Tag Archives: retreats

Write to Live. Write in Community. Write Because You Can’t Not.

IMG_1507Previously published by Adam Wahlburg from Think Piece Press.

I have written my way through crisis many times in my life.  One of those times resulted in a best-selling book that was published in nine countries.  Most of the other stuff is in my journals.  I believe that writing is a deeply healing tool.  I recently had a conversation with a book editor who specializes in books written about crisis and healing.  I’d like to share it with you because he asked really great questions and got my brain digging deep.

If you are considering writing your way though a crisis in your life, not just for your journals, here are some things to consider:

TP: The book is so skillful about identifying what’s really going on underneath the words, which is so hard to do. How did you arrive at such insights?

LM: Years of therapy! (Laughs.) Seriously. It also came from dealing with years of rejection from publishers and editors. When you get a form letter from the publishing world, it often reads like this: “This does not meet our needs at this time.” Right? It’s just the life of the writer. But I would take that  personally. In two seconds you can take that form rejection letter to, I’m a bad writer, I have no talent, I’m never going to get published, I can’t believe she got published and I didn’t. All that junk. And all that does is bring one into an intense world of suffering, and I had gotten very tired of that suffering. I had to tell myself a new story. And with the help of a great therapist I learned to find a gap between the things that people say and do and my emotional reaction to it. Whether it’s a publisher or a husband!  We have choices emotionally, and that is new news to a lot of people. It was to me.  We don’t have to be emotional victims.

TP: You write so clearly about being aware of your negative self-talk, which is a battle in and of itself, for so many of us.

LM: It is. We all have one of those negative voices and he or she is loud. By the time you become middle-aged, the voice is usually saying really mean things, things you wouldn’t say to your worst enemy. Many of us aren’t even aware of the way we speak to ourselves in our own mind. When you start tuning in, it really helps you to understand how much of a corrosive climate we have in our own minds. We walk around saying such cruel things to ourselves and it becomes our normal. Finding the awareness of what goes on in our minds and seeing how we’re suffering and putting a stop to it is the practice. It’s not going to happen overnight. We have to be able to develop a payoff.

TP: What do you mean by that?

LM: Well, you’re not going to spend your whole life walking around saying, Oh I love myself! My life is great! That would be dandy, but for most of us that’s just not going to happen. When we can start accepting our whole selves including our shadow selves with our inner critic, and realize that the shadow self is a scared creature who lives inside of us, it gets easier to look for where the positive payoff is and to cultivate that. Once we start moving into that way of thinking it can inform our way of being.writing

TP: And writing for you is a part of that payoff?

LM: An essential part. And I think it can be for many people. I think writing should be considered as much a preventative wellness action as diet and exercise.

TP: I like that. When did you discover this for yourself?

LM: Pretty early. I was able to find it as a young woman, and that’s something I’m very grateful for. Writing wasn’t just a passion, it was a lifeline. It was the one place where the climate was a free zone, a place where I could always fit in, a place for my inconvenient truths and dirty secrets. That was the one place I knew I could go whenever I wanted and have it feel safe. Little by little it felt better and better to be in that place.

TP: What a gift.

LM: I’d spend hours and hours on a summer Saturday afternoon up in a treehouse writing and writing and writing. You’re just not born this way. At some point I figured out it feels good. It’s like people who are good at exercising and learn that it feels good to do it, so they go out for a jog. I never got that. (Laughs.) Writing is one thing I’ve been able to show up for in my life no matter what, whether I had three jobs or small children or was going through some sort of a crisis. I’ve always been able to tap into my writing.

TP: How does it feel to have a book take off in the way this one did, after so many years of writing?

LauraLM: I feel like my kids were a good age when this happened; they were in high school and middle school. So I got to model for them not just this woman who sits in this room in Montana and writes all day. (Laughs.) Now they can see that Mom sometimes speaks in front of large groups of people and has a web presence. They can now see me doing something other than just spending all those hours at the bottom of the stairs tapping away at the keyboard. And thank god I am the woman I am now, and the writer I am now, because I know myself now. If I had gotten all this in my twenties or my thirties or early forties it might have overwhelmed me. I know it wouldn’t have stopped my writing but it could have stopped my career. I’m glad for all those years of writing and sitting quietly and privately at that intersection of heart and craft and mind.

TP: How did you keep the faith with writing all those years, finding time to do it while holding jobs and raising children?

LM: You may not know at first why you’re doing it. It took me a long time before I sat down and wrote an author’s statement because at one point after a number of brutal rejections from books that I felt were really quite publishable I just sat myself down and said why? When I realized that this might not happen, this publishing dream of mine, I had to accept that I’m not going to stop because this is my practice, my meditation, my way of life, my way to life. So I wrote down one line that came out of my deepest well, and it said, “I write to shine a light on a dim or otherwise pitch-black corner to provide relief for myself and others.” And that’s when I realized I was writing from a place of service, both to myself and others, and that’s when I started getting published.

TP: And through your Haven writing retreats, you’re helping others integrate writing into their lives. How did you get started doing them?

LauraLM: When I suddenly was out there on the wellness circuit talking about personal responsibility and emotional freedom and all these lofty concepts, people would come up to me and say they’d love to write but they don’t feel like they have a unique voice. Or they’d say they don’t have the time or aren’t creative. Plenty of people would come up to me and say that everyone tells them they have an incredible story they need to write but don’t know how to get started. They couldn’t give themselves permission to do it. The one that I heard most was:  “You wrote your way through crisis.  I’m going through a crisis right now.  And I need some way to get through it.” And so it occurred to me one day: why don’t I develop a forum where people don’t have to do it alone? I just put it on Facebook one day. I said, Hey, anyone want to come on a writing retreat with me in Montana? Within two hours I had 24 people sign up. Quickly I figured out where to do it and what the design was going to be and the price point and I started leading retreats. That was four years ago.  And it’s not at all for people going through crisis.  It’s for anyone who wants to dig deeper into their creative self-expression on the page.  Anyone looking for their unique voice.  Anyone looking for permission to breathe it alive!

TP: And it’s growing and growing.

LM: It is. I’ve now worked with over 300 people. Open Road Media named Haven Retreats as one of the top five writing retreats in the country. I lead eight of them a year and we have an ongoing community of writers who continue to support one another. It’s not just a one-time deal. It’s a whole community of support and it’s designed based on what was lacking in my life.  Community.  Support.  Kindred spirits.  Mentorship.  You can come to Haven I and experience the five day immersion into your writing voice and your stories and themes.  Then you can come to Haven II if you are a Haven I alum and have a book in progress.  And then if you complete the Haven II program, you are eligible to work with me one-on-one on your book.  Not everyone who comes to Haven I is working on a book.  So you can come to Haven I and have a complete and powerful experience, or work the whole program from inception to book birth, if that is your goal.  Basically, I designed the retreat that I would want to go on, and the program I wish I’d had all along.  It’s incredible to see all these Haven alums interacting on our private Haven internet page.  So much support and kindness.  It blows me away.

Montana February Haven Retreat, 2015 "I write in a solitude born out of community." -Terry Tempest Williams

TP: You must meet so many interesting people.

LM: I do, and many don’t even consider themselves writers at all. They’re all over the place in their creative journey and I love that. We get people who have strong writing practices, publication credits, and we get people with works in progress, and we get people who are just starting and want to write in their journal or capture their grandmother’s homesteading story.  I love that.  We learn so much just by listening to each other and learning how each person’s voice is exceptional.

TP: Why is community so important?

LM: Just so you can be supported in your process. You can go to a cabin in the woods somewhere and be taken care of for food and things. Even if it’s just a small community that has meals together at the end of the day, I think that’s important. But a lot of people wouldn’t know what to do with the cabin in the words. The retreat is actually a retreat and a workshop in one. Each day you get major craft instruction through the morning class, which consists of writing prompts that I put together. But it’s very much through the back door. It’s play. We get outside of our comfort zone and people find their unique voice. And the evening class is a straight-up workshop, where writers get feedback for their work. You can consider the work that you do in the morning class compost at the end of the class.

TP: And it’s all done in a nurturing environment.

LM: It’s so important to have some kind of community, and to make sure that the people in that community know how to give good feedback. That’s rare, too, to find good readers. I’m trying to offer all of these things to people as I don’t want to perpetuate this tortured-artist paradigm. I want to empower people in their creative self-expression, wherever they are, and I know that’s possible. It doesn’t need to be a tortured way of life. And yet it’s a very rare person that wants to have writing in their life to this degree. I don’t want people walking around feeling alone and different and almost ashamed of that side of them. Haven sets you up emotionally and psychologically, whatever that means to you.

TP: You’re making me want to come to Montana.10482836_10152085778066266_8327595912032369678_n

LM: You have to come! I’m thrilled to share my Montana muse with other people. These people who come are really brave and a little scared but they’re taking a stand for their creative self-expression and it’s inspiring. Somehow they’ve gotten themselves out here to the woods of Montana to do this for five days and it’s wonderful.

TP: So do you still have time to write your own books? What’s next for you?

LM: I write several books at the same time and then I pick one to focus on. I just finished a memoir recently, and I finished a novel last winter that I have high hopes for. I’m also working on a book about the writing life and how to use writing in your life, much in the way that I’m talking about it with you. Oh, and a series of novellas. We’ll see which one gets fully birthed first. But ultimately if none of them gets published, I still feel complete. Writing is how I feel OK on this planet.

— This interview has been condensed and edited for publication.

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We Must Hunger for Our Voice!

How do we commit to our creativity regularly?  Powerfully?  With a hunger that we sate…over and over again?  How do we find our unique voice and give ourselves permission to let it roar out of us?

Helping you find the answer to these questions is my central mission these days.

If you’re wondering what a Haven Retreat is all about, hear it straight from its proud founder!  Come to Montana and share what over 300 from all over the world have experienced.  You do NOT have to be a writer to come to Haven.  Just a seeker…

2015 Haven Schedule:

June 3-7 (full with wait list)
June 17-21 (full with wait list)
September 9-13 (filling fast)
September 23-27 (filling fast)
October 7-11
October 21-25

Radio show with Kink FM host Sheila Hamilton


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If you have said, “I am not Creative,” Read This!

CoverHaven Writing Retreat schedule 2015 (you do not need to be a writer to come– just a seeker…)

June 3-7 (only a few spots left!!!)
June 17-21 (full)

Now Booking:
September 9-13
September 23-27
October 7-11
October 21-25

“Everyone is an artist, and our materials are all about us. To use them, you must see them, and to see them, you must accept that they exist.”  — Bill Kenower

People tell me all the time, “I’m not creative.”  This is simply not true.  We are all creative.  We choose the clothes we put on, the way our living room looks, the words that come out of our mouth.  Usually this is a reaction, sometimes a violent one, to something that someone told us along the way.  “You’re a jock.”  “You’re a brain.”  “You’re artsy.”  Which is to say, that for the most part, we filled in the blank with: “I’m this, not that.”  While this may be true of some things, it is not true about creativity.  Everything we do, no matter what we’re good at or what roles we have chosen in life, EVERYTHING requires creativity.

Not a believer?  Usually it’s because we run into these roadblocks:

  • We think we need to seem smart, or smarter
  • We think we are not original enough
  • We think we need to belong to some sort of method or way or institution for validation
  • We think that we need to have certain accolades
  • We think that someone already did it better than we ever could
  • We think we are just plain not enough

In his wonderful book, “Write Within Yourself:  An Author’s Companion, my friend, the author, speaker, and founder of Author Magazine, Bill Kenower, wrote a wonderful chapter about this topic which helps us see our way through these roadblocks.  He helps us see that we don’t need to try so hard to tap into our creative flow.  It’s right there where we live.  In the way our heart beats, in the way we breathe, in the way we cry and laugh and dance.class

It’s the same thing I tell my Haven Writing Retreat attendees over and over again:  go where you feel most natural, where you feel most at ease.  It does not have to be hard.  That’s not to say that the subject isn’t difficult to face or the details aren’t hard to extract or develop.  It’s that the theme and the attraction to it must be honest and charged with something that comes from deep inside you, something that is already flowing.  You just need to accept it and enter into that flow.  It is in this natural state that you become hungry for what makes your creativity unique, and without-a-doubt:  ENOUGH.

Excerpt from the book:  “Write Within Yourself:  An Author’s Companion” by William Kenower1275_10151421704756266_1852761235_n

WHERE YOU ARE

Though it can seem strangely counterintuitive, the quickest way to change something is to first accept it. Or to put it another way, no matter where you may think you want to be, you are where you are.

For instance, there was a low time in my life when nothing interesting or satisfying seemed to be happening. This puzzled me. I felt capable; I felt curious; I felt creative; I felt ambitious—and yet, nothing seemed to happen.  All was rejection and disappointment.  During this period, I spent a lot of time living in my imagination. In my imagination, things were happening. In my imagination, I was having all kinds of marvelous success, meeting all kinds of interesting people, going to all kinds of interesting places.writers_writing_2

I suppose I can’t be blamed for retreating into my imagination. I was a writer, after all, and by necessity I spent a lot of time there. I learned to create interesting worlds in my imagination, so why not visit one such world if my world seemed less than interesting? It was a pleasant way to pass the time until things in my real world got interesting.

And then one day I was taking a walk, swimming as always in my imaginary waters, when something—literally—stopped me. Here I was making, and making, and making this happy imaginary world for myself that was really not making me any happier at all. It only made me happy as long as I hid there. I stood where I was, and I asked this question, “What could you make with this world?”10430493_10152074148911266_2767363178567064548_n

And as I asked this question, the world around me changed. I saw it all—the bushes, the pond, the birds—as clay. All of it was material. What could I make with where I actually was? Why not start there and see where it goes?

laughThis is why every spiritual doctrine in history teaches acceptance. Acceptance is not passive. Acceptance is not capitulation. Acceptance is an understanding that to create, no matter what you want, you must begin by working with what you have, with where you are. If you resist where you are, you only create an imaginary world where you are not where you are. Everyone is an artist, and our materials are all about us. To use them, you must see them, and to see them, you must accept that they exist.

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The Inner Critter: Awareness First. The Writing Will Follow.

inner critter

As featured in Huffington Post

I recently had a woman come on my Haven Writing Retreat and say, “I learned more in five days of Haven than in my entire MFA program…and I’m still paying it off six years later!”  I hear this sort of overture all too often, and it concerns me.  I also hear, “I’m still chiseling my way out of my college Creative Writing classes and some of the emotional damage I endured there.”  Same goes for many writing workshops that people take in hopes of learning more about their unique voice and how to cultivate it through craft, feedback, and the help of a strong teacher.  It takes guts, putting yourself out there like that.  And it saddens me that while there are so many incredible teachers and writing programs…so many people come in to an instructional writing environment with their hearts in their hands, shivering a bit in their boots, taking a leap of faith with the belief that they will be held responsibly by the experience and the people in it…only to have their guts gutted.  Not on my watch!

My approach is to help people take that heart-in-the-hand and turn it into heart language…and that is a very delicate process.  At my retreats, feedback is something that comes second.  First, we must learn to have the courage to find our most white hot triggering subjects, to free-fall into them, to surface with words on the page and share them out loud without scrutiny– to simply have them heard, to trust that in-so-doing we are helping others to cultivate their ear, and to finally understand once and for all that our voice is unique.  It’s real.  It matters.  And that massive act doesn’t start with creating something that we splay open for people to feast on or send back to the kitchen.

It all begins with self-awareness.

Sounds lofty?  It isn’t.  I hear over and over people saying, “I’m stuck.”  Or “Why does my writing even matter?”  Or “Who do I think I am?  Nobody asked me to write.  It’s self-indulgent drivel at best.”  Or “I’m not good enough.”  And do you know who is delivering up those words?  The inner critic.  (I like to call it the Inner Critter.)   Most of us are not even aware of that voice that lives inside us, viciously so.

Unfortunately, I have been in a long-term abusive relationship with my Inner Critter for years.  My Inner Critter poses as an Ivy League tweed-clad professor, and I tend to assign immediate power to anyone boasting to have a “smart” bespectacled academic Joyce-ean opinion, especially about writing.  For years, I allowed that snivelly old sod to rule the roost in my writing chair.  Then one day I heard someone say, “You wouldn’t treat your worst enemy the way you treat yourself in your own mind.”  And I realized:  That’s who I’ve become.  That’s what’s in my way. I am my own worst enemy.  I hadn’t even been aware of it until that moment.  It wasn’t that I ever, for one second, stopped writing.  It was that I hadn’t given myself permission to understand that no one on earth can write like I can.  It’s not possible.  Each writer’s voice is as unique as a snowflake.  Or a grain of sand.  Or a finger print.  Or your Grandma’s apple pie.

So I declared war.

For awhile, I tried to exorcise the Inner Critter into the Inner Critter Sh**ter, deeming her the enemy and treating her thusly.  That didn’t work.  Because even though she was a confluence of many people and institutions of my life, I’d created her, invited her to live in my mind, and fed her the fat along with the lean.  Declaring war on her meant that I was in a war with myself.  Not a great place from which to tease the muse.  The muse just stood there chewing gum twirling her keys, waiting for me to get a clue.  Turns out, she has really great keys to really great worlds as long as I know how to take care of what goes on in my mind.  The inherent problem with this was that not only hadn’t I been aware of how I was treating myself in my mind, I also had become used to it.  And habits are hard to break.  In all honesty, the Inner Critter liked living in my mind (why wouldn’t she—such five star accommodations?) and frankly, she was a better fighter than I was.

Haven Patron Saint-- SIster in Words

Haven Patron Saint– Guarding the Muse from the Inner Critter

So I took another tack:  I decided that the Inner Critter was really just a scared little girl that lives inside me with a large megaphone to my heart.  And if my daughter came in to my room in the middle of the night raging over a bad dream I wouldn’t kick her out.  I’d hug her, love her, calm her until she went back to sleep.  I tried it, and it worked!  I learned to daily lullaby my Inner Critter into a long nap so that my muse and I could unlock the world of possibility I so longed to explore.  To enter, and to play!  We knew how to do this when we were children.  We just lose our way a little (or a lot) as we go.

I believe that we need to begin here if we are to paint that world with the broad strokes of a Creator all the way to the exacting Pointillism that shows the holy in the mundane—the nouns our hands touch.  It takes heart-in-the-hand-self-aware-guts to go at this thing called the Writing Life.  And once we have all of this in its right place…we can start to know what Picasso meant when he said, “If they took away my paints I’d use pastels.  If they took away my pastels I’d use crayons. If they took away my crayons I’d use pencils. If they stripped me naked and threw me in prison I’d spit on my finger and paint on the walls.”  Or what Michelangelo meant when he said that the sculpture was in the stone; it was his job to release it.

Once we are in that free place of creation, we begin to hunger for our voices.  Why?  Because we are in a natural flow.  Once we are in that flow, it even gets easy.  We’re no longer in our way.  We understand that with every single thing we write, there is an inherent problem.  Of course there is.  Our job is to find the problem and solve it.  The Inner Critter can’t scare us with this challenge any more.  We understand that with every story and every character, real or imagined, there is conflict, and that conflict is blessed terrain.  It’s where all the good questions and good answers live.  Once we have solved a few of these writerly “problems” and rolled around in the conflict that they embody…what was once scary now becomes our guide into the great wilderness of the world we are drawing with our words.  Then we are ready to give and receive feedback for our work.   Then we can get into the elements of style like plot arc, characterization, narrative drive.  Then we can get into the scenes and breathe our characters alive.  Then we can allow their minds to be in the clouds, and their feet to be on the ground.  Then we can show exactly who they are in the way they make a bed.  We don’t need to tell a thing.  It’s all shown.  It’s all there.  We’ve released the sculpture from the stone.  And the heart of the world we’ve created…beats all on its own.

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Haven Winter Blog Contest Winner

I’d like to thank everyone who participated in our Haven winter blog series, I loved reading about the transformation that happens when we open our hearts to it. I’d also like to announce the winner of the series, who will receive a discount to a future Haven retreat: Sarah Hunter! Thank you so much for your words, Sarah. Click here to read what she had to say about her experience.

I’ll be offering a special Haven retreat at The Ranch at Rock Creek in Philipsburg, MT between April 29 and May 3, please email me at laura@lauramunsonauthor.com for more information.

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Montana February Haven Retreat, 2015 "I write in a solitude born out of community." -Terry Tempest Williams

Montana February Haven Retreat, 2015
              “I write in a solitude born out of community.”                                                   -Terry Tempest Williams

Look into these faces, these eyes, these smiles.  These were strangers on a Wednesday, who journeyed to Montana from hundreds…thousands of miles in every direction.  This photograph was taken on Saturday night, three days later.  This is what can happen when people gather to write in community, held safely by someone who knows what it is to use writing as a practice, a prayer, a mediation, a way of life, and sometimes a way to life.  I will keep doing this work until I answer the question I have asked my entire adult life:  Do I have to do this alone?  Is there anyone out there who cares?  Is there anyone out there who can help me?”  Haven offers no “easy” way to get published, no bullet points to follow for success, no method to find your voice.  Haven offers community, support, inspiration, and a place to take yourself apart a bit and weave yourself back together, new…through heart language.  It is the most important work, outside of what I have birthed in my children and my own written stories, that I have ever done.  Please, if you hunger for your voice, if you need permission to speak it, if you value the transformational tool that is the written word, consider giving yourself this unstoppable experience.

Here is a piece that was born on the second day of our most recent Haven Retreat.

By Laura Probert  

“Write that down! Write that down! No really, write it down right now,” our brave teacher says, her prone, mermaid-like position on the floor filling me with delight. Her hearty laughter, triggered by one woman’s story of pocketed, dirty underwear, and other “holy, mundane” things, as Laura calls them…is the music that plays in the background of my heaven. Heaven sits in the way my bean bag lounging seat-mate briefly grabs my forearm and looks at me with her excited “OMG, me too!” smile.

If there is a heaven on earth, it is here, in Montana, in a place tucked away between towering mountain peaks, a frozen lake where a beaver I haven’t seen yet makes his home, and the calming Southern drawls of my classmates. “I like simple poems. Poems that cut to the heart,” I hear and I whip my head around to see if Laura is shooting a laser beam of ESP into my temple. Does she know I think my poems are too simple, too dumb for other people to enjoy?

“I love that part where you…” another Haven participant continues in a soft, kind tone that adds to the symphony of other women’s voices in the room. We all nod and smile and nod, everyone in a melodic unison of recognition, leaving the courageous reader with hopefully very little doubt…we get it, we love it, please, rip our hearts out. Make us feel fiercely alive again. Do that thing you are already doing. Give us more!

I am in heaven here. This place. These women. These women gathered together by a gently desperate but increasingly bolder longing to know that what they have to say matters. That their passion is worth pursuing in this particular form of art. To know that they are loved for who they are. I sit deep in this comfy chair, buzzing with recognition. “This is where you belong,” I hear an angel’s voice. It must be an angel, because this must be heaven.  Heaven, because I have permission to say it like it is.

When I mine my life for gold, I realize the treasure is in the too raw, too real, too emotional, too ugly moments that make up my life. These women beg, “Show me your ugly!” They demand I tear the bandage off my wounds to air them out. They help me know why I must be me.

Laura’s encouraged us to be to be the perfectly obsessed, Target-shopping, fine messes that we are. Dirty underwear in our pockets, grief strewn across our swords and hospital gowns, we are warriors. Bring it on. Bring on your stories. Make me feel human. Make me feel alive. Make me feel loved, for me. Sprinkle me with the pink and purple glitter of your genuine, cut-to-the-chase, heart-felt, raw, naked, bloody, sobbing, painful to the point you don’t know if you will be able to speak it through the gripping ache in your chest stuff. Yeah. That stuff.

I am in heaven here. The invitation to speak taunts Martha, my fear voice, the one I named after reading a thoughtful book about love and happiness that my fearless mentor wrote. Martha squirms, uncomfortable with the idea of this party. “Nobody wants to hear your stuff.” “You’ll sound like you are bragging.” “You aren’t good enough.” The heaven sits in the way I wake up and shut that s*** down faster today, not willing to pass up this glorious opportunity for expression and acceptance. Not willing to be the wall flower at my own party one more f***ing time.

This heaven forces me to feel my life, to question it. To ask the big-ass questions. To quell the things Martha says.  That this is a hobby.  That I am nothing.  That I am not good enough.  Ping, ping, ping, ping. I feel the jabs, the shriveling. At Haven, I remember to live in the big questions instead, alive and awake to this noise that litters my playground. I get back on the swing and pump my legs until I am out of breath, until I feel the wind wash out my heart and clean up the mess my mind left.

This place. These women. This art. This magic…was meant for me. This matters. My stories matter. This heaven is a carrot that has been dangling in front of my face my whole life, waiting for me to sink my teeth into its crunchy, flavorful, nourishing, love-filled flesh. Waiting for me to eat it up and lick my lips and reach in for another bite.

My mother calls and asks me how the retreat is going.  I start sobbing, but force myself to cry-talk out the words, “I am in heaven here.  These women have softened my pain, acknowledged my heart and made me feel worthy.” This is where I belong.

 

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Haven Winter Series #9

ForwardEvery winter I do a writing series where I open up my blog to other writers to explore a theme, this post is the last in the series. This year I asked my Haven alums to consider submitting a piece about what it took to get themselves to the retreat, what their blocks were, and how it has informed future decision making when it comes to creating possibilities for themselves in the field of their dreams.
The theme is: I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat. So Now What?

If you’d like to come on a Haven Retreat, here’s our 2015 calendar:

February 25- March 1 (only a few spaces left)

June 3-7 (filling fast)
June 17-21 (filling fast)
September 9-13
September 23-27
October 7-11
October 21-25
April 29- May 3- Haven joins the fabulous luxury guest ranch Ranch at Rock Creek for an activity-based retreat that will blow your mind!

Click here for more info
.  You do not have to be a writer to come.  Just a seeker… 

Haven on Earth
by Sasha Woods 

Have you ever known you were meant to be, or do, something, and put it off, because you didn’t know where to start, much less how to start? Where would it lead you anyway?

I’ve always loved writing and at an early age, aspired to become a writer, when, in the fourth grade, I wrote a story entitled Timothy the Mouse, and filled an entire composition book with his adventures. In the eighth grade, I was called out of class and into the hallway by my English teacher who thought I had plagiarized a story.  The same thing happened after I turned in a poem I had written.

In college, I would have majored in English, had it not been for the thoroughly dismal, absurdly boring, dry-toast sort-of-a-professor,  whose class I would have needed for the major. Barely making it to the break, I ran out of the room, across the quad, down the steps to the “Precambrian Basement”, and declared myself a Geology Major instead.  My hopes were to become the next John McPhee, but somehow life has a way of leading you along a different path and you temporarily misplace those dreams, substituting them for other dreams, sometimes even for other people.

Maybe you were one of the lucky ones who didn’t fall for the trappings of love and security, and forged your own path, or maybe you were like me, who fell for all of it, only to find yourself many years later, looking at the big 5-O hovering on your doorstep, three beautiful children and one ugly divorce later, wanting to rediscover your dream. Having told your children they could do, or be, anything they wanted in life, and the only way of accomplishing it, was to be true to themselves, and listen to their inner voice, they were doing just as you taught them.

That’s where I was last April when I read Laura Munson’s email about having an opening in one of her Haven retreats in Cabo. At the time, I felt as if I were doing just the opposite of what I had told my children. They were the ones living life to the fullest. They were the ones being true to themselves.

So, with a valid passport, notebook and pen in hand, I headed south, away from frigid, grey Chicago days, and into the tropical bliss that is Mexico. Unsure if I could write anything more entertaining than a business letter, I began. Thoughts began to unwind their way across the page. With Laura’s guidance, my inner/sitting-on-my-shoulder critic, began to sit back and drink in the scenery, leaving me alone long enough to record my mind’s meanderings, sometimes soaring high above the canyon, other times deep within it. I waited, and I wrote, no judgment, only acceptance, only love.

I returned, transformed, more confident in my written voice, still somewhat timid in my actual voice. As with anything, practice makes perfect, and yet, my practice once again began to diminish. Packing, unpacking, laundry, graduations, work, business letters, dishes, life, started intruding into my Haven, my Utopia, and my practice ebbed a little further. There were never enough hours in a day, and yet I knew I had to write, but I didn’t, though I continued to tell myself I would, soon.

Fifty came upon me in September, and I had planned to hike part of the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain, at the end of October. In preparation, I walked as much as I could, knowing I had some pretty major obstacles (knees, feet, toe nails) to either overcome, or embrace.

While I didn’t exactly embrace the obstacles, instead, I created a blog, and though warned by my infinitely wise nephew, not to be so “plugged in” whilst on the Camino, I wrote, almost everyday, and the writing (along with some pretty intense prayer), is what pulled me through. I traveled all the way to Spain, walked 7-8 hours a day for roughly 9 days, only to discover that there are enough hours in a day, and that life can be set aside for 30-60 minutes to do something you truly enjoy, and that others truly enjoy as well, at least that’s what my blog readers told me.

SO NOW WHAT?
by Carolyn Hopper

I gave myself the gift of a Haven Writing Retreat. So. Now. What?

The aroma of spiced words, the glow of firelight, the kiss of mist rising off the lake at dawn are embedded in the sweater I wore for the entire retreat at Walking Lightly Ranch. I sink my nose in the cream nap of its wool. One sharp inhale. Another. Panic sinks in. No words rise. Only the laughter of 10 women dancing around the hearth.

I had counted on my senses staying sharp to help me coax words for the “next”? while I drove along the highway beside Flathead Lake on my journey home. But edges, like the riffles on a wind-whipped lake surface, have a way of softening.

I had counted the words and mists and warmth of the fire, I believed embedded in me at Retreat to stay sharp. Those edges too, softened. Oh, I dabbled into my almost finished story like a mallard probing the lake bottom for juicy morsels. I found a few, bland, like cream sauce. Studied Laura’s notes on the pages I had sent ahead for editing. My notes after our one-on-one. I did feel inspired and fired up for a few…weeks. But October turned golden. I basked in the glow and shimmer of aspen leaves as they flicked their leaves like castanets. Cottonwoods were ablaze in topaz and copper. I printed out my story so I could give it a good read. It gathered dust.

Until Thanksgiving. And turkey enchiladas molé. When this writer woke up. To bare trees sweeping the waxing moon like exotic brooms and winter blooms in a crazy seesaw of freeze and thaw. One day my teeth are on edge and the next I can’t stop imagining how my story, a braided complex of my mother and I during the last year and a half of her life, could end.

And I begin to imagine how the shape of the spy novel that I set aside three years ago might find new life.

Nuts  roast, spices toast, chilés soak. In all there are twenty-six ingredients from the onions that stung my eyes to the sweetness of raisins that mix and mingle and are then stirred with great care over a low flame My mouth waters at the memory of the preparation and day-after-Thanksgiving meal. I had no idea that a traditional Mexican dish served to this white woman from New England could be a catalyst more powerful than a kiss for awakening a sleeping writer!

The instructions for preparing a molé are, of course, not the same as preparing my story. But attention to detail, creating a evocative sense of “this is where I want to bring my reader”, and a willingness to let the ingredients blend and surprise, are for me!

So. Now. What?

Shedding my shoes before the burning bush. A willingness to probe my heart for the bold woman who began the story of her mother and herself with more grit than confidence! Resolving to take my own advice when asked by women who have stories worth telling but haven’t found the pen or pencil to write them down—“dive in!”  

And after the fire? Reaching for the gold coins that lie at the bottom of the well.

You Gave Yourself a Haven Retreat:  So Now What.
by Michele McShane

My first retreat, ever.  I responded to the call of going to Montana for a writer’s retreat last October out of pure serendipity.  Maybe a truer statement is that it was one-hundred-percent pure nagging… by the Universe.

Laura Munson was the guest on Dr. Christiane Northrup’s Hay House Radio show.  The topic was interesting to me, but I needed groceries and headed off to the store.  When I came back, barreling into the house with too many bags, Laura was in the middle of telling the story of how the Haven Retreat started.  I remember what I heard caught my attention, but “life” was demanding that I attend to more of it.  I slammed my MacBook shut.  Work needed to be done.  Something or another.  I wasn’t even to going to continue writing my novel.  Later that evening, I opened my laptop, and unbelievably, Laura’s interview was still running in my cache.  Christiane was saying something along the lines of “You thought there should be a retreat that wasn’t simply about critiquing, but one that allows writer’s space to open up their voices and you did it.”  Even though I liked what I was hearing, I was more than a little annoyed that technology was not letting me off the hook.  Laura’s comments were tough to dismiss.  I don’t remember her particular comments as much as the power in her voice when speaking about writers and the need for space in which their words could simply fill the airwaves and be heard without commentary.  Universe calling or not, I was exhausted, closed the lid, and fell sound asleep.  Son of a bitch, the next morning, I opened the little Pro and, yes, the interview started to play right where it left off.  Now, I may be slow in reading signs, but this was indisputable, full on Las Vegas neon style.  The retreat was not going to be denied, even if I hadn’t even asked the question.   So, now you have some idea about how I roll.  Needless to say, I signed up that day.

The time spent with the group was simply fantastic, extremely valuable and it stoked a million thoughts about what I was doing and what I had thought I should be doing to become a bona fide professional writer.  The questions since then have been more important than any answers I may think I have.  So now what? 

The best part of this “so now what” phase has been that as a result of the Haven Retreat, I have experienced a new sense of what writing actually means to me.  I write because I am alive when I write.  Time is no longer relevant to the equation. Writing puts me in the present, whether real or fictional.  Seeing my imagination morph from an intangible, formless notion into a character with definition, meaning, a life and a family, gives my life dimension and is enough.  It is not so much about “end product” anymore.  The things I write ultimately change the way I think and not vice versa.  The process is the changer.

Since the Haven Retreat, I am happy writing a few paragraphs, thinking of a character’s habit or spending five minutes scribbling down lines in answer to a prompt.  This may not sound earthshattering to you, but it is a lot more than you may think.  I am continually reminded of Nora Ephron’s quote, “The hardest thing about writing is writing.”  It is so true.   These tiny, seemingly insignificant actions are writing.  They contribute tremendously to deepening my writer’s voice.  For me, that is “what” for now.  And, I have Laura Munson to thank for that.

 

 

 

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Haven Winter Series #8

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 8.50.07 PMHappy Valentine’s Day! This is the eighth post of my winter writing series where I open up my blog to other writers to explore a theme. This year I asked my Haven alums to consider submitting a piece about what it took to get themselves to the retreat, what their blocks were, and how it has informed future decision making when it comes to creating possibilities for themselves in the field of their dreams.

The theme is: I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat. So Now What? 

If you’d like to come on a Haven Retreat, here’s our 2015 calendar:

February 25- March 1 (only a few spaces left)
June 3-7 (filling fast)
June 17-21 (filling fast)
September 9-13
September 23-27
October 7-11
October 21-25
April 29- May 3- Haven joins the fabulous luxury guest ranch Ranch at Rock Creek for an activity-based retreat that will blow your mind!

Click here for more info.  You do not have to be a writer to come.  Just a seeker…

Haven
by Yve Sturman

I’ve always been a little bit strange. I’ll admit it. I was always that kid going the other direction on the school field trip. The kid that was a proverbial thorn in the designated chaperone’s side. If we were in the woods, I’d find my own path. If we were in a museum, I’d wander off alone into exhibits tucked away in dark corners. Back then, I was driven by curiosity and a sense of adventure. Fear was the last thing from my mind. I had this same sense driving down the long winding driveway of Walking Lightly Ranch in Whitefish, Montana in June of 2013. Recapturing that feeling made me grin like an idiot. This was a feeling I lived for, a feeling I loved.

I was there to spend a week writing with eleven strangers and one author of a book that I had picked up in a moment of personal crisis several years prior. In a moment of adventure fueled bravery, I had sent Laura Munson some samples of my sporadic writing. I had kept quiet track of Laura over the years and had read about her Haven writing retreats. They had always been “on my radar”. “Maybe I can do that one day?” I dared to wonder. Now just a few short phone calls and several plane tickets later, I was slowly rolling toward the main ranch house in the steady deluge of a Montana downpour. I was equal parts nervous and excited. “I can’t believe I’m doing this!” I thought.

Those five days spent hold up next to a roaring fire as the Montana rain softly fell outside, were to prove life altering. I rediscovered a voice within myself. My voice.  I was writing with wild abandon and I was doing so amongst the company of eleven other adventurous souls. Every single one of us grew in those five days. We could see it in each other. We grew braver and bolder within each other’s company and we became bonded in a way few will understand. I left Montana much closer to the adventurous spirit I once was.

I may have physically left Walking Lightly Ranch, but I carry Haven with me. I still write freely with wild abandon. I sit with my coffee and my laptop and again wander off into dark corners relishing what I find there. I grow and stretch myself with each keystroke and I have found my voice to the point where I have started to tell my own story in the form of a memoir. It’s a story I needed to tell and it’s proving to be quite a journey. A road paved in healing and light. A road that requires me to be brave and work hard. The “writer’s experience” Laura calls it.

I recently returned to Montana. I spent a few days indulging my inner adventurer. I got lost in Glacier national park and emerged with several new stories to write. I reunited with Laura. We talked about many things but my favorite moment was sitting across from her at a kitchen table. As we chatted, I had a moment of realization. We were talking about what it means to write and the trials and tribulations faced by writers seeking publication. In that moment I realized that my fire for writing now burned hotter than ever. I wanted this challenge. I was once again forging my own path. I had rediscovered myself and I was ready for this journey, wherever it led me.

Right Time
by Betsy Gibson

My Haven Writing Retreat came at just the right time for me, and I was certain that I would take what I’d learned and start to examine my life in exacting detail. I’d figure it all out in writing. I’d become more relaxed, more disciplined and more focused than I’d been in years. And if I got lucky, maybe I’d find something interesting in my voice. Profound, even! Yes!! Maybe I could even become the next “OH, I LOVE HER!!!” writer (notice that I am not so presumptuous as to say “author”). Stranger things have happened.

Well, a year has now come and gone, and I have failed to examine my life. I have figured out nothing—or nothing profound, I should say—and I am not one bit more relaxed, more disciplined or more focused. What happened? After all, I had thought about my Haven Retreat every day for the past year. I was still excited about the prospect of “figuring it all out” through writing. So then, How had I not acted on those thoughts? The thoughts that urged me to write. BEGGED me to write. The thoughts that said, “Come on, just pick up the legal pad and start to write!!”

Something was seriously wrong. I started to wonder how and why I had seemingly just thrown away such a wonderful, life-altering experience. I spent a good deal of time furious with myself for not fulfilling my newest “life assignment” (I view the act of writing daily as an assignment- -as a Total Type A, I love having “assignments” and tend to look forward to working on them and completing them in a way that makes me feel as though I’ve accomplished something positive). At some point, though, I realized that being furious with myself was not the most positive course. So, rather than focusing on how I had wasted an entire year on “not writing”, or on writing things that resembled what I imagined the periodic rants of a very moody teen girl might have looked like, I decided to write something real. Or to try to write, I should say. Yes, maybe that would be my ticket to understanding my dismal failures when it came to my writing life (and my failures when it came to my inability to change from a Type A, always busy, always stressed former NYC lawyer to the completely Zen-like and utterly calm and seeking soul that I had planned to become through my writing). An ironic thought, yes. But maybe it would work.

So I wrote. I started with a lengthy Facebook post. I didn’t mean to, but I just couldn’t stop myself. Yet the post, too, had all of the markings of a teen girl caught in the midst of a rambling barrage of words. It was the worst thing I had ever written, and I (wisely, I think) deleted it soon after I had posted it. Why was I writing like this? What was going on?

When I looked at the Facebook post after its completion (and deletion), I had the answer as to why I had been failing myself in my writing life. And in my “life life”. It was amazing! In my post, I saw a totally overwhelmed woman who was juggling two tremendous life changes at the same time, with other severe stressors lurking in the recesses of her mind. I saw a woman who didn’t “fail” by virtue of not having fully examined her life during the past year, and who didn’t “fail” by not writing (or by not writing like a rational adult would write). No, amazingly enough, I did not see a self who had failed at all!!! I saw a self who simply had not had the time she’d needed to fulfill her goals. Thank God for small favors. It wasn’t “me”, it was the whirlwind of life all around me that had prevented me from proceeding according to schedule.

I realized, for the first time, two things through reading my stream of consciousness, “subject/ verb tense error” filled post. I realized (or was reminded) that I am, first and foremost, human. And therefore, not in the least bit perfect. Not even close. Even more telling, I realized that I am currently, and have been for the past year, fully invested in something much bigger and much more important than myself. The subject matter of my post made it clear to me that I was wrong to bemoan my inability to fulfill my particular goals. Instead, my focus over the past year had been exactly where it should have been: on the people I love and love taking care of. My focus should never have been on myself. Or on any sort of detailed analysis of my life. And I realized, in reading the post, that I hadn’t wanted it to be. That explained it. Instead of working on myself the year after my Haven Retreat, it had been my time to step up my work in the incredibly important job of fully immersing myself in my role as mother, wife, sister, daughter, daughter in law and friend. Other people needed me during that year after Haven. More than ever before. And my focus needed to be on those other people, each of whom I love unconditionally and without hesitation and without whom I would be lost. So right now, thanks to that horribly written, now deleted Facebook post, I understand why I have not been able to reach my (overly lofty) goals. I’m no longer plagued by the daily nagging questions: Why can’t I get it together? Why can’t I get all of my various legal pads together and try to weave my story into something cohesive? It’s because it’s simply just not my time yet. But when my time comes,

I’ll get there. And in the meantime, I have decided that I will write what I can, when I can, where I can. If that writing is akin to a teenager’s (or even a preteen’s!) emotional diary entries, then so be it. If it is akin to a Trust Indenture, so be it. If it’s in the form of a Facebook post or an email to my mother or sisters, well, at least I’m writing SOMETHING. I may be working in the “Haven Lite” mode right now, but at least I now understand why. And my time will come. I know it. And Haven will be with me as I put pen to paper and finally begin my journey. Of that, I am sure.

 

 

 

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Haven Winter Series #5

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 8.57.34 PMEvery winter I do a writing series where I open up my blog to other writers to explore a theme. This year I asked my Haven alums to consider submitting a piece about what it took to get themselves to the retreat, what their blocks were, and how it has informed future decision making when it comes to creating possibilities for themselves in the field of their dreams.

The theme is: I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat. So Now What?

If you’d like to come on a Haven Retreat, here’s our 2015 calendar:

February 25- March 1 (only a few spaces left)
June 3-7 (filling fast)
June 17-21 (filling fast)
September 9-13
September 23-27
October 7-11
October 21-25
April 29- May 3- Haven joins the fabulous luxury guest ranch Ranch at Rock Creek for an activity-based retreat that will blow your mind!

Click here for more info.  You do not have to be a writer to come.  Just a seeker…

Today’s writers are Renee Bauer Soffer and Sally Stevens

I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat, So Now What?
by Renee Bauer Soffer

I knew that one consistent message has been repeated to me time again, “You should be a writer.”  Friends, family and newly met acquaintances have all said, at one time or another, “You’re so clever, so funny, so smart – you should write a book.”  “You’ve lived an interesting life, a challenging life, a complicated life – you should write a book.”  I am wise, I am hardened, I am compassionate, I am a survivor – I should write a book.

Despite all these messages of encouragement, I have successfully managed to dodge the thrilling temptation to write that book, or to write anything else, for that matter. I have stored that urge in a box and labeled it with a big tag that said, “Maybe Someday.”  I never completely ruled out being a writer, I just had a healthy fear of being judged and seen as inadequate. I knew that I could string together sentences as well as the next literate gal, but I didn’t think writing deserved the time.  I was too busy doing more conventional tasks in order to make a buck, or spend my time.

Everyone has a story to tell and my ego is just unchecked enough to think my story was perhaps compelling enough to capture people’s interest. Despite this, I was pretty sure that my writing talents were along the lines of those poor, unfortunate bastards who think they can sing, but really they can’t carry a tune with a jumbo trash bag.  Their friends and family smile and encourage them to yowl because it is easier than telling them the hard, ugly truth and risk hurting feelings.  These gutless enablers will let ‘em sing their little hearts out in the living room, but then go into the kitchen and mock them.  They even allow the hapless wanna-be’s to go on national TV singing shows to embarrass themselves beyond repair.  This is what I assumed would be my fate if I ever put words on paper and let others read what I wrote.

I know that the truth of the matter is that writing is a personal exercise in allowing your deepest thoughts and emotions to live outside of your head in the harsh environment of judgment.  Let’s face it, most of the time when you are being judged, it doesn’t mean you’re going to be praised.  You hope for fairness, but often get harshness, from the jury.  I found avoidance a more appealing option than risk.

But, I also knew that I wasn’t doing what I love to do and the last time I checked, I wasn’t aging in reverse. My amusing turns of a phrase can’t write themselves.  So, with the help of a dear friend who knew the magic in Montana would save me, I gave myself the gift of a Haven Retreat.

So now what?

Now I have to embrace the power of my newfound confidence in myself as a person and as a writer.  I have been given the challenge to live differently; otherwise I am wasting my time and talent.  I need to write, it is a way to record my emotions and experiences.  I learned from Laura Munson and the other beautiful souls who shared the Haven experience with me to no longer be afraid of the consequences of writing.  I am now afraid to NOT write!  I cannot risk losing my voice.

Now I have to make changes in my day-to-day life.  The first order of business is to create space for writing.  This is both a physical and mental task.  I need to create a place where I can feel safe and comfortable in order to let my true words flow.  I also need to embrace the critical importance of committing to specific times for writing.  Putting a pen in my hand, or a keyboard under my fingers, is now a priority.  No longer is the practice of writing trivial, now it is vital to me.

Now I have spent time with Laura Munson, an amazing teacher, a brave word slinger who has the experience to offer profound guidance about the art and craft of writing.  I have witnessed the generosity of her talented spirit and that will inspire me for the rest of my life.

Now I have friends, some so close I call them “sisters”, who will encourage and support me as a writer.  They live all around the world, but the closeness will never be doubted.  We have recognized and acknowledged the talent and passion in each other and through this I have a sense of connectivity to my Haven group that I describe as magical.

Now I know the importance of eating healthy, fresh food.  I was stunned at how better my mind and body felt after just a few days of having meals lovingly prepared with many ingredients that were in the ground a few hours prior to eating.

Now I understand the healing power of meditative breathing.  I have a new tool to use anytime I need to refocus, relax or repair myself.

Now I draw from the wisdom of horses.  I have been touched by the silent voices of a beautiful herd and a particular bay mare that knew more about me than I knew myself.

Now I know more about who I am.  Recently, someone asked me what I do (as in how I spend my time) and I answered for the first time ever that I am a writer.  I hesitated a fraction of a second before I said it.  It felt like confessing a secret out loud.  But, after I heard myself say the words, I stood up straighter and smiled a smug little half smile of pride.

So I gave myself the gift of a Haven Retreat and now my life has been changed – for better, for good.  I have been changed into a writer.

“I GAVE MYSELF THE GIFT OF A HAVEN WRITING RETREAT. SO NOW, WHAT?”
By Sally Stevens

Okay, so I spent four days in the most magical setting imaginable, surrounded by creative writers of all levels, each one from whom I took home a valuable lesson.  Okay, so I totally changed my food consumption standards, when exposed to organically grown fresh vegetables, prepared by a gifted young woman chef for us each day and shared over a family–style dining table, with the added spices of great conversation.  Okay, so I had a brilliant teacher, Laura Munson, who had written a book I knew was amazing but hadn’t had a chance to read, prior to the retreat.  Okay, so there was this beautiful lake nearby, and woods to hike through under the gentle, wise guidance of David, and a yoga studio where I enjoyed the safety of sharing from a place deep inside me, and okay, yeah, there were horses I got to communicate with in a way I’d only read about in fairy-tales…so, what’s the bottom line?

Well, here’s a bit of it.  I came home, thanks to this brilliant writer who taught us with such generosity of spirit, with basically an outline for an autobiography that had been challenging me for years…how to frame a fifty-year journey through the music business, and have it be much more than just a “then I did this, and then I met so-and-so, and then I went…” .  It had to have a theme, a message.  I had to turn a corner and understand something about myself that was worth sharing.  After forty years or so of therapy, you’d think I would have done that by now, but no, it took four days in the woods of Montana with a wise, generous, creative young woman to bring it all into focus.  And it helped to be surrounded by other writers, people I didn’t know, had no history with, who enthusiastically and supportively said, “Yes, you have interesting stories to tell!  You should do this!”

SO, now what, you ask?  Yes, I had to ask myself that same question.  So now we leave the magical woods and the uninterrupted focus on writing and creativity, and we return to our daily lives, to the pressures and deadlines and annoying sounds and distracting television programs, and all the reasons we use to procrastinate, to delay putting the metaphorical pen to paper.

Well, not this time.  Despite family drama, despite the amazing and gratefully received work calls that continue to knock on the door of this septuagenerian, and despite the other distractions of daily life, I managed to sit down and start.  Ten pages in the first stretch at the keyboard, five pages at the next, and so on…and not necessarily in chronological order.  I learned I didn’t have to do that.  I could dive in any place, I could share the moment, the event, the insight, that floated to the surface in that hour, on that day, and know that I could weave them into some kind of a shape, eventually. I did not have to treat them as a final draft, I did not have to come up with the final order of things.  I just have to get them on the page.  The progress has been slower than I would like, because it’s impossible to change all those bad habits over night.  BUT it’s been faster, and more productive than I would have ever dreamed.  I came home knowing … KNOWING…that it was possible.  That I could do this, and that I actually might have something of interest to share with readers. So, thank you Laura Munson, for creating this beautiful, safe place where we can go to learn, to grow, to commit to our most creative selves…and thank you, ME…for allowing myself the gift of this experience!

 

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Haven Winter Series #4

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 8.51.06 PMEvery winter I do a writing series where I open up my blog to other writers to explore a theme. This year I asked my Haven alums to consider submitting a piece about what it took to get themselves to the retreat, what their blocks were, and how it has informed future decision making when it comes to creating possibilities for themselves in the field of their dreams.

The theme is: I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat. So Now What?

If you’d like to come on a Haven Retreat, here’s our 2015 calendar:

February 25- March 1 (only a few spaces left)
June 3-7 (filling fast)
June 17-21 (filling fast)
September 9-13
September 23-27
October 7-11
October 21-25
April 29- May 3- Haven joins the fabulous luxury guest ranch Ranch at Rock Creek for an activity-based retreat that will blow your mind!

Click here for more info.  You do not have to be a writer to come.  Just a seeker…

Here are the words of two of our Haven alums, Patricia Young and Laura Prochnow Philips:

Haven
by Patricia Young

Siri defines Haven in two ways.  “1. As a shelter serving as a place of safety or sanctuary.  and 2. A sheltered port where ships can take on or discharge cargo.”

I have always had a love of lighthouses.  Dreaming of taking one of the cruises, not on a ‘cruise ship’, but on a beautiful schooner that sails from the Hillsboro Inlet Light on Pompano Beach in Florida all the way up to Lighthouse Point in Nova Scotia.  Stopping along the way to photograph, paint and write about the different lighthouses dotting the coast.  Still to this day a great comfort to every sailor gazing into the darkness looking for the shore.

Although Laura Munson’s Haven is unequivocally the first definition, it is also safe to say each person who experiences it takes away more than one meaning of the term.

What is a sanctuary for some, may mean a place I can not only feel safe in – but also a place to explore within myself, to share thoughts and feelings without being judged or ridiculed.  To have a say in what I am going to do –then feel the support of a very uniquely special group of women, who will encourage those choices.

Haven will not magically turn you into a writer.  It will not get you published or make you independently wealthy.  However – it will help you find the writer inside you.  It will answer your questions honestly about the publication world and what to expect or not expect.  It will be bold and clear when it tells you to do whatever you want – but know you must do the work it takes to get there.

It has been fifteen months since I walked on the dock by the lake in Whitefish.  Sat on the swings and felt the Montana breeze on my face.  Had a ‘Laura’ hug!  Yet I know in my heart a piece of me remained, and a piece of that beautiful place came home with me.

Haven is a lighthouse – it beacons you, bids you welcome and cautions you to take care – of yourself, your soul and your spirit.  It is a place you can come and unload the cargo you carry on your back, and take on a fresh perspective of what you hope to do, plan to do and will focus on.  Having given you sanctuary – it will nourish and fill you, so you can refreshed and rejuvenated come home.  Where you can choose to continue on your path, decide if you should take another route, face a storm or sail into the sunset of possibilities.

The destination is ultimately up to you.

Breathe Deep, Think Peace

 

I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat – So Now What?
by Laura Prochnow Philips

I went to Haven for several, very personal reasons: to reconnect with a long-lost cousin, to see if I was right about the powerful role of creativity (and writing in particular) in a healthy life, to enjoy a completely different physical environment, and to see if I wanted to write again either for my work as a coach or for me alone.  Once I was there, I discovered a greater, broader purpose: I want to change the internal and external conversations women are having about midlife health and wellness to include more joy, fulfillment, self-compassion, and love.  I came home renewed and inspired, but I knew that keeping Haven alive while back home would be one of the most challenging parts of the journey.

In the short time I’ve had since the retreat, I’ve found that the key to keeping Haven fresh and vital is to bring as much of the feel, the learning, and the experience of Haven into everyday life rather than let it fade away like new year’s resolutions in February.  I carved out a physical space for writing at home: I now have my Haven Manifesto pinned up next to my desk, and I cherish my photo with John the horse.  But these are small efforts compared to the powerful internal shifts I experienced and want to make permanent.  What can I do that will last?

Rediscovering my creativity was one of the most important parts of Haven for me.  I firmly believe that creativity is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, whether it shows up as writing, dancing, painting, knitting, making music, or any number of similar pursuits, and my experience at Haven confirmed that belief.  As a health, wellness, and lifestyle coach, one would hope that I would practice what I preach.  But I had fallen off the creativity wagon; I hadn’t been writing for a very long time, and Haven invited me, cajoled me, and forced me to write again.  A curious thing happened once I restarted writing: I liked it.  I wanted to do more of it.  My voice got louder and stronger and wasn’t taking no for an answer.  The reboot of me as a writer—and as a creative soul—has been just as fulfilling, energizing, and healthy as I tell my clients it will be once they take the plunge into a creative endeavor.

For me, the true gifts of Haven are the rediscovery of a long dormant part of myself—the writer—and the continuation of the spirit and energy of the retreat every day since I came home. Taking best advantage of those enormous gifts depends entirely on me deciding to support my internal shifts in one of the best ways I know as a coach: taking an active part in a community of fellow souls seeking their individual paths. The Haven Facebook community provides contact with other participants and the support of as many writing coaches.  My group is planning to get together again in person in 2015, which is delightful to anticipate.  I’m so grateful for my new community and the support it provides, and I’m deeply energized by all the possibilities that exist in me and in us.  If this creative community and my reawakened writing self are my “now what?,” I’m thrilled.

 

 

 

 

 

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Haven Winter Writing Series

WinterWell, it’s time for the annual Haven Winter Writing Series again, and this year we have a theme that I hope will inspire you to do something you’ve been wanting to do for a long time, but haven’t quite had the guts or permission or stamina or time or money or support or inspiration or did I say guts, to give yourself. I know all about it. Every time I start a book, never mind an essay or a magazine article, or heck, even this blog post, my inner critic puts on boxing gloves and starts to swing: “Who do you think you are?” “You’re not good enough to pull this off.” “No one asked you to do this.” “People will judge you.” “This is what OTHER people do, not you.” “Go on Facebook and see what the COOL people are up to. You belong at the other table- the one with the theater geeks and the people who missed the memo on hygiene maintenance.” “Have you looked at yourself lately? You need to join the gym!” (not sure what that last one has to do with writing, but somehow it always sneaks its way in…) But for some reason, I keep writing things. Always have. Call it an obsession. Call it an addiction. Call it just plain stupid. I’ve just learned not to listen. I’ve learned to put that chatter in a box that is not quite cast off to sea, but nowhere close to my writing desk. I hope that someday I will once and for all give it a proper water burial. One step at a time. 

You can bet that voice was loud when I started leading writing retreats– all of that mean inner chatter about supposed-to-be and not-enough. Well for some reason I did it anyway. And now over 300 people have come to Haven and have had major breakthroughs in finding their unique voice through the transformative power of writing. AND Haven was ranked in the top five writing retreats in the US!  You do not have to be a writer to come to Haven. Just a seeker.

ForwardThis year I asked my Haven alums to consider submitting a piece about what it took to get themselves to the retreat, what their blocks were, and how it has informed future decision making when it comes to creating possibilities for themselves in the field of their dreams.

The theme is:
I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat. So Now What?

We’ll be postings these essays written by Haven alums who will share their story twice a week through February, in hopes that you will take a brave stand for whatever it is that you dream about doing for yourself. If it’s a Haven retreat that you pine for, here is our 2015 schedule. I’d love to tell you more about the experience.

Here’s to a wondrous 2015! And may you grant yourself your wildest dreams!

February 25- March 1 (only a few spaces left)
June 3-7 (filling fast)
June 17-21 (filling fast)
September 9-13
September 23-27
October 7-11
October 21-25
April 29- May 3- Haven joins the fabulous luxury guest ranch Ranch at Rock Creek for an activity-based retreat that will blow your mind!

Please enjoy this poem by Josina Manu Maltzman, which was inspired by my one day Haven Workshop at The Loft in Minneapolis this December. The prompt was: Why is Writing Dangerous? I chose this prompt because anything worth diving into head-first is a little, if not a lot, dangerous. That’s what makes it powerful. Consider your dreams, how you deem them “dangerous,” and choose to tell yourself a new story. Making them come true just might change your life! I am living proof of that.

Yrs.
Laura

In honor of the writers killed in Paris this week

Writing is Dangerous

by Josina Manu Maltzman

Writing
is the space between cells that holds memories
atoms of information
the part of me that blends with you
the in-between that creates
the line
but also blurs it.

It is terrifying to write,
never knowing what may happen.
Words create worlds and we must follow them pulled to discover
what lies there.

Writing is both safe and safecracker
code breaker
myth weaver.

When you think you are alone but the words tell you:
You are not.

Writing is salve and salvation.
We need the words to heal,
mending collective trauma
where our humanity has been torn and ailed
for generations.

Trees need soil.
We need art.
There must be packed art around our roots
to push against
spread within
hold the water to us
and rest there,
waiting for us to sip and be nourished.

Writing is dangerous where there is power-over,
suffering-under.
It is dangerous to write truth into a scene that is otherwise void of it.

Writing is dangerous
the way jazz is dangerous.
The way meeting in town squares
under the watchful gaze
of the master
is dangerous.

Even if (because)
it looks like revelry.

Writing is forbidden sex and Love
re-imagined.

It is barriers destroyed and prison bars disappeared.

The undead coming alive
their voices rising together.

Words are
the testament of where we came from
proof of our pasts
claiming our futures.
On the page history
is told with our own words,
our lives
at once
have value.

Writing dangerously feeds hunger
when we are supposed to be starving.
Edwidge Danticat says,
“Create dangerously,
for people who read dangerously.”
Because some people
are killed for their words
and to read them
is also
sure death.

Some stories must be shared by candlelight,
behind drawn shades,
because the truth of what is said
is dangerous
to power.

Writing must be dangerous.
How else do we reflect
truly
on the world we live in?
We must get dirty
fearlessly uncovering.

What is it to desire un-dangerous writing?

To write safely is Wednesday Night Sitcom
Disneyworld bench
sandbox playground.

We write dangerous
because our world is dangerous.
And as we chronicle our surroundings
we shatter glass ceilings
shards falling like pointed daggers
exposing an endless sky.

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