Yurts, Yoga and YOLO: Why I am at a Women’s Retreat with Bear Guards

 

Retreat: to pull back, move away.

In battle, it marks a failure to win a battle.
But in life?

This week, I’m retreating. And I’m doing so with a group of 20 women, many of whom I’ve never met.

We are gathering on a mountaintop lodge — remote even from the sparsely populated town at the base of its long, long, long private gravel road. The lodge and tiny town share a zip code and a spectacular view across the Strait of Juan de Fuca separating Canada’s Vancouver Island, in British Columbia from the northern tip of America’s Olympic Peninsula, in Washington State. This setting in the crisp chill of early Autumn at the top of the tree line, naturally inspires slower, deeper breathing; softer, quieter thinking; and a sense of deep reverence.

Remote Lodge, Bankrolled from Bear Guarding

This place is testament to the vision and passion of two brothers, who opened Soule Creek Lodge 16 years ago as a place to connect their professional expertise as chefs with their personal passion for enjoying and preserving pristine natural environments.

This labor of love was bankrolled by a stint of lucrative but “unusual” work in Alaska, cooking salmon and guarding bears. Turns out that accomplished chefs can elicit equally passionate responses from two- and four-legged diners. The problem is that if the latter ever actually taste the food, their addiction to the savory simplicity of dining on at someone else’s table marks them for extermination, as they could become very dangerous moochers. So, the accomplished epicurean siblings had to take turns either preparing meals or standing guard with pepper spray to deflect the interest of prospective 900-pound diners with names like ScarFace and Victor.

That fund-raising junket also taught the brothers about the value of another kind of agility: the ability to have a plan B and plan C at the ready. So, when the Alaskan weather grounded the sea plane explorations that brought them many of their dining guests, they learned to captain and curate their own boat trips to offer stranded visitors with alternate and unique options to taking in the majesty of their environment. These experiences, in turn, fueled lively dinner conversations and new-found community around a long, shared table in their restaurant.

After six subsequent years of searching the Pacific Northwest for the right location, they found the foundation for Soule Creek Lodge.  At the heart of this mountain top site ringed with a collection of unique Yurts on cantilevered decks, is the main lodge featuring a restaurant with sweeping views. In keeping with the commissioned First Nation art depicting family paintings from a traditional longpole house, the dining room is intended to inspire and connect its guests with a single seating for each meal at a long common table.

Yurts, Yoga and YOLO

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An apt setting for the retreat’s mission: to take the time and space to learn more about ourselves — our innate behaviors and passions — and explore how we can connect who we are more successfully with what we chose to do.  And the bonus: connecting with 20 women at various stages of leadership in their work, their communities and their networks.

We’re here for a workshop to better understand ourselves. With facilitators, we’ll look at the individual results from our SuccessFinder behavioral self assessments.  And we will also explore how those results connect us as a group —a cohort— of participants that we can learn with and learn from.

That reflective, introspective workshop is in the middle of an agenda shaped to advance mind, body and soul. Like last night’s delicious dinner (sans bears), the workshop is a savory entree, preceded by a developmental amuse bouche: sunrise yoga with a majestic dessert of daily hikes in the wilderness at the water’s edge.

I am thrilled to be here, briefly retreating from a life busy with responsibility, commitments, and deadlines to explore, advance and more purposefully experience what’s possible in this life that you only live once.

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