What gets me fired up is how to better connect individual wellbeing, awareness, and self-care with community wellbeing, especially through methods that address and reverse social injustice. I greatly wanted to connect with other leaders who are interested in mobilizing these shared efforts. That’s why I applied to attend the Courage to Lead for Young Leaders and Activists retreat.
In this retreat, I was hoping to find a sacred space to get curious about, lean into, and discover some things about the tensions I was facing in my work and as a mother of two kids under five. I hoped I might walk away with a few more tools, perspectives, or introspective insights that might aid me back in the day-to-day roles I have in leadership, activism, and education. I was hoping to connect to like-minded peers who were investing in rejoining soul and role, especially in the work of social change. Finally, I hoped to find some rest, renewal, and rejuvenation to carry me through a very intense year.
I have been to—and also led—many retreats, but the Courage to Lead for Young Leaders and Activists turned out to be like no other. The whole experience was distinctive in so many ways. The rhythm of the daily agenda was slowed down to a pace that allowed us to become fully present to each focus of the day. Usually training, conference, or retreat agendas are so packed that you feel exhausted and not fully “complete” with each activity by the time you have to move on or the day is done. In this space, we had the time we needed to really dive into and be with the topics and people with a spaciousness that invited heart openings to occur.
Pause, Unplug and Explore Your Life’s Big Questions
Courage to Lead for Young Leaders & Activists
It was also clear the facilitators were well trained and experienced: their gentle touch and role modeling of what they asked of us made me feel safe and inspired. Their use of poetry and other mediums to invite us into different segments of the day brought us into another way of thinking and being that prompted creative thought, metaphors, and other imaginative ways to view ourselves and the “problem” at hand.
The unique approach of the Circle of Trust – listening, asking open and honest questions, meditating, and accessing the genuine within—made possible a different way of navigating the themes we engaged. The clearness committee was one of the most intense and most profound things I’ve participated in a very long time. I will never forget it.
Participating in this retreat immediately changed how I engaged with others in my life, professionally and personally. I was so deeply moved by the work we did that I couldn’t stop thinking about it and reflecting on how I could tangibly bring it into all of my daily interactions. Soon after I got home, I went into the mountains and wrote in my journal about the concrete actions I wanted to take – how to better reflect on and connect with my genuine voice within to navigate the challenges I face in my work and to negotiate conflicts.
I was able then to enter into a space with one of my employees where I could not only deeply listen to and care for the challenges she was facing, but also make myself more open and vulnerable with her than perhaps ever before, and was unafraid to share with her my own challenges, regrets, and hopes for how to strengthen our relationship. The effect was immediate and profound and has completely shifted our relationship and overall dynamics in our office.
I greatly appreciate the space the Courage to Lead retreat fostered for the insights to emerge that I needed to make both intimate shifts within and tangible shifts with others. I gained more than I could have ever imagined from the Courage to Lead program and feel gratitude from the depths of my heart and soul.
Tessa Hicks Peterson is Assistant Vice President for Community Engagement and Associate Professor of Urban Studies at Pitzer College, USA. For the last twenty years she has facilitated trainings and taught classes on anti-bias education, social justice, and community engagement. She is also the author of the newly released book, Student Development and Social Justice: Critical Learning, Radical Healing, and Community Engagement. eBook and Hardcover Purchasing here!