Stephen has a unique capacity for listening that allows him to understand the feeling that I’m struggling to communicate, and sometimes blindly seeking, in my writing. On many occasions, with a few insightful words he’s helped me clarify and amplify my connection to my true and powerful voice.
Testimonials from Writing Immersion Retreats
Before the Spannocchia Retreat, my writing practice had languished for so long it wasn’t even a practice anymore. Stephen and Jade masterfully guided the creative process with just enough mind/body structure, just enough push to help reconnect my inner voice with its outer expression. I’m equally grateful for their genuine kindness and openness. Our diverse group of poets, novelists, and non-fiction writers learned from the nature of the whole retreat and from each other. Deeply enriching!
I cannot even begin to express how deeply moved I was on the retreat. I try very hard not to have expectations of things in life but I did have them for this journey. I can say with great satisfaction that this retreat exceeded all of them a thousand percent. From the morning yoga with Jade, to the food (oh god was the food delicious!) to the creative writing that was done, I can say that I left fully inspired. My novel took a different shape there and thanks to an optional creative writing exercise that Stephen gave us, I wrote a new prologue that helped me understand my character so much better. My novel was literally transformed one day. I expected the block I had been feeling to go away, but I didn’t expect the floodgates of creativity to open as they did. Thank you so much Jade and Stephen for offering this beautiful, life changing experience. I would completely recommend this journey be taken by anyone contemplating it. I certainly can’t wait to go on another! I truly cannot say thank you enough for all the ways this experience has opened my heart and soul…and of course, my writing! ~Namaste
The instruction was as hands-on or as hands-off as I needed it to be, from one day to the next. Stephen prepared a wonderful book with writing exercises that truly helped me focus my thoughts on different parts of the craft of writing creatively, and he was always willing (including the last day, just hours before his departure) to sit with participants individually and discuss ideas for progress. Jade’s yoga classes are a revelation to me, very inward-focused, and absolutely a joy to experience. I learned more from her in one week about breathing and posture than from all the yoga classes I’ve followed before, combined. The combination of a meditative, physically and spiritually balanced practice to begin each day with the rigor and encouragement of time to write made for a tremendously productive retreat.
The group dynamic is so special that it deserves its own paragraph. I’ve been to two retreats with Stephen and Jade now, and each time have come away with my heart (and lungs, and mind, and spirit) full of possibilities. A great part of that is because of the instruction and organization, but a substantial part also comes from the other people there. These are deep connections with the power to sustain you, grow along with you after the retreat, and push you toward ever-greater fulfillment and self-knowledge. And so, potential retreat-goers, let me say what has made the experience so wonderful on a community level each time : the fact that everyone was at a place in life where s/he could live the experience with openness and gratitude, and really be present in every moment for what Stephen and Jade are creating. You don’t have to be an accomplished writer already to participate in this creation. You just have to want to be there, and let go of whatever holds you back from being a full part of its magic.
The retreat center in Bali was extraordinary. I loved the mixture of village life and the conveniences of modernity, even the fact that the nearest ATM was about an hour’s drive away ! The massage therapist is a marvel and I still crave the relaxation her fingers brought me. The yoga room at the top of the teak house is a place I still feel in those moments when I am just coming to wakefulness in the morning; the cries of the roosters ALL THE TIME; the birds’ nest where I sat so many mornings in the sun, watching the silver line of the horizon over the neighboring mountain. And of course my own favorite part was being in Richard’s magical recording studio. I felt my voice come authentically alive in there.
I wrote, in the seven days of retreat work, 2 full short stories, 5 prose poems, pages and pages and pages of journal entries, and the final lyrics to a song. I also dug out an old novel and began working my way through revisions that had been on hold for 14 years. But beyond these tangible goals and word-counts, I feel the retreat helped me “consolidate” a piece of myself that came to life at the retreat in Italy the year before : the dreams I had begun to think I was hearing became solid and accessible, and I learned again how to breathe life into them and carry them with me down the mountain and back into the world.
The hot stone massage was incredible. The realization that my first novel is not actually crap was enough to bring me to tears, and still does when I think of it now. The opportunity to make music with an expert and carry the music away with me – that has changed my life (literally : I set the goal during the retreat to make an album within a year, and my band and I are now practicing and scheduling studio time for early 2013 !). But really the whole experience is my favorite overall memory. The mornings, the afternoons, the evenings, the breathwork, the roosters, the beauty, the delicious food, the camaraderie, and the chance to stretch myself and believe in what can happen next.
What would you say to someone who is considering attending a retreat with us in Bali?
1. How was our instruction and what do you feel describes the group dynamic?
You guys were a great team. Yoga theory and practice in the morning from Jade and craft and motivation talk from Stephen throughout the day, with organic feedback from Jade interspersed. Organic feedback, that’s how I’ve come to think about it, feedback that is productive without being critical, that enables the writer to evacuate their vacuum in a safe space. Everybody in the group was incredibly encouraging; as soon as I had a new idea I knew they’d be a great sounding board and brainstorming team. I’d never workshopped such in-progress stuff, and it was a great experience and an approach I really enjoyed.
Another great aspect of the instruction was Stephen’s book; it provided structure without being overbearing, and allowed us to take home so much more than there was time to fit in while actually there.
2. How was the retreat center and what are some of your fondest memories of the place?
I was pretty impressed with the fact that it had a recording studio and that Richard was generous enough to let Rosemary use it to record some of the songs she had written right then. The fact that I heard her sing it herself one day then heard it on the speakers the next. And the honey cinnamon coffee. And the fried eggplant wedges. And Karyna bonking her head on a nature walk and the guide pasting a root mash on the bruise. And the way the sunlight came in the window of the yoga studio in the morning, and the view of the mountain from there. Yoga time, that early, was the only time it was clear enough to see the summit it seemed. You said that at other retreats yoga wasn’t as much of a focus but I really appreciated that it was a part of this one, and the studio being on the grounds was integral to this. The center and grounds are incredible; so much beauty it almost hurts your eyes.
3. What sort of work did you accomplish?
I completed a new first draft of a story from scratch in a single day, got perspective on and groundwork laid for a longer term project, embarked on a completely unexpected creative project that I launched, as endeavored, upon my return (facebook status collage poetry at plagiarizemyface.com), learned to categorize my goals in a new and productive way, catalogued said goals, and began to make a daily practice of present awareness and engagement.
4. What is one of your favorite memories overall?
Probably hearing Felice read the first chapter of her YA novel with the cat narrator. It was magical.
5. What would you say to someone who is considering attending a retreat with us in Bali?
One of the best aspects of the retreat is the flexibility. If you come with an open mind about what to work on and what you will learn, a productive, enjoyable experience is all but guaranteed. You will learn to let other people teach you. You will learn to let everything teach you. You will learn how to work with the current instead of being swept up in it or fighting against it. You will learn to enjoy life, to give yourself the right to be creative, to identify what fulfills you, and to connect with the emotional content of your work. There is the possibility you will make peace with yourself, with life and with death.
1. How was our instruction and what do you feel describes the group dynamic?
What I liked at the instruction was it was helpful but optional. At the time, I was the only person focusing on poetry and the exercises gave a new way of looking at my work in general. But if something did not especially resonate with me, I was free to work on my own project or explore something else. There was a good combination of structure (if I wanted it) and freedom to do what I felt drawn to.
The group dynamic was always supportive. At first I was afraid, having been through a ton of writing ‘workshops,’ that the feedback would not be rigorous enough. But the atmosphere is such that people can feel comfortable bringing very new and unedited work. And getting feedback that focused on the positive does allow a writer to see where the energy is in a given piece and what direction to go in.
2. How was the retreat center and what are some of your fondest memories of the place?
Bali Mountain Retreat was great. the staff was awesome and the owner was really invested in us having a great experience there. They were incredibly sweet and accomodating. It is probably the most beautiful place I have been in- it was lush and green and had tons of little places to hide out and write (although taking my cafe culture with me from SF, I did tend to stay in the restaurant). My room was cleaned every day. And let me say (just because since I came back, people have asked me this question fairly often) there were not a lot of insects… besdies the ants. the food was great. The massages were great. I felt at home there.
3. What sort of work did you accomplish?
I went there with a chapbook project in mind. I probably shared the least in group than anyone else. Because I was writing poetry, my process is a lot less linear so I spent a lot of time writing material rather than writing poems. But I wrote more than enough to complete my project, which I have been working on at home. If nothing else, the retreat gives you a ton of time to write. Along with some readings I had done before going on the retreat, it helped me get through the mental and emotional barriers to me producing also, since I have been back I have done a pretty good job of meditating and doing breathing exercises everyday and writing most days. I was happy to do that type of yoga I already practice and found myself newly commited to be more consistent at home (although that is still a work in progess).
4. What is one of your favorite memories overall?
Towards the end of the retreat, we had become more comfortable with each other and were able to joke during groups and meals- there was a lot of laughter. In general, it was great to have the time to just write. There was little else I HAD to do there, which is very different from my life back home. I also took advantage of all the day trips and walking tours because I had never been to Asia and wanted to look around. The people who acted as our guides and drivers were patient and knowledeable. I Iiked getting a wider view of Bali, especially since the retreat center is in the mountains. And did I mention the food?
5. What would you say to someone who is considering attending a retreat with us in Bali?
I would say that if you are going there to work on something specific, then bring it with you, and if not, then you will have ample opportunity to try new writing techniques. Either way, you will have the opportunity to go in whatever direction you want and Stephen and Jade are there to help you through whatever comes up for you. They are both gentle and generous people with whom I always felt safe. As long as you can get yourself there, they really do take care of everything. I feel a little spoiled by their attention (to our writing and to our day-to-day life there) and I also know that it enabled me to focus on my writing.
Traveling to Italy for this retreat at Casa Della Pace felt like such a leap of faith to me. I was stepping from the know to the unknown, from what I knew about myself and my abilities as a writer and as a woman traveling on my own to what I hoped to discover. Arriving here, I stepped into a house of peace, sheltered by the leaves of these mountains, the songs of birds, the sounds of life, from the call of the coo coo to the dull clear bell ringing at the pace of a burrough’s wonderings. I was welcomed by my lovely hosts, Stephen and Jade, who are wonderful teachers, friends, and artists of life.
I am so grateful for stepping into the peace of this time, where time does not seem to exist in the ordinary way, it feels like a year in the layers of meaning and the depth of understanding that transpires in our pranayama breathwork, in words between new friends on the path or at critiques on craft talks, at one on one sessions with Stephen or jade, in my own communion with the mountains and the breezes.
I learned that writing and life are processes that can be practiced with an open heart. I give myself space to be completely productive or completely relaxed as I move forward with my creative projects. I allow myself the full expression of my being and my potential.
In the same way that Stephen talked about stretching a piece of writing to expand the sense of it, I feel that coming here, I have stretched my self of myself to a much broader and more encompassing existence.
There are many beautiful places in the world. There are many inspiring people in the world too. Nothing unusual about that. But, What the Wellness and Writing Immersion Retreat in Casa Della Pace with Stephen and Jade Webber has to offer is a unique combination of divine scenery with inspiring people. There is freedom to breathe this ancient landscape, interpreting it for yourself as you go along. If you feel lost, there is structure in the day with optional writing exercises. If you feel a bit winded from the circuitous ramblings of your mind, there is yoga to energize you. The clock doesn’t tick here. A cuckoo hidden in the trees will gently remind you of time, a time, your time. People speak softly so you can hear the crunch of lettuce in your ears as you chew and feel the nutrition of the food spreading through you. You can roam in the fresh midnight air, guided by the stars above. And then, when you are ready, you can slowly drift back into your soul, swaying in a hammock between the trees. The “RE” of this retreat is for reality, rediscovery, reinvention with in a physical setting, through the mental work., on a spiritual quest. The “TREAT” part is that you learn to hold onto that in your heart, body and soul when it’s time to head back home. Thank you Stephen and Jade. In love and light:
Munize Manzur (Bangladesh)
Stephen: You have pushed me, in love, to places beyond my comfort zone. In some of those places I’ve found darkness and sadness, in some happiness, and in some, a void of reticent ability. In all however, I’ve found growth and wonder. It’s clear that you have the gift of teaching. That you use that gift in these beautiful settings combined with yoga, art, and retrospectiveness is so much more beneficial than a classroom. Thank you for being strong and pushing toward this dream. Thank you for allowing me to join in on this group. Thank you for teaching me that I can be so much more. This has been a life-changing experience!
The Spannocchia retreat was simply amazing. As a writer, I enjoyed the time to write and just let myself be creative without looking for a particular end result. I enjoyed the writing exercises because I generated many, many ideas and they were fun! They way the day is planned, having yoga in the morning, readings after breakfast and lunch and critiques after dinner kept me motivated to write throughout the day. I became excited about the writing process again. I learned little tricks and exercises that can keep me motivated and beat my worst enemy: writer’s block. I tend to give up on certain writing projects when that happens. But, what I enjoyed the most was the diversity of the group; people from all ages, backgrounds, interests and writing experience. Jade and Stephen create such a positive atmosphere when it comes to the group dynamic and critique, which makes everyone feel comfortable. Every one was very helpful and constructive, and listening to their work was inspiring. Having such a beautiful scenery, great food and wine doesn’t hurt the creative process either!
I wrote more in the two weeks at Spannocchia than I did in my first year of my MFA.
I will carry the feeling and distance from other aspects of life that I felt when writing at Spannocchia. Also, people and places near or at Spannocchia are in many of my working poems.
Before my trip to Europe, I had a hard time getting started if I wasn’t completely inspired to write a poem. Mia, a member of our retreat, said, “The hardest part is showing up.” I showed up every day at Spannocchia and hope to continue this trend.
I took home 12 new friends, a much stronger work ethic, several journaling prompts and ideas for how to keep going if I reach a mental block and a new life goal (&).
Stephen’s discussion questions along with the exercises and examples in his book were great to turn to when I reached a block in one of my own projects. Also, when I started a writing marathon or a spurt of writing with one of his exercises, I found that my writing would wander or end up in a very creative and fun place.
I very much enjoyed yoga each morning with the group and our community lunches and dinners. My favorite moments were our after-dinner critiques and the marathons. It was so encouraging to be surrounded by a community of writers and so engaging and fun to have deep and animated discussion about writing, an act we all love.
The writing exercises brought ideas and memories out of me that had been hidden or buried for years. When answering a question about goals, three pages later I found myself forgiving myself for something I’d done in the past or I’d find myself writing poems about inanimate objects that love each other. The prompts and exercises gave me no excuse to stop and encouraged me to keep moving forward with my writing.
I loved the idea of being completely productive or completely relaxed. I have really tried to carry this over to my life in California. Instead of sitting on the computer in my off-time, I am reading more, checking out books of poems at the library or going on runs with my best friend.
Stephen and Jade are like two trees whose shade shields those in the retreat from distractions or worries. They open their limbs to everyone and let people climb along their trunks of wisdom. They teach all to root ourselves in enriching soil so that we will grow taller and stronger.
The retreat will be some of the most productive time for anyone in a creative process. One feels removed from daily distractions and worries but completely connected and involved with a group of supportive and interesting people.
In a heart beat I would come again. I am a writer and my time at Spannocchia was the most productive time I’ve ever spent at my craft.
Rilke once said that to be integrated with our solitude into a state that can be shared brings us deep fulfillment. The days spent writing in the gardens of Spannocchia amidst the silent company of others surely verifies this fulfillment. To be alone together in the presence of other dedicated writers offers a piece of utopia; if only everyday we could arise to engage what we love most in such a context.
Spannocchia provides an almost numinous holding space in which one’s imagination and the mysterious history of the place conjoin in a playful, energetic dialogue of their own making. There, the ancient stonewalls, fig trees, and portraits in the library halls begin to speak to you in prose poetry. The sleeping cats remind you to be either completely relaxed in the warmth of the country sun or the Olivetti typewriter inspires you to be completely productive, working through the rigorous last peak of another writing marathon.
Time spent at Spannocchia might be what I call a “textous” experience, one in which sensuous detail elicits text and the two weave together in unexpected, often delightful, ways.
We come on retreat not to escape from something in our lives, but rather to fully return to that which we hold most essential, that which, in the flurry of our regular days, we may have fallen asleep to. By reengaging the act of seeing, we meet once again our own deep capacity for perception, the true tool of any writer. Morning conversations and evocative exercises request a return to this intimacy with the world of things and our relationship to them. And suddenly, that rusty old water pump within gushes forth with new creative material.
But most importantly, Stephen and Jade, through the generosity of their natural gifts and presence embody why we are called to do this work: because it reignites our curiosity and gratitude, the very reasons it is worth living a creative life. By following our own self-generated questions we take the path that leads to most joy.
Thank you, Stephen and Jade, for helping me once again to return to this source.
There are moments in life when the universe conspires to bring everything together to create the kind of experience that is timeless. The Wellness and Writing Retreat created by Stephen and Jade was one of those instances. They have captured the essence of truly great things in life — yoga, creative writing, wholesome food, good conversations, stunning scenery, and a supportive community.
The retreat was both rejuvenating and productive. Starting and ending the days with yoga brought forth a new level of openness. Nestled in between these sessions were carefully crafted writing exercises focused on personal goals as well as creative immersion into poetry, prose, and whatever each writer was inspired to create.
Jade is nurturing and goes beyond the classes to help you individually with your yoga practice. She is gifted with a soothing voice and tremendous skill as a yoga teacher, and honors the authentic wisdom of an ancient practice as she makes it accessible to students of all levels. Her talent as a painter is truly wonderful and her painting workshops allow you to create your own paintings of the scenic landscape. You’ll find yourself noticing everything around you through new eyes.
Stephen is wise beyond his years. As a writing teacher and motivational coach he brings a strength and serenity to the process that is steeped in years of study from well-known experts in personal development and writing. He imparts this knowledge and his own insights in a modest, grounded way allowing you the space to be introspective, authentic, and true to yourself.
It may have been coincidence, but I believe it to be reflective of Stephen and Jade’s ability to select an inspired group of participants; our retreat became an instant family of support, shared laughter, and unforgettable memories.
If you are considering Stephen and Jade’s retreats, I would highly recommend them. Read their website, sign up for their newsletter, and when you find yourself visiting their website often, being drawn to the testimonials and retreat descriptions and imagining yourself at a retreat, take a leap of faith and apply. It may be the best present you give yourself!
My dearest memories of the retreat are all my memories, but if I had to choose a few, they would include the first day when we all arrived and we came together in the main room so easily, and the conversations were so generous and envigorating. It was as if we’d all been needing this, and we were so relieved to finally have it, and each other. Anu’s singing was a special highlight to me, and Rosemary’s piano and singing. The group was so varied and talented – and willing to share.
Ebbio as a setting was so full of character, and just the right balance of comfort and rusticity to be relaxing and at the same time close to nature. The landscape holds such inevitable pleasure, and the atmosphere encouraged the appreciation of it. Jade’s and my painting session, between two rainstorms, is my favorite memory. I hadn’t planned to paint, and her encouragement and attention brought out a visual experience of the retreat I know, now, was completely necessary.
I appreciated her allowing me an extra session to finish my piece, and on a personal level, really felt as if my interest and enjoyment of it, and her willingness to cultivated that, made for a really peaceful and delightful new experience of painting, and a special connection between the two of us — when I turned around, I saw she’d painted my portrait.
Stephen was so gifted at bringing us in to focus on the larger purpose of our choice to write and our practice of writing. For me, the writing advice he gave me was the extra nudge I needed to really feel confident in my ideas, to hone in on them and trust their interplay and organic development as a valuable and interesting process. He offered ongoing support after the retreat, recommended reading, suggestions and other guidance in addition to the focus and encouragement. I felt the retreat exercises brought me to the exact place I needed to be in my writing. They opened and emptied me, so I could let the freshness and clarity into my work and let go of the self-criticism and doubt. In particular, the writing exercise in which we wrote from the perspective of already having achieved our most important goals had a huge impact on my writing and on me personally. Clearing away obstacles that were keeping me from what I know I want to do, the exercise brought me closer to the pleasure of achievement, so I could take ownership of it and go home intent on not losing it. The yoga, and especially the breathwork, were, like the painting, a necessary and important part of the retreat experience and my writing process. Clarity, emptiness and stillness were essential to the writing work I was doing, and Jade’s insights and instruction brought them to me continually. The extra work Jade did with me that was tailored to my body’s needs gave me practices and learning to take home with me over and beyond the daily classes. The yoga was gentle and restorative, while still being challenging and transformative. It was just like everything at the retreat, and like the retreat organizers themselves–gentle and restorative, challenging and transformative. I am changed forever by this experience, and I would encourage anyone considering the retreat to allow themselves the same gift.
This is one of the most unique experiences that I’ve ever been through. The gifts that emerge are countless. If writing is your practice, you will grow from within with the experience and take your writing to a deeper level. If yoga is your practice, you will be enlightened by the daily practice and the spiritual discussion that goes with it. You will be amazed at the bonding that goes on the community forms. You will leave with a stronger sense of your craft and a greater sense of awareness. You will go home with a new group of friends and tools that will go on well past the experience.
I will cherish the memory!!
–Jen Grisanti, Story/Career Consultant, Author
2012 New Year’s Wellness and Writing Immersion Retreat in Tulum Participant
Read Jen’s Huffington Post article about her retreat experience
Stephen and Jade do not merely offer excellent instruction in writing, yoga and painting, they give gentle lessons on how to live, how to create your own authentic life, how to befriend obstacles and stretch your mind, body and spirit in ways that celebrate you and the divine within you. In love with one another and with the path of service, nurturing, wellness and creativity they have chosen, Jade and Stephen create an environment in which retreat participants are able to learn much about life, love, passion, joy and release if they are open to it.
These two are a remarkable pair. And what they have to give in their particular beauty and individuality is impossible to duplicate. The intention and authenticity with which they move through the world is a marvelous example of lives intentionally and joyfully lived for those in their orbit.
Participants will generate new work and practice yoga daily on these retreats. They will also come away with a greater sense of their own unique gifts and be challenged to consider their life experiences — and the possibilities of the lives they are moving toward — in new and liberating ways.
Jade massages your body, spirit and soul, Stephen, ever-focused, ever-encouraging, ever-
offering, helps you connect with yourself on the deepest levels imaginable, all in the service of unlocking the beauty and potential already living inside of you.
Give yourself the gift of of a retreat with these marvelous souls. You will not regret it.
I recently completed my second retreat with Stephen and Jade. In the summer of 2011 I went to the Spannocchia retreat in Italy. I spent the 2012 New Year’s in Tulum, Mexico at that retreat. Each one was wonderful and unique in their own way. My writing got gooder and gooder. That is a grammar joke. Actually, my writing flowed and has never been better. The support one receives allows an unending creative growth. The yoga and writing and spirituality all combine to create a positiveness I had not known existed. And, on a physical level, I have never tasted such fantastic foods, both in Italy and Mexico. The scenery and surrounding beauty will thankfully remain with me forever. I definitely recommend Stephen and Jade’s retreats. I shall be returning, and hopefully I will see you there.
Now that I’m back in the Yukon I keep forgetting to wear my hat. It is
more than the bizarre reality of summer one day (in Tulum) and winter the
next. It is that my heart longs for the reality it knew on the retreat led
by Jade and Stephen.
The magic began with the incredible food, eco-friendly resort, and beauty
of the ocean and stars. The yoga sessions were like none I had experienced
and I loved how they were designed to connect me to my inner guide.
The most power effect came from the atmosphere created by Stephen and Jade
of love and creativity. All the participants responded and I lived for a
week barefoot in a world filled with little kindnesses and positive
reflections, and such soulfully beautiful people.
I have seen what is possible and now seek to push back bits of my
fear-based world to make space for it always. This was a really wonderful retreat.
Author of The Virgin’s Promise
The program was fantastic. Stephen and Jade created a great atmosphere and I wrote more than I had in the last four years. I loved the writing marathons and evening reading sessions. I felt free and uninhibited to read my writing to the group and I appreciated their positive listening. The food was excellent. The excursions were also lots of fun. The yoga was very spiritual, meditative and connected with nature. I left feeling reconnected to myself, my writing, my new friends and spirituality. -Joanna
I arrived in Italy with a suitcase full of adjectives that I used to describe myself, “writer” being only one of them. As I settled into the workshop routine at Casa della Pace, the labels quickly disappeared. The mornings were not about organizing the day or making a mental “to do” list. Mornings on the Umbrian hillside were about listening to the sound of birds, the sound of Jade’s calm voice at yoga, and the sound of my breath. In the stillness of the morning, my voice awoke, and my desire to write was renewed. With Stephen’s guidance, we considered writing, ours and others, with a new sense of meaning and wonderment. The writing marathons forced me to go deeper. I was blessed to share the experience with a group of talented and generous writers. I left Italy with a new relationship to myself as a writer and a new awareness that the adjective “grateful” is enough.
The retreat was a wonderful experience. Having that much uninterrupted time to do nothing but create was a real lesson to me – we only need to give ourselves space, and time, and the creativity will happen. I came back home with a newer, deeper resolve to spend my free time doing all the things that matter.
Thanks, again, Stephen — and Jade –, for all your efforts and hard work. I would love to come back some time and do another retreat.
Meanwhile, I’m continuing to take a holistic approach: healthy eating, exercise and meditation, followed by creative work. It seems to be the right recipe.
CHERISHING THE MOMENTS. AN IMMERSION INTO WRITING, BLISS, AND THE ARTFUL LIFE. On June 24, 2011, a Friday, I arrived at the estate of Spannocchia, seeking time and space to write my MORNING SUN in a beautiful, supportive setting.
I stepped inside with a group of ten writers I had never met, stepping into the light of the Tuscan sun. I hummed with the birds singing their songs from morning to night, took flight with the orange and yellow butterflies. I drew in the scent of fresh herbs and flowers meandering in the air. I touched the sun.
Danced in the delight of inspiration all around.
And when we strolled through the Secret Garden, I dipped my hands into the leaves, tipped my face to the skies and said, “This is happiness.”
This was bliss, carrying me around the grounds of Spannocchia.
Magic continued to unfold when we came together, a circle of eleven writers and two teachers from California, Canada, Dubai, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, and Oklahoma. Together in the kitchen, in the living room, in the library, on the terrace drinking, out on the lawn, and in the gardens. Something special was stirring during our two-week stay.
We cooked, ate, shared our dreams (quieting our fears), read and wrote our stories and poems, played storytelling-drawing games. We laughed and cried, the sound of joy and hope deep in our souls, going beyond the rolling hills of Tuscany and into the heart of our lives.
When the hour came for us to leave, we embraced one another and rose with the sun.I
The environment that Stephen and Jade created at Casa della Pace was fairytale- like. It was if one was walking in a waking dream, waking every morning to the streaming sunlight, elongating yoga poses, and freshly brewed coffee. The retreat not only helped me to become a better writer, but a better person. I learned so much about myself as well as the direction I want my life to head. Stephen and Jade may be the most beautiful people I have ever seen. The genuine kindness that they share, trickles to others and helped me to see the beauty in mistakes and the beauty of a somewhat chaotic world. They are true examples of the cliche “anything is possible.” They created a life that to many seems unrealisitc, yet somehow, they experience everyday. The proof of their happiness and simplistic style of living, made me strive to discover what I wanted from nature and from myself. The retreat was not only a way to become a better writer, but a way to discover who I want to become, using the tools of the lovely book of exercises and poems that Stephen compiled.
I liked eating hot dogs and smoking cigarettes and running around my Los Angeles-paced life complaining about how I can’t find time to write and worrying about my herniated disc destroying my yoga practice and making me an invalid. Two weeks in the gorgeous Umbrian hinterlands, and I kicked my 17-year nicotine habit, I got 15 rough chapters of my book written (could’ve done more if I didn’t catch a bug on my weekend trip to buy leather goods in Florence), I was walking almost pain free, and I’m committed to eating more fruits and nuts. If you want your head rearranged by the positivity of the people (Stephen, Jade, Santi, the staff, and all the other participants) and the sheer serenity of the place, come do this. It’s so amazing and magical that re-entry into real life might get a little rough, but that’s just an indication that you’re bringing home a better, more determined, more centered you.
My dearest memory from the Tuscany retreat was the collaborative Queneau Journal because my simple story told and written from someplace simple and real was followed up beautifully by Anu, another retreat member and I realized how powerful collaborative art is.
Every dinner, lunch, group meeting, when we first arrived, first met, yoga, painting — these are my fondest memories of the group. Jade and Stephen are extraordinary.
The most enlivening writing exercise for me had to do with Joseph Campbell’s models for living. I loved the conversation on David Deida– excellent for life and writing.
When I asked Stephen’s opinion of my work it helped reaffirm my belief in original work and the maintenance & preservation of its integrity.
I regret not waking up for every morning yoga class because the conversations and lessons on breath inspired a story where friends are air personified.
I loved painting — I will take that back home and explore and experiment with painting for my children. Jade’s painting taught me that I believe in structure, which is good to know. I’m not much of a rebel after all!
Critiques of my personal project were structured, far from hard to hear, inspired me to work more and get it done, helped with organization and vision.
I will definitely take art and painting back. It helps relax, enjoy and go places that may have been previously intimidating. Art, for me, was exploration.
I believe I changed in the months preparing for the retreat. I don’t feel like I have to prove anything, I don’t want to be the center of attention, the star of the show. I just want to continue living peacefully, embrace abundance for self, love for self, more — or as importantly — love for others.
To those considering coming on a Wellness Immersion retreat I would say don’t think about how you’ll get here, don’t think about whether you can “do this right now.” I would say seize the opportunity, if there is any way you can, and carry it with you until your spirit, art, and destiny ask for more.
Stephen encouraged writing using a variety of exercises. The marathon stood out as memorable because of my fear of not possibly having enough ideas and words to write to fill the time. Memorable because distractions appeared as decisions to categorize and address them intertwined with the lesson. The focus on writing about happiness and goals added some ease and some surprises.
Jade’s yoga lesson allowed my breath to flow like water, to connect the moon with the sun, to release the knot. The exercises that exposed a need for balance reminded me to rely on others to support that balance. Then, of course, there’s the concept of witnessing. Pay close attention as Jade talks about the witness during yoga.
Jade and Stephen are incredibly kind, receptive and calm teachers. Just looking at them makes me feel relaxed–their energy is positive, good and zen. I think every single person in the world could benefit from a retreat like this (specifically, theirs) because it provides a centering and necessary exploration of one’s psyche while communing with nature, listening and practicing Stephen’s wisdom, and doing Jade’s centering and enlivening yoga. This is a great way to take care of one’s soul. I am so so glad to have done this – I had no idea what to expect (first experience with a retreat) and I can truly say (even if cliche) that it was life-changing.
It helps me to focus my priorities, remove writer’s block (helps to be away from all the distractions of everyday life) and provide much needed clarity to the writing and to life. I was able to write a piece that I’d been unable (or too lazy) to write in the busyness of home and I have experienced more “flow” here than I have at home.
I initially was nervous about the group readings and critiques but it helped build confidence that others were writing in a similar style and the frustrations were common to everyone. It really removed a block that had made me afraid to write (since it has been so long since writing creatively) and the pressure that the words must come together perfect.
I came here wanting this experience to serve as a catalyst to write seriously as a profession and it certainly opened up that portal of opportunity.
I have gained a sense of serenity, peace, and balance that was definitely slipping and feel bad for those that do not have this experience!
The women also on the retreat were incredibly supportive, positive, hilarious and talented. I felt so lucky to be around such like-minded and warm people–it was a great change. It’s a supportive feeling to be around other aspiring, deep and such creative and talented ladies.
Thank you Stephen and Jade – you guys are a gift!
What a remarkable experience the Writing Immersion retreat in Tuscany has been for me. For one week I entered into a truly unique experience that far surpassed what I was looking for and wanting. Stephen and Jade Webber do an outstanding job in combining breath work, yoga, writing and painting techniques and one-on-one teaching to create an environment that inspires the spirit, strengthens the body and challenges the mind toward creative development.
I liked having a smaller retreat group (12-13 people) and the screening process that is done beforehand. Stephen and Jade prepare the participants beforehand with information that brings a camaraderie and cohesiveness to the group that makes one feel comfortable, relaxed and prepared.
Some of the things I enjoyed the most was the daily morning breathwork and yoga, the marathon writing day, the nature walks and writing, the daily gathering in the spirit circle to share and discuss and the opportunity to learn to paint.
I plan to attend another retreat given by Jade and Stephen next year and stay in contact with them through the newsletter and writer’s discussion group that Stephen offers well after the retreat is over.
This is a state of the art retreat, professionally posed and postured for anyone that wants to expand their creative arena.
–Jeanne, 2011 Tuscany Wellness and Writing Immersion Retreat
I was hesitant at first in applying to go on this retreat as I’m not a writer, but was attracted by the yoga and wellness emphasis and was delighted when I was accepted. I didn’t feel out of place with all the other writers as the way Stephen presents the material made it easy for me to be part of the group. I found I could write and with Jade’s gentle coaxing, I can even paint! I highly recommend this retreat to anyone who wants to take time out to discover their potential.
When I read about the Writing Immersion in Tuscany, my first response was that the program as described appeared to come from my dreams, to turn them into a tangible reality. I would be traveling with one of my favorite people (her daughter was also a participant) and doing almost all of my favorite things: immersing myself in writing and drawing, partaking in fabulous food and wine, hiking and having adventures at my fingertips. To top it off, this would all take place in a sustainable environment in the region I chose to visit for my first trip to Europe five years ago, and to which I had longed to return.
And the tangible reality turned out to be exactly that. I was not disappointed on any counts. My experiences exceeded my hopes. Stephen put together and led a group of 12 individuals with greatly varied writing styles and experience on a 3-week adventure that was challenging, supportive, encouraging, and constantly rewarding.
It was as remarkable to watch myself write as it was to watch how the group cohered under his leadership during the time we lived in that amazing environment.
I am so glad that I followed this dream. It was a fabulous experience. I am grateful that I was able to share that time with these two gifted and caring people.
Writing at Spannocchia was everything I’d hoped for and more—a serene and naturally beautiful environment and a supportive and congenial group of peers. The non-competitive, motivating structure of the retreat felt just right—a balance of solitary writing, one-on-one conversation, and group critique that empowered me to meet my writing goals and surpass them. I was exhilarated when one of the daily writing prompts introduced me to Jean Follain’s prose poems and opened up this author as a model for my own writing about my father’s childhood in small- town Illinois during the previous century. This breakthrough was the unexpected gift of a marvelous 3-week immersion in the writing process.
The question of what I enjoyed most about the retreat is a very difficult question to answer because I enjoyed almost everything–the bocce ball and the marathons, the night painting and the dinner conversations, wine on the terrace and the reading for the community, the solitary writing in the living room and the hike to the castle. I guess it boils down to balance–the fact that there was such a rich variety of activities and that they all complemented one another and contributed to a harmonious whole. Oh, and I also appreciated the non-judgmental, non-coercive nature of the experience: the fact that all activities were optional.
I hope to go to the Writing Immersion retreat again, and again the next year, and the next. Living at Spannocchia for three weeks, having only my writing to focus on, I learned that such seclusion and beauty can make you capable of moving into new regions of creativity.
First and foremost I consider myself a fiction writer. Besides producing hundreds of pages toward stories and a novel (between fifty- and sixty- thousand words), I began to do something I never thought I was able to do. I began to write philosophically. Philosophy is not everyone’s thing, but I also dabbled in other new areas. Poetry has always been a litte intimidating, but I was able to produce some really exciting pieces. I believe it was because I was in a terrific environment, in a beautiful country, with nothing to be concerned with but writing, and occasionally my overall wellness, too.
Also, I believe that my fellow writers contributed to my wonderful experience during the Writing Immersion retreat. Stephen did a simply excellent job choosing applicants. Everyone was dedicated, and no one ever got in the way of anyone else.
Though I most valued my time at Spannocchia for the work I was able to get done, I also want to let you know that I enjoyed weekend travel. Rome is only a few hours away by train, and has become one of my three favorite cities in the world. We were also fairly close to Florence, and very near to Siena, both of which I found to be great sources of culture, entertain
ment, and inspiration. I recommend learning Italian to become a part of the Italian way of being. Doing so can also be creatively stimulating in a subtle but profound way, however much you choose to write. You probably get the idea: I did not spend every second writing, though I believe I easily could have. The potential for sightseeing and travel was just present enough without being urged on me.
I strongly recommend the Writing Immersion Retreat. Stephen is a great guy, a good instructor, and a wonderful friend.
Thanks to Stephen and Jade Webber for a great experience in the Writing Immersion Course at Spannocchia. This was the perfect environment
for writing and learning more about myself as an artist and writer.
Spannocchia was absolutely incredible. The Tuscan hills were tranquil and the property provided great hikes for taking a break and stretching my legs between writing jaunts. The food (prepared by an on-site cook and almost exclusively taking from products grown on the farm) was also absolutely incredible.
In three weeks I was able to add another 100 pages to my novel, complete a collection of short shorts, travel to Florence, Siena and Rome on the weekends and also partake in yoga and painting on the farm. The casual evening critiques offered necessary feedback on work that I was just starting and Stephen was also always willing to meet and discuss my progress. It was great to work with a community of writers all pursuing different goals, but often with common challenges. Having the time to work in this environment – so conducive to the artistic experience – was absolutely incredible.
Thank you so much!
If I wanted to sit somewhere and write for sixteen hours I could do that. If I wanted to sit and write for a half an hour I could do that, which opened it up for me to find a new relationship with writing. I started to play with my words and my sentences again, finding things that just made me happy to write. In that process I feel like you begin to become more aware of your surroundings and to look at things differently. You notice the way that beetle-bugs sound when they fly by or the colors of things.
I was able to return to the place where I really like writing. The retreat helped my writing immensely. I came here wanting to be done with six stories and I left with two new collections and notes on a novel.
I went well past what I expected I could do.
Stephen was very open immediately from the first day when he met with each of us. He said, “What do you want? What are your goals?” So we got to set the terms. There were optional exercises but no set parameters, no limitations. I could come to him and say, “Give me a deadline today please.” Or, “I need someone to talk to.” And he was open to that.
I was really impressed because one day I came to him again and again for advice on this story. He was able draw out of me what I wanted from the story without setting any terms for me. He would listen, ask questions and reiterate until it became clear.
What would I say to someone thinking of coming? Definitely come.
I learned a lot about myself through my writing and through being around a group of very different people.
If I were you, I wouldn’t hesitate to come.
Thank you, Jade and Stephen, for your kind and super-supportive words about me and my writing. I can only say that being around you two was a real joy for me and that whenever I am seen and appreciated the way I was at the retreat it frees me to express the very best parts of myself. There was so much love and acceptance emanating from Jade and Stephen that anything seemed possible during those two weeks in Umbria. And, it was so much fun! Even though we did a lot of serious and useful work, we also spent a lot of time laughing, and everyone knows there is nothing better for healing than humor. Jade, you have the most delightful and infectious laugh! The group was amazing–I don’t know how you did it, but it felt like everyone was chosen to complement everyone else. For those two weeks in Umbria we all belonged together–and I know the friendships begun there will continue. For me personally,the goal writing and creative exercises helped me to find my writing voice again; it had been buried for a few years and now I’ve got it back. That is one of the greatest gifts I took home with me from the retreat. Thank you, Stephen. And Jade for the painting and yoga, which were equally crucial for my development..
Thank you Stephen and Jade for providing an invaluable and extraordinary experience…for your thoughtfulness, consideration, for the poetry, for the place, and for who you are, for the serenity of your souls–it was an exceptional experience and I’m so happy to know you and to be here.
Jade and Stephen lead retreats with exquisite serenity,consideration and intelligent planning. The experience informed, transformed and inspired immense shifts in both the inner and outer realms of my existence. Jade’s breathwork opened up the body and channels for Stephen’s writing exercises, coherently inviting the soul on its authentic journey here. I appreciate their candid insights and encouragement and the follow up intention for goals dreamed and defined in the peaceful space of Umbria. The extravagant birdsong and wind in the trees, the fireflies in the starlight, the happy laughter and sharing,all wonderful memories. Grazie mille.
Ok, now, I want to emphasize that this retreat at Casa della Pace conducted by Jade and Stephen has really opened my eyes to several things I would not have ever thought of.
For instance, the Gratitude Walk.This was such an amazing concept, and it was done so well by Stephen, and after I got back home and saw something that I had seen back there on the gratitude walk, it brought tears of love and gratitude to my eyes instantaneously…I can’t thank you enough for it…:)
Stephen and Jade really did give it their all for the few days we spent together!
They both were able to bring together a diverse group of people from across the globe, and fit them all together so well, engaging us all in activities that involved a lot of sharing and participation and bringing in personal feelings of empathy and sympathy and love for each other…
Congratulations for a job well done!!! Jade and Stephen, if you both were not the people you are, this retreat would not have been as great a success as it was.
It was an amazing experience and maybe I’ll never get it again? I hope I do!
I sit down and now I look at my journal, and now I see growth. I think that’s the big picture, that’s what’s important. I thank Jade and Stephen and everyone here who helped me to get there—one big family of friends and people I’ll never forget.
Why I love Stephen and Jade Webber’s Writing and Wellness Retreat in Italy –
Let me count the reasons:
I love the helpful guidance on writing poems and examples given.
I appreciate the materials he brought on different authors presenting a variety of writing illustrations.
I love the special attention he gave each student–one on one.
I love the caring way he guides us in setting our goals.
I love the way he instills confidence to read our poems and stories in the group and gives us constructive suggestions.
I love the Yoga along with the breath work taught by Jade.
I love the way she pushes us to our limits to be stronger in mind and body.
I love her passion for art and instructing those who are interested.
I love the way they allow you to choose the activities you wish to participate in.
I love the beautiful setting at Casa Della Pace and the free time to explore.
I love the fresh clean air, the abundance of butterflies, the fragrant extraordinary wildflowers, the many nightly fireflies,and some bonfires.
I love the delicious fresh organic meals prepared with love by Santi.
I love meeting and befriending the other retreat participants sharing laughter, writings, our walks of gratitude, our hearts, and our support for each other.
I love the caring compassionate guidance in writing, art and health of Stephen and Jade.
I would highly recommend this life changing event to anyone.
I am sooo GRATEFUL it happened for me!!!!
If you are thinking of coming on a retreat with Jade and Stephen, I would just say to you: Do it.
It’s been a fabulous experience for me. . .Really we joke that they are mythological creatures come down to help us all live our purpose and share our gifts with the world. And they have shared theirs so generously and so lovingly and so supportively. I would encourage anyone to do this.