Why I Created The L.E.A.P. Retreat | Part 2
Hi there & welcome back to the two-part series about my spiritual wellness retreat, The L.E.A.P. Retreat hosted right here on the small island of Caye Caulker, Belize!
I've been a little busy getting everything up & running for registration for our March & May retreats in 2023, so apologies for the delay in getting Part 2 of this series out! If you haven't yet had a chance to read Why I Created The L.E.A.P. Retreat | Part I, click on the link & enjoy!
Let's get into Part 2, shall we?
*Deep inhale as all the emotions return*
I remember the day of the retreat, I felt an odd mix of emotions; excited for the Queens to arrive, excited to commune with so many women who I’d connected with via IG over the years, excited to host an event on the island I now call home, nervous about my Queens' perception of me (having a "large" following on IG, often creators tend to worry about how people’s perception of them online aligns with who they are in real time), I was nervous about executing the itinerary effectively and a little nervous about how the ladies would enjoy the activities & workshops we'd spent nearly a year planning.
As I navigated those emotions in the hours leading up to welcoming the Queens to Belize, I reminded myself that this retreat was a gift from Spirit and that I was specifically chosen to lead and execute this experience to the very best of my ability. I reminded myself that nothing is done coincidently and that this experience was no exception but more importantly, like the very name that I’d given this retreat, at the end of the day, I was fully prepared to let everything align perfectly and my goodness, that’s precisely what happened...
Without going into every detail of every event because lots of what happened during the retreat was truly sacred, I would love to share some of my absolute favorite moments of this 5-day experience:
After careful reflection over the past few months since the retreat ended, I think what I loved most about this experience was that our Queens were completely & totally OPEN to everything that the retreat had to offer. My retreat sisters were not only open to just meeting & really connecting with each other, but they were open to sharing some really tough experiences that they’d each survived, they were open to participating in activities that were a bit intimidating (i.e. swimming with sting rays & nurse sharks), they were open to allowing their tears to flow while healing energy entered their Spirits, and they allowed their hearts to expand further than they’d perhaps ever imagined possible when you consider none of these girls had ever met 24 hours prior to coming. By being so open to these shared experiences, what happened was pure, unadulterated (black girl) magic!
In that discovery, we found common ground in that despite our differences, we were all navigating survivorship, healing, intentionality and a fervent desire to align with the Highest versions of ourselves. Through so many moments of profound vulnerability, we connected in such a way that nobody felt as if she was suffering alone anymore, or that she was alone on her journey towards healing and most importantly, through these powerful connections, what we'd established was a sisterhood so that no one was without a newfound sister on whom they could now lean.
In addition to how open people were with each other, I was deeply grateful for how open the Queens were with me. I loved that despite the fact that everyone had initially heard about me/the retreat via social media, nobody held me on some type of “influencer pedestal”, distancing themselves from me, feeling uncomfortable relating to me and/or sharing aspects of their unique lives that I could provide insight into. In fact, as we walked around the island, everyone who saw us thought that I was hosting a big group of friends because the energy among these complete strangers was giving family reunion vibes, a girls trip or simply friends who’d certainly known each other significantly longer than the 5 days we’d shared space. Even within the group as a whole, there were groups of girls who’d connected even more deeply and forged a friendship I trust will span a lifetime!
Another one of my absolute favorite highlights of the trip happened on the morning of our first full day in Belize. I wanted to take some time before we got into our activities to commune with the ladies and set intentions for not just the day but for the retreat as a whole. After giving everyone a sage bath, I shared with the women how deeply grateful I was that they trusted me with this special experience, especially since we'd never ever met before.
Before I began, I wanted to provide a little context behind why I was especially grateful for their commitment to this experience so I shared with the Queens some of the challenges I’d faced in even bringing this retreat to life. I mentioned navigating my own experience with Imposter’s Syndrome in the months leading up to the retreat as I at times really questioned whether or not I was actually capable of running a retreat in Belize, especially after having only lived on the island for 2 months prior!
I mentioned to the Queens that even I received the inspiration for the retreat, that I’d actually battled with identity issues a lot in my life, often being forced to conform to a certain image & idea but always knowing that I was simply different from what I was being asked to contort myself into. The quote I said was:
“They wanted me to be a rose, but I was a lotus; still a flower and still beautiful, just not the flower that they kept trying to mold me into.”
That quote really resonated with my retreat sisters and served as inspiration for so many of the girls who ended up getting matching lotus tattoos! I think what resonated most was the reality that it’s perfectly ok for us to be uniquely us despite family, friends, institutions, social norms, etc. forcing us into being something we simply are not. I’ve learned in my own journey and wanted to really reinforce this idea to my Queens that what makes them unique is the very same thing that makes them beautiful, worthy of love, worthy of grace, respect and worthy of everything they’ve ever wanted in this thing called life.
...But can you imagine that?
A woman (me) who for years had questioned what she was capable of and what her purpose in life was, taking a leap based on a download she'd received from Spirit, launching a wellness retreat to help women heal in some of the very same ways she did herself, sharing powerful words from her own experience that resonated so deeply that it inspired over half of her retreat sisters to get permanent reminders of their experience together. WHEW!
Needless to say, I cried when the first participant got her tattoo and then when more and more of the girls got tatted, I just…I literally still can't find the words. Of course, I got tatted too and what really took it over the top was when one of the girls got “let everything align perfectly” tattooed along her side with a lotus at the end of it. I was in awe of my Sisters but honestly for a moment, I was in awe of myself. This one aspect of the entire retreat reminds me any/every time I ever doubt whether this is something I can really do, that I was chosen to do this work and possess every ability ever needed to continue to do the work to heal more Black women around the world.
Here's the real kicker...
A few months after the retreat ended, my retreat sisters flew to Atlanta from all over the US to convene together again for a weekend of laughter, fun and (re)indulging in the sacred sisterhood they’d fostered while in Belize. Some even linked up in other cities to support huge achievements in their Sister's respective careers & professions. And when I saw the pictures from their trip together, it affirmed that this retreat, that this experience, gifted to me from Spirit and The Divine, will continue to not only heal Black women across the world but it creates a powerful opportunity for these mothers, sisters, daughters, aunties and friends to now, after sharing this most beautiful experience together, become lifelong sisters.