Some Participant Feedback:
My favorite part was the circle at the end of the day. I am always struck by the beauty in each woman and the struggles and joys so many of us share. I left feeling so blessed to be heard and loved and equally to have witnessed and love each in our circle. This highlighted for me how important it is to have the opportunity to speak your truth in the safety of love and non-judgement and how few women have experienced this blessing. I am filled with gratitude!
"Listening to the Stories our Bodies Hold" participant.
The Reconnecting with Your Wild Soul" workshop I attended in 2006 was magnificent! Annie facilitated intuitively, listening carefully to the needs of the group as well as to her own guidance. She shared her own depth (and outrageousness), and the weekend was fun, moving, relaxing, inspiring.
Thank you, Annie! -Jean Semrau
This three-day retreat was an indescribable experience. I came away with tremendous gratitude for my life, my circumstances, my family, my friends, my partner. Additionally, I came away with a different perspective for my “issues”. I am much clearer about my ability to manage the challenges that before really left me feeling exasperated. I am grateful to the women I came to know at Hope Springs for this perspective.
One might think that you really can’t “come to know” people in a weekend. And actually, I don’t know their daily lives – I don’t know their last names, I don’t know (for the most part) what they do for a living. I never even discussed my work, other than in a very brief passing in a dinner conversation. We were all in each other’s presence in a very different kind of way. When people say to me “oh yeah, you did that retreat thing last weekend, how was it?” I can’t seem to put words to it. All I’ve really been able to say with any consistency is that I’m “still processing”.
I went there not having any idea why. The first evening, I found myself thinking – what have I done? Wondering - what am I supposed to get out of this? There was clearly a lot to be had, but I wasn’t sure where I fit. I was way outside of my comfort zone. I had to vigorously tell myself to suspend my judgment, my skepticism, my fear. It took some effort, but I knew if I couldn’t suspend my usual filters, I would miss the point.
I made a leap of faith - I got the point. I found my joy. I realized that I haven’t really been showing up in daily life. I am beginning to remember what being present actually feels like – and I like it.
I can’t stop thinking about it. I want more. It was wonderful. I miss the women I met there. I miss the complete authenticity of every interaction. Such wonderful souls.
I had a blast. I actually sang in this wonderful “sanctuary” – in all senses of the word (hmm – both the “singing” and the “sanctuary” part). Physically, it was large and open with great acoustics. Metaphysically, it was the safest place on earth. They cried, they clapped, they cheered, they listened, they received with love – really – not some schmaltzy version, they listened to me in way I’ve never been listened to before. It was the most phenomenal experience. I actually “performed” for 30 minutes and since the very moment I finished, I’ve not had a single thought of “could have done this better”, or “should have done that differently”. No destructive playback – none at all. That was so liberating. Never before have I put myself out there like that – and then been perfectly ok with it!
Upon reflection, I wonder if you put yourself out there fully, no holds barred, you just go completely with your gut – no thinking required. You leave nothing on the table. You’ve participated fully. I don’t know how else to say it. You just jump in so fully that there is no room left for self-doubt because the fullness of your expression, whatever that is, expands into every crevice and possible void. Leaves me wondering what if we did that with everything we touched, every conversation we had, every relationship, every decision, every choice? Is that even possible? I don’t know, but the potential is staggering.
Sue Birch, Ohio
Annie O'Shaughnessy is a brave and honest person who will inspire you because she is so human, and at the same time, such a beautiful and brilliant soul, as we all are. Her tenderness and zeal for life is a balm for those who are ready to live a more passionate and true life.
-Mollie Matteson, Environmentalist
Annie's work is exquisite. Her transparency reflects the inner lives of many of us, her tongue speaks the words that many of us think. She is an inspired, trustworthy guide, who humbly offers us the Renewing Fire.
-Rusty Moe, Psychotherapist and Author of Our Presence Together In Chaos, Where God Learns, and Way-Marks: New Poems
Annie has the intuitive abillity and natural sensitivity to lead groups from simple gatherings into a deeper journey of soul. She encourages others to explore the terrain of inner spiritual life without overlaying her own definitions on it. She encourages others to step into their own power and joy and to let go of old notions that no longer serve them. With a variety of materials and processes, Ann inspires others to drop their habitual patterns and to be authentic people, open to change, no matter what has happened in the past. She is a good role model of this process, participating in the workshop activities along with those who are retreatants. I highly recommend her as a leader, facilitator, and guide of life skills.
-Mrs. Linda Braga, Tai Chi Chih teacher, Castro Valley, CA
Annie O'Shaughnessy is a phenomenal facilitator and communicator; she approaches her workshops with an energy and spirit that is inclusive and engaging for all who attend. Her writing is clear and insightful. She is down to earth and inspiring to a diverse audience. Once you are embraced by Ann, your life will change in wonderful ways!
- Terri Swain, HR Consultant, Texas
When we closed up shop and you ended up walking with me. I wasn't looking for conversation - just answering your question honestly and without thinking much about it - when I said I'd had a rough day. You caught me by surprise by sticking with me, putting an arm around my shoulder, asking more, making a conversation of it. It wouldn't have surprised me in the least to see you do that with someone else - of course you would. I wouldn't have been at the workshop if I didn't trust you to lead it, to care and to be willing and able to be there for people if they needed you. I just hadn't fully extrapolated that to include me. (In theory, yes. In reality, no.) I take care of myself. If that fails, see rule #1.
In any event, by taking those couple of minutes to check in, you shifted me out of my habitual "I'm in this by myself" paradigm, laying the groundwork for me to not have to stay so tightly compressed in my own little shell, to feel safe considering something non-academic for a soul declaration, to ask you for some guidance around that (not something I do easily), and actually to consider that this "circle thing" might be doable. It didn't dawn on me until much later how easily, unthinkingly I'd trusted that you could make the physical part of the declaration work safely for me. Big. Very big. Thanks!
- Tibetha, Maryland
It was my distinct pleasure to have you as my spiritual leader and fellow participant at the Wild Soul Workshop. You are indeed blessed with the ability and disposition to create a loving, welcoming space for people to encounter their soulful selves, discover others from the inside out, meet with their god, and to just be. I am sure just having you as a spiritual workshop leader would be enlightening, but my experience would not have been nearly as enriching had Annie O not shown up. Not only was your sharing at the same level as everyone else the catalyst for others to open up more readily, but you are a truly remarkable woman. I am thoroughly delighted by your gleeful nature. Thanks for being there.
I imagine every workshop is a little different. The confluence of each group of people is going to affect the flow of the weekend. You have an overall plan, or destination, in mind and heart, and with your guidance (and grace) the "goal" is achieved. For this group of people, at this time, everything was just right. I can't say that I'd change a thing.
- Eric, Florida
Hi Annie! I really want to thank you for the wild souls weekend. Here, ten days later, it is still hard to believe it happened. Mark and I benefited so much from the weekend; the circle still held for us, and we are attempting to hold it for each other every day. You have a wonderful creative gift—for the good of the world, please keep doing this!
Although there was always the realization that you were the facilitator, there was no sense of control. You were extremely flexible, letting in ideas of others, yet making subtle changes if things were getting off track. The world needs these opportunities to become human; a quiet beautiful opportunity to reassess life, to step aside and consider being real. The fact that you did all the things you asked others to do is the definition of a true leader. You did not sit back and direct or assess. Thank you for that.
You are not only a great "mother" but a "midwife" as well-- so carefully rebirthing each individual soul.You are willing to share the "how to"—a teacher in the truest sense. And courageous to be willing to start each time, as you say, on your knees.
I don't know if any of this makes sense. I feel such a deep sense of gratitude and I wanted to say more than “thank you”
Thank you for the opportunity to get away and explore my wild soul. I think as women we rarely get a break - least of all a break with other wonderful and powerful women. I feel rejuvenated; I feel like I now have a compass to gauge my life. I also feel like I'm not alone in the world of problems - we all have them; we all face them differently. I also think that we all need to get back to that place where we were happy and free and creative. I found that place. Thank you thank you thank you.
Thank you for cracking open that window and letting in a change of air into my self-imposed prison! Thank you, Ann, from the bottom of my heart!
- Anne-Marie Hober
Two falls ago, I attended Anne's Wild Soul Workshop in Maryland. At that time, I felt adequate in my life, but not inspired. I wanted to be more authentic, thinking that knowing myself better would help me value myself more. Many wonderful people and things came together for me at that workshop, but the most important was on the last day when I danced (I am not a dancer!) to express my pain and my joy. Anne's unabashed openness about her own misgivings and pain, as well as her unconditional love for herself and others, inspired me to open up in ways I had never imagined possible. Slowly but surely--since that day-- I have found deep inspirations that I never knew existed.
-Diane Snyder, Colorado
And here is email from a participant after a weekend:
Layers keep unfolding within about our weekend. I keep hearing echoes of phrases others shared. Some that keep speaking to me, Linda-today is a good day to live, and a good day to die, in her unlived life story of authentic living with a lovely partner in a log cabin. Claires declaration of "yes, yes, yes" to herself. Doug's "quiet heart" . Johns "learning how to fly" poem and his validation of learning how to love, his proudest moments. And Bob-just being Bob. I asked him about the dancing on a break. I asked him if the "female" dance part has to be in total surrender to the "male" part. He said that when he comes together with the partner, he has to feel "presence". Oh, I just love that. He said that he needs to feel that he has something to dance against. He said that the roles have to be fully defined in each partner, so the female part is fully female and the male is fully male. Wow. The beauty in that is amazing. Ram Dass said in his tape "yoga of relationship" that there is something really unique to each incarnation, male and female. And that we had choice about this coming in. I often ponder about what is my fullest expression of being female. Hum, something to wonder about. Anyway, this morning I asked my poetry book for some inspiration and I turned to this:
"The world asks of us
only the strength we have and we give it.
Then it asks more, and we give it."
Jane Hirshfield from "The Weighing"
I am really just now able to unlock my spirit and talk about what this weekend meant to me and my journey back to myself. As we rode away from the retreat center in the taxi, Prior asked us how we felt because there was such silence settling in among us. We looked at eachother and said "full", and continued to watch out the window. For me, it was hard to step out of the retreat center and bring my body back into the world. I had so many beautiful images in my mind about all the lovely souls I met that I had to journal them right away on the plane so I could integrate and make more room for my day to day life. I was indeed, full. I felt so honored to be present and be "witness" to soul coming forward in everyone. There is a piece of each essence that moved me forward into my own healing this weekend. I am still overwhelmed. I am in the process of writing about that and will forward it soon. I just felt the need to connect with you and the experience of the workshop. Last night I read and reread again, the pages about your beliefs. The words of your essay on soul sank deep within me. I feel as though you have been gifted to see into "soul passage" and would encourage you to write a book about it. I was reading some Julie Cameron today and came across the pasage:
In every relationship, the heart of Spirit fills my heart with loving grace. I count my friendships as valued jewels. The hearts of my friends are my diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires, and pearls. The unique gems of their personalities are their own divine spark. I cherish each for its beauty and richness.
After this weekend, I have a treasure chest full of jewels to turn to when I feel my longing soul retreat inward and feel isolated. I am so incredibly grateful to be alive and experience such love and connectedness. Thank you Ann, for being you and for having the courage to be in your "fullest expression". As Rod would say, "it is your gift to the world".