On Being Present

Hello Heart

I felt like there was a lot of saying hello to things this past weekend.

Last August I received an email from Liz Lamoreux inviting me to be a mentor at one of her Be Present Retreats. The specific one she was inviting me to was focused on the theme of Your Story. As I read the details I thought, yes, that sounds like something I'd like to be a part of...and something that scares me just a bit. Being scared just a bit is something I'd been feeling like I needed even if I don't particularly like being scared.

What was I scared of? A much smaller group than the workshops I usually do (more intimate), coming out from behind my computer, the mention of poetry, the possibility of my own personal growth through the experience.


I already love the coast. It's a big part of my life story - both past and present. Trips there tend to represent relaxation and a homecoming in so many ways - to myself, to my family, to my history.

Driving over I was full of anticipation. Hopeful. Noticing the quiet. Beginning to relax. Using my camera to capture things I was witnessing along the way.

Hello Joy

Each day of the retreat was a different theme. We focused on beauty & joy, truth, and then passion & love. We wrote, we listened, we took pictures, we shared, we ate, we walked, we took deep breaths. Liz's voice is pure magic for setting the scene. She has such a talent for creating a safe, welcoming space for all the participants. She's one of those people that has really found her gift and is wholeheartedly sharing it.

Here's some of the things I found myself saying hello to:

SAYING HELLO to poetry. Accessible, life-affirming poetry that feels so much better than the poetry I encountered in high school and college. Some that I already loved (Mary Oliver, Rumi) and others that were new to me - specifically David Whyte.


SAYING HELLO to sharing the stories of our lives in a small group setting.

SAYING HELLO to the knowledge that we are not alone.

Piece Of Me

SAYING HELLO to an expanded view of storytelling. Words, photos, and spoken voice. I think the theme of voice is one of the things I'll be taking away from this weekend - it's something I'm already passionate about but this weekend really drove it home for me all over again. The beauty and power of personal voice - and really specifically the spoken voice.

SAYING HELLO to making new friends. More than friends. The kind of friendship that comes from sharing an intimate experience of stories and lives and fears and joys and coastal air.


I wish this sort of experience for everyone. A chance to remove yourself from your everyday experience to be able to go back to it refreshed, renewed, awakened and maybe even changed for the better.

If you are looking for something to help you become more alive, to reconnect with yourself, I highly recommend a retreat with Liz. Her next retreat is called Create Magic and runs October 5th through the 9th at a location about an hour south of Seattle.


I think we might all benefit from being scared just a bit and stepping out of our normal a little more often.

33 thoughts

  1. Julia

    2011-06-22 16:09:47 -0400

    The pictures are so inviting and calm. Looks like you had a lovely time!

  2. Maureen

    2011-06-22 17:06:02 -0400

    Out of one's comfort zone...always a chance for growth. Glad you took the leap of faith, but then you KNOW it always works out for the best. ;-)

  3. jennifer Camplin

    2011-06-22 17:19:28 -0400

    Amazing.. glad that you could get out there.


  4. Jenny Pitcairn

    2011-06-22 20:21:11 -0400

    What a fabulous sounding retreat. And a strange and wonderful coincidence for me - I read and loved some of David Whyte's poetry some time ago, but had forgotten his name. I was thinking about it earlier today for the first time in months, wanting to read again and read more, wondering how I'd find it again, and then here you are posting a link.

  5. dawn

    2011-06-22 20:21:51 -0400

    Ali, these photos are gorgeous. Love the self-timer ones of you. I would love to go on this kind of retreat, wish there was one on the east coast. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  6. Christine

    2011-06-22 21:10:13 -0400

    I love the photos. They make me want to run out to the nearest beach.
    Kudos to you for steping outside of the box and partipating in the retreat. I look forward to hearing about your Creative Escape trip.
    I'm hoping I can go (gotta convince my husband) as this would be an amazing trip.

  7. Sharon in California

    2011-06-23 00:24:33 -0400

    Fantastic!! Being scared is definitely a theme for me lately. Acknowledging and working through it. Questioning what really scares me and why. Such an interesting experience. Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience with us.

  8. carol in seattle :)

    2011-06-23 00:57:41 -0400

    Dang, I wish I could afford that! Liz's retreats look like the perfect escape - one that I really need right now. Thanks for inspiring me to try something new!

  9. Gypsy Chaos

    2011-06-23 01:14:37 -0400

    I've felt the urge to take a retreat for several months. This may be the shove to seriously look into doing it.

    Your sand dollar photo immediately brought to my mind your OLW: light!

    I had to giggle at your self-portraits - you're wearing a COAT! And you have it zipped!

  10. Kathi

    2011-06-23 01:24:38 -0400

    Ohhhh - yes that sort of intimacy is intimidating. I get that part.

  11. Elaine

    2011-06-23 02:24:47 -0400

    Hello Ali,
    As an avid follower of your blog I just wanted to say that I love your posts and to mention that I've just started my own blog. Please check it out if interested - visualmeringue.blogspot.com

  12. Alison Richardson

    2011-06-23 04:50:35 -0400

    I love the work of David Whyte - see my latest blog on his poem THREADS. I have been asked to lecture part time at a South African business school - the though scares me. Maybe being scared is ok and I'll do it anyway. Maybe....

    Looking forward to seeing you in Italy in October

  13. Kelli

    2011-06-23 07:15:28 -0400

    oh to have the money to travel there and go...but it does inspire me to create something similar, if not for myself, for a group of women. I love. what an amazing idea!

  14. Kimberly

    2011-06-23 09:18:31 -0400

    You, your words and your spirit amaze me. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity for attending this retreat and sharing this experience with you and all the ladies. Thank you and thank you for summing up the retreat so beautifully.

  15. Jacqueline

    2011-06-23 09:19:28 -0400

    Changes can be quite scary, but it opens up to whole new directions and possibilities in our lives. Good to see that you go ahead with all the new things, Ali!

  16. AbbyS

    2011-06-23 10:00:09 -0400

    Thank you for sharing this reflection, this amazing experience... this retreat sounds like something everyone should experience once or twice in their lifetime. Working through our challenges, acknowledging it and allowing others to witness it definitely says something about a person. I'm inspired, Ali... a continued feeling I always go away with after reading your posts.

  17. Kerry

    2011-06-23 11:24:49 -0400

    I would love to go on some sort of retreat and just to be able to be away from everything oh it sounds bliss xx

  18. tara pollard pakosta

    2011-06-23 11:37:24 -0400

    have you read ONE THOUSAND GIFTS?
    I am reading it now and that's what it's all about, being present! love it!

  19. lindsey

    2011-06-23 12:33:36 -0400

    these few moments you captured are so fresh and breezy. i can't imagine what it must have done for your soul.

  20. Teresa

    2011-06-23 13:13:58 -0400

    Thank you for sharing this, I completely agree with you. What scares us in life is often what we most need to embrace.

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  22. Jill

    2011-06-24 00:52:09 -0400

    I loved reading about your experience, Ali. And I love David Whyte - such wisdom. What I know for sure (thanks Oprah) is that taking time to reflect on what is in my heart, at a place that is away from my everyday life, is the best gift I give to myself and those close to me each year. For the past 7 or so years I've gone to a retreat center about 100 miles away on an old farmstead. It's totally low-key, very unstructured and a simple setting and guests are welcomed to make the experience their own (in complete solitude, in silence, sharing community meals with other guests, etc). I go in August and have expanded my time from one overnight to now a week-long experience. I go alone, but eat in community and each year am amazed by and blessed to meet the other guests - most stay fewer days than I do. The retreat center staff feel like extended family to me. It's such a special place to me. Each year I start my time by reading Gift of the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindberg. Highly recommend it if you haven't read it. I have yet to go on a guided retreat like your experience and I'm adding it to my goal list - thanks :)

  23. Stacey Meredith

    2011-06-26 08:16:33 -0400

    Love the self portraits...were the photos shown in your car from n instant camera? If so, I'd love to know more...

  24. chaotickristi

    2011-06-28 10:27:21 -0400

    Ali...I blog, I take pics, and I live on the coast.. but I have not evolved nearly as much as I think you have (based on this blog) ... kudos to you! and, thank you for sharing yourself with such a wide audience. If you didnt, I would never have gotten to read these lovely moments of inspiration.

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