Michèle's Yoga and Writing Retreat was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. I learned there what it is like to be healthy, to exude vitality from body, heart, mind, and spirit. I came away from my three-day trip just glowing. When I got home, my partner said I looked "radiant."

In addition, the retreat shifted my outlook about community and what it means to truly share yourself with others. The times I laughed that weekend compared with my daily "quota" just amazed me!

I really appreciate the attitude of celebration that Michèle created – the environment and space contributed to a real buoyant feeling in me, which I felt in others as well. We all seemed to take such delight in both our bodies and our minds, and to draw strength and joy from each other. I had never experienced that before, and it made me very glad to contribute.

But most of all, I came away from the retreat feeling like a writer. I felt empowered in my creativity, and my ability to convey what I see and feel to others in an effective way. I delighted in writing and felt strong in it. I have never felt so bold or convinced of my own talent before. This work has done so much for me, and I want to thank Michèle for bringing it into my life.

Kristin Fast
Musician and Student
University of Calgary
Calgary, AB

I won't lie. When I signed up for my first writing workshop with Michèle, it was with a feeling of dread and resignation. At the time I was developing a contemplative art program at Alberta Children's Hospital and was teaching kids how to paint, draw and even knit mindfully. When I heard about Michèle's workshop from a mutual friend, I thought I should take it and learn more given that I was developing something similar for the visual arts. But the last thing I wanted to spend my Sunday doing was writing! I probably spent half of my time at work writing reports, patient notes, and patient education handouts. At the time of the workshop I was also struggling with a book chapter that was late. My co-author and I were receiving pleading letters from the book's editor to send in the chapter, but we were both dragging our feet and the chapter wasn't getting done. Every word that I had to write at the time was painful and all my writing assignments were draining me of energy and making my life a misery.

But instead of sleeping in that Sunday morning, I dragged myself out of bed and made my way to the writing group. As I got closer and closer to my destination, my apprehension grew. What had I done! Everyone there writes fiction and I don't write stories...I write about how to cope with pain or how to get a good night's sleep. I had no talent, hated the writing process with every fiber of my being. I couldn't believe that I was attending a workshop where I was going to have to write in a way that was foreign to me and probably feel pressure to read what I had written to complete strangers! I must have been out of my mind.

The beginning of the workshop is a bit of blur for me because my anxiety was pretty high. We started with some introductions and a breathing meditation. I alternated between focusing on my breath and the running commentary in my head. Then the bell rang, the meditation was over and it was time to write. We received our first prompt and there was no time to edit, criticize or second-guess myself. Without trying, the ideas started to pour out of me. I was shocked! I also looked at what I had just written and I was funny! Who knew?

Must have been a fluke! But then we did the second exercise, and the third and each time I wrote something worthy of reading to the group. I couldn't believe that I actually WANTED to read what I had written out loud! This was turning the entire world as I knew it upside down. Writing is supposed to be something you have to do, not want to do. You are supposed to cringe when you are forced to expose yourself to the judgments of others, not proudly share your work with fellow writers. Was it even possible that writing could be fun? That had never even occurred to me before.

I had another insight that day that surprised me. I had been meditating for some time and when I was at work I would often go to a meeting, come back to my office and meditate for ten minutes, see a patient, meditate, run a group, meditate, write a report, meditate, meditate, meditate. I was constantly doing things that either drained me or that I outright disliked (like the committee meetings), and would have to take ten minutes to ground myself by focusing on my breath. After Michèle showed me that I could write without resistance, I began to see how I was living my life in terms of what I resisted and what I could do with acceptance or even joy! I began to do housework and errands with less stress (okay, sometimes I was just aware of my resistance). However, it became clear to me that there were things in my life that I needed to learn to accept because that was the reality of the situation (e.g., kids cry, dishes get dirty, you get stuck in traffic), and there were some things that I needed to change because they were in conflict with my core values or weren't right for me. I started to move towards people or situations that filled me up and energized me. More importantly, I began to move away from things and people that drained me. If I couldn't find a way to do something without acceptance and non-resistance, I would find a way to stop doing it. Michèle helped me to realize that I could be playful and have fun with my writing and my life. I had always believed so strongly that I simply had to cope with large chunks of my life; it had never occured to me that there might be another way. Through Michèle, I learned that there is a way to move gracefully throughout the most difficult situations, with ease and without resistance. I think she saved my life!

Since that time I've had the opportunity to run several contemplative art and writing workshops myself. Last spring I did some of the writing exercises with a very tough crowd – a group of ten- and eleven-year olds who were doing a spring break art camp with me. We did writing on the morning of the last day and they all groaned when they walked into the room and saw the notepads and pens I had laid out for them. "You're not really going to make us write are you?" I smiled, knowing exactly how they felt and told them not to judge something before they tried it out for themselves. By the end of the session they were laughing and excited, and they wanted to do some of the exercises more than once. When we finished, one of the children said to me that he had no idea that writing could be fun. What a gift!

Thank you so much, Michèle, for making this your life's work and for sharing this approach with so many aspiring writers! I know that I am not the only person who is grateful for the opportunity to learn from you and who has been changed forever by the experience.

Christine Korol, Ph.D.
Calgary, AB

I come to Michèle’s class once a week, and I find that it lifts me both physically and mentally. If I’m feeling down, if I have those negative tapes playing in my head, the class helps me throw off all that mental stuff. My yoga practice helps me to cultivate positivity, strength, and awareness. It also makes me accountable: when I practice regularly, it reminds me how important it is just to keep trying. On the days when I’m tired, when it would be easy just to skip my practice, I know that this class will keep me in the game.

Michèle’s yoga class gets me working. I attend a class where there are a lot of committed students, all engaged in their practice. I now know what it means to be inside my own body and connected to myself. It’s not about the ego pushing beyond where I should go; instead, it’s about being able to settle into my own body, mind, and breath. This practice teaches me a lot. Even if I am not feeling well, I can breathe and be aware of my whole self, body, and mind – for me, that’s a big part of yoga.

I appreciate Michèle’s enthusiasm and dedication to her teaching. She is excited about what she is doing, and this positivity is reflected in the class. It inspires me to be around people who are so dedicated to their practice.

It’s easy to neglect the body in everyday life. I ride my bike and I have a job where I do physical work, but it’s not the same as yoga. For example, I have experienced some anger recently, and yoga has helped me to deal with it. When I get on the mat, there’s a focus and a positivity that happens, that steers me back on course. When I neglect my practice, my body feels dry and crusty – like a lawn chair left out in the sun. Stress dries me up – it’s so easy to become dry and brittle. I might feel it in my back, my spine, my hips… And I don’t even realize how bad I’ve been feeling until I come out of it. I used to just live with the pain, or push it away, but not anymore. Of course I slip up all the time, but yoga always brings me back.

My practice helps me build core strength – it does so many things! I have learned to stabilize my shoulder blades, open my chest, keep my head erect. Michèle’s class is a weekly promise I make to myself: once a week, I will take care of my body. It’s really about self care. There’s an effort involved, to be sure, and it’s absolutely worth it. Even once a week makes a big difference, and it’s do-able. For me, this practice is a great investment in myself. It makes things fresh and juicy again – I no longer feel dry and stressed and tight. It infuses a sense of newness into everything: I don’t have to be stuck in my old patterns. If something is keeping me bogged down, things can change, and there’s a quality of hope in that. This practice brings renewal.

Sarah Christie
Yoga student
Calgary, Alberta

In Michèle’s writing class, I have started to find my own voice. When I was very young, I already had ghosts in my closet. There were things you just didn’t talk about -- so I learned at a very early age not to have a voice. Finding my voice has been so important to me. It’s about finding the truth – and being able to let go of the literal truth, too. That makes the writing truly creative.

At first, there were things I didn’t want to write about – like loss, the loss of my mother, for instance. But in our writing group, I’ve found that others have experienced that too. So then it feels more comfortable – I can write about things that matter to me.

The energy I get from our time together keeps me coming to the class. I take that energy with me throughout the day, and it affects my whole week. I wrote a manuscript this week, and I was so excited about going to the computer to write it! I was looking forward to expanding my writing, and that’s a new feeling for me.

It used to be that I couldn’t see the connections between different pieces I had written, but now I can start to weave them together into longer stories. I’m really inspired by other members of our group: when I hear their stories, I know I can do it too. I’m much more appreciative of the writings of others now.

My writing has had a positive effect on my family too. My daughters are reading more now – not just watching TV – and that’s wonderful to see. The reading is not something I had as a child – the TV was turned on the minute we walked in the door, and we read newspapers, but not books. So I’m so happy when my daughter comes home, for example, and tells me about all she’s reading, about how she reads so much more than her friends do.

Michèle’s class truly has been an enriching experience.

Carol Miller
Writer and mother
Calgary, Alberta

My life before yoga feels like a time when I didn't feel good about myself: I can hardly remember it, since I feel so much better now. I used to tuck the difficult things away inside me, and although I carried on the best I could, I felt like I had lost myself in the process. I've now been practicing yoga for twelve years, and it has made such a difference in my life. I've also enjoyed writing for as long as I can remember – not that I thought I was talented or gifted; I just loved creating stories.

Both the yoga and the writing have been so important to my evolution as a human being – and for me, these practices go hand in hand. I feel like I know who I am, and my life has a definite purpose. Whether I'm getting up in the morning or driving my kids to school, through all the distractions of life, these practices help me to be present and to stay focused.

I really appreciate Michèle's teaching style. In her weekly yoga classes, Michèle helps me to make each pose a meditation; she helps me to find joy in every pose. That's what all of life should be about! When I was growing up, my mother suffered from depression, and I just thought this was normal. But I've learned that our bodies are so capable of healing – so much more than I realized.

In Michèle's Yoga and Writing Workshop, I was so surprised at the things that came out in my writing. The prompts were especially helpful – stories emerged that I never would have come up with on my own. That, to me, is a beautiful thing, because the possibilities are limitless. What I can create is limitless. This way of writing together helps me to discover my capacity for writing and to share what is inside me with others. I don't want my children to see me struggling all the time. So anything that makes me stronger, that uplifts me and makes me feel good about myself and the world at large, is so important. My yoga and writing practices do this for me. I am gentler with myself than I used to be, and I take responsibility for my own choices now. I'm so keen on evolving as a person because if there's something I can learn and pass on to my children, if there are things that they don't have to undo in their adulthood, I think that's a real gift.

I absolutely appreciate knowing Michèle and working with her – I don't feel it was just a coincidence that we met. Our work together has helped me on my journey, helped me to find what I'm looking for in my life. For that I am truly grateful.

Lynn Lederhos
Writer and stay-at-home mother
Calgary, Alberta

When I started taking classes with Michèle, I was in a time of my life that I felt quite scattered. I was unsettled about many things. Many aspects of my life were in upheaval, from where I was going to live, to my relationships, to my vocation. The biggest source of confusion and difficulty had to do with what was happening with my body. I was having digestive difficulties, difficulty breathing, sore throats, and problems in swallowing. This caused alot of stress.

Michèle's class brought a sense of calmness. The practice of focussing on the breath brought about an acceptance of my body. Instead of feeling anxious and upset, I felt like I stopped fighting against myself. No matter what is going on - physically, emotionally, mentally - when I can find calmness within, it helps everything. This has helped my healing. Becoming more aware of my breath has allowed me to get to a better level of living - it has helped me in my day-to-day life, for sure.

Bev Campbell
Calgary, Alberta

I'm a university student, so I almost missed the Yoga and Writing retreat, worried about the money I'd be spending. I'm so glad I made it!

I have been working on my writing sporadically, taking classes where and when I could, but writing a longer work always seemed daunting to me. Now writing a novel seems absolutely within reach! I really enjoyed the yoga sessions too, and one of the reasons the writing is flowing more easily now is that I have learned to settle my mind through yoga. I have been practicing Qigong for a year and a half, but could never clear or calm my mind, and this always held me back in my practice. In the restorative yoga sessions we did at the end of each day, I finally learned how to attain this stillness, and I was able to meditate more effectively. The yoga sessions we did at the retreat deepened my Qigong practice, with immediate results - all in one weekend.

I would certainly recommend Michèle's retreat to others. I have to thank my friend Kristin for telling me about this retreat, because it laid important foundations for how I want to live my life.

Sean Irwin
University Student
Calgary, AB

The biggest gift of working with Michèle has been the healing that has happened for me following the death of my mother. When my mother died, I stopped writing; I didn't want to face myself and my thoughts on the page without her. I felt so lost and alone –– it was like a part of me had died with her. A friend told me that I should write about it, but I just couldn't go there, just couldn't get started. Since working with Michèle, I have finally been able to write about my mother and the time leading up to her death, both in journal and in story form. This has been tremendously healing for me.

I have a friend who meditates regularly and I have come to realize that writing does for me what his practice of meditation does for him. When I feel anxious or upset, writing always calms me down and grounds me. I now feel so much more connected with myself, and that fear of writing is finally gone. When I write, I don't feel so alone anymore. I have now made writing a part of my daily practice and find my life so much richer for it.

I have gained such confidence in my ability to write because of Michèle's classes and all the positive feedback and encouragement I have received. No matter how bad I feel about a piece, Michèle is able to find the best in what I write. There will always be people who will tell us what is wrong with our work; Michèle's idea of focusing on the positive is very encouraging and most liberating.

All my life, I've wanted to use my creativity to write, but I just thought it was a dream: I could picture it, visualize myself in a beautiful cottage overlooking the ocean, pen in hand. But I never knew how to get there. Michèle showed me how to become a writer. Her Yoga and Writing Retreat showed me that I could do it right now; I didn't have to wait until "someday."

The yoga has been key to my healing as well. My mother had a lot of pain at the time of her death and for three years after she died, I had terrible back pain. It began as a slight pain, but then the pain worsened until one day, it got so bad that I had to do something about it – it was like a slap in the face. Recently, I realized that I was trying to take over and carry my mother's pain as a way of holding on to her.

As the yoga helped me to heal my physical pain rather than ignore it, the writing helped me to heal my emotional pain. I see the two as completely connected. The pain in my back showed me how much I not only wanted but needed to write, to understand what was going on inside me. The writing and the yoga together helped me to heal, and I feel like now, my life would be almost unliveable without both practices. I write every day to stay balanced emotionally, and I practice yoga daily to stay strong physically.

Both yoga and writing are a part of my life now. I am grateful that this work has helped me to find greater peace.

Christa Dunphy
Writer and Business Analyst
Calgary, AB