Set Your Intention, But Stay Open: Thriving Together 2015

Today’s post comes to us from DTI Membership Specialist and doula extraordinaire Jenny Bennett, who joined us in October 2015 for our first-ever retreat in Tulum, Mexico. We’re excited to announce that 2016 sign-ups are now open and invite you to register now!

A good motto for life, business and vacations: set your intention, but stay open.

As with many things in life, vacations/retreats/conferences can be greatly enhanced when you set an intention for your trip. But I have to say, my only true intention when I registered for DTI’s One Doula: Thriving Together retreat was to get a little bit of fun girl-time in!

But holy cow, did I leave Tulum, Mexico with so much more than that. As the retreat grew nearer, I started to develop a little bit more of a specific intention, but I still wasn’t entirely sure what to expect in terms of personal development. Here’s a little glimpse into what I was thinking as I boarded the plane.

Tulum Journal #1

All’s quiet at my client’s household this morning as they await baby #3. Hoping to make it back in time, but feeling at peace with it. My back-up doula may be needing a nice home birth so if I miss it, I’ll choose to think of it in those terms.

My intention for the trip is to come back feeling refreshed and inspired, with clarity on the direction of Atlanta Doula Collaborative. So much catching up to do with Tara, Aimee and Gina and looking forward to connecting with Sophi et. al. Such a short trip with so much to do.

I wish I could say I kept up with the journaling throughout our time together, but there really was too much (just enough, actually) to do. Many doulas to connect with and activities to focus on. I hardly even took any photos.

Here is one I did take:


This is what relaxation looks like!

As everyone made their way down to Mexico, a hurricane was churning on the coast opposite from Tulum. Some of the attendees with connecting flights were delayed and at the very least, we were dealing with the stress of concerned family members wondering why we were traveling to Mexico when a hurricane was about to hit! But thankfully, all was peaceful at our retreat center. I was reunited with two of the women from my DTI training group at the airport (one who came from Alaska!), and we shuttled together to Maya Tulum with Sarah (our amazing yoga instructor for the retreat), Lenaya and Taylor. Judging by the chats we were having in the van, I could already tell this was going to be four days full of rich learning and conversation.

The opening circle that evening was buzzing with exciting, loving energy. Everyone was present as we each shared what had pushed us to say YES to this retreat. I echoed what many others felt – that we didn’t “deserve” it, but perhaps some unknown desire deeper within had allowed us to do it anyway. We ended the night with amazingly restorative yoga class, which was just what we needed after a stressful day of travel.

The workshops and yoga classes that followed over the next three days far exceeded my expectations. Knowing the wonderful work that comes out of each of DTI’s trainings, I shouldn’t have been so surprised, but I think I was more focused on the relaxation aspect and wasn’t expecting to learn so much. What’s interesting is that when done in the right way, business development for doulas can be incredibly nurturing and restorative, as well as inspiring.

Aimee Brill led a discussion during our first workshop on identifying triggers – occurrences during doula work which cause a negative reaction – and strategies for responding in an effective way. How do we ensure our clients continue receiving the most loving support possible, without denying our own human response? It was so enlightening to be in a room full of doulas driven by the same desire – to be present with the women we serve – while also acknowledging the weight that’s on our shoulders. We were starting to feel some of that weight being lifted.

As a continuation of that discussion, we met with peer counselor Nekole Shapiro later that day to work on reframing our ideas about self-care. The profound question which came out of that time: what if self-care was absolutely NOT an option, but rather totally critical to the goal of serving our clients more effectively? Wow.

Later that night, we enjoyed another amazing yoga class to end our day. Just a word about Sarah Oakley’s yoga: sublime. Not only did she nurture our bodies and spirits with her calming presence, but she also gave us a workshop just for doulas on incorporating some of the physical and spiritual aspects of yoga into birth support.

(Gina, no offense, but I almost opted out of your workshop for a little bit of extra free time.) But I decided to give it a whirl and man, I was totally inspired and blown away! This was actually one of my favorite workshops. Gina gave us a really hands-on introduction to the world of essential oils and herbalism. We sampled different blends as we talked about what we would do for self-care if we had 1 minute a day, 15 minutes, 1 hour, or one full day. It was such a fun and juicy exercise to think about that. I left that time with many ideas on incorporating EOs into both my life and my practice as a doula. And guess what I did when I got home? I purchased a diffuser and an oil kit. I’m enjoying better respiratory health already!

Later that day I received the news that my client’s water broke. I would not make it back for the birth. I was devastated. As we rode on the shuttle to our excursion (swimming in the cenotes), I poured out my disappointment to anyone who would listen. And they gave me back that loving attention that Nekole had uncovered for us in such an informative way.

By the time we got back to Maya Tulum that evening I was feeling totally awesome again and ready to celebrate with a few margaritas. This was the cutting loose time I had been looking for!


You can see it on my face… I was letting go.

The business mastermind that evening, led by our fearless and fierce Tara Brooke, was probably the most healing workshop in some ways. (Would you believe it if I said I don’t think Tara said an entire word during our small group time?) All she had to do was set the intention for us and we were off to the races.

How can a business mastermind be healing, you ask? We answered questions for ourselves and each other by sharing what was working well in our businesses and what the biggest challenges were, and then the other members of our small group gave feedback. There were many tears, much laughter, and many ah-ha! moments. And doing all of that in a safe space with others in our same field was yes, incredibly healing.

And sprinkled in between all of this awesome-ness were other details which made us feel treasured. Here are my top 5 favorites:

  1. Gifts! Oh my, the gifts. We were showered with gifts at every juncture from our retreat sponsors, and these were not just sample sizes either! Amazing.
  2. The food! Every meal was simply delicious and fresh. It felt so good to eat food that fresh and healthful. Vegetables and fish never tasted so good.
  3. A good old-fashioned bonfire.
  4. Time for spa treatments.
  5. Hammock napping.

As incredibly difficult as it was to leave that place and those women, we finished the morning before our flights home with the sweetest closing circle. Here are a few momentos from that circle which now sit on my desk. They help keep my eyes on focused every day on the things I learned and the love I took back home to my family and my business.


Set your intention
I aspire: to love myself
I seek: curiosity
I share: my talents

“I can stay present with my client even when I am triggered. #iamfierce”

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