Ali Edwards Capture life. Create art.

June 22, 2011

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.


  • 1.
    Susan Sherrer said…

    Yes! It takes courage to step out from behind the computer but so worth it — we all have stories to share. Each of us matters. Thanks for sharing, Ali.

  • 2.
    Jessica Kopp said…

    You summed up the retreat perfectly. Thank you for sharing this journey with me. I will forever be changed by the words & stories you & everyone shared.

  • 3.
    Damiane Lucas said…

    Hi Ali,

    Sounds like you had lots of fun! These photos are fabulous! Are the photos of you self-portraits? Beautiful!

    • ….
      Ali said…

      Yes – self portraits.

  • 4.
    craftstea said…

    My daughter is getting married this weekend. Project life is NOT holding all that is happening this week. I happened to take a closer look at your suggestions on recording a week out of your life. I think this week needs it’s own album! I started in December with the daily December album. It was my oldest daughters 1st married Christmas and I wanted to record it. Then in January I started project life. Now, I am relieved to find an idea for capturing my 2nd daughters wedding. I feel so good being able to record these moments and know we can look back and be reminded of our life story in the years to follow. Thanks for a very practical inspiration!

    • ….
      dawn said…

      WOW 2 weddings that close together, how exciting for you. Congrats on both of them and on your December Daily and PL. I just did a week in the life for the first time last year and loved it. This would be a great week for you to do that and add extra pictures to your PL and/or make an album just for this week. Good luck and have a great wedding day.

  • 5.
    annie said…

    YOU, are absolutely amazing.

  • 6.
    Sandi Keene said…

    Could you BE more inspiring? Seriously yummy post. Thank you as always for sharing.

  • 7.
    Amanda said…

    sounds like a lovely retreat!

  • 8.
    Denise said…

    It sounds like a great time for personal growth. I get that any time I visit the shore. There’s nothing like the salt air and surf to rejuvenate!

  • 9.
    Julia said…

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

  • 10.
    Maureen said…

    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. ;-)

  • 11.

    Amazing.. glad that you could get out there.


  • 12.
    Jenny Pitcairn said…

    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.

  • 13.
    dawn said…

    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.

  • 14.
    Christine said…

    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.

  • 15.
    Sharon in California said…

    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.

  • 16.
    carol in seattle :) said…

    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!

  • 17.
    Gypsy Chaos said…

    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!

  • 18.
    Kathi said…

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

  • 19.
    Elaine said…

    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 –

  • 20.

    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

    • ….
      Ali said…

      Oh that is lovely Alison – thank you. I’ve got his book River Flow on order – looking forward to diving in. And thanks for letting me know you’ll be coming to Italy in the fall – we will be starting a Yahoo group soon :) .

  • 21.
    Kelli said…

    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!

  • 22.
    Kimberly said…

    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.

  • 23.
    Jacqueline said…

    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!

  • 24.
    AbbyS said…

    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.

  • 25.
    Kerry said…

    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

  • 26.

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

    • ….
      Ali said…

      I’ve got it here in my pile to read. Being present is one of the themes of my life -

  • 27.
    lindsey said…

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

  • 28.
    Teresa said…

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

  • 29.
    Jill said…

    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 :)

    • ….
      Ali said…

      That is so awesome Jill – I would love to do something like that.

  • 30.
    Stacey Meredith said…

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

  • 31.
    chaotickristi said…

    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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