Hunter's answer to the question: "what is a retreat? and also more information about Hunter.
“What is a retreat?” my friend Danny asked.
My jaw, quite simply, dropped.
In the last twelve years of leading retreats, I’ve answered many questions about them. “What will I get from this retreat?” was the most common, quickly followed by variations of “Will I be safe?” (Yes, and you have total freedom to take care of yourself), “Will I be comfortable? (As comfortable as you want to be), and “Will I be supported?” (Oh, yes!). What dropped my jaw wasn’t the question itself; it was the fact that in all these years, no one – including me – had ever asked it.
I could have tried to answer the question by talking about the ingredients of a good retreat. First, we need a beautiful setting, crafted with loving attention, offering a perfect balance of wide-open spaces for playing together, intimate communal spaces for gathering, and quiet nooks for private contemplation.
We also want an exciting menu of experiences, giving people the chance to explore every aspect of their lives, to develop joyful, authentic, loving connections, to set free their creative inner child and to rediscover their own most passionate and daring visions. Over the years, I have cultivated just such a menu, filled with the most powerful experiences culled from decades of experience: breathwork, trance dance, meditation, conscious erotic play, shamanic ceremonies, the inipi (sweatlodge), heart circles, yoga, authentic movement, and experiential group exercises. The best experiences, though, are the unplanned ones that crack us open in unexpected ways, like the time a very gentle, demure man accidentally dropped his pants during a Sufi ceremony, exploding the circle into helpless, unceremonious rolls of healing laughter.
Of course, it helps to have a skilled facilitator for a retreat: someone committed to creating a safe, supportive, playful space for discovery, someone willing to set aside his opinions and agendas in order to support others in living their own deepest truths. A good facilitator is not there to share his own gifts; he is there to create a space for others to gift each other. And how they do!
That is really the most important ingredient: a group of people daring enough to step outside the comfort zones of their lives, drop their stories and open their hearts to each other. People willing to ask for what they want, receive deeply, and gift each other joyfully. Really, this includes everyone; we all have the potential to live this way, and it is the magic of a retreat that brings this potential into reality.
I could also have tried to answer the question by talking about the extraordinary gifts I have seen people give themselves at retreats. No matter how satisfied we are in our lives, a retreat offers us the opportunity to step back from everything we think we know, and to experience ourselves, our world, and each other in a powerful new way – and the rewards are amazing.
I have seen people come alive before my eyes, breathing more freely, laughing more easily, playing with abandon, letting in the intimacy they craved and offering themselves to each other with astounding generosity. We often come away from retreats with lifelong friendships, a more compassionate understanding of our own lives, and the commitment to move our lives in the direction of our most compelling visions.
I have watched people cultivate these gifts in powerful ways in the days and months that follow the retreat. Sometimes, the changes are small: new spiritual practices, greater self-care, creative projects, more play, and more satisfying experiences in their relationships. Sometimes, they are extraordinary: people have moved, changed careers, taken journeys they had only fantasized about, dropped unsatisfying relationships, built new ones, and committed themselves wholeheartedly to their wildest dreams. However these changes play out, it is the inner ones that seem to matter most: we see differently, we understand more deeply, and we live more freely and more joyfully.
The most difficult thing about answering my friend’s question is that a good retreat is so much more that its parts; retreats have a magic all their own that defies any attempt to describe it. I could have simply said, like so many of my participants, “I have no words.” Yes, we are retreating from our lives, retreating into the most playful and joyful parts of our own being, and coming forth renewed. We have an amazing amount of fun! But words simply fall short.
I took a deep breath, enjoyed the cool air rushing down inside my lungs, and looked into my friend’s beautiful, sparkling eyes. I thought back to all the people that have moved me so deeply over the years
“A retreat,” I grinned, “Is everything we make of it … and more than we could imagine.”
Hunter Flournoy is a Freedom Coach, Shamanic Healer, Breathworker, and a teacher in the erotic wisdom traditions of the world. He has devoted his life to learning from elders, healers, and teachers in the indigenous traditions of Curranderismo, the Toltec tradition, the Mayan fire ceremony, and the Lakota Inipi, and the erotic wisdom traditions of Buddhism, Judaism, Sufism, and Eastern Christianity. Hunter has led workshops and ceremonies in awareness, creativity, erotic healing, passionate living and personal freedom for twenty years.
To learn more about Spirit Journeys and Hunter's work, go to: www.spiritjourneys.com