On a chilly, early morning back in May I set my alarm to wake me before dawn, so I could be at the airport in time to board a 6am flight to northern Minnesota. I had been invited to serve with the leadership team for the first annual “Rebel and Be Well” Women’s retreat being hosted at The Point Retreat, in Pequot Lakes, MN.

Before I embarked on this journey, I had shared a few blog posts back about my fond appreciation for retreats, and the unique magic I feel surrounds the general mountain-top  “camping” experience here:

The Great Outdoors – Mandi Holden

Returning to a leadership role in the retreat space was VERY healing for my heart, as someone who spent many years being passionate about the power of camp/retreats.

It felt like I received back to me something very precious that I lost, and had given up on ever finding again.

So, somewhere between belly laughing around a bonfire, and howling at the moon late into the night…and sharing quiet, kindred tears of grief and understanding alongside other women (who had simply been strangers only days before!)…I found that precious thing happening again.

Community and BELONGING.

When my friend Christa (who owns and operates The Point) called me way back in the early spring of 2020, she asked me what I thought about possibly helping pull a women’s retreat together for the following spring…of course, depending on where the world would be at with Covid.

I don’t even think I responded with words.

I’m pretty sure I just immediately sent her a picture of my vision board, where I had pinned pictures from the property with affirmations of returning someday as a speaker. 

It was an emphatic, YES.

After months of planning and anticipation… joining forces with the other sister women who were also leading…and waiting to get the official green light that covid-19 would not be shutting us down…I found myself alone in the airport, checking my luggage, and heading to my boarding gate. 

As someone who has embodied many different shapes and sizes within my own skin on this continual self-love/weight loss journey…I can share that boarding airplanes most definitely comes with its own specific anxiety for those of us in larger bodies. As you can imagine, planes have seemed to serve me as a sort of, humbling and holy, self-truth-facing space. Never sugar coating the hard truths I could easily avoid elsewhere. Brutal and sobering at times because there is LITERALLY no where to hide.

So, imagine my RELIEF (and pure joy!) when I reached my assigned seat and found that I was not only able to sit down comfortably without my body spilling over onto someone else, invading their space…but I was also able to buckle my seatbelt with ease. 

Even pulling on the excess belt to tighten and secure it.

I don’t think anyone, anywhere, EVER, enjoyed flying on an airplane more than me, on that day. 

The last time I flew, I had to ask for an extender and here I was with EXCESS belt flap to SPARE?!

A non-scale victory that seemed SO unattainable had now been attained.

The freedom I felt was symbolic, as I was headed into the unknown of what our retreat would unfold for us and the attendees that weekend…and beyond.

The trip was abundant with various full circle moments, and personal revelations about my life that was waiting for my return back at home.

It seemed the unofficial theme of our time together collectively became, “release”.

Upon holding space for the women who were gathered in attendance, leaning in, and doing the work we were leading them to do, I found myself faced with my own work.

My own inventory of LIFE.

Relationships, goals, dreams, friendships, habits, beliefs, values, convictions, judgements, criticisms, grudges, expectations and opinions.

What was actually working for me, and serving the greater purpose of helping me become my very best self…and what can I admit is NOT doing anything to add to my life?

Sorting through resentments, and long held limiting beliefs led me to discovering the many different ways I have been sabotaging myself, and doubting that what I actually WANT is possible.

Distracting me from what I feel I am actually CALLED to do.

I found myself in the position, (especially after having transitioned out of my admin job at UNR just before the retreat) to say, “SCREW IT” and LET GO of all the ways I had been arguing for my limitations. I decided to throw myself to the wind and take a chance on myself.

I came home and decided I need to dig deep to give this vision of me that lives deep down in my heart (of helping others begin their fitness journey) a chance, instead of running from it.

I know this isn’t much of a blog post reporting the details of the amazing experience I had at the 2021 Rebel and be Well Women’s Retreat…so if you’re still here and you’ve read this far, THANK YOU and stay tuned.

The truth is, it’s been almost 2 months since I’ve returned home from that trip, and I’ve realized that I had been struggling with finding the best way to describe the experience and capture what it meant to me, because I wasn’t supposed to. (Luckily, we have already been invited back to facilitate a women’s retreat again next year, so…tuck THAT away for future consideration.)

I will keep my private revelations to myself for now, but what I can say is…when we release…we create room to receive.

“So, BUCKLE UP girl.” She says to herself in the mirror.

We are now preparing for take off.