Jade's yoga classes are a revelation to me, very inward-focused, and absolutely a joy to experience. I learned more from her in one week about breathing and posture than from all the yoga classes I've followed before, combined. The combination of a meditative, physically and spiritually balanced practice to begin each day with the rigor and encouragement of time to write made for a tremendously productive retreat.
The group dynamic is so special that it deserves its own paragraph. I've been to two retreats with Stephen and Jade now, and each time have come away with my heart (and lungs, and mind, and spirit) full of possibilities. A great part of that is because of the instruction and organization, but a substantial part also comes from the other people there. These are deep connections with the power to sustain you, grow along with you after the retreat, and push you toward ever-greater fulfillment and self-knowledge. And so, potential retreat-goers, let me say what has made the experience so wonderful on a community level each time : the fact that everyone was at a place in life where s/he could live the experience with openness and gratitude, and really be present in every moment for what Jade is creating. You don't have to be an accomplished writer already to participate in this creation. You just have to want to be there, and let go of whatever holds you back from being a full part of its magic.
I wrote, in the seven days of retreat work, 2 full short stories, 5 prose poems, pages and pages and pages of journal entries, and the final lyrics to a song. I also dug out an old novel and began working my way through revisions that had been on hold for 14 years. But beyond these tangible goals and word-counts, I feel the retreat helped me "consolidate" a piece of myself that came to life at the retreat in Italy the year before : the dreams I had begun to think I was hearing became solid and accessible, and I learned again how to breathe life into them and carry them with me down the mountain and back into the world.
Rosemary, Bali Retreat Participant 2012
Yoga theory and practice in the morning from Jade with organic feedback interspersed throughout the day. Organic feedback, that's how I've come to think about it, feedback that is productive without being critical, that enables the writer to evacuate their vacuum in a safe space. Everybody in the group was incredibly encouraging; as soon as I had a new idea I knew they'd be a great sounding board and brainstorming team. I'd never workshopped such in-progress stuff, and it was a great experience and an approach I really enjoyed.
I completed a new first draft of a story from scratch in a single day, got perspective on and groundwork laid for a longer term project, embarked on a completely unexpected creative project that I launched, as endeavored, upon my return, learned to categorize my goals in a new and productive way, catalogued said goals, and began to make a daily practice of present awareness and engagement.
One of the best aspects of the retreat is the flexibility. If you come with an open mind about what to work on and what you will learn, a productive, enjoyable experience is all but guaranteed. You will learn to let other people teach you. You will learn to let everything teach you. You will learn how to work with the current instead of being swept up in it or fighting against it. You will learn to enjoy life, to give yourself the right to be creative, to identify what fulfills you, and to connect with the emotional content of your work. There is the possibility you will make peace with yourself, with life and with death.
Sara, Bali Retreat Participant 2012
what I liked at the instruction was it was helpful but optional. at the time, I was the only person focusing on poetry and the exercises gave a new way of looking at my work in general. but if something did not especially resonate with me, I was free to work on my own project or explore something else. There was a good combination of structure (if I wanted it) and freedom to do what I felt drawn to.
the group dynamic was always supportive. at first I was afraid, having been through a ton of writing 'workshops,' that the feedback would not be rigorous enough. but the atmosphere is such that people can feel comfortable bringing very new and unedited work. and getting feedback that focused on the positive does allow a writer to see where the energy is in a given piece and what direction to go in.
I went there with a chapbook project in mind. I probably shared the least in group than anyone else. because I was writing poetry, my process is a lot less linear so I spent a lot of time writing material rather than writing poems. but i wrote more than enough to complete my project, which I have been working on at home. If nothing else, the retreat gives you a ton of time to write. along with some readings I had done before going on the retreat, it helped me get through the mental and emotional barriers to me producing
also, since I have been back I have done a pretty good job of meditating and doing breathing exercises everyday and writing most days. I was happy to do that type of yoga I already practice and found myself newly commited to be more consistent at home (although that is still a work in progess).
towards the end of the retreat, we had become more comfortable with each other and were able to joke during groups and meals- there was a lot of laughter. in general, it was great to have the time to just write. there was little else i HAD to do there, which is very different from my life back home.
I would say that if you are going there to work on something specific, then bring it with you, and if not, then you will have ample opportunity to try new writing techniques. either way, you will have the opportunity to go in whatever direction you want. Jade is there to help you through whatever comes up for you. She is gentle and generous, someone with whom I always felt safe. As long as you can get yourself there, she really does take care of everything. I feel a little spoiled by her attention (to our writing and to our day-to-day life there) and I also know that it enabled me to focus on my writing.
Delia, Bali Retreat Participant, 2012
Before the Spannocchia Retreat, my writing practice had languished for so long it wasn't even a practice anymore. Jade masterfully guided the creative process with just enough mind/body structure, just enough push to help reconnect my inner voice with its outer expression. I'm equally grateful for her genuine kindness and openness. Our diverse group of poets, novelists, and non-fiction writers learned from the nature of the whole retreat and from each other. Deeply enriching!
Justine Robbins, Spannocchia Retreat Member 2013