Beyond Kripalu
October 17, 2012 4:12 PM   Subscribe

What is the best workshop or retreat you’ve experienced?

I’d love creative ideas for life-changing workshops or retreats that would help me develop a new skill or way of looking at the world. Meditation and yoga are frequently recommended for this (and wonderful in their own right), but what else is out there? I’m especially thinking along the lines of something creative (art, dance, theater, etc), but practical is great too.

I’d like it to be relatively structured, but am open to anything that would be friendly to a beginner. It also doesn’t necessarily have to be a workshop – for example, I had an amazing time once on a weekend mushroom foray, where dozens of people were delighted to unofficially show me the ropes. I think my only caveat is that spirituality is not really my thing, though something from an interfaith-oriented perspective might be okay.

I’m particularly interested in anything located in/around the Northeast U.S., but location is not a dealbreaker at all. If you have specific recommendations, all the better - thanks! If it matters, I'm a 30 yo female.
posted by susanvance to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I've taken a lot of dance workshops - usually they re half day or day long sessions covering turn patterns, partnering and ladies styling. You can be a complete beginner with no partner and little experience and still have fun if you enjoy music and movement and connecting with others. It was slowly but surely life changing in that I developed a new group of friends from these workshops and we practiced together at a weekly dance social. I overcame some shyness and anxiety and became a good dancer. If dancing might be your thing, look into workskhops or classes at your local dance studios, salsa, swing, ballroom communities. Look at meetups in your local area as well.

Another thing I did that was creative and slowly transformative was taking two acting classes through the local county.
posted by BlueMartini7 at 6:05 PM on October 17, 2012

Best answer: Jeff Stark's no-nonsense list has a list of classes/workshops (although fewer retreats) the first friday of every month. I've been to a couple of these (especially cooking classes) and they have been awesome.
Of course, this is very very NYC centric.
posted by Lucubrator at 6:24 PM on October 17, 2012

Best answer: I wholeheartedly recommend the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina. I went two years ago as a 31-yr-old woman, and what I liked most about my time there was that while the days were quite structured, I never felt rushed or stressed - it was such a peaceful environment. I'm currently planning my second trip there.

You can take weekend or week-long classes in all sorts of arts/crafts/music, including painting, woodworking, cooking, writing, banjo, glassblowing, etc. I took beginner classes in blacksmithing and basketry, two things I had never tried before. (Some classes are designed for more advanced students, but that is clear in the course description.) The instructors I had were patient, passionate, encouraging, and able to tailor their instruction to the needs and skills of the various students.

On their website you can find samples schedules, which accurately describe the 8 days I spent there. The setting is beautiful (in the mountains), the food is amazing (I still dream about their biscuits), everyone working or attending is genuinely interesting, and you'll get to try things like contra-dancing with the locals. I also stayed in the accommodations they provide, which were shared rooms in houses on campus. I'd say most attendees were retired, coupled, and in their 50s or 60s, but about 20% of the 100 attendees were in their 30s or 40s and attended alone.

The Folk School has a sort of generic Christian vibe, which includes saying/singing grace before meals. It did not bother me at all even though I am very much non-religious, but I thought I'd mention it because of your comment on spirituality.

I can talk about the Folk School forever, my friends will attest, so if you have any questions at all or would like me to share some photos with you, please MeMail me!
posted by girlycamper at 7:29 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Probably the best week of my life so far was spent at Swing Out New Hampshire - a four day, five night swing/lindy dance camp. And when I say camp, I mean it. Group meals cooked by in-house staff, campfire sing alongs, staying in cabins, etc.

The entire atmosphere is super welcoming, especially to beginner dancers. There are classes during the day, and live music every night. And there are also opportunities to swim, or jump in the lake, or what have you. I went this year on a whim, because a friend of mine was going. I was pleasantly surprised by how positive the entire experience was.

It happens every year on Labor Day weekend. If you go, let me know. I'll be there.
posted by lholladay at 9:02 PM on October 17, 2012

Best answer: A silent, kayaking, retreat in Alaska.

Kayaking, eating 100-mile food, remaining silent (23 hours/day), practicing qi-gong, yoga, silent meditation and just *being there* near Petersburg Alaska. Each day we kayaked, distances anywhere from 3 miles to 10. The retreat was a little over a week long - from a Friday to the following Saturday.

So beautiful, peaceful, restorative.
posted by seawallrunner at 10:28 PM on October 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all - great ideas!
posted by susanvance at 10:55 AM on October 19, 2012

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