The Magic of Retreats

As I am preparing for our first in-person retreat in 3 years, I was reflecting on the many profound stories and experiences that have come out of my retreats in the past.

Here are their stories (I feel like I should queue the sound from Law and Order, minus the mayhem!).

Sedona Writer’s Retreat

After I wrote Escape from Cubicle Nation in 2009, I developed a deep appreciation for the writing process, and particularly the process of writing a book.

Many of my clients were writing books and I got the idea to conduct a writing retreat in Sedona, Arizona, to create a sacred space for words to flow. I asked my brilliant and talented editor friend Betsy Rapoport if she would co-lead the retreat, and we held it for three years.

One of our retreat exercises was to create tangible representations of the books our participants wanted to write, using colored paper and pens.

Martha Jo Atkins, founder of Dying School, pictured above, had two significant writing projects she had been trying to bring to life, to no avail: her Phd dissertation, and her first book, Sign Posts of Dying. Martha Jo created the book covers in miniature form, even asking Betsy to write a blurb on the back (I think Betsy wrote something like “F’ing brilliant!”).

After the retreat, with focus and passion, Martha Jo finished both her dissertation and her book, Sign Posts of Dying, which describes the common but often confusing set of behaviors folks go through when they are getting ready to transition to the spirit world.

Five years ago, when my Dad was in the last stages of his life, he began to exhibit some of those behaviors. My Bonus Mom Dee was describing some things to me, and I immediately thought of Martha Jo’s book. So I sent it to her.

It made such a profound difference to Dee, and allowed her to have a deeply meaningful and beautiful connection with my Dad to the very end of his life.

I remember stepping back and thinking “What if Martha Jo had never written her book?”

A number of years ago, my dear friend and fellow business coach Charlie Gilkey and I decided to put on an entrepreneur retreat called Lift Off. The retreat covered the design of a business from start to finish, and blended my big picture Connector lens with Charlie’s deep, reflective Maven lens. (We recount the whole journey on an upcoming episode of The Widest Net Podcast, up later this month!)

Willie Jackson, pictured above, was in our very first cohort and at the time was a mid-twenties superstar in a large corporate consulting firm, with a big house in Atlanta, and a likely fast track to partner.

The only problem was, he was miserable on that track. Willie dreamed of impact, of freedom, flexibility and collaboration, not, in his words:

“giving 15-20 years of my life, three failed marriages, and countless hours to a faceless behemoth. I feared waking up five years later still wanting to quit. I feared not showing my younger sister and mentors that anything is possible. I feared giving the best hours of the every weekday during the best years of my life…without ever having the chance to live a life worth leading.”

So after attending Lift Off, Willie did the thing that made me fear facing his parents Mr. and Mrs. Jackson for a long time: he never went back to his job.

His entrepreneur journey has been deep and rich, including co-founding a startup, being CTO for Seth Godin’s Domino Project, an extended stay in Buenos Aires learning Spanish and being featured on HDTV, and now a rewarding and nourishing role as a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Consultant in a boutique firm based in the Bay Area.

The time away, amazing fellow retreat participants (many of whom he is friends with to this day) and a clear planning structure through the retreat helped Willie fundamentally change the course of his life.

After Body of Work came out in 2014, I wanted to lead a different type of retreat in one of my favorite places in the world, Akumal, Mexico.

My family had been going there on vacation for decades and we knew it held special magic and healing energy.

So I created a 4-day Body of Work retreat in Akumal, and Kerra Bolton, pictured above, signed up to attend. I had met Kerra in Raleigh, North Carolina when I did the 23 city community tour as research for The Widest Net. She was journalist and political strategist and at a place in her life where she was ready for a big change.

The retreat was a profound experience for all of us, and not just because we stayed in a luxury beach-front villa with chefs who made delicious meals for us every day (that was amazing!).

Something awakened in Kerra through the retreat and she ended up moving permanently to Akumal and has lived there for the past 6 years. She is creating a powerful documentary film called Return of the Black Madonna, in addition to other film and writing projects.

An outcome of the Akumal retreat for me and Darryl was the vision to open our physical space at K’é Main Street Learning Lab here in Mesa. Our 6-year anniversary is today (September 1), the same 6 year anniversary date as Kerra’s!

Which brings us to the brand new upcoming retreat, The Widest Net Retreat, happening right here in downtown Mesa from October 6-9, 2022.

This retreat is designed for business owners, authors, activists and community builders who want to build a cohesive, integrated and strategic marketing plan for 2023.

Ideal participants have the following things in common:

  • A desire to make a deep impact with their work
  • Enthusiasm for participating in a group setting where this “third space” energy of multiple people adding to and helping to flesh out your vision will create a better, stronger plan
  • A readiness to leave a “fly by the seat of your pants” mode of operating and build a thoughtful, strategic approach to business growth.

Given the stories I told from past retreats, you may say “Pam, if I go, does it mean I will quit my job, move to a tropical exotic location or make a profound difference in Pam’s family and legacy?”

Maybe so my friend. We are here to help you bring your dreams to life, whatever they are.

All I can say is, magic happens when we work in a group.

More on The Widest Net Retreat:

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