What I learned from attending the SIS Circle Winter Wellness Retreat

With so much going on during the holiday season, ten days before Christmas is hardly the time to be taking a break. However, it’s exactly what I did last month when I attended the SIS Circle Winter Wellness Retreat with 19 other women in Sonoma Valley, California.

The inaugural SIS Circle Winter Wellness Retreat’s focus was on nurturing one’s soul and envisioning goals for the new year. Held at the serene Westerbeke Ranch, one hour north of San Francisco, our activities included: guided meditation, group conversations, feminine movement fitness activity, and a vision board workshop. We bonded and reflected over amazing group meals and stayed warm in cozy cabins.

This quick, but well-needed getaway, was the perfect way to end end 2018 and look ahead to 2019. Here are my takeaways from the retreat:

Take Time for Yourself

Taking time for yourself doesn’t always have to mean traveling and physically getting away. In the tech-induced world we now live in, it can be as easy as shutting yourself off from screens for an hour or more. Many people are guilty of using their smartphone while watching T.V., so an easy way of weaning yourself from screens is to shut down one bad habit at a time until you are down to no screens. Since the new year began, I started spending less time on social networks such as Instagram and Facebook (I intentionally removed Facebook from my phone) and paying more attention to (and appreciating) what’s in front of me. My child is growing right in front of my eyes, and I want her to know I’m paying attention…because these days won’t last very long.

When I do want to communicate with friends on the fly, I use text groups or text messaging. In a way, I’m glad my mom barely uses (or knows how to use) devices, because I get to hear her voice when I call her at least once a week!

Explore Your Surroundings

As congested as Los Angeles is, there are plenty of places to explore and appreciate. I can’t believe it took having a child for me to seek out and actually discover places outside my comfort zone. I’m continually finding parks and places I’ve never been, and returning to new favorites. The location of the retreat, Westerbeke Ranch in Sonoma, was even new to my friend and Napa Valley local Nancy, who drove me there. It’s definitely a place I want to return to.

Westerbeke Ranch was the perfect place for the retreat. As soon as I arrived, I felt a rush of peace. It is an amazing, sprawling ranch with a serene and carefully curated landscape. Even with the weather not in our favor (it rained most of the time we were there), we still took in the beauty of the incredible gardens, intimate talking spaces, and area of rocks that make up a meditational labyrinth area. The cabins were cozy and echoed “summer camp,” but with a well-designed “hygge” feel. The food was served family-style, in the Adobe, which housed the kitchen, dining area, cozy living room complete with fireplace, and another outdoor patio dining space. Everything served was seasonal and many of the vegetables were from their on-site garden.

Connect with Yourself and Those Who Matter Most

My 20s were mostly about having fun, gaining new experiences with newfound freedom, balancing my income with my hobbies, and making irrational splurges and questionable decisions here and there. Now, as a wife and mother, I’ve accepted and embraced my new normal, which 20-year old me would consider “boring” and “old”. The shift in responsibilities to my family and attention to health and safety are now my priorities. Staying in touch with meaningful friends and keeping them in the loop is also important to me. As adults, we don’t have to see or even talk to each other as often as we needed to in the past, but it’s the understanding of quality friendships that keep us bonded.

One of the things I loved about the retreat was meeting the wide array of women in different milestones of their lives. I heard the perspectives of other women and learned about their dreams, challenges, and goals – all in a safe space. We cried, laughed, and celebrated our similarities and differences. Understanding we all have our own narrative and unique qualities and timelines was one of my best takeaways.

Be Inspired

The keynote guest speaker was Sybil Amuti, of The Great Girlfriends Podcast. Her multi-hyphenate title (which includes: Strategist, Entrepreneur, Mentor, Speaker, Change-Agent, Podcaster) sounds like she would be a pretty intimidating woman who has always had her sh*t together, but at the retreat, she shared with us her story and her challenges of how she got to where she is now. She is modest, down-to-earth, and impressive at the same time. She is a woman who knows herself and is constantly improving, while helping others along the way.

It was Sybil’s podcast that was one of the catalysts to inspire SIS Circle cofounder, Leilani Pedroni to create SIS Circle and put together this retreat. After winning a trip to attend The Great Girlfriends Podcast 2018 Conference, she was inspired to pursue her long-awaited dream to create a platform to support and inspire women by providing resources, events and a community that promotes wellness, growth & sisterhood. Her determination started as a seed where she reached out to Sybil to attend a “small group of probably five or so for a women’s empowerment exercise,” that blossomed into asking her to be a keynote speaker for a “group of 20 for a wellness retreat.” Her vision and drive, combined with her caring, nurturing personality is admirable and inspirational.

Younger sister of Leilani Pedroni, (and one of my good friends) Elaine Carbonell is the other co-founder of SIS Circle. We became fast friends after we met in 2008 and have been close like sisters ever since. Her journeys through life never cease to amaze me, as well as her drive and determination to make things happen. Friends like her are rare, and I’m happy her stories are inspiring others as well.

Florentina, Elaine and Leilani’s mom, also attended the retreat. I’ve gotten to know her over the years, and was happy to spend some time with her there. I admire the close and open relationship she has with her family. I appreciate how she participated in the retreat, not only because it was important for her to be there for her daughters, but to also open herself up to be inspired, share her stories, and learn more about self-care.

Moms should never have to explain the need for self-care

My mom was always tirelessly caring for us kids. I don’t remember when she actually took time for herself, aside from watching her soaps in the afternoon while 4-year old me was occupied playing with some toy or destroying a TV guide with scissors.

Physically leaving and taking the time to do something for yourself should be a requirement, not a treat. Moms are constantly on mental overload (as comically but realistically explained by Emma), so scheduling things for oneself, whether small (like self-reflection), or large (like taking a weekend getaway) are essential.

Visualize Your Intentions

Prior to the retreat, the last time I made a vision board was in 2010, the same year I met my husband. Creating a vision board (not just pinning a bunch of images on Pinterest), is one of those things that has greater power when done physically. Setting aside the time for reflection and putting your body and mind to work on creating something has meaning and will process better when done with purpose.

At the retreat, they supplied everything we needed to create our vision boards: loads of magazines, fun craft letters, numbers and sayings, and of course the camaraderie of women. Some worked in silence, while others fed off the positive energy of others. It felt very powerful to expressing our dreams and intentions for the upcoming year without interruption from normal household life.

Looking forward and feeling positive

I’ve made a lot of changes in my life over the past few months, and this retreat helped me tremendously. Even though it was literally a 24 hour retreat (4pm on a Saturday to 4pm the next day), it was exactly what I needed to jump-start my year. As I age, I realize there will be a lot more changes overall – physically, mentally, environmentally, etc. Taking the time and reminding myself everyday of these things is a step towards a better tomorrow.


Disclaimer: I am part of the consulting team for SIS Circle and helped put together some of the materials for
the website. All opinions are honest and 100% my own.