Obstacles & Advice

We asked retreat owners to name their biggest obstacle, and describe how they are solving it.
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Fr. Tom Zelinski

Capuchin Retreat

Advice on structuring retreats

Obstacle

We used to keep our retreatants busy with a crowded schedule from the moment they arrived until the time they left. The problem with this is that our staff were so busy with the group facilitation that they weren’t available for individual conversations with participants, and the participants were so busy attending presentations and common prayer sessions that they didn’t have much time to rest or contemplate.

Advice

We decided to relax our retreat schedule to allow more time for participants to rest and reflect. We also have much of the weekend in silence, including meal times, and it has been very valuable to teach people how to be quiet, and the value of silence. Many people embrace this, and others feel uncomfortable in silence, but we have found that this practice is beneficial for everyone. We encourage people to try staying in silence instead of socializing in the breaks between sessions, and listening to what is going on inside.

Meredith Cameron

Meredith Cameron Yoga

Advice on taking care of yourself while teaching a retreat

Obstacle

Going on retreat as a facilitator is a “vacation” but you’re also holding space for your participants 24/7 so your nervous system is always “on”. The only way to enjoy the experience and stay healthy and energized is to give back to yourself during the process. Plus, people pay a lot of money to go on retreat so they need you to be able to give your all.

Advice

When I wake up, I like to take 20 min. to myself every day before joining the group. Even if I wake up feeling tired and it is tempting to sleep through that time until I need to go, I remind myself that self-care is critical and that I must get up and take time to myself (and, I can always take a nap later in the day if I need it). Sometimes all I do in this time is sit quietly and stare out at the ocean, or stretch, or write or meditate. The point is to take time where I am giving only to my self.

Sada Sat Kaur

Yoga Borgo

Our path in life and business can lead us into unknown environments that will require us to reach beyond ourselves. Meet these experiences with openness.

Pearl of Wisdom

When stepping into the unknown, the most important action that we can take is to maintain an open heart. Through this openness, be ready and willing to learn from the new experiences that you are met with. Draw in these new experiences and don’t isolate yourself. See that the people around you are in fact angels, they are your community, they are the people that are there to help you in drawing your vision into the manifest. Meet these people with love, compassion and kindness as this will be returned through their support of your endeavour. Foster your community, meet people with a feeling that you are welcoming them home. Share meals together, create opportunities to help each other, treat everyone like your family and keep your heart open. This open reciprocity has the opportunity to allow you and your business to thrive.

Alan Goode

Yoga Mandir

Advice on developing a teaching faculty that honours the business as a whole and the individual.

Obstacle

Learning to work in an office with a team of teachers has definitely presented a very real edge on my own growth path at Yoga Mandir. Taking this further, has involved learning to actually develop the individual teachers on the team so they can show up in a comfortable, grounded way that will support their own continued growth.

Advice

Give people the responsibility and space to shape what they do. Let them decide on the way that they are going to bring something into being. Allow them an environment that nurtures autonomy, and respects that they will evolve naturally. This process may involve making mistakes, but it will allow them to grow within their own authority. Creating a teaching syllabus has allowed us to create a common container that captures the essence of the philosophy that we deliver. Teachers, using this as a guide, can then take this common essence (or voice) of the school and apply their own creative expression when delivering an experience to our students that is real for them. This allows the individual to be honoured within a collective, team environment.

Emma Bollen

Pelan Pelan

Advice on navigating the first year and a half of starting a retreat center in Bali and bringing a long held vision into reality.

Obstacle

The first year and a half of operation has definitely involved a learning curve in ensuring that all aspects of the business are managed effectively. From the constant busyness of being present for guests, to understanding the pace of business in Bali due to the the cultural differences, to scheduling and ensuring that all daily tasks are handled, it can be an overwhelming process.

Advice

Make sure that you take the time to organize your business, creating processes for every task, big or small. Creating this structure makes sure that all your processes are accounted for. In addition, this organized structure allows you to get to a very important point in your growth of being able to delegate many of your daily processes to other people. Moving from the attitude that I can do it all myself, to being able to rely on the right people around you is an amazing shift. If all else fails, go surfing! This is great way to energize the body and mind on a daily basis. Surfing teaches us to stay present, accept things as they arrive in the moment and not try to force as specific outcome. This is the most valuable wisdom to be reminded of daily and applied to your business.

 

Tracey Welsch

Red Mountain Resort

Advice on increasing guest satisfaction

Obstacle

I think that sometimes we can be a bit too rigid in our rules, and that can impact the guest experience. For example, a guest told us they were unhappy with their horseback riding experience because the wrangler was not very helpful or sensitive to their needs. The wrangler felt that he deserved full payment because he had delivered the service, but we like to side with the guest to make things right. I think people forget how contagious a guests’ sentiment can be. They could write a bad review, or they might share their dissatisfaction with other guests while they are still on retreat with us.

Advice

I like to reframe complaints as an opportunity to see things from the perspective of our guests. They are really giving us the gift of their feedback. It allows us to see where we might need to make changes in our organization because it’s likely that other guests have also had a similar experience but didn’t report it – so it could be a symptom of a larger issue. We feel it’s important to treat others as we wish to be treated, and also to empathize with our guests. You don’t know what the person might be going through, or how much they might have worked and saved in order to afford this vacation. The best approach is to assume that the guest is always right.

Tania Ho

Museflower

Advice on setting boundaries for yourself to have time off

Obstacle

Owning a retreat centre (where I live on site) is more than a full-time job, and it can be really challenging to get any time for myself. But when I work all the time my mind gets so full, and I lose the spaciousness that is required for inspiration and creative solutions to come.

Advice

Prioritize, delegate, and plan in advance. Every morning ask yourself “What’s important to accomplish today?” and write a list. Then look at the list, and ask “What can I delegate?”. It’s hard to delegate because we’re always trying to save money, and we also think we’re the best at everything, but the truth is that there’s an opportunity cost to spending time on tasks that someone else could do. For me, it means that I can’t do the things I am really gifted at such as planning new retreats. You simply can’t do everything. Lastly – plan your days off. I make arrangements so that someone else can take over and I can completely remove myself for a day. And, I need to make a conscious effort to NOT work. I need to be diligent to not check my work email, and to physically stay away from the retreat centre. It’s so worth it though, because I rediscover the things I like to do, and I often get inspired with new ideas and solutions.

Michelle Moroney

Cliffs of Moher

Advice on making your retreat centre profitable

Obstacle

We own a retreat centre in Ireland, and there are so many costs associated with owning a property. We also don’t sell the rooms like a hotel – it is dedicated to the guests who are visiting on retreats, and our business is very seasonal. Those factors can make it especially challenging to not only make ends meet but to actually turn a profit for our efforts.

Advice

There are several things we are doing that seem to be making a difference in our success. 1) We’ve increased our maximum group size to 24 people. 2) We are experimenting with adding different offerings to our calendar (beyond yoga) so that we can attract a broader demographic (e.g. fitness fusion retreats that would also appeal to men). 3) Finding our niche (we attract people who are looking for hotel-style accommodation with max. 2 people per room so they can be very comfortable while on retreat) 4) Pricing ourselves affordably 5) Being friendly, professional, and warm so that our guests and guest teachers recommend us and return.

Yogi Rakesh

Samyak Yoga

Advice on creating a brand and marketing an eastern tradition to a western market.

Obstacle

In India, our culture is focused much more on the philosophy of yoga and yoga as a way of being. The emphasis is not on creating a business. Transitioning from the role of Yogi to managing a business and creating a brand and message that resonates with students around the world represented a significant step into the unknown.

Advice

Be openminded and take the time to understand the social differences, especially between the eastern and western cultures. Create a brand that is universal and will offer students a broad range of perspectives that they can relate to their own daily life. Their challenges, aspirations, way of perceiving, etc. Present your business through a lens and language that can be understood and will engage your audience. Focus on what people will experience and cultivate values that accept people as they are so they feel safe in stepping into a new practice. The language must be universal and bring clarity and vision to the path a student will take to becoming a teacher. Finally, be willing to adapt and evolve your offering and the way you present it to the world. In Rakesh’s words, “Yoga is all about Balance, refining actions and getting better everyday.”

Tanya Popovich

Swaha Yoga Center

Advice on dealing with doubt and competition when it arises as you build and grow your yoga business.

Obstacle

In entering into the world of yoga, I went through a period of time when I really questioned if I wanted to take on yoga as a business. This related to being met with the reality of competition between yoga teachers and witnessing some unethical actions that left me feeling that perhaps this wasn’t a world that I wanted to operate within. This shattered my lens of the goodness of a spiritual pursuit that defined my life. This drew me into exploring the question, “what is left of the essence of yoga in our competitive modern day world?”

Advice

Don’t get discouraged and don’t turn and walk away when faced with doubt or competition. I ultimately called upon my original yoga teacher training for the answer that came through a Sutra “Be happy for the happy, delighted for the virtuous, compassionate towards the unhappy and indifferent to the wicked.” I spent a lot of time meditating on this and I came to the realization that I wasn’t going to change these aspects of the people or the yoga community. I will do what I do, and I will operate into the world through my heart. I chose not to be discouraged and instead I have offered to serve through integrity while honouring and sharing the core holy essence of yoga that has had such an impact on my life. Live into the world through your heart as this will bring you strength and clarity of direction in times of doubt.

Benedict Boyle

Tranquil Point

In our lives our ability to cultivate a grounding in the present moment can allow us to increase our awareness and live into the world from our most authentic center. Benedict shares the three values that he applies at Tranquil Point and to all aspects of his daily life.

Pearl of Wisdom

The first value is freedom. Reminding ourselves daily, within the present moment that we have the freedom to make a choice. Pausing and creating spaciousness, takes us out of a reactionary mental response and reminds us of this freedom. In business it can often appear that there may only be one path to take when in fact there are many opportunities available that may offer value. Second is simplicity. This can involve taking the time to check-in and ask the question, “…am I making things more complex than needed?” Cultivate simplicity by maintaining a connection with nature, and most importantly uncover the value of your local community. They are your closest resource and they have the opportunity to support you and your business, allowing you to thrive. The third is to nurture your relationship with love. Feel love, demonstrate love, and most importantly share love. By giving this to those around you, you create the opportunity to receive back exactly what it is that will allow your business to be sustained.

Mel Loverh

Health Oasis Resort

Advice on discerning the difference between your vision and strategic planning.

Obstacle

Often times business owners can lose site of their original vision or let their strategic planning overrun the essence of the core vision. A shift away from the original vision can lead to business failure.

Advice

It is essential to draw clearly the blueprint for the vision of what you want your center or project to be and visualize the end result. Focus only on the end result and not the strategies and the plans on how to get there. Life constantly surprises you and closes doors and opens other doors, so you need to maintain flexibility while keeping intact the vision of your blueprint. You cannot change the track of your original blueprint of the vision. This commitment to your vision will allow you the necessary flexibility to respond to new challenges and adjust your strategic plan no matter how large or difficult the obstacle. Most importantly, you will maintain your intuition and essence of what you are creating instead of giving away your authentic self for the sake of success or safety. Always be willing to ask yourself; am I changing my strategic direction or am I changing the vision for what I want. Don’t throw away your vision!

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