Spiritual Retreat Tools for Connection in Your Relationships

by | Communication, Relationships

Last week, I made a choice that changed my life. I registered for a spiritual retreat. I said goodbye to my family, friends, and business, boarded an airplane, disconnected from technology and committed myself to a 4-day individual personal retreat in Sedona, Arizona.

It really was a quick and easy decision for me. You see, for this past year, I’ve really struggled with my mental and physical health. After essentially thirteen years of verbal abuse from my ex-husband, four years of constant teenager emotional chaos, self-induced entrepreneurial exhaustion and a rapidly increasing autoimmune disease (Lupus), enough was enough.

Tools for Empowerment

I needed a safe place, infused with wise and giving people who could help me release my suffering and equip me with the tools to ignite me to confidently move forward in my life with clarity and joy.

For those four days at the Spirit Quest Center, I did a ton of work – guided meditations, hiking, yoga, and qigong movement in the red rock canyons, counseling with expert healers, learning and experiencing shaman rituals and physical releasing bodywork. It was life-transforming.

With Sedona’s clear air and its small city friendliness, I was instantly calmed by being nestled among prehistoric canyons with a driving speed limit of 25! I’m thrilled to report, I found my true self again. I know, it sounds very “woo-woo”, but before you let your mind divert your attention to some other distraction, I invite you to hear about my experience. Your curiosity or intuition led you here, so play along. I will be sharing my lessons over a series of posts. Maybe ask yourself if what I share resonates with you and just be aware of it. It’s that simple, stay present while reading the posts and see what comes up for you in the process. Enjoy and if you care to share your thoughts on the post, that would be very much appreciated!

You Are Not Your Thoughts

I began my spiritual retreat with an intention setting orientation session with Daniel. My heart was racing with the fear and reality of the situation I voluntarily placed myself in. I was instantly put at ease upon meeting Daniel. He didn’t look like a way out “woo-woo” person to me. He was dressed in jeans and a funky long sleeve layered style t-shirt, his hair was peppered with gray and his smile absolutely radiated the room.

After a few simple introductory questions to understand what brought me to the spiritual retreat centre, he took a deep breath, paused for a few uncomfortable minutes for me and said, “You are not any thought that you think yourself to be Sandy. Any thought of who you are is just a thought.  Any idea that you have been successful or a failure is only a success in a sick system. What does it really mean to be successful? Are you happy? If you are not happy, then is that truly success?”

I thought, “Wow, this is going to go deep if this is just my first fifteen minutes!”

We continued our fascinating discussion and with his guidance, I dove deeper into my true intentions for the spiritual retreat experience. I really wanted to find direction, clarity and joy in my work again, reconnection with my parents (both died a few years ago), the release of emotional blocks that were affecting my physical body’s health, and renewed trust in my life’s purpose. Pretty tall order, right?

After an hour session with Daniel, I was given a tool that was so simple and powerful to use. When I shifted my attention from thinking with my mind to feeling with my heart, everything changed. Let me explain….

Witness Your Mind in the Moment

Fear, judgment, and expectations come from your mind. Imagine witnessing your mind at this moment. Is it begging you to click off the site? Is it telling you to be afraid? The mind is so insidious and so strong that it wants to hijack this situation. You can be happy and in joy one moment and then your mind stops you with a random thought. When you witness that happening and start to notice it more and more, you can pull yourself out of it and it starts to have less and less control over your life. Success is opening your heart to give and receive love. We find success when we allow “spirit/source/God/universe, etc.” to speak through our heart instead of allowing our minds to speak every word and run our show.

So how do you get from your head to your heart? Daniel recommends asking yourself, “What would love say right now?”  to get into the feeling of what you are expressing. What if what your mind has been telling you is just hearsay, not really true?

This made sense to me. When I heard this, I immediately thought of Kris, my life partner. When I’m with him, occasionally I catch myself witnessing a random fearful or distracting thought and banish it aside, every time choosing to speak to him with love. When you realize this, it stops the mind cold. Essentially, you liberate yourself from your ever-present bullshit mind programs that are always popping up, saying “I should protect or assert myself here”.

Connection is Not Possible in the Mind

Before the retreat, I can’t believe how much my mind was driving my life. The daily flurry of thoughts, plans, speculation, and self-judgments caused me tremendous anxiety, fear, and frustration. You simply cannot connect with yourself and others when you are in your mind. When we get into our hearts, it allows us to feel and when we feel, our ego, our mind, is uncomfortable.

Everything could be so good, but our brain will focus on the one bad thing and everything gets wiped out. We do that in our relationships, focusing on the things we don’t like about each other. You can pull yourself out of the mind by thinking, “you can THINK that mind, but I FEEL otherwise.” The ego is always going to be in survival mode, always going to project outward, and never take responsibility, but what you can do is shrink it. Instead of you allowing your mind to be powerful in your life, imagine giving it less control. Shrink it, put it in your pocket, thank it and tell it that you don’t feel it is really qualified to run your life or make any decisions for you.

Remember, once we focus on something and put energy into it, you draw it to yourself. Since my meeting with Daniel and my four days at the spiritual retreat, I witness my mind frequently and consciously choose to get out of the muck. I thank the thought when it arises, notice and feel my mind’s resistance to it, then purposely decide to let it go. I know it sounds ultra-spiritual, but really, it’s just you not putting any more energy into your mind’s thoughts when they present themselves.

I am very grateful for that lesson Daniel taught me and continue to use this tool everyday. I hope it also provides you with clarity and consciousness in your life. xo


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I'm Sandy Gerber

Communications strategist, Chief Marketing Officer, Entrepreneur, Author, TEDx and Keynote Speaker. Sandy Gerber is the creator of the Emotional Magnetism™ Communication Technique.