Some Articles about the Retreats

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A prosecco toast to the readers
The final evening at Le Torrace, the group gathered in the Diksha room for the international premiere of eleven new masterpieces, both written and painted. This room is ideally suited for reading due to the panoramic mountain views out of the picture windows at each end of the room.

The evening began with a toast of Prosecco to writers, writing and new friends. The reading order was randomized to ensure everyone enjoyed equal billing. Continue reading

Spring light in new leaves

Spring has sprung in Umbria.

Each morning on a Radical Restoration retreat we begin at 7:00 a.m. with some gentle, self-compassionate yoga that helps us get in dialogue with our bodies and our Selves. We breakfast in companionable, communal silence to allow that dialogue to continue. And at 10:00 we are welcomed back to our voices in the two and a half hour writing workshop. After lunch, which so far this trip has been delicious – as every meal here has been so far (we’ll leave that for another post), we’re free to do whatever takes our fancy.

Today three of our troupe hiked for five hours along the old Franciscan pilgrims’ trail, through the spectacular Umbrian countryside, ending up at the Cathedral of Saint Francis in Assisi. The rest of us hiked more locally, napped, rested, and soaked in the Italian spring sunshine. Continue reading

2014-04-19 13.53.19The early evening sun bathes the grounds in a golden green light. Birdsong layers the air with happy music. The soft chattering of participants waiting for the dinner gong wafts up to my window. It’s day two of being here; day one of Radical Restoration at Le Torracce in Valfabbrica, Italy.   Continue reading

MarApr 2014


We’re delighted to discover that Asia Spa magazine has chosen to feature our Italy retreat in their Wellness Calendar section! This is a gorgeous magazine that lists wellness retreats around the world. Click the magazine cover to go to their site and see more about the magazine, and click the page to read our entry.

Wellness Calendar_MARAPR2014_Page_1w

First published in “SURFACING” – the Arts magazine for Durham Region


When I was first hired to be the writing teacher for a combined yoga and writing retreat three years ago, (and every year since) it seemed like a dream come true. Go south for two weeks in the middle of winter to spend my time doing yoga, enjoying the southwestern coastal area of Costa Rica, and facilitating a writing group every day? Where do I sign up!

It proved to be far better even than I’d imagined. First of all, it turned out that the yoga teacher, Esana Lotfy, teaches yoga the same way I facilitate writing groups. For both of us, effective practice for all participants starts with loving kindness and compassion. It’s crucial that participants not “should” themselves in their process, whether it be beating up on themselves because they think they “should” be more flexible, or whether they think they “should” write differently, more grammatically or somehow just “better” than they do.

“Shoulding” all over oneself is the first step toward injury in yoga, or toward a really bad case of writer’s block.

So there we were, in a tropical paradise, spending half of every day in intimate conversation with ourselves and our travel companions.

P1040862The “intimate conversation with ourselves” is the first part of every day. We stay in silence from the time we wake up until writing class begins; all around the resort, people are writing quietly in their journals, enjoying coffee and bananas before yoga, or trying homemade chocolate spread from local cacao beans on our toast for breakfast. Gigantic sky-blue Morpho butterflies dance on the air. Brightly coloured Toucans squawk from the trees. When in our daily lives do we have time to just be present with ourselves and our surroundings?

Once we write and read together, we begin to speak, but this is still a deeply intimate conversation mostly with ourselves—the other writers just get to listen in on it, if we choose to share. And it is always a choice.

At 12:30 the scheduled part of the day is over; participants then choose how they want to spend the rest of the day: zip-lining in the jungle, kayaking through a mangrove swamp, playing in the powerful Pacific surf, wandering the spectacular beach nearby, or shopping in the nearby town of Dominical. Or maybe just enjoying a nap.

P1040860Because of the time spent in quiet presence with each other, and in listening to each other’s writing, strangers become warm friends almost instantly. As the 14 days unfolds, people’s shoulders drop, their eyes brighten, their skin loses its winter paleness, the dark rings under their eyes disappear, and they smile. They smile a lot.

And by the time they go home, their journals are full of writing. Some of it is very personal and private – for their eyes only. Some pieces are poems, or short stories, or even pieces of a novel.
This practice of getting away from our lives and allowing our inner artist to emerge in the quiet, safety and comfort of a supportive group of like-minded people—I haven’t encountered any practice more restorative than that. It’s not a holiday that an extreme sport extrovert would cherish, but for any writer or artist looking for a break that supports their inner artist as well as giving their body a restorative recharge, it’s the perfect prescription. Many of the participants have been coming every year since the retreats began. Some of them have already said they’re coming again next year to Costa Rica.

And some of them have decided that they’re going to join us on our new adventure in April of 2014, when we try the same magically restorative formula, but this time for 10 days in Italy.
Sue Reynolds is a writer and a teacher of creative writing who lives near Port Perry. Her website is If you’re interested in finding out more about the international retreats, visit for more information.

Morpho butterfl

Over the last 20 years I have been on many writing retreats. The gift of time away from everyday life to rest and reconnect with that inner creator is invaluable to any artist. However, particularly for someone who so relentlessly processes words, this quiet time is essential.

At this moment I sit in a building open on three sides to the densely textured green jungle. I sip my coffee and watch a Morpho butterfly dance an erratic jig across the green tapestry. I have always associated the name “Morpho” with Morpheus, the god of sleep and assumed that they were given the name because they look like something from a dream.

Every morning at about this hour one of these giant blue creatures (the size of a sandwich plate and the colour of the most perfect summer sky) has performed this dance and then floated away. It’s probably the same butterfly each day. Its appearance contributes to this ongoing feeling that three days ago when I got off the plane I emerged into another universe—a space with no deadlines, no snowflakes, and lots of space and time to simply be.

I had heard about the marvelous yoga trip that WCDR member Deepam Wadds did to Costa Rica in February of 2010. When she asked if I would consider coming the next time to lead the group in writing every day, it seemed too good to believe; but that didn’t stop me from saying yes. I was desperately tired—tired from working and teaching every waking hour (the life of a freelancer writer), exhausted from living through the very recent death of my best friend. The trip couldn’t have come at a better time.

09 Breakfast from the gardenNow I am sitting in the breakfast palapa at Alberge de Alma in Hatillo, Costa Rica. On the plate before me are chunks of banana (harvested right on this property), chunks of paypaya (ditto), pineapple (ditto); and whole grain toast with a variety of jams and spreads dotted around my plate like blobs of paint on a painter’s palette: mango jam, guava jelly and chocolate spread, all made from fruit grown right here. Oh yes—and there’s that fuel indispensible for most writers: coffee. In this case, locally grown and roasted Costa Rican coffee. With every bite, flavour explodes in my mouth – and I don’t know whether it’s because these foods have never been vibrated in a truck or whether it’s just that I’ve slowed down enough over the last few days to pay serious attention to the way things taste. I think it’s a bit of both.

I woke briefly at 4:30 this morning to the barking of a dog and the experimental err-err-ERRR! of a rooster warming up like a poultry Pavarotti, but the orchestra didn’t swing into the full morning overture for another hour. The air is full of sound all the time here. Nearby livestock is always commenting on life in Hatillo, squawking and barking, neighing and lowing. The buzz and rattle of insects rises throughout the morning to a steady sound like the ringing of a thousand sleighbells that makes my ears throb when I tune into it. The shrieks and caws of various birds embroider the soundscape. And all day and all night the distant steady boom of the Pacific surf pulses like a slow heartbeat under it all.

06 The practice beginsAt 7:00 a.m. we assemble quietly in the yoga palapa—an open-sided structure on the mountainside. Esana leads us in the most astounding yoga practice I have ever experienced, despite all my years of Iyengar and Flow yoga. Through an hour and a half of deep presence, she turns us ever inward—she talks about “sensation” rather than “pain” or “discomfort” and reminds us that we are the authorities in choosing what our bodies need. The practice is deeply compassionate and self-loving. It reminds me of the instruction I give writers, especially memoirists—the permission to decide for themselves how deeply they want to go into their stories, how closely they choose to look at their material.

At 8:30, newly grateful for this incarnation, we go for the aforementioned explosive breakfast. And at 9:30 we gather together to write to prompts I prepare in response to the yoga practice from that morning. There’s usually a short teaching component, but mostly the writing is a furthering of this process of slowing down, going inside, going back, and connecting with our deepest knowing. Esana teaches yoga the way I teach writing, and the combination of the two practices one after the other, day after day, leads each writer deeper and deeper into their authentic voice. The group bonds—fast—and a sacred space is created where it’s safe to say things, safe to experiment with voice and story.

By 11:00 the formal activites are over for the day. Like the Morpho, we have danced through our morning routine and now float into the exotic green spaces to explore our own rhythms. The afternoons are totally free to do whatever – laze in the salt water pool, write, read or nap in the privacy of our rooms, walk along the deserted Pacific shore a short drive from the estate, go ziplining through the jungle, kayaking in the mangrove swamp, or—for those who are suffering electronic withdrawal—go into the town of Dominical and log on at the Internet café.

22 A beautiful way to end the afternoonBy the end of our time here, one piece of inner knowing I have attained is that one week in this dreamtime space–especially when I have to stay tethered to the earth enough to teach well–is not enough. Next year we will come for two weeks.

When I get home I look up “Morpho” and discover it has nothing to do with Morpheus – it’s actually from an alternate name for the goddess of love, Aphrodite. Perhaps that makes even more sense. Through slowing down, through living in my body, and giving myself that time to write in the land of the Morpho, I have remembered how to love my life all over again.

The audience enjoying the reading
The final evening at Le Torrace, the group gathered in the Diksha room for the international premiere of eleven new masterpieces, both written and painted. This room is ideally suited for reading due to the panoramic mountain views out of the picture windows at each end of the room.

The evening began with a toast of Prosecco to writers, writing and new friends. The reading order was randomized to ensure everyone enjoyed equal billing.

All the readers, both those who were experienced at the mic and those who were reading in public for the first time, did a great job.

I was delighted to host this prestigious event to wind up what has been an amazing retreat at Radical Restoration.