On May 17, eleven talented and hard-working women executives, alumnae of Smith College Executive education, joined Dr. Tieroana Low Dog, renowned herbalist, physician, educator, and women’s health sage, for three days of self-care in Santa Fe, New Mexico at the Smith College Executive Education Women’s Health and Spa Retreat. We came together as separate women each with a host of responsibilities, challenges, and aspirations. By the end of the first evening we were a cohort, a tribe, with knowledge of and compassion for our sisters. How could this happen so fast? A simple ball of yarn…
Dr. Low Dog explained that she opens every retreat with this exercise: she wrapped the yarn around her wrist and shared her feelings and hopes for our three-day retreat and for each of us. She then threw the yarn to another member of the circle who did the same. By the time everyone had spoken we each had yarn around our wrist, a sense of the amazingly diverse women around us, and a web of connection that criss-crossed the space between us, erasing our singularity and binding us in a matrix of support.
Dr. Low Dog led the cohort through an intense curriculum focused on mind, body and spirit. Principles of meditation and breathing blended seamlessly with the latest information on women’s health. Yoga, spa treatments, healthful food and a field trip to a wholistic pharmacy rounded out the program. And, as in every Smith Executive Education program, the women’s stories, the connections and compassion they shared, deepened every lesson. Whether looking for better health and fitness, a more balanced approach to the demands of work and family, or ways to care for herself, the women discovered strategies and support for their journey. From the opening circle, using a ball of yarn that created a visible web of connection between the women, to the closing circle, replete with tears and embraces, the retreat provided every participant with tools for self-reflection, stress reduction, and health enhancement. Mindfulness, reflection, breath work, physical exercise, methods to maintain a support network, herbal supplements – the group embraced and explored them all during the program.
This is the power of the women’s networks that spring from every Smith College Executive Education program. The learning and laughing we did during the retreat was deepened and enhanced by this web of connection, symbolized so eloquently by the band of yarn we each wore. On the final day we left knowing that the tribe is there for us, no matter the challenge or the aspiration.