Writing Retreat in Ireland: The Real Deal with Ana Mozol
Interested in a writing retreat in Ireland? Ana Mozol shares her experience at the Writer’s Retreat in Connemara, organized by Sacred Earth Journeys.
Tell us about yourself! What do you do when you’re not traveling the world? Where are you from? Where do you currently live?
I am a professor of psychology at the Adler University in Vancouver and Pacifica Graduate Institute in California. In my teaching and private practice, I specialize in working from a depth psychological perspective with dreams, the creative process, and the mythology of love and sexuality. I currently reside in Vancouver, BC.
What kind of retreat did you participate in? Where was it located? How did you spend your time there?
I participated in a writer’s retreat hosted by author and mythologist Phil Cousineau in the wild west of Ireland, Connemara. Time was spent between inspiring lectures with Phil, interviews with accomplished and extraordinary local treasures, such as, author and musicologist PJ Curtis. Time was also spent with pilgrimages to the surrounding sites steeped in literary tradition, time in solitude to write, and time to share in community.
What made you decide to participate in the retreat?
I had been working on a book project on and off for over 10 years (mostly off). I knew, based on some dreams and synchronistic events that it was time to bring the project to completion. I took a leave of absence from my full-time faculty position to devote my time to writing, only to find that I was facing some real inner and outer challenges with regards to publication and giving my voice to the larger community. I recognized I needed to reach out for some external help.
I googled upcoming writer’s retreats and after a fair amount of research, felt the one that most called me was this particular retreat in Ireland. My maternal grandfather was from Ireland and I had never been. Only later did I come to understand the wisdom of my decision and the thinly veiled degrees of separation shared with Phil and other participants through mutual connections.
What were the highlights of the retreat? What disappointed you about the retreat?
Highlights of the trip included: a private consultation with Phil, among the ruins of Clifden Castle, where I felt my passion for writing revitalized; reading poetry at the gravesite of W.B. Yeats; a day of integration, solitude, quiet reflection and writing on Inishbofin Island, the power and beauty of which can only be captured in poetry (which some participants managed to do); and the inn-keeper at Renvyle House offering the group a talk on rich literary history of the place complete with appetizers and bubbles!
How, if at all, did the retreat change you? Were there new practices you incorporated into your life following the retreat?
I felt a mystical connection to the landscape of Ireland and my soul has lingered there. I woke the first mornings after being back and felt a sense of being blessed by the country and its spirits. Through my interactions with Phil, I felt a deep soul mirroring that has been a catalyst to the creative fire moving through me again. The writing has been flowing since I returned due to a complex combination of things.
The first being the strong intention I took to Ireland with me. The second was being inspired by how Phil is in the world. What he modeled opened me to understand that writing can be so much more than a set schedule of two-three times a week. Writing can be alive, like breathing and can be done anywhere, anytime. It can ritualize life as it is lived.
What are some of the benefits of participating in a retreat? What are some of the downsides? Would you participate in another retreat?
One of the great benefits of such a retreat is the opportunity to be with a community of deeply creative individuals. I felt the individuals on this retreat intuitively understood what one of my mentors, Marie-Louise von Franz affirmed in her writing, that there is nothing more destructive than unlived, unexpressed creative potential.
A possible downside is if you like a great deal of control over your time and schedule, the retreat can feel uncomfortable in the various twists and turns, the inherent challenges to plans that are bound to come up when traveling in a larger group. For me, however, I delighted in relinquishing control and letting myself merge with the larger flow.
Are there any tips you’d give someone else who is considering a similar retreat?
I would say if you feel called to a particular place or retreat, let yourself follow it. Remember that things can truly change when you travel with a clear intention at the right time and give yourself over to the experience. You can experience a slowing down, a different relationship to time, an eternal sense of time out of the chronologically pressured order. In this relationship to time, life has the opportunity to make sense again. Such a pilgrimage can gently remind you to say yes to life again.
Photo Credit: Sacred Earth Journeys