The Exploring Love Retreat at Miraval Resort.

How to sum up? Peaceful. Honest. Funny. Authentic. Sweet. More of all that than any other retreat I’ve ever been a part of on this particular planet. An opportunity for several diverse and talented presenters and some unbelievably open-hearted (and talented) participants to engage in a dialogue about the topic of love. Which, apparently, includes pretty much every sub topic. It’s like having an easy and fascinating conversation about something you never get to discuss in a way that offers opportunities to learn more about things you never knew about yourself and to gain new perspectives you hadn’t quite seen yet.

In the interim, there were indulgent spa treatments, feats of physical daring (like walking a tightrope at 35 feet into the sky!), unlimited soy lattes, and full-course sumptuous meals that were delicious and actually good for you. Not to mention morning meditation, walks in the warm rain and nightly meetings at the spa pool.

And the desserts! Imagine the most decadent-tasting cakes and sweets and treats galore that are actually low-calorie, low-fat, and high-yum. But I digress.

I took this photograph this morning. The cool thing about catching the sunrise there is that you have a little extra time to sleep until the sun finally pops over the top of the Santa Catalina mountains, surrounding the resort.

And when it does, and you’re there, you get a brief window of this:

In order of who hosted the discussions:

From Edmonton, Canada: Jesh de Rox, also one of my closest friends. A big thanks for living so fearlessly yourself and for sharing your philosophies about the life you live as an explorer of so many things. Thank you for sharing the planning and dreaming of this event with me. Your words and photography captivate so many because they come from you, and you are truly a unique and amazing individual. I look forward to next year’s Upward Spiral retreat already.

From Encino, California: Rassouli, a master painter, visionary artist, and passionate lover of beauty, which has an infinitely expanded definition in matters of the heart. Your art is as mystical as the mystics you study, but also inspire one to think beyond this pragmatic world. Thanks you for sharing the secret of your wonderful success: your paintings are so glorious because they really are your heart.

From Durham, North Carolina: Sherrie Dillard, author, teacher, clairvoyant. Your ability to not just read energy, but to direct it and teach others how to do so, as well, is obviously a gift that few have. Even I was surprised at the power of that walk through the labyrinth.

Flying in from New York, heading out to San Francisco and about to run across America, currently: Charlie Engle, the “world’s toughest man”. How many opportunities does one get to share such wonderful time with a man who lives so big? Your passion for shattering limits, physical or just perceived, is amazing. That you would take the time to share your story and your always-honest feelings with us a mere two days out from such a big, big event was remarkable. I still cannot believe that you will start to your goal of running 70 miles a day for 45 days, until you finish in Times Square, for a new world’s record on, uh, Saturday. Saturday. Wow. (Sept. 13th – if anyone wants to follow along, you can do so here, on Twitter.

From Portland, Oregon: Amy Seeley, who shares her raw emotions with stunning clarity through her “songs that unfold like a story you can’t put down and end up missing your stop for” – to listen to her at the piano in a room lit only by candlelight of people who all share such a sweet connection is to feel every note.

I had the honor of contributing, too – and with this stunning group of presenters, it was nothing short of just that: a true honor.

When we were planning this retreat, we laughed about how interesting it was that we did not feel much stress at all about how it would turn out, firmly believing that the participants who would choose to attend were the ones who were supposed to be there. A leap of faith when you consider that full payments at the not-inexpensive Miraval Resort were due 90 days prior :) But those who attended brought as much to the table as any one else. So, a sincere thank you to the following people for simply being so much just themselves and for sharing that with all of us:

Sandra Gall
Katie Rose
Porter
Lisa Walter
Emily James
Steve Lackey
Jodi Renee Thompson
Liz Song
Rachel Garrison
Pamela Farber
Charlie Engle (I just had to list him again because he was such a brutally honest and hilariously engaged participant, as well ;)

I didn’t photograph that much at all while I was there, but the few images I did capture were amazing for reasons that had little do with artistic talents.

The first morning I woke up at Miraval, I opened up the patio door from my casita and saw this – the light greeted me in perfectly direct, yet hazy shafts. And when I say greeted, I mean the light hit me directly on my body as I walked out and into it. My view of the light through the trees was naturally vignetted by the leaning of the roof overhead and the darkness of the ground below, as the light did not fall that far down. And I thought it a beautiful image but it wasn’t until after I shot it that I saw the framing of a heart around the light:

The last image I photographed at Miraval was this brook, in the shadier part of the resort. This was only the second and last time I saw some of that hazy light. I found the shape of the light intriguing, too, almost like two spirits together. If you look towards the middle of the bottom of the image – there was that lit-up haze again.

I don’t know … it may sound kinda bizarre – but to start the retreat with a symbol of a lit-up heart and to end it with moving spirits was just about the most beautiful bookend I could imagine.