Another international adventure begins!  A year ago, I enjoyed a writing, yoga and art retreat in Italy.  This year, I’m heading to the same retreat in a new locale: Bali.  I am on the shuttle bus from Napa to the San Francisco Airport and contemplating last year’s retreat while anticipating the form it will take this year in a completely different setting.  Different setting, but some of the same retreat participants.  My roommate from last year, Rosemary, is going to be my roommate again this year.  That, in itself, generates great excitement and anticipation for me.   Rosemary and I connected instantly and deeply last year.  She’s become one of those friends who you can go without connecting for months and pick up like you never left.  She represents my ideal Renaissance woman.  By profession, she’s a French literature professor whose writing parallels the masters she has studied.  I’m mesmerized as I listen to her weave her artistic expressions and share her brilliance with a room of artists and writers.  She also has the gift of music.  She plays a variety of  instruments and plays them with excellence.  At last year’s retreat, she serenaded us while playing piano.  If I remember correctly, she sang one of the songs in a foreign language.  I eagerly anticipate what she might share with us this year.

I also look forward to seeing other retreat repeat participants.  Amick, a freelance writer from San Francisco, will be joining me in Bali.  Stephen Lloyd Webber and his wife, Jade Webber, run the retreat. Stephen is the writer, author and professor. He expertly guides us through the writing components of the retreat with the mandate to commit fully to work on a project or do nothing with equal vigor. This retreat is about honoring ourselves: giving our bodies and minds what we need; savoring the magnificent locations and cultures; and creating from an inspired place.  Jade is the artist and yoga instructor.  We start each day with a yoga practice that touches the body, mind and soul as she guides us through breath work, mediation and asanas, or yoga poses. Jade is a free spirit with an anchored intellect.  She’s a student of life and captures the essence in her paintings. I reflect on the goal I’ve set for myself at this retreat: to learn how to use charcoals to draw the human form.  I worked with Stephen last year.  This year, I have the opportunity to work with Jade.

It’s amazing to me to think that it was just one year ago that I started my first international journal as I chronicled my trip to Tuscany and Florence, Italy.  Interestingly, my sister and her family gave me a journal as a gift for my trip – it had the map of Italy on the cover and it was the perfect little journal to capture my adventure.  This year, I’m also using a journal that they gave me as a gift – a gift when I moved to Napa.  The cover is adorned with a peacock and the reminder from Helen Keller that “Each day comes to me with both hands full of possibilities.”

Last year, I filled the Italian journal with my lively adventure.  I chronicled my life, my discoveries, my experiences and my growth.  This insightful travel companion was the basis for my first book that I created in the form of a blog – this blog.   It was an instructive experience to transform my journal into a series of blog posts and fill the posts with photos. It was both rewarding and a kick off into a journey of creativity.

Since that time, I’ve played in numerous art mediums (acrylics, pastels, collage), but I haven’t played with my writing.  When I initially signed up for this retreat, I thought I would use this time to write my book. Logically, I thought I could make up for the lost time that I didn’t write this year.  I planned on a dedicated two weeks of uninterrupted time to write from an inspiring place in Bali.  Perfect!  Ahhhhh, the best laid plans.

Spring and summer in Napa proved to be an incredibly challenging few months. Unbeknownst to me, I started to live from a place of constantly flowing adrenaline.  I created many lofty goals, determined to accomplish them at all costs. Which I did. At a cost.  My body was exhausted and refused to continue to live in fight or flight mode.  Despite eating nutritiously and working out regularly by running challenging trails, practicing yoga and lifting weights, an insidious layer of fat was making its way around my body – how could this be?!?! The life of unintended consequences – cortisol and adrenaline were attacking my body.  While it was distressing for me to be in this state for the first time in my life, more distressing was the fact I allowed myself to get here and didn’t even realize it.  Me, a person who prides herself for being self aware.  That should have been my first clue – “pride” in the same sentence as “self aware.”

It was time for a change. Time to create an inspired life that supports and fulfills me.  The purpose of my Bali trip changed from writing my book (clearly one of those adrenaline-filled goals that I would have found a way to accomplish) to showing up and letting life show up.  To receive it. To roll with it. To embrace it. To get centered and inspired.  To spend quality time reconnecting to myself.  To take the results home with me to start refreshed and anew.

The timing couldn’t be more perfect.  I am at a point in life where I am making some major life breakthroughs and corresponding changes to my life.  I am gaining clarity on who I want to be and who I do not want to be.  I am asking myself the tough questions and demanding the honest answers:
What do I want life to look like?
Who am I?
How do I want to show up in life?
What mark do I want to leave on this world?
What am I doing to support the above? To detract from the above?
How am I living my life on a daily basis to support the person I am and the stand I purport to take?

I want – I need – to honestly answer these questions in Bali and then create a plan to support it. I want to return to Napa in action and step boldly into this second book in the trilogy of my life.

Let the adventure begin!