345: Behind the Scenes: Insights from the Inaugural Grace & Grit Retreat
Truth be told, I was super resistant to hosting a retreat for my clients despite the many requests I had received to organize one over the years.
I am SO glad I relented and, in this week’s episode of the Grace & Grit Podcast, I share some of the biggest revelations that came from bringing 16 clients together for 4 days on a 3000-acre ranch here in Montana.
More specifically, in this episode, I share:
- Why it took me 20 years to finally say YES to hosting a retreat,
- How I knew it was finally time,
- The biggest lessons I learned,
… and so much more.
You may have ZERO interest in hosting retreats, but this podcast just might inspire you to go after the things that you have had on your heart to create but haven’t yet made time for.
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
Welcome to Grace & Grit.
The Grace & Grit podcast is your go-to resource for reclaiming, generating, protecting and expressing your power as a woman in midlife.
This show will completely change the way you think about health & well-being and help you make your second act the best one yet!
- 348: Boundaries for Breakthroughs: The Upside of Self-Imposed Limits
- 347: Breaking the Mold: Reconsidering Holiday Norms to Protect Your Health
- 346: Navigating the Ecosystem of Midlife Well-Being
- 345: Behind the Scenes: Insights from the Inaugural Grace & Grit Retreat
- 344: Proactive Living: Strategies to Tame Emotional Reactivity
Transcripts are auto-generated.
Courtney Townley 0:00
Welcome to the Grace and Grit Podcast made for women who want their healthiest years to be ahead of them, not behind them. Join your host Courtney Townley right now. As she breaks down the fairy tale health story, you have been chasing all of your life, indispensable action steps and lasting change.
Courtney Townley 0:28
Hello, my friends, and welcome to the Grace & Grit Podcast. This is your host, Courtney Townley. And as always, I’m delighted that you’re here. I hope you are doing awesomely well. I’m gonna be honest, I’m exhausted. But in the best kind of way.
Courtney Townley 0:42
We just wrapped up our first ever Grace & Grit Retreat here in Montana. And it exceeded my every expectation. And today, I want to share a bit of what I learned by running this event, because I think the lessons learned are so relevant to every human journey, not just my journey.
Courtney Townley 1:02
But before we go there, I want to let you know that I am hosting a free round of The Consistency Code Crash Course the week of November 6. And I’d love you to be there. I will be teaching five lessons over five days to help you show up for yourself with a whole lot more consistency and ease. And it’s 100% free to those who register. And if you’ve ever attended one of my free events before, we offer a tremendous amount of support and free resources. And you even get access to a course page that you will have long after the course is complete. So it is a pretty robust offering that costs you nothing.
Courtney Townley 1:47
And in case you don’t know what The Consistency Code is, I’ve done a lot of Podcast episodes on it. But it is a framework that I have been teaching for years to help my clients ditch the insanity of quick fixes and really embrace the true work of sustainable behavior change, which is really heavily rooted by the way in self-leadership skills. So I always say that I’m really helping women to lead themselves more powerfully in the health arena and well beyond. And The Consistency Code is the framework through which I do that.
Courtney Townley 2:23
So, if you have long wanted to work with me or find out more about the type of work that I teach, this is an amazing entry point. Not only because it’s an awesome offering, but it’s totally free to you. So you can get registered by heading on over to graceandgrit.com/crashcourse. Once again, that’s graceandgrit.com/crashcourse.
Courtney Townley 2:50
Okay, with that out of the way, let’s get into today’s episode. Now, truth be told, I was super resistant to hosting a retreat for my clients, despite the many requests that I have received to organize one over the years. And I am really happy to say on the other side of finally doing it, that I’m really glad I relented. So like I said earlier today I’m going to share with you some of the biggest revelations that came from bringing 16 of my clients together for four days on a 3000 acre ranch here in Montana.
Courtney Townley 3:32
More specifically, I would like to share with you why it took me 20 plus years to actually say yes to hosting a retreat. How I knew it was actually finally time. And a few lessons I learned along the way. And listen, you may have zero interest in hosting a retreat of your own. That’s not what this Podcast is about. It’s really about inspiring you to stay the course, in pursuing the things on your heart, even when the timing feels off. Even when things haven’t quite worked out yet. This episode is really dedicated to perseverance of the things that matter to you.
Courtney Townley 4:18
So I want to start with why it took me 20 years to host a retreat. I had a lot of beliefs that prevented me from wanting to create something of this magnitude. Probably the most potent belief was that it had to be hard. And look, I am someone who has really excelled at making things unnecessarily difficult in my life. If something requires, like three ounces of effort, I’m going to give it 150 ounces. And ultimately what that leads to of course is a whole lot of burnout and exhaustion. And so I’m looking through the lens of a retreat, all I could see before me was a whole lot of hard work. And so I had to let go of that belief that it had to be hard in order to create it. I also had this thought that which is very true, I didn’t know how I had no idea how to create a retreat, because I had never done it before. But of course, all I really needed to know, was the next step.
Courtney Townley 5:32
So when I was contemplating this, I really kind of coached myself into a place of okay, Courtney, if you were going to do this, what might be the first thing that you would do? Well, I probably reach out to some colleagues and friends to find out, where the heck would someone even host an event like this in Montana, because I was really committed to doing it in the state that I live in close to where I live, specifically, which is in northwest Montana. So that’s what I did, I just took that next step. And the possibilities started to unfold in front of me, and things started to get more exciting from there. So you don’t need to see the whole staircase ahead of you, you really just need to know the next step. And once you take that next step, the rest of the steps will get revealed in the right time.
Courtney Townley 6:23
Another reason it took me 20 years to run a retreat. And look, if you haven’t heard this before, I think I said this on a Podcast a few weeks ago, 20 years ago, I was in a kayak with my husband in New Zealand, talking about the possibility of hosting retreats in a place like Montana. And here I am, 20 years later, finally doing my first one. So that’s where this whole 20 year timeline comes from. But another reason it took me 20 years is because I thought I had to do it all by myself. I thought, you know, it’s going to be a ton of work for me alone. And ultimately, I had to, again, throw that belief in the dumpster and set it on fire.
Courtney Townley 7:06
Because the truth is, it takes a village in order to run an event like this. And so as I opened myself up to seeking out help asking for help, accepting help, things got so much easier. I also really feel and this is gonna sound really self critical, but it just feels honest and true. I truly feel that up until this point in my life, I lacked the maturity to lead an event like this, I did not have the mental and emotional maturity, to deal with the dynamic of all that’s coming at you in an event like this. And I also professionally did not feel like my work was in a place to run an event at the caliber that I wanted to run it. So I had to literally mature over the past 20 years mentally, emotionally and professionally to get myself in a place where I really felt like it was finally the right time.
Courtney Townley 8:15
And here’s how I knew it was the right time. I knew what was the right time, because there was an ease and grace that started to emerge as I pursued the path of running a retreat. It didn’t feel hard, it felt exciting. And a lot of amazing things started to reveal themselves without a whole lot of hard work. So like I said earlier, I reached out to some colleagues and friends to try to figure out where to host an event like this. And literally the first email I got back was from a dear friend of mine, Jamie Lynn. And she said, Hey, I’ve never been there. But I’ve heard really great things about this place called the Cliff Ranch, you should check it out. So I sent an email to the cliff ranch. And they invited me to come out and spend an afternoon. And I have to tell you that day was exactly one year ago, from when we hosted the event. So a full year. It was the same time of year I drove out onto the ranch. I was completely dumbstruck by how spectacular this property was. And I never even knew it existed. And it’s only about 15 minutes from my house. So driving up onto the ranch, I just had this whole body sensation that this feels right and good. And then I met the manager and she felt like this long lost sister that I never knew existed. And that felt right and good. And so it starts to feel like well, maybe this isn’t happening. To be a miserable experience, maybe this is actually going to be an awesome experience.
Courtney Townley 10:06
And so of course, after I got a few things in place, I put up a sales page. And I let my private community, I think a lot of you longtime listeners know, I have a community called Rumble & Rise, where women get educated and inspired and support one another along the path to sustainable behavior change. And I put the invitation in that community, first and foremost. And we sold out in two and a half hours. So that felt easy. And that felt right and good. And then I started to seek out other providers that could come teach at the event. And the people that I got introduced to, and the people who said yes to me, was, again, more validation, that this didn’t have to be hard, and the timing was perfect.
Courtney Townley 11:01
So I had all this evidence along the way, proving to me that it didn’t have to be hard that I didn’t have to suffer that there was tons of help and tons of opportunity for the taking. I just had to say yes. And so I did. And, truth be told, 10 years ago, I tried to run a day long retreat here in Missoula, Montana. And it was just a one day event that I was going to do with a friend of mine. And we tried to get a lot of local business drummed up, and we could not fill it. So 10 years ago, a one day event in my own town, we couldn’t get enough people interested. And here we are a decade later. And we had 16 women from all over North America, fly to Montana, to spend four days on a ranch with me. And I tell you that because I think that there is a timing that is sometimes so much more intelligent than our own. We think we’re ready. But things are so hard to put together. It’s clearly not the right time. And so I felt like this timing was just way more intelligent than what my timing was 10 years ago. And when I say intelligent, I don’t mean my intelligence. I’m just mean, there’s a bigger intelligence that it was supposed to happen now. And that’s why I had to wait. So I don’t know what in your life feels like. It’s just not working out right now. It’s feeling really hard, the timing always feels off. Don’t lose faith. If it’s something that really matters to you keep going keep doing your own work. And the right timing will reveal itself.
Courtney Townley 12:55
Okay, let’s get into some lessons learned from this event. So my first lesson probably seems really obvious. But I have to I think it’s so worth saying because I think we forget this, you will never know, unless you try. And man, we have so many great ideas. We have so many things on our heart, we have so many things we want to pursue, and we talk ourselves out of it. Because we are focusing so hard on everything that could go wrong, all the reasons why it will work. We’re making an awful lot of assumptions. We’re telling an awful lot of stories. But the truth is, you will never know unless you do it. So what would happen for you if you just stopped thinking about it so much, and just started taking some actions to make it happen. And I just shared this with you.
Courtney Townley 13:57
But again, I had a lot of stories about how this retreat would roll in terms of the organization of it and they weren’t good stories. I had a lot of stories about my inability to lead in this kind of environment. I had a lot of what ifs. What if people hate it? What if people get injured? What if people I don’t know have a hard time getting to Montana? What if people can’t find the ranch? What if the providers aren’t any good? What if I don’t do a good job? Right? And you have all heard me if you’ve listened to this Podcast more than once I always bring up the danger of what iffing What if thing just generates anxiety and stress it does not generate confidence and a can do attitude. So I had to ditch the water thing. And I had to even if my way into the retreat experience, even if people don’t know Like everything that’s offered at this event, even if some things go a little sideways with the accommodations or the chef, even if someone gets lost finding their way to the ranch, I had to complete those statements for myself to remind myself that it’s going to be okay. Life is not perfect, it does not unravel itself seamlessly. It’s messy, things go wrong, things go sideways. And I had to remind myself that this is exactly the work that I’m always inviting my clients to do, which is parent their own brain. So what a great opportunity for me to parent my own brain.
Courtney Townley 15:49
And I’ll tell you something else, I do this with everything that makes me nervous. Every time I teach a new class, every time I take a new risk, certainly in the case of running this retreat, when my anxiety or stress starts to get the best of me, I always go to worst case scenario. Worst case scenario, every single person hates this event, and they all want their money back. Okay? Like, that’s worst case scenario, I can live with that. I wouldn’t like it, it wouldn’t be comfortable. I’d feel pretty crummy about it for a while. But I can handle the worst case scenario. So when you are playing that game with yourself, there’s something that you want to pursue, but your brain is going wild with all the things that could potentially go wrong, go there, go to the worst case scenario, to reveal to yourself what you would actually do in that position. And I’ll tell you the truth, the worst case of every scenario is always an emotion, you’re going to have to feel you’re going to have to feel disappointment. You’re gonna have to feel grief, you’re gonna have to feel sadness, you’re gonna have to feel something. That is the worst case scenario. Can you expand your capacity for that?
Courtney Townley 17:22
Okay, the second thing I learned, and there’s so many things, but this is just a sort of a small sampling, right of the things that I learned from this putting on this event. Deciding hard and fast, is a highly underestimated skill set. All my clients and members of my Rumble & Rise community hear me talk about this a lot. We are such over thinkers, we will overthink ourselves into years of stagnation, meaning instead of moving our life forward, we sit in a spin cycle of indecision. And the truth is usually within the first like 510 minutes of considering what the next move is, you know the answer. But then you don’t trust yourself with that answer. So you spend the next five to 10 years in indecision. And here’s the truth, you’re always winning when you’re deciding. And what I mean by that is when you make a decision, you either move in the direction of progress, or you learn about yourself and what doesn’t work for you. And then you get to make another decision. But deciding isn’t losing. It’s learning or it’s progressing. That’s what it offers you. But when you don’t make decisions, you can’t do either of those things. You can’t progress and you don’t learn, you just sit and spin. And that sucks. So there were a lot of moments in the process of this event that I had to decide hard and fast. But I also provided an opportunity for the participants to decide hard and fast.
Courtney Townley 19:12
So I had to decide hard and fast to run this event because I knew that the place I wanted to host it at has a lot of interest. I had to put a whole lot of money down without a lot of time to think about it. And that was a blessing. Because I just decided and then I got to parent my brain around all those what if scenarios and worst case scenarios. The other place I saw this play out was when I put the sales page up. For my customers, they had to decide hard and fast because I only had 15 spots available. So I know I said 16 women but one woman was local and she just came for the day. But 15 women actually reserved spots for all four days in this event. That’s Got a lot of space for a pretty big community. So people had to pay quickly and make a decision.
Courtney Townley 20:09
And that was a blessing because they didn’t get to waste a bunch of time should I or shouldn’t I know you know what this is on my heart. I feel like I want to be a part of it. Here’s my credit card, and boom, we were done. They were registered. And then another place this showed up deciding hard and fast, it was so beautiful, is on Saturday night, we did a cowgirl rodeo, which included some barrel racing on horses. We did some lasso lessons. With a stationary cow. It was not a real cow. It was just a model. And then we did some shooting with a compound bow. And we had one gal her name is Karen, getting ready to shoot the target. And she repeatedly shot. So she shot I don’t know, maybe 1520 times and she kept missing. And she knew what was happening. And we could see what was happening. She was overthinking. And so we invited her to just pick up the bow don’t think just shoot, do it fast, do it hard make a decision strongly. She did. And she nailed the target. And it was such a poignant lesson in just aside, don’t overthink. Another lesson was that support is always accessible to you. And I don’t mean like support in a community is always available to you. They aren’t always available. Family members aren’t always available. But there is this entire natural world that we are such an integral part of that is always available to remind us of our own power to remind us how to decompress. And just be and bow out of the hustle. And that is nature.
Courtney Townley 22:13
So the very first day of the event, I invited my friend and incredible practitioner Sylke Laine, who is a forest therapy expert. That’s literally what she does for a living. And she came in and she ran this 90 minute session in the woods with all the participants, where she just invited them to really be in nature, and see it in a way that they probably have not experienced it in a really long time like since they were kids. So the types of things she encouraged the participants to do was take 20 minutes, and just notice what they hear. Take 20 minutes and notice patterns in nature. Notice movement in nature. And to be fair, when you’re when you’re in a forest, sometimes initially, it looks like nothing’s moving. And then all of a sudden, you start to realize that nature is always fidgeting. And there is always a ton of movement.
Courtney Townley 23:26
So we really oriented participants to the environment that they were going to be a part of for the next four days. And the comments that came from that experience. were number one how decompressed people felt, after even just the first 20 minutes of noticing the natural world. And really seeing it and hearing it and experiencing it and how quickly they were reminded that they are a part of that world. We are a part of nature. And I’m telling you this because if you are feeling really out of sorts right now or sometime in the near future, I want to remind you that there is a support network always accessible to you. Maybe it’s just looking at the tree outside your window. Maybe it’s taking a walk through a local park. Maybe it’s just taking your shoes off and putting your feet in the grass. But we massively underestimate that level of support. That is all around us at all times.
Courtney Townley 24:49
Another lesson I want to share with you is that I was absolutely reminded many times over during the retreat. That healing is a team sport. And that’s just my sort of light hearted way of saying that. In order to heal ourselves on whatever level you need to be healed, and usually it’s a lot of levels, we need to be healed mentally, emotionally, physically relationally. Like there’s, there’s so many layers to our own healing. And we often need different levels of support, to help us wholly heal. So I work with clients all the time, who have me as a coach, and they have a team of physicians that they’re working with, I shouldn’t say a team, sometimes it’s just one. But they are getting help, medically in terms of helping them to resolve some physical maladies. Sometimes they’re also working with a therapist, they might be working with a personal trainer. And please do not hear me say that all of my clients have the luxury of hiring all of those levels of support. But it is really normal to feel that you need more than one level of support. And there isn’t one professional that can afford you all of the things that you may need to truly heal yourself. And so we have to be willing to build a team of support. And there’s nothing wrong with that, that is a beautiful thing. And that is often how healing happens.
Courtney Townley 26:38
We also need community, I think in order to really heal. And sometimes that community is not the community we are currently in. We need to go out and find circles of people who are committed to the same level of healing that we are. And that’s not always the people closest to us. So I always say like, keep your old friends, but be willing to make new friends. Because what happens in circles of people that are dedicated to their own healing, is we start to normalize the hardship. We talk about things openly. We listen to other people struggling and we can identify are part of our own journey and that struggle. And that level of normalizing being in communities of people that are helping you to normalize your own struggles and your own rumbles, is in and of itself a healing thing.
Courtney Townley 27:45
I built Rumble & Rise this community, because I was craving to be among women who were committed to their own expansion, rather than chasing the size of their jeans. And quite honestly, and maybe it’s because of the circles I’ve traveled in historically, being a really integral part of the fitness arena. A lot of my friends had been athletes. I’m a woman, I spend a lot of time with other women. And I was getting so frustrated with women simply talking about health as a pant size, you know, as a number on the scale, even as an athletic pursuit, because I was feeling that that isn’t how I was defining it. I defined health as so much more. And I was really struggling to find communities of women who wanted to have that bigger conversation of all that was included in that. So I took some initiative and created a circle of women in order to have that conversation.
Courtney Townley 29:01
All weekend during this retreat, I definitely heard stories of how much the Rumble & Rise community has helped women to heal. And it wasn’t me that did that healing for people. It was a container that we created and everything in that container is what helps people to heal. At more above all, the women who are healing really needs to take ownership that they’re the ones who are doing their own healing. We’re just providing the container and some skill sets, but they’re the ones who are taking the initiative and truly doing the work. So this first retreat was entirely made up of Rumble & Rise members for the reasons I described before, we only had 15 spots, and the first group that I marketed to was my private community. So it was really cool to see how all the work that we have done together over the past, you know, everyone’s been a member for a different length of time. But if someone’s been a member for a few months or even a few years, you could see how much that container was helping them along their own journey. So again, healing is a team sport, we asked, we often need a lot of people on our team to help aid our own healing process.
Courtney Townley 30:24
Another lesson I learned is, and this is a big one, love allows you to rumble. So this showed up in a lot of different ways. We had one member who came to the retreat who has some physical disabilities. And there were a lot of women in the community who in different activities had a pretty high level of discomfort, because they felt unsafe around a horse, or they had never picked up a compound bow, or they had never stepped into frigid water in Montana. Not just to step into it, but actually to immerse themselves in it on purpose. There were a lot of opportunities for discomfort.
Courtney Townley 31:16
And one thing that I really coached myself into as sort of a leader of this community during this event was that I wasn’t going to help people unless they asked. And the reason for that comes from a very loving place. So often as women, we are really quick to convince ourselves that it’s always our job to help people when we see that they are rumbling, or we see that they are struggling a little bit. But what if, by always helping, we are actually robbing someone of their ability to rise on their own. And so there were moments, there was one moment in particular, where a participant was in the river, and it was very cold. And she was stumbling a little bit and I could tell that she was trying to regulate her breath. And I started to walk towards her and just said, are you okay? Do you need my help? And she said, No, I’ve got it. And in the aftermath, that was a real victory for her in that moment to be able to coach herself into being in that cold water being okay with tripping a little bit and being a little wobbly. And we knew she was safe, we made sure she was safe. But she never could have experienced that rise, if we were always right there to really prevent her own rumbling. So again, love allows you to rumble. It’s okay to allow people around you and even yourself to have some hardship, and to be messy to try to figure something out.
Courtney Townley 33:26
Claire, who’s been on this Podcast multiple times has shared very openly that she has a diagnosis of ALS she got a year ago. And it was evident that Claire was having some trouble with her hands at this retreat. And we made a point to let her rumble with using her hands as best she could. And inviting her to ask for help when she needed it. And she did. That was an awesome thing. So I wonder what would shift in your world and in the people around us world if you allowed people to gift of their own rumbling.
Courtney Townley 34:16
My good friend Julie Angel, who I’ve had on the Podcast many times she always says the work is in the wobble. And I love that quote so much. Because it’s so true. It’s when we’re kind of struggling a little bit or a lot where we tend to learn in the most profound way. And being in community with people who will allow you your own rumble but also hold space for you and protect you and help you if you need it is really special.
Courtney Townley 34:55
Okay, one more or less than I just want to share is your full expression gives other people permission to step into theirs. So one more time, your full expression gives other people permission to step into their full expression. So these past four days, this four day event was a culmination of my lifelong work. It was work that I love, in a place that I love. In the company of people that I love, not just my clients, but my brother was an integral part of this event, my husband, my dog, my son, my friends. And this retreat ultimately was an expression of me, it was my full expression, bringing all of these elements of my life together my work, where I live, the people I’ve been coaching for a long time. And that expression, I think you could definitely there was palpable energy around that. The byproduct of it was something that probably couldn’t have ever existed in any other way, there was an energy to the event that all those elements combined brought. And I’m always reminding my clients and my community members that the real work of their life, is to become a fully expressed authentic human, whatever that means for them, because let’s face it, it means something really different for all of us. And this retreat really gave me the opportunity to walk my talk. I had to be willing to say yes to my full expression, to share all of these kinds of sacred elements of my own life with other people, and risk failing to do that.
Courtney Townley 37:11
I want to leave you with a question. Which is this, what is holding you back from your full expression? And what might be possible for you? If you actually said yes, to stepping fully into that invitation. And look, if just that question makes your head spin, meaning if you could use help with that, I know a pretty amazing community that could help you support you in that pursuit of becoming more fully expressed. And that is Rumble & Rise.
Courtney Townley 37:56
And if you still aren’t convinced, and you want to taste a little bit of that work, before you do any level of commitment, come join us in The Consistency Code Crash Course. Again, it starts on November 6, it’s totally free. It’s a five day event. And it will give you an amazing foundation for the type of work that we do inside of Rumble & Rise. So once again, you can register for that event by going to graceandgrit.com/crashcourse. Once again, graceandgrit.com/crashcourse.
Courtney Townley 38:36
You are awesome. I so appreciate you being here. I so appreciate if you listen to this whole Podcast, just letting me share this very epic, amazing and what was to me a very significant event in my business but also just as a woman who is who is herself trying to be a fully expressed and authentic human. So have a wonderful week. I will see you again soon. Take care and I hope to see you inside the crash course.
Courtney Townley 39:14
Thank you for listening to the grace and grit Podcast. It is time to mend the fabric of the female health story. And it starts with you taking radical responsibility for your own self care. You are worth the effort and with a little grace and grit anything is possible.
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