The importance of retreat

 Get away from it all to focus on rest, creativity, play and self-care. 

Get away from it all to focus on rest, creativity, play and self-care. 

I’ve been blessed in the past few years with opportunities to get away from it all and focus on my writing. I’ve made it part of my practise to find ways to arrange my life to leave the city to write. Last year I spent a few months living in a tiny house in the rainforest of southern Vancouver Island, revising my novel while I served as writer-in-residence at Lester B. Pearson United World College. I awoke to the sound of the rain on the roof, took long walks in the forest, and sank into the rich luxury of uninterrupted creative time (it helped that my phone had no signal). 

What is it about the retreat that stimulates our senses and aids our creative work?

In part, it’s the practise of letting go of certain roles and identities, of setting aside our responsibilities—as parent, worker, emotional support—simply to get back in touch with that wild, private, hidden part of who we are. It’s that quiet place where so much writing emerges, when we are free from responsibility and distraction. 

Whether it’s a weekend away, a week at the cottage, or the luxury of a longer retreat, stepping out of our daily routines can offer the rewards of seeing our work from a fresh new perspective. In the spirit of retreats, Joshua Lewis and I have put together a late summer, mid-week retreat for those who find it challenging to get away.

Called Savour the End of Summer, it’s set on enchanting Wolfe Island, at the Shanti Retreat Centre, a short ferry ride from downtown Kingston, Ontario. We’ve put the retreat together in such away to allow you to work on your writing in a structured, supportive environment, have the chance to engage in yoga and mindfulness practise, and savour the riches of summer with unlimited use of all of Shanti’s lakeside amenities—kayaks, canoes, walking trails, and more. 

 The Balinese hut at the Shanti Retreat Centre...perfect for sunrise or sunset meditation.

The Balinese hut at the Shanti Retreat Centre...perfect for sunrise or sunset meditation.

Throughout the day, participants have the chance to take a number of writing workshops, workshop a short piece, indulge in private writing time, book a writing consultation, and have the optional opportunity to share new work on the final evening under the stars. 

For those looking for a private retreat, we also offer weekly retreat rentals at The Hideout, our secluded getaway on the south shore of Prince Edward Island. Bordering onto the protected Lord's Pond/Tryon River watershed, this is the perfect option for writers and others looking for a private, quiet place to sink into deep creative practise, free from distraction. 

Get in touch if you'd like more information about either of these options, sign up to receive news about upcoming retreat opportunities, and happy writing! 

This Mother's Day, give the gift of self-care

Jennifer Jennings and her mother Patience Ellis say Shanti is the perfect place to spend quality time together in blissful retreat. 

As a mother, you juggle a lot in life.

The responsibilities of raising your kids, maybe a job and the demands of extended family. In other words, constantly juggling the needs of others while trying to find time for yourself.

Giving ourselves the gift of self-care can often feel like a challenge. Even when we know in our core that what we most need is to rest, recharge, and slow down, we often feel guilty for taking the time to take care of our own needs. 

One of the greatest pleasures about offering retreats like Savour the End of Summer is witnessing the benefits of self-care. Joshua and I are committed to providing space for you to slow down, find time to nourish your deepest self and re-connect with a deep sense of joy and creativity. 

My own mother worked hard, raising four rambunctious boys. One of the greatest gifts my brothers and I could offer was telling her it was okay to do something kind for herself, even when that meant getting away from us for some time to recharge the batteries. 

 Patience Ellis admires the view at the Shanti Retreat Centre

Patience Ellis admires the view at the Shanti Retreat Centre

We often have mothers and daughters retreat together.

Retreats like Savour the End of Summer provide the ideal place for mothers and daughters (or mothers and sons ;) to spend time together away from the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life. Designed with core writing and yoga workshops, but with many options (including the option to simply relax by the lake), it's a retreat that lets you set your own pace, while we look after the details for you.

Jennifer Jennings, a professional in Toronto, has enjoyed numerous retreats with her mother, Patience Ellis. Their first Shanti retreat was a restorative weekend retreat with Joshua in November of 2015. Jennifer enjoys travelling with her mum and sharing special time together away from the demands of regular life. 

“Travelling together is easy and to say that we enjoy each other's company is an understatement. We've been to the French Alps several times, and Scotland and England. This spring we're going to Italy. We're well-suited and enjoy eating delicious, fresh food and chilling with a good glass of wine. We seem to never run out of things to talk about but are also highly contented just being together in silence.”

For Patience, the time with her daughter is a gift. She loves the flexibility of the retreats, which allow her to practise at her own pace. 

“I love any time I get with Jennifer - she is fun and obviously we can share more things than with other friends. We both find you and Josh just easy and comfortable to be around. Josh is very forgiving with me for not doing some of the yoga!!”

Jennifer and Patience have been on a number of retreats with Joshua and joined us in PEI last summer for our intimate Seacoast Yoga and Culinary Retreat. She advises folks interested in Savour the End of Summer to book early.

“If you're contemplating going on a retreat with Joshua and/or Trevor, give yourself a gift and book it early. The sooner you've made that commitment to yourself, the sooner you will enjoy the anticipation of a delightful retreat with calm and kind companions. They are both gems and being in their good company will put a smile in your heart that will last for all time.”

Inspiration at the Shanti Retreat Centre.

As a nod to the important role of mothers in our lives, we’re offering a special Mother’s Day discount on Savour the End of Summer from now until Mother’s Day. Treat your mother by gifting her a week of yoga, writing, nourishing meals, and luxurious unwinding at Shanti, and we’ll discount her registration fee by $50. Contact us for more details

"Friends make the adventure so much better"


The Case for Retreating with folks you know 

The only thing better than giving yourself permission to luxuriate in a retreat experience is sharing that experience with friends. Just ask Keith Barlett. Along with pals Robert Gignac and Lindsey Rusche, he’s a veteran of a number of Yoga with Joshua retreats, the most recent at last November’s nurturing Rest and Reconnect restorative weekend.

A veteran yogi and long-time Yoga with Joshua student, Keith’s had the unique experience of attending retreats with a single friend, with several friends, and solo. 

“None were disappointing. However as with most things, friends made the adventure so much better. The alchemy which Joshua and Trevor manifest a space for exploration and reflection is unparalleled. To share this with friends expanded and heightened its nature.”

While sometimes the retreat experience is all about venturing outside of your comfort zone, making new acquaintance with like-minded others, or simply indulging in some quiet solo time, deepening friendships in the intentional community inspired by retreat space can be rewarding.

Keith says that Shanti is a particularly extraordinary place to retreat with others. In addition to yoga, the legendary Shanti menu was definitely one of the highlights. 

“Delicious meals were carefully prepared for us which enriched our bellies and spirits as we met new people. The conversation expanded as we learned of new things and places yet visited.” 

While the magic of Shanti—with its gorgeous lakefront location and cozy, intimate accommodation—appeals to groups of friends and family, those who join us solo to deepen their practice needn’t worry about connecting with others. 

As Keith says, “At the conclusion of each retreat I have left with more friends than I arrived with, more focus for where I need to make adjustments within my life, memories that I would not trade and recipes that I want to try to replicate. And always plans to return, and to bring more friends.”


Groups of 4 or more enjoy $50 off early bird rates. 


Offer valid until April 30

To honour the spirit of friendship and the many ways in which the retreat experience can deepen bonds—or provide a place to relax, unwind, and play together—until the end of April we’re offering a special group promotion for our Savour the End of Summer retreat. 

Get a group of four together, and we’ll offer a $50 discount on your retreat program price, on top of earlybird rates. That's $250 per person (+ accommodation)! Contact us for more information. Valid until April 30.


Dare to dream


Almost five years ago to the day, I built my first website in a small, bright flat in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin.

It was early spring and the starlings roosted just beyond the window. I worked on the website in the afternoon after mornings writing in the Amerika-Gedenkbibliothe--the old American Library, perched along the canal. I was in Berlin because I'd been awarded a Canada Council grant to complete my first short story collection and had recently left my full-time job working at a small Canadian university. I had no idea what would happen after my grant ran out. Would I stay in Europe? Travel? Open my own business? 

I had never felt so free.

In a way, taking the leap to write in Europe felt like the real beginning of my writing career. Not because of the gritty romance of Europe, or even the grant itself. I had begun to publish stories and had just been nominated for my first major award, but taking these steps to arrange my life so I'd have long, full days to dream, imagine, and write was an important opening for me. Each day as I walked the canal, watching the long canal boats ply the grimy waters, the spark of possibility seemed everywhere. 

Leaving my job and stepping out into the world this way involved a certain amount of risk. Without getting all Eat Pray Love, stepping out of the security of what I'd known allowed me to begin to shape the life I most wanted to live.

We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
— Joseph Campbell

I believe that great writing involves some sort of risk. Not quitting-our-jobs kind of risk, in most cases. But leaving what we know, if only in our hearts and minds. Choosing to take those first steps, to put thoughts on a page, to share that writing with the world, takes a huge amount of courage.  

That's why writing is such a beautiful metaphor for life. Each day, when we write, we're confronted with the terror (and, hopefully, comfort) of the blank page. As with life, good writing is not created only by imposing our will or a pre-conceived idea of the way things will be. Controlling the story will only suffocate life on the page. It's a fine art between structure and the messy, pulsing chaos at the heart of the story. 

In other words, great writing involves letting go. 

Sitting in that bright Berlin flat, trying to build that website over copious amounts of bitter coffee and the occasional German dunkel, I had no idea of how the next five years would unfold. I did not know that more grants lay in store, that I would land an agent or negotiate a book deal with my dream editor for my debut novel. I didn't yet know of the stories and publications and interviews (so many interviews!) and reviews to come. Or that I would begin to teach and share with people like you, through offering writing workshops that incorporate not only the skill and tools for writing, but the philosophy, values, and encouragement for how to take risks and feel safely supported in the process. 

And now, as I launch this new website, I'm thinking about how the seeds we plant sometimes bloom many years in the future, when we least expect it. Don't get me wrong. Dreams are hard work. A dream without a plan is only ever a wish. 

But dreaming starts somewhere. Each time we make time to be with ourselves, with our secret thoughts and the private stories that live inside us, the stories that have yet to be born in the world, we're planting the seeds for a future we can't yet begin to imagine. 

I invite you to dream with me, in your own way, on your own time. 

Happy writing,

Savour the End of Summer: A Yoga and Writing Retreat


In Canada, summer is a time to play

It's a time to remember a time when the months stretched by like years, when summer meant a refreshing dip into the lake. A time to meet the day with wild, uninhibited abandon.

I'm so pleased to be teeming up with renowned yogi (and all around great guy) Joshua Lewis on a special four-day, mid-week retreat savouring the full glory of summer. Before the routines and obligations and general busyness of fall take hold, we'll gather together at gorgeous Shanti Retreat on Wolfe Island, an idyllic lakeside getaway just a short ferry ride from Kingston. 

Looking for a sweet combination of relaxation and grounding as summer winds down? 

Unwind into the final days of August with vigour and play—while heeding the call to anchor in and cultivate reflective practices to support you as the seasons shift and the autumn ‘new year’ arrives. We've lovingly structured the retreat to provide the twin anchors of a nourishing yoga practice and structured personal writing time to help you tap into your innate creative spirit.



Daily meditation and yoga will be led by Joshua in his signature all-levels accessible and inclusive style. Long-time practitioners, as well as those with little or no experience, will find Joshua’s embodied and inspired teaching methodology to be approachable and profoundly impactful – calming and soothing for the body, mind and the heart. Classes will be offered in the Hatha tradition weaving a creative mixture of dynamic slow flow sequences with therapeutic modalities such as yin, self-massage ball rolling and guided meditation and visualization (yoga nidra).

I'm excited to be leading the writing practise at the retreat. Whether you are curious about writing, love to journal, have been working on a secret memoir, or have a specific fiction, poetry, or other projects in mind, this retreat will give you ample space to commit time, energy and focus to your writing practice. Guided activities will include responding to writing prompts, playful and interactive storytelling activities, and the opportunity to complete a short piece through the week. No prior writing experience is necessary, and there will be no expectation that you share your work if you prefer to simply indulge in some quiet writing time. All writing activities are optional. We hope to end the retreat with an opportunity for participants to share their own writing (or other talents) in a low-key, supportive setting.

An essential element supporting these personal adventures is the shared experience of connecting with your deepest self while in the community of others doing the same. Everything about the Shanti experience is intentionally designed to drop you in to the sweetest and most sublime state—from the idyllic lakeside locale and private seclusion of Wolfe Island to the vibrantly fresh and flavourful meals, not to mention the various waterfront activities at your disposal (swim, sunbathe, canoe and kayak to your heart’s content!)—this retreat promises to be a time for self-care, renewal and enlivenment.



Shanti retreats sell out early. We'll be offering a number of group and other special discounts through early spring, so get in touch with questions or learn more about how to secure your spot