Retreats: what they mean to us personally and professionally

Reflecting at a retreat

In this post, Catalyst 14 faculty members Damion Wonfor and Monica Ross explore what retreats mean to them, both from a personal and professional perspective, and discuss the reasoning behind the creation of their Embodied Coach retreat.

Even in stillness, there is movement. Sometimes it takes time for the molecules of change to shift form. Even when it feels like nothing is happening, transformation is taking place.
— Anonymous

Over the past decade, we have recognised the importance of two key factors in our own self-care as an instrument of our work.

These are:

  1. A commitment to daily practice for building our presence and embodiment

  2. Taking time out on a regular basis for replenishment, reflection and re-orienting.   

These two practices have become pillars of our annual continual professional development (CPD) as coaches and supervisors.

Having witnessed the deep and lasting impact for ourselves and in our client work, we felt inspired and moved to offer the same opportunity to others through our bi-annual Embodied Coach Retreat.

Below we offer our individual experiences of “retreat” and what it means to us personally and in the context of our work.  


Thoughts from Monica Ross:

In my work as an Embodied Leadership Coach and Coaching Supervisor, I am struck more and more each day by the sense of connectedness and parallel processes that run through the work of my supervisees and their clients and the systems in which they operate. 

If we recognize that each one of us is not just an isolated entity, but in fact a voice of the system or systems to which we belong, we can see as coaches how vital it is to look after ourselves as the instrument of our work. Each time I do something that represents my own self-care, I affect the field around me.

I have noticed this in very practical ways.  For example two years ago I chose to attend a retreat in the US which felt like a huge commitment both financially and in terms of the time out from work it would require.  One of the catalysts for my decision was that as I reflected on myself and on my client work, I noticed that just as I was ready to make some changes personally and professionally, each of my clients was on the edge of stepping into something big for them.

So, I decided to the take a leap of faith for myself and attended the retreat — from which I gained huge and lasting benefits. The fascinating thing was that within a short period of time afterwards, I witnessed the effect in the field around me where several of my clients had made big shifts for themselves. 

Thinking about you as a coach,

  • What step can you begin to take?

  • What permission can you give yourself that will not only benefit you but potentially create shifts in the field around you?

We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and along these fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.
— Herman Melville

Thoughts from Damion Wonfor

Yesterday, as I stood in Richmond Park and looked across at the City of London, on the periphery of this amazing space I appreciated the sanctuary of being with myself in nature…whilst 24 hour City life continued in my absence.

I took a breath, and was struck by how present I felt in that moment, and the fact that we are not often truly with ourselves either by choice or the by the way we live today; a topic that I often find myself exploring with my coaching and supervisory clients.

In our work as professional coaches and supervisors, it can be easy for us to frequently get caught in a delivery mode: doing, doing, doing and faster, faster, faster, which often means we are chasing to catch our breath — not unlike the clients we are trying to serve in a an organisational and wider system that is travelling at speed too.

This pace of work and our lives can often be relentless. We find ourselves constantly ‘on,’ and continuous connectivity with clients and potential clients, combined with the demands of multitasking — design, delivery, selling, relationship management, email and social media — result in us finding it increasing difficult to switch off and concentrate.

This all can have a negative impact on our presence in our work; lives; wellbeing; and relationships…and results in us suffering physically and mentally. In a way we are unconsciously giving ourselves an inner speeding ticket! 

Giving ourselves permission to go on a retreat can be tough; often as professional helpers our work is so purposeful we put ourselves at the back of the queue. For me, time and time again I have learnt that going on a retreat provides a space for me to reconnect with whom I am and how I am being within my work. It enables me to reset, reconnect with my purpose and with a sustainable inner speed limit.   

Most importantly, it provides me with the space to breathe and consciously stand still so that when I return to life and my work I embody a deeper presence and energy to be a catalyst for change in others. 

As per the poem by Judy Brown, it is the space between the logs that makes the fire to burn!

Thinking about you,

  • How are you creating the space for your renewal?

  • How do you create a sustainable inner speed limit within your work?

  • How are you creating the space to make your fire burn?”

Wisdom comes with the ability to be still. Just look and just listen. No more is needed. Being still, looking, and listening activates the non-conceptual intelligence within you. Let stillness direct your words and actions.
— Eckhart Tolle

The Embodied Coach retreat

Recent conversations between us have continued to reflect upon the impact of global themes. We are meeting with clients who are currently dealing with areas such as Brexit, climate change and mental health.

Our belief is that retreats offer coaches an important antidote to working within this VUCA age, delivering benefits such as diminished reactivity and an enhanced tolerance and capacity to hold, support and develop others.

Retreats offer a catalyst for you to pause and consider the reflective questions in this blog; and how you are taking care of the greatest resource you have in your work — you!

We are next running ‘The Embodied Coach’ – our retreat specifically created for Coaches, Facilitators and Coaching Supervisors — on:

  • 19-21 June 2019 in Ireland

  • 24 -26 September 2019 in the UK

For more information, please see our Embodied Coach retreat page. Please note that spaces are limited and as always we are offering an early booking discount. If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

I wanted to find greater spaciousness — in awareness, possibility and physical environment; to let go — literally and metaphorically — of those habits and objects of having and doing which no longer serve me, to (re)discover and express who I am and what I want to contribute; to be fully alive. The Embodied Coach retreat provided me with a wonderful opportunity to engage with this quest: to be calm, to pause, reflect and replenish, and to receive support from others. We invested time and care in mindfulness, physical exercise, connecting with nature, journaling, silence, dialogue and community ritual - honouring somatic, intuitive, mind and heart intelligence and deepening our sense of being and purpose. I offer my warm thanks to Monica Ross and Damion Wonfor for lovingly creating and guiding this profound experience of wellbeing, renewal and regeneration.
— Ray Charlton, Accredited Master Executive Coach, Facilitator and Coach Supervisor