Writing as a Pathway Through Grief, Loss, Uncertainty and Change: A Weeklong Retreat

Bolinas, California

Yet to be rescheduled

Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, all of my in-person retreats have been temporarily suspended. This page will always have the most up-to-date information about their availability. You can scroll to the bottom of this page to sign up to be notified about future opportunities to write and travel with me in person.

In the meantime, to learn about my online offerings during the pandemic, you can go to this page.

If you're grieving a loss or moving through a period of uncertainty and change in your life, this weeklong writing retreat, in a serene setting of incomparable beauty, will help you harness the power of story as a healing, transformative force.

The Power of Words to Heal: A Note from Laura

Throughout my career as a writer, speaker and teacher, my material has always arisen from what I've been dealing with in my life.

When I was 28 and started working on The Courage to Heal, it was healing from sexual abuse; in my mid-thirties, when I published Becoming the Parent You Want to Be, it was my first years as a parent. Later, when I wrote I Thought We'd Never Speak Again, the impetus was healing a long, painful estrangement with my mother.

During the past two decades, I wrote a column about my struggles as a parent, blogged about having cancer and wrote about caring for my mother in the last months and years of her life.

I have written my way through each of these major life events.

Words have been trustworthy companions in my growth and healing in every instance. Writing has helped me weather the storms, process the feelings, feel into the future, and has given me the opportunity to pour out my uncertainty, my grief, my dawning awareness, and my tentative steps into what was new.

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My mother died in July of 2014 and I've once again used writing as a tool to process my grief and explore the ways her death has shifted my internal furniture. Much of this writing has been personal and private, but the process I am engaged in, and what I have been learning from it, has profoundly impacted the way I teach and what I want to teach. And it has deepened what I have to offer my students as a writing teacher and a guide.

It was quite natural for me to want to create something new out of that deep internal process. For the past five years, I've been offering a new workshop, designed with the brilliant help of my colleagues, Nancy London and David Colin Carr, to help people process grief, creatively respond to uncertainty, and make meaningful change. We came up with a design for a workshop that has been truly transformative for its participants, each time it's been offered.

Writing as a Pathway Through Grief, Loss, Uncertainty, and Change

This fall I will be offering this retreat for the seventh time, in early October. This time, my brilliant colleague, Evelyn Hall, will be co-facilitating with me (You'll learn all about Evelyn below). The retreat will be held at the height of Indian summer, at Commonweal, a spectacular retreat center on the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean in Northern California where I've taught for the past sixteen years.

Is This Retreat For Me?

Writing in community - and being deeply witnessed - is a gentle yet powerful tool for change.

This retreat will provide you with a transformative week of writing, in the embrace of nature, within the safe harbor of a supportive community.

During our week together, you will be guided on a creative, healing journey designed to help you find your bearings while grappling with the messy, uncomfortable, inevitable life challenges we all face as human beings.

Commonweal, Northern California
Commonweal, Northern California
Commonweal, Northern California
Commonweal, Northern California

Are you:

  • Coping with the death of a family member, friend or someone close to you?

  • Grieving a significant loss of any kind?

  • Facing a major transition in your life?

  • Feeling ripe with uncertainty?

  • Dealing with significant change in a major relationship? Or the loss of a major relationship?

  • Experiencing changes or shifts in your relationship with a child? A grandchild? A parent?

  • Experiencing serious illness? Or have you been the caregiver of someone who is ill or incapacitated?

  • Dealing with losses due to aging or disability? Facing your  mortality in a new way?

  • Starting a new job or career? Moving into retirement?

  • Letting go of an identity that defined you to yourself and to the world?
  • Dealing with financial uncertainty, changes or setbacks?
  • Facing fallout from a betrayal?
  • Questioning your faith or core beliefs?
  • Feeling like your current life doesn't fit but uncertain about what is ahead?
  • Reeling from a loss of security or safety in life? In the world?
  • Would you like to find more presence and joy in your life?

If you answered "yes" to ONE OR MORE of these questions, this restorative retreat is for you.

Commonweal, Northern California.
Commonweal, Northern California.

Our week together will provide you with a healing oasis in the midst of uncertainty, loss and change. You will walk away with new friends, increased self-love, and tools for self-healing-a creative pathway toward connection, acceptance, and resolution.

About the Writing at this Retreat

You do not have to be a seasoned writer to attend this retreat. Our writing community will include a mix of beginners and experienced writers and everything in between. Some people attending this workshop will have been doing writing practice for years; others will be brand new to the practice. I will give instruction for newcomers at our first session.

While writing is definitely therapeutic, we will not be doing therapy at this retreat. Our focus will be on writing practice and the healing power of writing, but we will not be directly processing the deep issues that can arise when we write.

The instruction at this retreat will focus on process rather than technique, editing or producing a final product.

An open heart and the willingness to write is all that is required.

Commonweal, Northern California
Commonweal, Northern California
commonweal-from-ridge-laura-davis

As a long-time retreat teacher, I've found again and again that the moment someone signs up for a retreat and sets the intention to attend, something begins to stir deep inside them; the process of change and healing begins.

Evelyn and I hope you'll consider taking that step now. Join us in Bolinas in October for a deeply creative, life-changing retreat.

You deserve to make this commitment to yourself.  

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 open. Many of you will choose to write during this time, harnessing the inspiration and seeds you harvested in the morning.

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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 7 days and six nights.

Commonweal, Northern California.
Commonweal, Northern California.

Location

Commonweal Retreat Center Bolinas, California

Yet to be rescheduled

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

The fall retreat will be held at the incomparable Commonweal Retreat Center in Bolinas, California, where I have taught every year for the past sixteen 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.

"The physical space was exceptionally conducive for the retreat: the beauty of the nature surrounding it, the silence, and the constant thrumming of the heartbeat of the sea. The exquisite food, its presentation and the flavors represented the perfection of the human spirit when it is safe and whole. It was like going to a spa for the soul."

—Ruth Kear, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and Nederland, CO

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, peaceful, magical healing sanctuary.

To introduce you to what the Commonweal experience is all about, there's a little video from past participants just off to the right.

Arrival and Departure:  The fall retreat will begin with an afternoon arrival on Wednesday, September 30, 2020 will conclude on Tuesday, October 6, 2020 after lunch.

Size of the Group: There will only be 22 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.

Commonweal, Northern California.
Commonweal, Northern California.

The Flow of the Week: Morning and evening whole group sessions will include guided meditations, writing, and reading out loud. Our days will also have ample time for hiking, walking, napping, dreaming and writing on your own and in small groups.

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, our head cook, loves to go to the farmer's market and cook us whatever is fresh. Her food is a work of art and is deeply nourishing.

Accommodations: We rent three houses on the Commonweal property. The main house has all the single occupancy rooms, all upstairs, the big kitchen, our group dining room and our meeting room; 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.

However, MANY participants, who initially wanted 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.

There is also 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 so we can determine together whether the environment at Commonweal will accommodate your needs. You can write to me: lauradavis@lauradavis.net.

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

There is also one off-campus housing space. The person taking this spot will pay a reduced fee of $1,975 for the workshop and all meals, and pay to rent their own Airbnb, and then commute in every day. A car is necessary. If you're interested in this option, Laura would like to discuss it with you first to see if staying off-campus stay would be a good fit for you. You can email her here.

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

Transportation to Bolinas: Northern Californians are of course welcome to drive. If you're interested, we'll let you know if there is someone else from your area who might be willing to carpool. We will send you detailed driving directions in your confirmation packet. It takes an hour and a half to get to Commonweal from San Francisco, depending on traffic and road conditions.

If you are flying in: It's best to fly into the San Francisco airport (SFO). From there to Bolinas is a little more than an hour and a half drive, but it's not the easiest drive. It requires driving through San Francisco, over the Golden Gate Bridge and through some curvy beautiful narrow roads in Marin. Your choices are to rent a car and drive yourself (or to share a car with someone else arriving from out of town) or to use the driver who regularly shuttles people from the airport to Commonweal. Howard is a lovely man, someone delightful to drive with. Costs vary depending on the number of passengers and the price of gasoline.

Arrival and Departure Times: We will convene at 5:00 P.M. on Wednesday, September 30th for dinner. You can arrive to register as early as 3:00 PM. We will end after lunch on Tuesday, October 6th after lunch.

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

TRAVEL AND TRAVEL INSURANCE

If you are flying in, we recommend that you book your flight with our extraordinary and very wonderful travel planner, Linda, so arrival times, departure times, and ground transportation can be coordinated with the starting and ending times of the retreat. Linda can also help you if you want to arrive sooner, leave later, or add other destinations to your itinerary.

She'll also be selling travel insurance for this retreat, which is the best way to protect your investment. The insurance will cover the retreat as well as any transportation you purchase to get there. Linda can sell you travel insurance whether you drive, fly or make your own transportation arrangements.

NOTE: Most travel companies require you to purchase your travel insurance within 2 weeks of paying your deposit. We ask that you wait to buy your tickets (if needed) and travel insurance until we've reviewed your registration and confirmed your participation.

Linda is available most weekday business hours on Pacific Time:

Linda Schwedock, Pacific Harbor Travel, CST# 1014242-10
519 Seabright Avenue #201
Santa Cruz, CA  95062

1-800-435-9463
831-427-5000

linda@pacificharbortravel.com

commonweal-pacific-path

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.

Laura's newest book, The Burning Light of Two Stars: A Mother-Daughter Story, her first memoir, tells the story of her dramatic and tumultuous relationship with her mother from the time of Laura's birth until her mother's death.

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, Greece, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. She documents these trips to the delight of many readers in her blog, The Virtual Vacation. You can read a wonderful interview with Laura here.

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Praise for Laura

"Laura's presence is as a sage who helps trust and safety to be present."

—Martha Fauteux, Ontario, Canada

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

—Jude Chaikin, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

"Laura was beyond capable of handling all the emotional energy in the room. She was our mother, teacher, spiritual guide and friend."

—Stephanie Hatton, Los Angeles, CA

"Laura's ability to give amazing prompts and hold the space for all of us to express our stories was amazing."

—Linda Comin, Oceanside, CA

"I've never been to a retreat before, so I don't have anything to compare this to. But for me, this retreat was an absolute gift that I'll remember for the rest of my life."

—Natasha Kealoha, Sacramento, CA

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

—Elizabeth Becker, Oakland, CA

"Laura provides a supportive, encouraging presence that weaves a container for the heart and mind to be held in."

—Julie Sheehan, Livermore, CA

"Laura is a great teacher. Her peaceful, non-judgmental presence held the group together well and provided a safe container for our shared experience."

—Nikki Baumrind, Davis, California

"Laura was always present with an open heart and a willingness to be with what surfaced in the group in a loving way. She laughed out loud, shared incredibly poems and steered our group to exactly the places that desired our presence."

—Diane Schwedner, Santa Cruz, CA

"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 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

"I can't imagine going through these seven days without Laura's guidance, humor, organization and experience. She was the light that held me and led me."

—Bonnie Kirchbaum, Oceanside, 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's facilitation and authenticity in holding space and being herself was a delight. She created a sacred space for all of us. Her guidance and direction gave us the signposts along the way."

—Martha Fauteux, Ontario, Canada

"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 offers a warmly structured retreat to get away, slow down and dig in-a needed escape to explore the darkness in a safe and welcoming circle."

Lorine Grosso, Colorado Springs, CO

"Laura uses her own experience to lead the way. She prepares thoughtful information and always kept us on track."

Harriette Friedlander, Louisville, KY

"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 has a unique capacity to take leadership without ego getting in the way. She is skilled and experienced yet honors the skills and experiences of others in a way that manages to prevent hierarchy from forming. She is accomplished in the role of anti-guru, communicating her own struggles and uncertainty without compromising her own privacy. I imagine this is the cumulative effect of many years of spiritual work."

Lisa Simeone, New York, NY

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

Gail Webber, Mountain View, CA

"Laura presented numerous ways in which to express my grief. She constantly read poetry that connected with exactly what I was going through. Her advice in all situations was invaluable."

Karen Barber-Olajuwon, Richmond, VA

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

Toni Taylor, Santa Cruz, CA

"Laura is present and deeply connected to the group. She masterfully and lovingly guided the energy toward love and wholeness."

Lynne Benatovich, Sonoma, CA

"Laura's ability to create a safe community in a short time is impressive. She combines the fostering of compassion and safety with a clarity of boundaries so participants can feel the security necessary for openings."

Claire Moore, Whidbey Island, WA

"Without Laura guiding us, there would be no retreat, no community established in seven days that will continue. I may not be a professional writer, but I appreciate the seeds she has sown in my heart."

Amy Gerome, Felton, CA

"Laura is a great nurturing, strong Mom. A soul of great love, compassion and nurturing. Warm, lovely and to the point."

David Nathanson, Michigan

"Laura's voice is powerful and her experience doing these retreats are readily apparent. Her attentiveness to everyone (without anyone really noticing) is amazing."

Kathy Stearman, Louisville, KY

"Laura provides the fertilizer. She reads powerful poems that show openness, rawness and healing. She shares her story-strengths, challenges and victories. Her experience, strength and hope inspire me."

Denise Carter, Aptos, CA

"I admired Laura's carefully crafted program and that she was available and human with all of us. She modeled what she taught."

—Carolyn Lehman, Arcata, CA

"Laura's skills as a writing teacher and her expertise in group dynamics provide a safe container for all that unfolds in this workshop. Her insight and genuine dedication to the process is life-changing."

—Susan Doherty, San Francisco

"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 is a gifted leader and guide. She balances efficiency with freedom very well. I find her incredibly articulate, knowledgeable, insightful and productive. And she is a lot of fun!"

—Erin Torr, Santa Cruz

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

—Judith Stewart, Palo Alto, CA

"Laura provides thoughtful, respectful guidance."

—Sandy Tarrant, Boston, MA

"I had the full trust that Laura would be our safety net, our responsible adult, our spiritual guide. That trust made it possible for me to open full-throttle and know I'd be safe."

—Marg Quigley, New Hampshire

"Laura is guide, mentor, teacher, facilitator, herder of all of us. She kept things safe, humorous, sacred and present."

—Belinda Carter, Sacramento, CA

"Laura provided a calm, grounded safe experience. She is an expert at creating a container in which people can find their truest voice and truest self."

—Lorie Rotenberg, Toronto, Canada

"Laura is experienced, kind, clearly structured in her role as leader. I had been afraid she might not be able to hold all of us, to contain us to the writing rather than using the group as therapy. It was clear as soon as Laura began that she was a master at doing just that."

—Susannah Kennedy, Santa Cruz

"I love Laura's sincerity, the way she sat with us as a sojourner, not an authority figure."

—Carol Barry, Oceanside, California

"I loved Laura's ability to hold it all and keep it all moving at a wonderfully attuned pace. She plunged us down into the depths. She brought us up for air, she pointed to the beauty when there didn't seem to be any, and then she celebrated us and showed others how to celebrate each other."

—Workshop Participant

"Laura did a great job keeping us on track, leading, and herding cats when we got too loose. She leads through experience and empathy."

—Tony del Zompo, Santa Cruz, CA

"Laura's knowledge of HOW to present information about the grief process and transformation is incomparable. The tenderness and compassion in her voice cuts through bullshit that dwells in my head. She's fucking amazing."

—Vanya Erickson, Santa Cruz, CA

"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

"Laura creates a safe environment for not only writing but also for feeling, understanding, tears, laughter and getting closer to you true self. She accomplishes all these things admirably."

—Connie Hanstedt, Livermore, CA

 

"Laura builds the framework for the retreat and delivers it at a pace that creates an unfolding magic in the participants' hearts by the end of the retreat."

—Writing as a Pathway participant

 

"Laura was a transparent kindred spirit and a wonderfully structured guide."

—Sharon Rizk, Pasadena, California

 

"Laura was a calming presence. She created an atmosphere of safety and respect and appreciated each person's unique voice. I find her inspirational."

—Lorie Rotenberg, Toronto, Canada

 

"Laura brings her great depth of experience to leading disparate people, coming from different backgrounds and life experiences, into a sharing community that made us experience our common humanity. Her ability to do this is her gift and she shares it so generously."

—Dorothy Wick, Cuernavaca, Mexico

 

"Laura is the reason I came. I truly admire her ability to hold container, keep the group focused, while still making room for all our personalities."

—Dona, Santa Cruz

 

"Laura's ability to connect with each individual affirms the true meaning of community, a community which supports the deepest parts our souls."

—Connie Hanstedt, Livermore, CA

 

"Laura's presence is profound, welcoming and accepting."

—Teri Ketchie, Santa Cruz

 

"Laura's wisdom and kindness is comforting."

—Connie Hanstedt, Livermore, CA

 

"I am very grateful to Laura for holding a safe container for whatever bubbled to the surface, for infusing inspiration and asking us to stretch and stretch beyond comfort in both writing and in being."

—Tara Zanghi, Santa Fe, New Mexico

 

"Laura is a great leader, imparting wisdom and knowledge."

—Pat Adams, Toronto, Canada

 

"Laura is a natural leader. She picks perfect pieces to read for inspiration and provides the perfect writing prompt. She sets the tone for a loving, inclusive group."

—Sherri Carver, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

 

"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 being who you are--a wonderful teacher who shares yourself with your fellow travelers. You share your evolution honestly and with humor. You are a loving human being and a great guide."

—Jessica Wolf, Stratford, CT

"Laura is a brilliant teacher whose heart opens over and over again. A master at group process, she is patient and kind to all."

—Susan Doherty, Sacramento, CA

"Mountainous in humanity, skill, depth, breadth. As soulful as grounded."

—Caroline W, Oakland, CA

"You are an incredible leader, wise and kind and compassionate and funny and real and vulnerable and a wonderful guide—warm and accepting. You created a safe haven for all of us to grow and write and transform."

—Paula Alder, Santa Cruz

"Laura provided the scaffolding, the spine of the retreat. She held the whole arc she wants to complete with a myriad of incredible poems, her own readings, and by sharing her own experience."

—Colleen West, El Cerrito, CA

"Laura is central, warm, confident, humorous, perceptive, aware, willing to connect individually as well as steer the ship. She leads, sets the tone and speaks thoughtfully to every issue."

—Toni Littlestone, Albany, CA

"Thank you for being you—comfortable in your own skin, dynamic raw, open, honest, loving caring, wonderful in every way. Thank you for your smile and your poetry and your words. For your thoughtfulness and psychic ability to help move an entire room of women through their journeys."

—Eliana Yoneda, Los Angeles, CA

"Laura's spoken words are brilliant, deeply heart-felt. Her unspoken words are felt on a visceral and ethereal level. She guides with integrity and sturdy, but gentle boundaries."

—Paula Hill, Santa Cruz, CA

"Thank you for your honesty. Thank you for your vulnerability. Thank you for your thoughtful pacing of the unfolding among us and your sensitivity to each and every one of us."

—Betsy Fletcher, Pisgah Forest, NC

"Thank you for your exquisite planning and facilitation this week. This week had an amazing arc—a full rich process. I am deeply grateful."

—Colleen West, El Cerrito, 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

"As real a writing circle as any I've ever been in. I can't express how grateful I am."

—Elaine Cory, Chestnut Hill, MA

"You are a spectacular retreat leader: thoughtful, creative, inclusive, responsive, heart-full,. When I needed help, you sat next to me, encircled my shoulders with our arms and gave me open-hearted help right away. I've never been to anything this good."

—Toni Littlestone, Albany, CA

"Laura is a remarkable and exceptional leader. Her boundaries were necessary, present, but loving. I couldn't have gone as far as I did without her mentorship and steady, caring, safe presence."

—Yvonne Milewski, Forest Hills, NY

"You have opened my exploration into my own emotions and being able to let them flow through my pen. Thank you!"

—Rebecca Arnesty, Aptos, CA

"Laura delighted me. The power and fluidity of her world always had a welcomed impact. I love her being and the way she models being human. Her maternal strength is terribly beautiful."

—Suzanne Harris, San Francisco, CA

"Laura is an exceptional teacher: well-organized, yet firm and flexible, open and aware, inclusive and sensitive, funny and honest. I loved my time in her 'classroom' and the lessons she led me to discover."

—Kathy Sievert, Anchorage, AK

"Laura is clearly the leader and guide, but she manages to do it as a fellow seeker and learner, with is both powerful and reassuring."

—Yvonne Milewski, Forest Hills, NY

"Incomparable. Present. Compassionate. Prepared. Laura offers incredible material at the perfect pace."

—Debbi Brabec, Rocklin, 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

"What an honor to be at this retreat with your absolutely Queenly compassionate downplayed authority that allows for the love and epiphanies to come."

—Retreat Participant

"Thank you for creating this circle. For your capacity to hold and tend the room—as only a big-hearted mom can do. Thank you for making me feel welcome. Thank you for igniting the flames in each of us, for fanning them, and for setting us free. I am deeply grateful."

—Retreat Participant

"Laura was the beautiful sailing ship that held us during the retreat. She moved with the changing seas, knew where we were going and returned us safely to port. Above all, she was a kind, personally open, and strong captain."

—Haven Logan, Ukiah, CA

"Laura was our beacon of light that shone on us constantly. Her glow never dimmed. We followed her light and never got lost."

—Mary Lasher, Morgan Hill, CA

"Laura holds a sacred space for us to share our deepest sorrows and joys."

—Teri Ketchie, Santa Cruz, CA

"Laura's role as facilitator was beyond words, but I'll try: skillful, passionate, caring, compassionate. Where would I be today without her presence in my life?"

—Connie Hanstedt, Livermore, CA

My Esteemed Co-Facilitator

Evelyn-435

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 is an amazing earth goddess. I love her energy and warmth. She was also a good DJ!"

—Stephanie Hatton, Los Angeles, CA

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

—Linda Comin, Oceanside, CA

"Evelyn held space in a very positive and engaging way. She was grounded, warm and open."

—Elizabeth Becker, Oakland, CA

"Evelyn was our priestess. She provided a quiet counterbalance of sacred and spiritual to our words and the emotions the writing prompts generated."

—Si Steinberg, Boise, Idaho

"Evelyn was like the spiritual God fairy. I found her an excellent balance to Laura-leading heartfelt mediations, creating an altar that was inclusive of all things that help heal. I loved her capacity to listen."

—Ellen Kaye Gehrke, Ramona, 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

"I loved Evelyn's role. She's a wonderful presence of peace, love and amazing energy."

—Natasha Kealoha, Sacramento, 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 provided a graceful spirit for our journey."

—Nikki Baumrind, Davis, California

"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's guided meditations before bedtime felt like a warm blanket and a cup of hot chocolate all in one."

Sandra, Pacific Grove, CA

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

Carolyn Lehman, Arcata, CA

"Evelyn was the altar tender and spiritual guide. I loved her evening meditations."

Harriette Friedlander, Louisville, KY

"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 lovely, warm and available. Her enthusiasm and affection for all the participants felt genuine, both bright and serene."

Lisa Simeone, New York, NY

"Evelyn provides a natural contrast to Laura. She is an important 'free spirit' with a deep, gratefulness that drizzled directly into my spiritual life."

David Nathanson, Michigan

"Evelyn assisted me in relaxing and meditating on all that was presented during the course of this beautiful retreat."

Karen Barber-Olajuwon, Richmond, VA

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

Denise Carter, Aptos, CA

"Evelyn is mother earth…calm, grounded, a kind listener."

Kathy Stearman, Louisville, KY

"Evelyn is a 'WYSIWYG," What You See Is What You Get, and that's a joy to behold. Plus, a model for all participants. She brought a joyousness that lit up the room. I can't overstate the importance of this."

Claire Moore, Whidbey Island, WA

"Evelyn's spirit of inviting everyone into the best of themselves was rich."

Gail Webber, Mountain View, 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 offered the balance of softness and centering in an emotionally challenging retreat, bringing me back to gentleness and compassion for myself as I struggled with the weight of my writing."

Lorine Grosso, Colorado Springs, CO

"Evelyn provided our connection to the earth. I absolutely loved our living altar, her attention and her peaceful evening meditations."

Amy Gerome, Felton, CA

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

Claudette McLean, Alberta, Canada

Endorsements for Laura's Writing as a Pathway Retreats

"I was able to see my heartache in a greater perspective."

—Jude Chaikin, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

"Writing about grief, sharing it with the group, and receiving unconditional love and support touched me deeply."

—Stephanie Hatton, Los Angeles, CA

"I expected a sad, gloomy atmosphere at a grief retreat, but there was so much laughter."

—Dwi Prasetyowati, San Francisco

"If you are clogged up or blocked spiritually or psychologically and emotional, this retreat will get all your psychic juices flowing again."

—Si Steinberg, Boise, Idaho

"I would definitely recommend this retreat to anyone who has experienced loss-no matter what the loss. Sharing the experience and connecting with others is so necessary for our healing journey. Having others witness your pain and hold space for you is a beautiful dance of learning to trust and let go of the shame and guilt we all carry."

—Linda Comin, Oceanside, CA

"I'd highly recommend this retreat. Prepare to make friends, to laugh, to be nurtured on every level, to break wide open in a place where you can be help. Prepare to cry, to breathe deeply, rest well, to feel into your feelings, resistance and come away with a profound sense of belonging that is so rare in today's world."

—Julie Sheehan, Livermore, CA

"Laura Davis' Writing as a Pathway Through Grief workshop provided a bridge to the unformed, to the nameless, to the not-knowing. And a way to walk accompanied by the kindness, generous spirit and caring of others in quest of wholeness."

—Diane Schwedner, Santa Cruz, CA

 

"At Laura's retreat, I tapped into deep old pain and healed it. I turned off the negative, judgmental, self-loathing thought machine, came home to myself and found self-love."

—Stephanie Hatton, Los Angeles, CA

"I loved the meals. The food truly nourished me. It's been so long since someone cooking for me so lovingly and fed me."

—Bonnie Kirchbaum, Oceanside, CA

"I learned to trust my inner soul. I was able to let go of my fear and to know that I am enough and that I have enough."

—Martha Fauteux, Ontario, Canada

"This retreat was an opportunity to check out of the craziness of life and do deep work in a safe space. In just a week, we built a community and I made new friendships. It's the type of experience that changes you in an amazing way. This retreat was worth a year of therapy."

—Stephanie Hatton, Los Angeles, CA

 

"Laura's retreat was a safe place to be with my grief, to write it down, express it and release it. When I read what I wrote out loud, I felt brave, powerful, validated, heard and proud of myself."

—Dwi Prasetyowati, San Francisco

"The retreat gave me the time, safety and structure to attend to my deep wounds and grief. I was able to write into the void and pain and found the space to heal in some very profound ways."

—Elizabeth Becker, Oakland, CA

"The most meaningful part of the retreat for me was being able to give voice to the darkest parts of my life, and have it only be met with love, kindness, acceptance and a 'thank you, Natasha."

—Natasha Kealoha, Sacramento, CA

"If you have losses to grieve and want the gift of writing for seven days in a loving community, this is the retreat for you."

—Margo Fowkes, Loomis, CA

"Writing about grief, sharing it with the group, and receiving unconditional love and support touched me deeply."

—Stephanie Hatton, Los Angeles, CA

 

"I was delighted by the amount of laughter, despite the deep sadness that each of us brought to the retreat. Being able to laugh and cry was such a gift. It created the cracks that eventually broke me open."

—Jude Chaikin, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

"I expected to be in a slump all week but being heard and witnessed in my what group and the work we did jettisoned a transition so unexpected and welcome. I'm thrilled and awestruck at the ability of the unconscious to heal. I have a new appreciation for the bedrock of wisdom inside of me that I was able to tap into."

Denise Carter, Aptos, CA

"I appreciate every process Laura and Evelyn walked us through. I appreciate their level of professionalism, compassion and care. The readings were powerful, and they set the stage beautifully for the writing prompts which followed. It gave me the freedom to write. I felt listened to and heard."

—Claudette McLean, Alberta, Canada

"The small group I was in and my housemates were especially intimate relationships. Hearing each person's voice, I was often awed and stunned. There is great opportunity when you shed judgment and just let people's words in. I loved the experience of prolonged deep listening and of being heard."

Carolyn Lehman, Arcata, CA

"Everything flowed as though this process has been refined through many iterations. I was in good hands."

Lisa Simeone, New York, NY

"I feel a major shift in my trusting of others, more ability for compassion and empathy-a joining."

Claire Moore, Whidbey Island, WA

"I was delighted by the complexity and warmth of our group. There were beautiful friendships forming all around us. Most of us don't have this type of 'heart' community around us at home. I love this new sacred circle."

Lorine Grosso, Colorado Springs, CO

"The retreat was a progression, one day building the structure for the next. Each day took me to a new, different place. The last day of the retreat was an apex, an arrival, a vista that felt freeing."

Kendra Dorfman, Santa Cruz, CA

"I've lost the lump in my throat."

Gail Webber, Mountain View, CA

"The venue was perfect for deep work. It was comfortable, we were well fed, there were many secret spots and chairs, and we could also walk out and sing to the cows. Bring all your feelings and express yourself full blast until the end."

Toni Taylor, Santa Cruz, CA

"I was surprised by the sense of closeness and community I felt with a room full of strangers, and how quickly I felt it."

Chris, Ithaca, New York

"I was delighted by the amount of joy and laughter I could see bubbling up in everyone as each day progressed."

Kathy Stearman, Louisville, KY

"This was my first retreat and I enjoyed it maximally. I don't think the perfection could have been enhanced. It was simply awesome."

Karen Barber-Olajuwon, Richmond, VA

"A stunning, challenging, deeply moving experience. It will take time to understand and integrate all of it, but I just know that my vessel has been filled."

Carolyn Lehman, Arcata, CA.

"This workshop was a full-bodied experience. It opened me to the depths and led me to the heights. It was a birth canal. If you're dealing with an inconsolable pain or transition, come and be transformed."

—Denise Carter, Aptos, CA

"I'd recommend this retreat because no matter who you are, you will come out changed, lighter, with more clarity."

Kathy Stearman, Louisville, KY

"I remembered how to slow down and just be in the moment."

Lorine Grosso, Colorado Springs, CO

"I loved my small group, how we connected, how we laughed, how delinquent we were. The food was amazing, and I was touched by people's shared humanity and the connections I made with everyone."

—Jackie Baritell, Sacramento, CA

"I was delighted by the connecting, the wisdom shared and hearing about so many different life paths and stories. The process of mourning together as a collective is extremely powerful and there isn't enough of it in this world. Life has become so isolated and individualized. Sharing collectively gives us permission to feel into places that may otherwise fester."

—Elky Greenberg, Santa Cruz, CA    

"I'd absolutely recommend this workshop. It's a gift to give yourself the opportunity to hear your own voice reflected back to you, things you didn't even realize you knew."

—Saralyn Masselink, Los Angeles

"This retreat taught me how to create a pathway through difficult territory. There was the encouragement to explore unknown territory with a reliable safety net."

—Ginny Farnsworth, San Anselmo, CA

"An opportunity to explore grief and stories and to be there for others doing the same thing. Laura creates a place of safety where you'll learn skills to process life's passages. The food is lovingly made…and superb! The setting is magical, the teachers, FANTASTIC!"

—Vanya Erickson, Santa Cruz, CA

"I was delighted by everyone at the retreat. The level of generosity, caring, curiosity, and good will I experienced there restored my faith in humanity."

—Lynn Eve Komaromi, Albany, CA.

"A very safe place to have a profound experience and do some real work. A top shelf experience."

—Tony del Zompo, Santa Cruz, CA

"I'd highly recommend this retreat. The food, the setting, the leadership—all awesome. I want everyone in my life to have such a powerful experience.'

—Erin Torr, Santa Cruz

"At Laura's retreat, I remembered what I already know and recovered my capacity to trust my own instincts-that I can trust them."

—Sandy Tarrant, Boston, MA

"I loved the food. After being the mom and the nurturer and in charge for so long, it was so WONDERFUL to be nourished so beautifully and healthily by someone else. I am inspired and grateful."

—Marg Quigley, New Hampshire

"I was delighted by the food, the serenity of Commonweal, the sound of the ocean and the compatibility of a group of strangers who so quickly sank into deep connection and openness with each other. I learned that I'm not alone in my grief and that I don't have to button it all up as if everything is okay."

—Belinda Carter, Sacramento, CA

"I cherished my time at Commonweal and the space Laura created. I loved hearing my own heartbeat removed from everyday noise."

—Jackie Baritell, Sacramento, CA

"My small group was the highlight of the retreat for me. I felt held, seen, deeply understood. We were all willing to dive deep emotionally. One woman's courage spurred courage in the next woman. An open-hearted and broken-hearted experience. It will live with me always."

—Lorie Rotenberg, Toronto, Canada

"Hearing the contributions of others was a constant inspiration that allowed for awe-inspiring bravery. I accessed parts of myself that I was unwilling to put on paper previously. There was safety in the room-no judgments-which was deeply meaningful."

—Lynn Eve Komaromi, Albany, CA.

"I was amazed by the words that tumbled out on the page. Being able to speak my pain, have it heard and witnessed was so powerful for me."

—Saralyn Masselink, Los Angeles

"I learned that I don't have to allow what happened to me to prevent from living. I will always carry my story, but I can carry it in an integrated way towards wholeness."

—Elky Greenberg, Santa Cruz, CA

"I wanted to express my gratitude for the retreat. You orchestrated the journey from the first day until the end masterfully, brilliantly without a flaw. I am sitting in my kitchen in awe. Your retreat provided a sacred place to write out my deepest sorrows and joys."

—Melinda Iuster, Santa Cruz

"Your retreat provided a safe space to be with the tenderness of grief and I'd recommend it to anyone seeking healing who is willing to do the work. Sharing the weight with others who understand really changes the process to something positive."

—Dona, Santa Cruz

"I feel lighter and freer than I ever have and some component of my default shame has lifted."

—Linda Denton, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

"The participants and their stories were incredibly powerful. I won't ever forget them. I leave your retreat a changed person."

—Tracy Cockerham, Santa Cruz

"My ability to take risks and to allow myself to be seen in this loving community surprised me. I arrived despairing and feeling despondent and left feeling grounded, knowing that my intensity and passion are great qualities that I am privileged to have."

—Lorie Rotenberg, Toronto, Canada

"I was surprised at how incredibly beautiful the language of pain can be."

—Peggy Asprey, Northern California

"What surprised me was the diversity of the people at the retreat, both in age and life experiences. Yet after a week with these wonderful people who opened their hearts and lives, I saw how we are all the same—everyone doing their best in life."

—Kris Ryall, Durango, Colorado

"The most significant thing I will take away from this retreat is that I am flawed, I am human and I am okay."

—Tracy Cockerham, Santa Cruz, CA

"I learned that I'm already healing and that I'm not as wounded as I thought. I found places where I'm still me in spite of what I've been through."

—Dona, Santa Cruz

"I watched people come into the retreat the first day with expressions of 'closed-offness.' I watched them soften, open up, cry and touch deep places in their souls. Witnessing this really touched me. I recommend this retreat to anyone with an interest in self-discovery who wants to discover joy where they think there is only sorrow."

—Terri Ketchie, Santa Cruz

"The pacing of the retreat was perfect to encourage growth in a safe way."

—Pat Adams, Toronto, Canada

"Hearing people's stories bridged right over my introverted nature; we were already connected before I even learned their names."

—Linda Denton, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

"The participants and their stories were incredibly powerful. I won't ever forget them. I leave your retreat a changed person."

—Tracy Cockerham, Santa Cruz

"My ability to take risks and allow myself to be seen and held by this loving community surprised me."

—Lorie Rotenberg, Toronto, Canada

"I learned that through writing, I can work through my issues and let go of that which holds me back. I'm coming home with some basic tools I can use on a daily basis to guide me in large and small ways toward a more authentic, love-filled life."

—Crystal Ruiz, Running Spring, CA

"It made me happy that I could embrace with acceptance such a diverse group of people. Given the right situation and the right tools, all differences can be loved."

—Melinda Iuster, Santa Cruz

"If I'd met the other participants on the street, I would have thought that we'd have nothing to talk about. But the workshop gave me a real indication of how much we humans share in common. The world would be a kinder place if everyone could spend a week with you."

—Tracy Cockerham, Santa Cruz

"I would recommend this retreat to friend. I'd tell them little, just, 'Trust me. This is worth doing.' I'd leave all the discovery to them."

—Writing as a Pathway Participant

"Just go!"

—Kris Ryall, Durango, Colorado

"This workshop reminded me that there is a still a good measure of compassion in the world."

—Melanie Dreiman, Cape Girardeau, Missouri

"I learned that not everything has to be forgiven, repressed or forgotten."

—Dorothy Wick, Cuernavaca, Mexico

"The support and guidance I got both in sessions and out was paramount in helping me work through the personal aspects of my experience. The combination of writing and reading was so helpful is discrediting my inner critic and deflecting shame cycles."

—Tara Zanghi, Santa Fe, New Mexico

"I needed space out of my daily life. I wanted to explore, with guidance and support, all of the ways that my life has been shattered recently. I learned where those places intersect, where I needed to heal or be angry."

—Dona, Santa Cruz, CA

"I loved the beauty of the place, its soul—the way I didn't want to be anywhere else—and I still don't.

—Teri Ketchie, Santa Cruz, CA

"Go and be prepared to be changed for the better."

—Tracy Cockerham, Santa Cruz, CA

"If you're looking for a supportive, safe environment to explore difficult parts of your life, attend this retreat."

—Tara Zanghi, Santa Fe, New Mexico

"Being single and coming here, having three meals a day with other people from all over the country from different backgrounds was delightful. It quickly changed from 'Who do I sit with?' (a panic feeling from high school), to genuinely feeling there was a place for me at every table."

—Sandra, Salt Lake City, Utah

"Reading my pieces out loud and hearing others read their pieces was powerful and intimacy-building."

—Sherri Carver, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

"I learned that being in a group is not always about competition. There are groups that are about acceptance, sharing, and loving in recognition that we are all the same thinking, feeling, physical beings under the masks we present to one another."

—Dorothy Wick, Cuernavaca, Mexico

"I wanted to express my gratitude for the retreat. You orchestrated the journey from the first day until the end masterfully, brilliantly without a flaw. I am sitting in my kitchen in awe. Your retreat provided a sacred place to write out my deepest sorrows and joys."

—Melinda Iuster, Santa Cruz

 

"Your retreat provided a safe space to be with the tenderness of grief and I'd recommend it to anyone seeking healing who is willing to do the work. Sharing the weight with others who understand really changes the process to something positive."

—Dona, Santa Cruz

 

"I feel lighter and freer than I ever have and some component of my default shame has lifted."

—Linda Denton, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

 

"The participants and their stories were incredibly powerful. I won't ever forget them. I leave your retreat a changed person."

—Tracy Cockerham, Santa Cruz

 

"My ability to take risks and to allow myself to be seen in this loving community surprised me. I arrived despairing and feeling despondent and left feeling grounded, knowing that my intensity and passion are great qualities that I am privileged to have."

—Lorie Rotenberg, Toronto, Canada

 

"I was surprised at how incredibly beautiful the language of pain can be."

—Peggy Asprey, Northern California

 

"What surprised me was the diversity of the people at the retreat, both in age and life experiences. Yet after a week with these wonderful people who opened their hearts and lives, I saw how we are all the same—everyone doing their best in life."

—Kris Ryall, Durango, Colorado

 

"The most significant thing I will take away from this retreat is that I am flawed, I am human and I am okay."

—Tracy Cockerham, Santa Cruz, CA

 

"I learned that I'm already healing and that I'm not as wounded as I thought. I found places where I'm still me in spite of what I've been through."

—Dona, Santa Cruz

 

"I watched people come into the retreat the first day with expressions of 'closed-offness.' I watched them soften, open up, cry and touch deep places in their souls. Witnessing this really touched me. I recommend this retreat to anyone with an interest in self-discovery who wants to discover joy where they think there is only sorrow."

—Terri Ketchie, Santa Cruz

 

"The pacing of the retreat was perfect to encourage growth in a safe way."

—Pat Adams, Toronto, Canada

 

"Hearing people's stories bridged right over my introverted nature; we were already connected before I even learned their names."

—Linda Denton, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

 

"The participants and their stories were incredibly powerful. I won't ever forget them. I leave your retreat a changed person."

—Tracy Cockerham, Santa Cruz

 

"My ability to take risks and allow myself to be seen and held by this loving community surprised me."

—Lorie Rotenberg, Toronto, Canada

 

"I learned that through writing, I can work through my issues and let go of that which holds me back. I'm coming home with some basic tools I can use on a daily basis to guide me in large and small ways toward a more authentic, love-filled life."

—Crystal Ruiz, Running Spring, CA

 

"My ability to take risks and to allow myself to be seen in this loving community surprised me. I arrived despairing and feeling despondent and left feeling grounded, knowing that my intensity and passion are great qualities that I am privileged to have."

—Lorie Rotenberg, Toronto, Canada

 

"It made me happy that I could embrace with acceptance such a diverse group of people. Given the right situation and the right tools, all differences can be loved."

—Melinda Iuster, Santa Cruz

 

"If I'd met the other participants on the street, I would have thought that we'd have nothing to talk about. But the workshop gave me a real indication of how much we humans share in common. The world would be a kinder place if everyone could spend a week with you."

—Tracy Cockerham, Santa Cruz

 

"I would recommend this retreat to friend. I'd tell them little, just, 'Trust me. This is worth doing.' I'd leave all the discovery to them."

—Writing as a Pathway Participant

 

"Just go!"

—Kris Ryall, Durango, Colorado

 

"This workshop reminded me that there is a still a good measure of compassion in the world."

—Melanie Dreiman, Cape Girardeau, Missouri

 

"I learned that not everything has to be forgiven, repressed or forgotten."

—Dorothy Wick, Cuernavaca, Mexico

 

"The support and guidance I got both in sessions and out was paramount in helping me work through the personal aspects of my experience. The combination of writing and reading was so helpful is discrediting my inner critic and deflecting shame cycles."

—Tara Zanghi, Santa Fe, New Mexico

 

"I needed space out of my daily life. I wanted to explore, with guidance and support, all of the ways that my life has been shattered recently. I learned where those places intersect, where I needed to heal or be angry."

—Dona, Santa Cruz, CA

 

"I loved the beauty of the place, its soul—the way I didn't want to be anywhere else—and I still don't."

—Teri Ketchie, Santa Cruz, CA

 

"Go and be prepared to be changed for the better."

—Tracy Cockerham, Santa Cruz, CA

 

"If you're looking for a supportive, safe environment to explore difficult parts of your life, attend this retreat."

—Tara Zanghi, Santa Fe, New Mexico

 

"Being single and coming here, having three meals a day with other people from all over the country from different backgrounds was delightful. It quickly changed from 'Who do I sit with?' (a panic feeling from high school), to genuinely feeling there was a place for me at every table."

—Sandra, Salt Lake City, Utah

 

"Reading my pieces out loud and hearing others read their pieces was powerful and intimacy-building."

—Sherri Carver, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

 

"I'd highly recommend this retreat. Your life will be lifted and challenged and indelibly changed."

—Jane Claire Purden, Westlake Village, CA

"I appreciated the opportunity to openly feel everything—all the encouragement to share, process and heal. I had deep, profound, meaningful interactions with myself, nature, and amazing people. I loved meeting so many beautiful souls and being given the privilege of hearing their stories, which gave me the courage to share my own."

—Eliana Yoneda, Los Angeles, CA

"I haven't felt this kind of 'yippiness,' 'yahoo,' 'let's-hold-our-hands-and-spin-around-as-fast-as-we-can-glee' since I was a young child or a young woman first meeting people when I went to college. I didn't think anything like this would ever be possible in my elder years. This opportunity came from something larger and more gigantic than myself. It was the most amazing experience of serendipity and synchronicity I've ever had in my life."

—Paula Hill, Santa Cruz, CA

"This retreat was a spectacular success. I have enormous admiration for what you created here."

—Toni Littlestone, Albany, CA

"When I signed up for this retreat, I knew that the events of the past seven years and the associated grief still needed processing. Writing is how I do this best. Being in a collective of people in a similar place is a powerful force for release and subsequent change. we grow by bearing witness to each other's stories. I learned that I am far from alone in this journey of profound grief."

—Betsy Fletcher, Pisqah Forest, NC

"I love the theme of grief because it is galvanizing for every human being and gets them into their heart. Laura's provocative writing prompts were the best part of the retreat—that combined with the incredible poetry."

—Colleen West, El Cerrito, CA

"I try to enter every space empty-handed and openhearted, without judgment. I was surprised by how close I felt with the women in my group. And I was surprised by the magnitude, the depth and breadth of all I'll leave with. I didn't expect that."

—Kathy Sievert, Anchorage, AK

"I was delighted by the laughter in the group, hearing others and being open to the pain, struggles and joys of the other women. The feeling of community and being held by the group made me want to sigh, 'Ahhh!' I learned this week that I am part of the humanity we all share. I was in awe that strangers could become confidants in such a short time."

—Rebecca Arnesty, Aptos, CA

"I learned that my writing was just fine. I didn't feel I needed to perform."

—Elaine Cory, Newton, MA

"I feel so refreshed and recharged. I learned tools that will give me the strength to battle anxiety and depression. I was delighted to find the light of compassion rekindled inside me. I will carry it with me into my daily interactions."

—Valerie Bishop, Santa Cruz, CA

"I learned that I am capable of being anything and that the world, my spirit guides, my heart and my new family support me and my journey. I learned that I am loved, that I am never alone and that my ancestors have been waiting for me to be ready to talk."

—Eliana Yoneda, Los Angeles, CA

"This was a safe place of love, comfort and acceptance. The variety of activities kept every day unique and enjoyable. This retreat was definitely not boring—it was energizing, soulful and inspiring."

—Valerie Bishop, Santa Cruz, CA

"I learned that I can be with others and be with myself. I learned that I do have something to say and it feels good to say it. I learned it is possible to live in silence and speak at the same time. I learned that I can accept by attractions and preferences without judgment."

—Suzanne Harris, San Francisco, CA

"There was no room for improvement. This experience and the leaders' expertise and guidance was beyond perfection."

—Paula Hill, Santa Cruz, CA

"I was delighted by the opportunity to meet such a wonderful group of women from such diverse backgrounds and with such amazing stories. I was delighted that they allowed me to be such a part of the group despite my difference in age. I was treated as an equal, a student, a daughter, a granddaughter and a teacher. It was amazing."

—Eliana Yoneda, Los Angeles, CA

"I wanted to grieve my misspent life. I've been working this through for decades, but I wanted to lay it to rest so I could move forward unencumbered, and I did!"

—Colleen West, El Cerrito, CA

"The complete lack of judgment on the part of the facilitators and participants made it so much easier for me to give up my critic almost immediately."

—Yvonne Milewski, Forest Hills, NY

"I'd recommend this retreat to anyone who is willing and ready to heal alongside others. Look grief in the eyes and say, 'I love you." If you're ready to let go and let love back in—if you're ready to do the work, this is a safe place to start."

—Eliana Yoneda, Los Angeles, CA

"It has been over a week since I have returned from your retreat, and I am still turning over memories in my mind, savoring them as I would a delectable meal. The safety, sorority, serenity, growth—and oh yes, the writing! Everything served as nourishment for both body and spirit. I have never experienced anything like it. I cannot thank you enough for the profound experience that I just underwent under your gentle and wise ministration. I have begun a transformative journey on so many levels, and will be forever grateful for your help in setting me on this path."

—Emily Bitton, West Orange, New Jersey

"I learned that it's okay to tell your story when you are surrounded by warmth and love and judgment is not part of the equation."

—Ruth Kear, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and Nederland, CO

"A week of beauty, nourishment, vulnerability, deep inner searching, overcoming shame and renewing oneself, all in the safety of a loving community with masterful teachers."

—Nancy Gertz, Newton, MA

"A perfect way to mourn in community and safety."

—Sydney Foran, Vancouver, British Columbia

"I was surprised by the sense of community that formed. The connections made will be life long."

—Amanda Cisco

"I totally recommend this retreat. Come with an open heart, an open notebook and an open mind. Then watch the magic and synchronicity begin."

—Betsy Fletcher, Pisqah Forest, NC

"If you need to get away from your life and process deep emotional issues that are holding you back—in a safe, supportive, confidential environment—with organic, delicious, yummy food served up three times a day, come!"

—Debra Szecsei, Palo Alto, CA

"I learned that my grief had a bottom and that I would survive."

—Wendy Rab, Ione, CA

"I learned about the universality of grief and with that, a growing compassion."

—Connie Hanstedt, Livermore, CA

"I was surprised by everyone—myself included. The way we shared without burdening each other. Our honesty and the opening of our wounds. Our easy capacity to laugh hard and cry hard. The transformations that were visible and palpable. The wisdom of the process. The flow of the week. How gently we were moved from stage to stage without being pushed or jostled."

—Holly Shulman, Chicago, IL

"Give yourself this gift of time and healing. Allow yourself to cry and shout and be angry, to be loved and held in a group who are hurting and sharing the same grief. Allow yourself a change to be cracked open and put back together in a safe place. It's a blessed gift to yourself to make peace with what hurts."

—Mary Lasher, Morgan Hill, CA

"Laura's retreat was life changing. Give this gift to yourself."

—Haven Logan, Ukiah, CA

"Hearing the stories of others, feeling their grief, so raw and true, brought me to re-examine my paradigms about the human condition."

—Ruth Kear, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and Nederland, CO

"I'd definitely recommend this retreat because the world needs more people who are able to listen, to be present, to be real. Personal transformation is the way to achieve peace in the world."

—Teri Ketchie, Santa Cruz, CA

"The most meaningful part of the retreat for me was being present for the stories of such brave, strong, courageous, resilient women. I didn't have to intervene and fix, just listen. I was buoyed hugely by the stories because coming in, I was sure I was the most broken of all. Before the retreat, I hadn't laughed in 10 months. I've always been a person who laughed and felt joy, and this loss of laughter affected me deeply. I had never been so profoundly sad. I loved laughing, smiling and feeling joy once again at Laura's retreat."

—Diane G, Lexington, MA

"I learned that even the hardest hearts can soften."

—Terry Gibson, Vancouver, Canada

"If you want to retreat in a beautiful place in nature, be taken care of with amazing food, be surrounded by a magnificent group of writers—if you want to laugh, cry and write down to the bone of yourself while being held in love—sign up immediately for this retreat."

—Carolyn Rudolph, Santa Cruz, CA

"Laura's retreat provided the most effective method I've ever seen for coping with unimaginable suffering. I believe lives were extended here."

—Melanie Dreiman, Saudi Arabia

Inclusions

commonweal-sunset-laura-davis

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.

What's not included:

  • Transportation to and from Bolinas.
  • Tips for the kitchen and the cleaning staff.

Registration

Sign Up Now to Secure Your Place!

This retreat can be a powerful, transformational experience for most people, but it is not suitable for everyone. As part of the registration process, you'll be filling out a form that will help us determine whether this retreat is the right fit for you at this time.

There are three steps to the registration process.

1. Fill out part 1: contact information and pay your workshop fee.

2. Fill out part 2 as soon as you finish part 1: logistical and emergency contact information, and confidential personal information.

Submitting parts 1 & 2 will hold a spot for you, but your registration will not receive final confirmation until your application is reviewed.

Once we review this information, you will receive an email confirming your spot. If we have any questions or concerns, Evelyn Hall, Laura's co-facilitator, will contact you for a follow-up conversation.

Your full payment will be refunded in full should we determine that the retreat isn't the right fit for you at this time.

Please do not make your travel arrangements or buy your travel insurance until you hear back from us with a final confirmation of your registration.

Commonweal Retreat Center
Bolinas, CA

Yet to be rescheduled

Commonweal Retreat Center Bolinas, California

Yet to be rescheduled

YOUR INVESTMENT

Registration Costs: $2,275 for a double occupancy room; $2,975 for a single occupancy room; $2,775 for the small futon room single. The off campus option is $1,975 (plus whatever you arrange for your airbnb).

Payment Schedule and Cancellation Policy: To reserve a spot, you need to pay a $500 non-refundable deposit. A second installment payment of $500 is due July 1st. The balance is due August 3rd. After August 10th, there will be no refunds if you decide not to attend, except through travel insurance. If you have committed to the workshop, you are responsible for the full fee, except by special arrangement.

I take checks, credit cards (Visa, Mastercard and American Express). You can pay your initial deposit online with a credit card.

Commonweal, Northern California.
Commonweal, Northern California.
Commonweal, Northern California . Photo courtesy of Phil Buchanan.
Commonweal, Northern California . Photo courtesy of Phil Buchanan.

Trip cancellation and medical evacuation insurance are strongly recommended to protect your investment in this retreat. Our travel agency, Pacific Harbor Travel, can sell you a policy that will provide you with comprehensive coverage and excellent rates. This coverage can cover your investment in the retreat regardless of how you travel there.

NOTE: We recommend you purchase your travel insurance as soon as your application has been reviewed and you have been accepted into the workshop. If you have pre-existing health conditions, coverage must be bought within two weeks of paying your deposit.

Carolyn Lehman on the Moors - 1

"Thank you so much for the retreat. It was an incredibly rich experience that I appreciate all the more as it settles in.

You created a community that was, at least for me, one hundred percent loving, accepting and freeing. Who would we be if we did not feel judged? If we felt completely heard and appreciated? If our purpose was honesty with ourselves and lovingly accepting others?

You provided a rare opportunity to explore that and to grow.

Learning to be in my seventies is still a challenge, but my experiences at the retreat have given me a loving place from which to accept the challenge and envision my life ahead.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

—Carolyn Lehman, author, Strong at The Heart  

Want to Contact Laura?

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A Gift to Inspire Your Writing

Subscribe to my mailing list and I will immediately give you a beautiful eBook: Writing Toward Courage: A Thirty Day Practice.

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