Ever since we launched the Yellow Collective at the 2016 Yellow Conference, we’ve realized just how essential our Yellow Collective Chapter Leaders are to furthering our mission! They bring incredible women together to connect with each other across the country, in addition to fostering change through their own work and lives. We know how important it is for leaders to be empowered and nurtured themselves so they have the energy to do the same for others. And as many of us know, most of the time when you’re leading a team, creating this time is a rare occurrence. So, we planned something pretty special for them to express our gratitude: our first ever Yellow Collective Leader Retreat!
Our chapter leaders across the nation were invited for a weekend retreat at a gorgeous property in Solvang, California for a time of rest and connection. The estate stands alone on a hilltop overlooking some gorgeous scenery below - the perfect set-up for a time to refocus and regroup as a leadership family! On the first day of the retreat, I could hardly contain my excitement. The leaders began arriving Friday afternoon and were greeted by breath-taking views and a fluffy troupe of alpacas that live on the property! Each leader explored the house and received her welcome pack - complete with an itinerary, encouraging notes, a Raven + Lily journal, Onyx + Green pens, and a word of intention uniquely chosen for each woman to reflect on during the retreat.
We settled into the weekend by drinking white wine, munching on fresh veggies, and getting to know one another a bit - many of us having just met for the first time. We shared a slow meal during sunset - sipping creamy tomato bisque, taking in the views, and answering table questions including our Yellow Co. founder, Joanna’s, all-time favorite: “What’s your guilty pleasure?”
With dishes piled up and full, happy bellies, we gathered beside the living room fireplace for our first group session, led by the incredibly lovely Elisha Avne of Wayfare HQ . We discussed our intentions for the weekend - everything we wanted to process, the internal state we’d like to go home in, and how much (or little) time we’d like to spend on our phones. This allowed us to set a standard for how we’d focus and spend our time, both collectively and individually.
Afterwards, some snuggled into bed for a night of well-deserved rest, some jumped into the hot-tub, and others spent time engaging in conversation with each other in various nooks of the house. This was one of my favorite aspects of the weekend: so much freedom to just be.
When dreaming up the itinerary for the weekend, we wanted to make sure leaders felt free to choose how they spent their time. We encouraged them to check in with themselves, and respond faithfully to their needs. Whether that meant getting extra sleep, spending time in solitude (introverts rejoice!), going into town with fellow leaders for a fun time, or simply admiring the nature around us.
Of the fun, intentional activities we did plan, morning yoga was the first up. After enjoying a light breakfast of homemade granola (made with love by none other than my mama), fresh fruit, and coffee, a local teacher from Bloom Yoga lead us in a private session out on the deck overlooking the valley. It was the dreamiest way to wake up! During our second group session, we created a ‘story map’ of major events in our lives, and the messages we’ve attached to them. Diving into our pasts resulted in many groundbreaking epiphanies, and some tearful realizations of the life we want to create.
The afternoon followed with wine-tasting at Sunstone Vineyards and Winery, and our second dinner on the terrace. Going around the table, we decided to share stories of strangers who impacted our lives. Everyone’s encounters were so unique, each moving in its own way. We capped off the night with our third session, and dove into our callings. We reflected, brainstormed, and had breakthroughs on the beauty each of us want to create in the world, and how we’re going to make it happen.
I so wish the retreat had been longer, but was impressed at the amazing intimacy we experienced, and deep friendship formed in just a few short days. I can’t adequately express how life-giving it is to see women serving and caring for each other so well, especially ones that just met! It was true magic the entire time.
During our last breakfast together, we drank our coffee and reminisced over our glory teen days - screen names, first concerts, and all. Once the laughter calmed a bit, we made space for the last session of the weekend. It was simple. Each of us reflected on our time, how the word we received on the first day resonated with us, and then we did a practice that was both empowering and disarming.
For a few minutes, we focused our collective attention on each individual woman and offered her encouraging, truthful “You are __” statements. Affirmations like, “You are able” or “You are groundbreaking”. The catch? We couldn’t explain or justify them. We gifted them to one another with no rambling explanation. And potentially even more challenging, the person on the receiving end couldn’t respond. That meant no diminishing our own beauty or disagreeing with a complimentary statement. If you’ve ever had to sit still and receive loving affirmation from a group of people, you know how difficult, but entirely moving it is.
We affirmed each other’s dignity and worth. We received affection deeply and honorably from one another. We cried (a lot). Sometimes, it’s all you can do when your heart is so full. Goodbyes were said for now, but as you can probably tell, we can’t wait for the next retreat and time shared together.
Lodging: Santa Ynez Vacation Rentals (huge thanks to Kathy and Amy for allowing us to use their space!)
Group Sessions: Elisha Avne of Wayfare HQ
Private Yoga: Bloom Yoga
Welcome Packet Materials: Raven + Lily and Onyx + Green
Photos by: Joanna Waterfall