding the space for people to gain greater self-awareness by digging deeply into their self-expression on the page…that I’m calling her our Haven Patron Saint, Sister in Words. She will sit on our Haven classroom table for inspiration from now on.
• Enjoyed the velvety voice and soothing guitar of the local singer/song-writer Jaimie Martinez at the INCREDIBLE El Ganzo Sunday brunch! I bought all three of his CD’s and have been writing with his beautiful songs in the background. He’s like the Mexican Cat Stevens. Hung out in the El Ganzo basement state-of-the-art recording studio with its creator and curator, the musician Mark Rudin. We shared notes about how to ride the wave of creativity—they might take you places you never dreamed. Mark, a classically trained musician from California, and me, a writer from Montana…both of us, in addition to doing our own work, find ourselves in the powerful position of shepherding other people’s voices and styles. It’s work we both hold dear. You can enjoy this talented musician at El Ganzo on Thursday nights.  And met with the talented film-maker, Bruno Lopez Bancalari Regueiro from Mexico city who kindly shot a Haven video on premise.  (to be shared soon!)

Q: What you are doing is very unique, especially for a New York Times best-selling author. Tell us more about what it’s like to lead your Haven retreats, as a writer.
A: The writing life can be very insular. Writers, as with all artists, deal with a lot of rejection and it can be gut-wrenching. I’ve been writing for my entire adult life and I have lived in the trenches of “failure” and the altitude of “success” and I have learned that it’s all myth. The only real thing is the work. I know how to do my work. I like to say that writing is my practice, my prayer, my meditation, my way of life and sometimes my way to life. I think that creative self-expression should be up there with diet and exercise as far as lifelines go…and I want to help other people find this lifeline. I’m on a mission to help shift the tortured artist paradigm, to the empowered creative person’s reality!
Q: We are looking forward to hosting your Haven retreats. They are perfect match for the El Ganzo mission. Thank you for finding us!
A: I couldn’t be more thrilled. The staff here is so generous, kind, present—all the things people on retreat need to nurture them as they embark on this intense journey of self. The work we do at Haven requires courage, vulnerability, honesty, open-heartedness and much more. It is sacred ground when a group of people who might never meet each other in their regular lives, gather to take this stand for themselves through their creativity. I am careful with this sacred ground, making sure it will provide the nurturing and inspiring climate for my retreat attendees. El Ganzo and the people who breathe it alive are perfect for Haven. Dare I say, one “E” away from heaven!
Q: How can people learn more about your writing, speaking, and retreats and specifically who are they for?
A: Go to my website: www.lauramunson.com! I’ll see you there!

Haven was more than I expected. I knew I’d get so much out of it. I got that and more.

My intention in attending Haven was to free myself as a writer. Wow did it loosen the chains! I’m working on a book and am experiencing all the attendant self-doubt and stymie, having never written one before. I’d never even shared my writing before Haven. I’ve never in fact admitted to myself I am a writer. Through Haven I have a confidence I’ve never had, and renewed motivation, not to mention some insightful technical and industry guidance. I can now say with assurance, I am a writer, no matter if I’m published or if I just write for enjoyment.

Above all, the one-on-one time with Laura was priceless. To have someone of Laura’s accomplishment and talent read my work and offer feedback was a rare and invaluable opportunity. It is a ‘must-do’ if you attend Haven. From structure, to voice, to engaging the reader, Laura helped me find my way. The insight she offered informs and energizes my writing even after Haven.

The class exercises helped free my writing and encouraged me to actually share it with others. What a fantastic way to help you get out of your own way. Those group exercises were a safe and free zone to just play, as were the evening readings. Not everyone at Haven considers his or herself a writer, so there was a wonderful diversity of work and commentary in our group sessions. The different intentions, perspectives, and life experiences made the time together that much more powerful. Everyone brought and left with something different. As Laura once said to me, “Haven meets you where you need to be met.” She couldn’t have been more right.

I don’t know how long Laura will continue to offer Haven and especially the one-on-one time, but I count myself lucky to have benefited from her total generosity of spirit, talent, counsel and passion. Thank you Laura! Thank you Haven!– Heidi Knippa, Austin, TXIMG_0995

Top photo credit:  Bruno Lopez Bancalari Regueiro

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The Radiant Retreat– March 24-31– Join me in yoga and writing on a white sand beach…

So….you know when you have this idea? And it flashes in your mind and your rib cage flickers with heat. And you catch yourself smiling because you can see the whole thing play out in your mind like it’s being projected on the inside of your forehead? There you ARE! On a BEACH! With one of your best friends and a group of fellow journeyers, sharing and playing and doing yoga and writing. And there’s no judgement or meanness. You are free. For the first time in a long time you feel absolutely free.

And then in come the police. NO no no. You can’t go to that beach. Who do you think you are? You can’t afford to give yourself that gift. You’re supposed to be saving for your kid’s college fund. You’re supposed to be at your office on your computer not missing one deal, never mind one text or Tweet or Facebook update or email. You’re supposed to be RESPONSIBLE.

Well what if you can call a week in Tulum, Mexico with one of the best yoga instructors in the country and a New York Times bestselling author, and a group of kindred spirits…all coming together to inspire your body/mind to nourish itself…the ULTIMATE in responsibility? What is more responsible than taking a stand for your health–mind, body, soul? What is more powerful than making a deliberate move toward awareness and healing? Being blithe? Heck, maybe you’ll do a cartwheel on the beach.

It was the idea of that cartwheel (and no don’t hold me to it!) that got me thinking that I would make this investment in my well-being. My dear friend Jennifer Schelter, yoga goddess and so much more (read below), invited me to be the writing leader on this amazing retreat she’s been holding for the last five years. I saw the mental movie. Then I felt the police putting out that fire in my rib cage. And then I asked this powerful question:

What makes me most happy? Kind people. Writing. Beaches. Helping people to wake up to their creative selves. Moving my body around in nature.

And so after I told her the list of reasons why I couldn’t join her in Tulum…I interrupted myself and said, “Actually…I’m in. Count on it.”

We’ll spend our mornings in yoga practice.  And our afternoons at the intersection of heart and mind and craft that is writing.  We’ll find where we are stuck on the page and maybe even where we’re stuck in life.  We’ll do exercises that nimble the muse and tap into our creative voices.  We’ll breathe our writing ALIVE on a white sand BEACH!  I positively cannot wait.

Here is the info. There’s still space. Come give yourself this gift! Cartwheel not required.

The cabanas

The restaurant

Jennifer Schelter-- Yoga goddess and dear friend

Retreat led by: Jennifer C. Schelter

A leading expert on the mind-body connection, well-being and creativity, Jennifer Schelter was called “One of The Most Inspiring Philadelphians” by US Airways Magazine 2009, a “Real Goddess” in the “People Who Make the News” by The Philadelphia Inquirer, and “Best Yoga Instructor of 2007″ by PhillyFit Magazine. Her innovative work champions mind-body awareness and the integration of the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs for optimal health, performance, and focus. Her clients include Fortune 400 companies, Wharton Business School Advanced Management Program, and Authentic Leadership Training.

In addition to teaching Vinyasa yoga and meditation, she’s a life coach, playwright, author, actress, and entrepreneur.

Jennifer is the founder of Yoga Schelter; the premier yoga studio in the East Falls sections of Philadelphia and Yoga Unites®, a non-profit whose mission is to inspire individuals and engage communities in yoga, meditation, journaling, and dialoguing as tools for health and transformation. She leads over 1,200 people annually at Yoga On The Steps for Living Beyond Breast Cancer on the Philadelphia Art Museum steps and Freedom Plaza, Washington D.C. contributing to the success in raising over $300,000 in donations. In 2004, Living Beyond Breast Cancer Organization, presented her with the Community Vision Volunteer Award for “taking yoga off the mat” by envisioning and creating a one-of-a-kind event “Yoga Unites.” “Through her generous spirit, Jennifer inspires all women affected by breast cancer to breathe, stretch and move towards wellness.”

She is the producer of “am awake,” an audio yoga CD and DVD, “The Art of Vinyasa Yoga”, and is the founder of The Radiant Retreat at Maya Tulum, internationally recognized as one of the finest wellness destinations.

Amnesty International produced her one-woman-show “Love Lessons from Abu Ghraib” in 2009 at the Capital Hill Arts Center in Washington, D.C., the Regional Conference in Harpers Ferry, VA. and Haverford College. The show, recently produced by InterAct Theatre, received rave reviews on Radio Times, NPR in February 2011.

She loves her cat Shumba, and is currently writing a memoir based on her global adventures.

Writing Led by: Laura Munson, the author of the New York Times and international bestselling memoir This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness (Amy Einhorn/Putnam 2010) which Book of the Month Club named one of the best books of the year. It has been published in nine countries and has been featured and reviewed in Vanity Fair, Elle, Redbook, Time, Newsweek, Washington Post, Publisher’s Weekly and many other newspapers, magazines, and online venues across the globe. Laura speaks and teaches on the subjects of empowerment, personal responsibility, and emotional freedom at conventions, universities and schools, writing retreats/workshops, and wellness centers. Her work has been published in the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, O. Magazine, The Week, Huffington Post, Redbook, Woman’s Day, Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal, More Magazine, The Sun, The Shambhala Sun, Big Sky Journal and others. She has appeared on Good Morning America, The Early Show, WGN, many NPR stations, Hay House radio, as well as other media including London’s This Morning and Australia’s Sunrise. She lives in Montana with her family and horses.

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Last Day of Spring Break

Last day of Spring Break. Sitting with the kids who have the stomach flu in Mexico, and a husband who is looking green in the gills with a bucket by his head…wondering about the next 24 hours of our lives. I’m reminded what my author friend once told me. He said, “The only difference between not being published and being published…is being published.” I have wanted this for so long. Never dreamed it would be a memoir that was my first published book. Or that I would be the main character. But here I am—proud of the book and its message and of my husband and me for getting through a rough time and not letting crisis break up what we had spent 20 years creating. Tomorrow I will get on a plane with my family and go to New York to begin what will surely be the biggest ride of my life so far. Friends keep asking me if I am freaking out about speaking in public, on national television, on radio– and especially on such a vulnerable subject. And it occurred to me this morning that the truth is that success, just like suffering, is truly something that doesn’t exist outside people’s perspective. Our own perspective. I can’t wait to share my book with people and to meet my readers after all these years of longing for them. But the truth is, that this is all something that is moving through me. (the Doppelganger of the flu that’s moving through my family!) It’s not static. It will be moment by moment, person by person, book, by book. Just like the rest of life. And the real success lies in the creation of those moments. I hope I meet them with grace. I’m sure I’ll fail. I hope I’ll laugh when I do. I hope to meet you out there and to personally thank you for all the support.


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