On the final day of our wellness retreat, our group paused, in the middle of the woods, to close our eyes and howl at the sky.
You could say that shit has gotten weird, and you would be right. But this is not a story about that. This is a story about how the two skeptics who run this website gave into the process, found their zen, and learned to liberate their inner wolf (or momentarily let it out on a short leash).
On day one of our wellness retreat weekend with The Quiet Company, we drove the 2.5 hours to Woodfield in Muskoka wondering the things one does about the first day of camp: what will the bunks be like? Will we like our bunkmates? How much junk food can we sneak in without getting caught? How are we going to survive two days without meat? Did we bring enough Michi clothing for a cute photo shoot? Normal summer camp things.
The entrance to Woodfield is along a narrow road, marked only by a small wooden sign. Once we drove past the two giant yurts, we had a good sense that we were in the right place. We settled into our bunk – a large common room complete with cozy couches, a kitchen and a tiny electric fireplace, with four rooms off its sides, each with queen-size bunk beds – and went to meet the crew.
There was Emily Thring, our host and the founder of The Quiet Company, Bryonie Wise who would lead our yoga, journaling, and silent walks, Megan Marie Gates who would lead our sound baths, and the team from The Fix + Co who would be making our meals for the weekend.
Once the rest of the wellness retreat campers arrived, we settled in for the first of many delicious meals by the Fix team before heading down to the yurt for our opening ceremonies. At the center of the yurt was a large buffalo skin which we were encouraged to lie down on at any time and wrap ourselves up inside, burrito style. Black lululemon yoga mats topped with Woodfield-branded meditation cushions made a circle around the outskirts.
Our wellness retreat leaders were positioned on the opposite side of the yurt from the entrance, and it was in front of them that we placed items with important meaning (photos, crystals, etc), to be charged or cleansed, or otherwise imbued with energy from our circle. We contributed a handful of rose quartz crystals from our friends at Happy Soul, enough for each camper to take one home at the close of the weekend.
We lay down for a sound bath then headed out to the fire pit to burn pieces of birch bark to represent feelings we were releasing. A journal was burned. Drums materialized and were played. We worried that perhaps we – two people who packed crystals, journals, and palo santo, and seriously considered bringing our own meditation cushions – were maybe not woo woo enough for this.
Our second day in the yurt included a yoga session and a second sound bath, and later on, a journaling practice, in which we were given a few suggestions of things to write about and time to express our thoughts on paper before being given the opportunity to burn those thoughts in the fire. As two people who mostly write as reporters or lawyers, explosively pouring feelings onto a page was a challenge, but we embraced it, beginning to unselfconsciously fill up the lines, safe in the knowledge that we could instantly burn them.
A mid-weekend check-in on feelings was shared, at which point we learned that your two writers are well, not so great at expressing their feelings in a public setting. “How are you feeling, Eme?” “Um… good.” “And you, Alyssa?” “Errr… quiet?”
While day two passed mostly indoors, on our final day, the rain clouds cleared and we were finally able to take the morning silent walk (a lovely way to start the day and one of our favourite experiences of the weekend), followed by a tour of the expansive property from one of the heads of Woodfield. And this is when the howling happened.
Few things could have prepared us for the spontaneous outcry. At a clearing in the woods, we were given an opportunity to contribute to a forest altar (we shared a log that Eme accidentally broke by tripping over it, and a rock Alyssa found on the road), and then, well, we were told to howl. Our eyes were closed so we couldn’t see who participated and who didn’t but it’s safe to say the two of us were among the few who were still a bit self-conscious and mostly listened.
The walk ended with a race to make it to lunch, and our final meal was followed by a closing circle in the yurt. Feelings were shared and we gave in to expressing a bit more this time, moved by the raw honesty of our fellow campers. As we reflected in silent mediation on our wellness retreat weekend, we felt that while yes, a few things were outside our comfort zone, there’s something deeply freeing about being able to simply, brutally, emote. We found ourselves inspired by the emotion shared around us and the effort by everyone to fully unplug and give in to the experience.
To close, we were once again asked to close our eyes and howl. While we may not have hit wolf-level decibels, this time we threw our heads back and joined the pack.