Cultivating Joy and Resilience in Uncertain Times: A Weeklong Writing Retreat

Tuesday, October 29 - Monday, November 4, 2024
Bolinas, California

If you’d like to strengthen your capacity to show up in a world full of uncertainty, this weeklong writing workshop, at a gorgeous retreat center perched on the rugged cliffs of the Pacific, will build your inner resources and teach you new skills for meeting life’s challenges with grace, presence, and gratitude.

Is This Retreat for Me?

Writing in community, and being deeply witnessed, is a powerful tool for developing the resilience and skills necessary to meet the challenges of our uncertain world.

During our week together, you will be guided on a creative journey that will teach you the skills you need to remain grounded and present in the face of adversity.

You will walk away with an effective plan for empowered action, a deeper capacity for gratitude and joy, and the support of a vibrant, caring community of fellow writers.

This life-changing retreat is appropriate for writers at all levels. You do not need to consider yourself a writer to attend. If you are willing to use words as a tool for reflection, growth, and community building, you are welcome to attend.

Commonweal, Northern California
Commonweal, Northern California

As you savor the beauty of the Northern California coast during this unforgettable week, you will:

  • Harness the power of writing to find deeper alignment with your core values and goals 
  • Assess, strengthen, and enhance the inner and outer resources you need to face the stresses of our world
  • Be embraced by a compassionate, supportive community that will hold your stories, encourage your growth, and support your deepest aspirations
  • Learn new somatic practices that reduce anxiety and provide positive alternatives to despair, cynicism, and numbness
  • Develop new strategies to cultivate joy, gratitude, and presence in the face of adversity
  • Reignite your commitment to your life goals and discover new ways to take empowered action in your community
  • Relish quiet relaxation and stunning natural beauty; savor delicious, nurturing meals made with fresh ingredients and love

Daily Rhythm

Our retreat will include ample time for communion, connection, solitude, rest, and rejuvenation.

During the course of our days, there will be meetings with the community as a whole, time to write in small groups, and if you so desire, on your own.

We will meet together as a whole group each morning. After a delicious organic lunch, your afternoons will be free. Many of you will choose to write during this time, harnessing the inspiration and seeds you harvested in the morning.


You can also use this free time to hike, walk on the bluffs by the Pacific Ocean. You can also nap, exercise or share your writing with a new friend. You will also be part of a smaller pod of writers who will write together for an hour every day.

After a fantastic, delicious, organic dinner, we will reconvene as a whole group in the evening.

This extraordinary, life-changing retreat will last for seven days and six nights.

Labyrinth at Commonweal

Cultivating Joy and Resilience in Uncertain Times:
A Weeklong Writing Retreat

Tuesday, October 29 - Monday, November 4, 2024


Commonweal Retreat Center in Bolinas, California

Commonweal, Northern California. Photograph by Phil Buchanan.
Commonweal, Northern California. Photograph by Phil Buchanan.

Our retreat will be held at the incomparable Commonweal Retreat Center in Bolinas, California, where I have taught for twenty years.

Come prepared to absorb the stark beauty of the wild California coastline at the height of Indian summer. It's a gorgeous, wild, beautiful haven.

The meals are fresh, organic and deeply satisfying. Accommodations are peaceful and quiet, conducive to creativity and deep rest.

Those of you have studied with me at Commonweal before, know what a perfect peaceful setting it is. For those of you who've never had the privilege of attending before, Commonweal is a gorgeous, secluded, magical healing sanctuary.

Arrival and Departure: We will convene at 5:00 P.M. on Tuesday, October 29 for dinner. You can arrive to register as early as 3:00 PM. We will end after lunch on Monday, November 4.

You will need to arrange your travel so you can be at the retreat for the entire time. (If you are flying into SFO, that means your plane should arrive no later than 1:30 Tuesday afternoon and leave no earlier than 5:00 on Monday afternoon.)

Size of the Group: There will only be 21 writers at the retreat. We will meet as a large group each day for a teaching session and in small writing groups, so there will be ample time for intimate sharing of your life and your words.

Food: The food will be organic, fantastic and plentiful. Everyone always talks about the food: what will be in the next meal and what was in the last one. Claire's meals are always healthy works of art,  filled with love, and deeply nourishing.

Commonweal, Northern California.
Pacific House, Commonweal, CA | Photograph by Phil Buchanan
Pacific House, Commonweal, CA | Photograph by Phil Buchanan

Accommodations: We rent three houses on the Commonweal property. The main house has all the single occupancy rooms, all up a flight of stairs, our big kitchen, group dining room and meeting room are on the ground floor; the second and third houses have their own kitchens, living rooms, and porches. They're lovely and that's where the double-occupancy rooms are. All three buildings are close together: a 3-5 minute walk over through a grassy field to Kohler House or a walk through the woods to Bothin House. The ground in between is basically flat, but not totally even. There are no private bathrooms; all bathrooms are shared.

Many participants, who initially preferred a single, have reported to us that having a roommate was unexpectedly one of the very best parts of their week at Commonweal. The small houses with the double rooms are charming, cozy and welcoming with lots of private spots to sit, indoors and out.

Since accommodations are limited, we assign rooms on a first-come basis.


Mid-October in northern California is some of the very best most beautiful weather of the year. It can be warm, hot, and at times blustery. Or warm with a cool breeze. It will be wonderful to be outside. Rain is unlikely, but possible.

San Francisco and Oakland are the closest airports. Commonweal is a two-hour drive from either one. Your options are to rent a car (though we encourage you to park and stay parked all week) or to book a space in the shuttle we provide.

Our cook’s husband, Howard, offers transit from the airport for our guests for a fee. Uber and Lyft are not good options for transit from the airport because of the distance involved.

Yes, we strongly recommend travel insurance that includes trip cancellation and medical coverage to protect your investment in this retreat. You can purchase travel insurance whether you drive or fly to the retreat. Once the dates of our graduated refund policy have passed, travel insurance will be your only option for a refund.

To cover preexisting conditions, insurance must be purchased soon after you pay your initial deposit. We will send information about purchasing insurance after you register. Our travel agent can also assist you in finding and purchasing a travel insurance policy that meets your particular needs.

If you are buying your own insurance, be sure to read the fine print as policies can differ greatly. Confirm with your insurance provider what Covid-19-related issues are covered. Check your policy carefully and ensure you understand who will pay for additional costs if incurred.

There are eleven single rooms. The singles will be awarded on a first come basis. Everyone else will have a roommate, either chosen or assigned. All bathrooms are shared.

If you don’t have a roommate in mind, we will try to match you with a compatible roommate. 

There is one disabled access room-a single downstairs in Pacific House. It has access to a disabled shower and bathroom across the hall, which is also used by the kitchen staff and sometimes by other group members. If you need this room, we should discuss your specific needs (using the form at the bottom of this page) so we can determine together whether the environment at Commonweal can accommodate your needs.

Our head chef, Claire, is a gifted cook whose food is beautiful, nutritious, and deeply nourishing. Laura says, “The first time I met Claire fifteen years ago, I asked if we could talk about menus for my retreat. She said, ‘Oh, I just like to go to the farmer’s market and cook whatever’s fresh.’ I think that tells you all you need to know about the wonderful food you’ll be eating at Commonweal.

Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free diets can be easily accommodated.

Our intention is for this to be a digital free retreat so we can focus deeply and have a break from the barrage of news from the world. Think of it as an opportunity to break your digital habits. However, there is limited internet access is available at Commonweal. If you have caregiving responsibilities or must respond to something essential at home, we ask you to make any needed internet use private and discrete.

Although the pandemic is officially over, COVID-19 remains a serious virus with potentially life-threatening consequences for some people, particularly those who are older or have pre-existing conditions. We expect that there will be people on our trip that fit one of these categories. Long Covid is also a debilitating possibility for anyone who gets Covid, even a mild Covid infection. So, our Covid policy begins with the assumption that most of our travelers would prefer to avoid a Covid exposure. Yet, we know that the risk of contracting Covid or any other communicable or contagious disease is an inherent risk of social exposure and travel. With this basis in mind you can read our policy here.

A great benefit of attending this retreat is the opportunity to consciously choose a respite from stressful, agitating news that will keep escalating as we get closer to the election. We will not be discussing politics or current events at meals, on walks or anywhere else during the retreat. However, if the election and the issues surrounding it are things you want or need to write about, we welcome that content to show up in your writing.

Since our retreat ends the day before election, we will take time on our final day to help people prepare for their re-entry with that reality in mind. Our goal is to send people home rested, rejuvenated, with greater resilience and more confidence that they can be meet the future with a steady heart, whatever it may be.

Absolutely! We love hearing from potential participants and answering any questions you might have. Feel free to contact us using the contact form at the bottom of this page.

Teachers and Guides

Writing Workshop Instructor:  

Laura Davis is the author of seven non-fiction books, including The Courage to Heal, Becoming the Parent You Want to Be and I Thought We'd Never Speak Again. Laura's groundbreaking books have sold more than 1.8 million copies around the world. Laura has also worked as a columnist, talk show host, radio reporter, radio producer, blogger, editor, and speaker.

She is a cancer survivor, the mother of three, the grandmother of three, and has buried both her parents. In other words, she is a well-seasoned human being.

Words have always been at the core of her work and her self-expression.

Laura has been mentoring and supporting writers for the past 20 years. It is truly the work of her heart:


"I love teaching. I love watching my students find their natural voice and their rhythm. I love it when they find their true stories and discover the courage to put them on the page. I feel like a midwife as my students birth their stories, and I feel honored to witness their bursts of creativity and pure life energy pouring out on the page. Our writing circles are safe places where skills are honed, tears and laughter are welcome, and each writer is seen, heard and deeply known."

Laura leads weekly writing groups and retreats in the Santa Cruz, CA region and online, as well as retreats internationally. She has taken writers to Bali and Scotland, Tuscany, Greece, Vietnam, hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain and to Laos and Cambodia. She documents these trips to the delight of many readers in her intermittent travel blog, The Virtual Vacation.

Laura's newest book, The Burning Light of Two Stars: A Mother-Daughter Story, winner of the BookLife Prize for best memoir/autobiography of 2021, tells the story of her dramatic and tumultuous relationship with her mother from the time of Laura's birth until her mother's death. You will receive a copy of The Burning Light of Two Stars as a bonus gift as part of your registration.


Praise for Laura

"Laura is the most talented facilitator I have ever worked with. She is kind, compassionate and caring, yet she maintains order, creates a container that can hold deep pain and enables others to create and build community."

—Margo Fowkes, Loomis, CA

"Laura is calm, welcoming, ordered, well-prepared, nimble, knowledgeable, funny, and warm."

—Elizabeth Becker, Oakland, CA

"Laura is a phenomenal leader. So generous and open. She always creates safety."

—Jude Chaikin, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

"Laura is a masterful and confident facilitator. She is competent, empathetic and well-organized. She is funny, open and supportive and knows how to create community while allowing for individuality. She practices what she preaches."

—Ellen Kaye Gehrke, Ramona, CA

"Laura's presence is one of powerful understanding and total compassion. I've never felt so seen or understood by someone, and it still gets me choked up thinking about it."

—Natasha Kealoha, Sacramento, CA

"Laura made me feel safe enough to do this hard work. She created a community of trust and love, listening and acceptance. She allowed for joy."

Carolyn Lehman, Arcata, CA

"Laura brings her whole self to each session. She creates a sacred, safe space where we can bare our souls."

Sandra, Pacific Grove, CA

"Laura's strong collaborative leadership skills, combined with respectful communication abilities, made this a safe place to be."

Gail Webber, Mountain View, CA

"Because of Laura's loving presence, I arrived and started to work."

Toni Taylor, Santa Cruz, CA

"Words can't really express all that Laura's presence accomplished. She is a safe, solid, steady guide."

—Judith Stewart, Palo Alto, CA

"Laura is the perfect leader. She brings her full heart and soul, and at the same time is watchful and protective of the schedule, the guidelines, the boundaries."

—Eli Jacobs, Israel

"Laura was the guiding light in my stormy sea of grief. She was strong, attentive and helped me push forward."

—Elky Greenberg, Santa Cruz, CA

"Thank you for the genius of your leadership, the strength and kindness with which you held our group. Thank you for the powerful writings about your family. It provided such important modeling—to write about fear and hard things from such a place of honesty and strength. I am deeply grateful to have been included in your magical and deep offering."

—Suzanne Harris, San Francisco, CA

"I stumbled upon your website when I was searching for a way to somewhere I couldn't name...and some deep knowing part of me said, 'Yes. STOP. This is it! She's your guide.' Thank you God, for Laura Davis and the sense to follow through. This week has been a precious time for me, a path into the landscape of change. You are a gentle guide and I've loved every moment of my time with you."

—Kathy Sievert, Anchorage, AK

"Laura is an angel on earth and a guide for the lost.'

—Eliana Yoneda, Los Angeles, CA

"Thank you for changing my life. Thank you for being wholly present. I appreciate your wit, sharp but never biting. And I appreciate your seemingly endless patience."

—Jane Claire Purden, Westlake Village, CA

"Laura is amazing. Her clarity of purpose was evident from the start. Her boundaries with regard to the pacing of the day and the week were spot on. I so appreciate her as a write and as a master facilitator."

—Betsy Fletcher, Pisqah Forest, NC

My Esteemed Co-Facilitator


Evelyn Hall


Evelyn Hall is a social worker, master hypnotherapist, and minister. For the past 35 years, Evelyn has been guiding individuals and leading groups, helping people find healing in body, mind, and spirit. Evelyn specializes in transformative healing practices including somatic awareness, movement, meditation, healing through nature, and leading sacred ceremonies. She brings a depth to grief work by teaching clients to allow the natural healing process of grief to occur: addressing and transforming feelings and thoughts through body, mind and spirit. In this path, grief becomes the healing journey.

Praise for Evelyn

"Evelyn brought mysticism, magic, creativity and a romantic spirit to the retreat."

—Julie Sheehan, Livermore, CA

"Evelyn is a comforting presence. She is a healer and very read. She truly helped me. I love her."

—Bonnie Kirchbaum, Oceanside, CA

"Evelyn played a beautiful supportive and sensitive role to all of us in the group."

—Linda Comin, Oceanside, CA

"Evelyn's presence was a gift. Her calming presence, her blessing and the altar she tended. I appreciated everything she brought to the retreat. I wouldn't have had the same powerful experience without her."

—Margo Fowkes, Loomis, CA

"Evelyn was the keeper of the altar. She invited us into a larger holding of spirit, of presence of stillness."

—Gail Warner, southern California

"Evelyn is a joy to behold. The treasures and symbols she brought to the workshop added color and dimensions and depths to our days and nights."

—Diane Schwedner, Santa Cruz, CA

"Evelyn was very motherly and calming, truly understanding of my spiritual experience without judgement."

—Dwi Prasetyowati, San Francisco

"Evelyn's role in the retreat was essential. The place of ritual gave a container for the work of the writing and the journey of the feelings. Her care and warmth made her approachable and supportive."

—Martha Fauteux, Ontario, Canada

"Evelyn provided a sprinkling of fairy dust that lightened the hard work we did."

Carolyn Lehman, Arcata, CA

"Evelyn was our support and spiritual guide."

—Chris, Ithaca, New York

"I love how Evelyn's perspective guided the group. Her gentle effortless way of being with us was wonderful. She was there for me in my moments of need."

Lynne Benatovich, Sonoma, CA

"Evelyn was the wind beneath my wings. She always appeared by peoples' sides when she was most needed."

Denise Carter, Aptos, CA

"Evelyn is pure joy and positive energy."

Kendra Dorfman, Santa Cruz, CA

"What an incredible gift Evelyn's uplifting energy was throughout this retreat. Her zest for life was contagious."

Sandra, Pacific Grove, CA

"Evelyn is a beautiful soul. She provided the 'heart,' the compassionate soul of the retreat."

Claudette McLean, Alberta, Canada



What's included:

    • Room, board and three delicious meals a day.
    • All instruction for a life-changing retreat.
    • The services of your capable, compassionate leaders.
    • An amazing community that will lead to deep connections and new friends.
    • A copy of Laura's award-winning memoir, The Burning Light of Two Stars


    What's not included:

      • Transportation to and from Bolinas.
      • Personal, medical, and travel insurance to protect your investment in the retreat.
      • Tips for the kitchen and the cleaning staff.



Cultivating Joy and Resilience in Uncertain Times

Tuesday, October 29 - Monday November 4, 2024

Commonweal property along the thundering Pacific, Bolinas, CA

Your Investment

Cost: $2,800 for a spot in a double-occupancy room; $3,600 for the small single occupancy room; $3,800 for a standard single occupancy room.

Payment Schedule: A $1,000 deposit is due with your registration ($500 of this payment is nonrefundable). The remaining balance will be due on July 15, 2024.

Retreat Tuition Cancellations and Refunds Policy: $500 of your initial payment is nonrefundable and will be forfeited in all cases. After July 15, 2024, there will be no refunds. Exceptions to this cancellation policy cannot be made for any reason, including personal emergencies. Travel protection insurance will provide your only option for recouping your tuition investment.

Choose Your Rooms

Shared Double-Occupancy Room - $2,800 per bed
Room contains two twin beds. Pricing per person.

NOTE: If you sign up for a double occupancy room without having a roommate in mind, we will do our best to pair you with an appropriate roommate.

Standard Single Room - $3,800
Private room. Pricing per person.

Want to Contact Laura?

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