Credit to darling Elysia for the last photograph.
Snapped mid way through our live photography demo at sunset.
If you are totally unaware of what Illuminate is, I’ll just give you a brief summary before I dive into how we are feeling now after the weekend. Illuminate is an idea I dreamt up in April last year after several requests to run workshops both here in SA & interstate. With a fierce desire to satisfy a lot of different needs at once, I wondered out loud to my beautiful bookkeeper Lauren. “I wanna build a workshoppy/retreat thing,” I said. And the rest spilled out onto her notepad over a sushi train meeting that lasted over two hours. Lauren is not only wildly talented and inspirational, but she believes deeply in your dreams. Without her firm yes that night, we simply wouldn’t be here - two retreats later. I owe so much to you Lauren. So very much.
Illuminate exists to nurture business owners and business dreamers. You may be in business already, you may want to have a business, you may not even know what you want. We step in and we foster rejuvenation, growth, path finding, path following. We do it all with yoga in the morning and endless food throughout the day. We do it to connect people. We do it to light fires in the souls of people. We do it because to me there is no satisfaction greater than sitting in the kitchen on the Friday evening, eating quietly while the room next to me is filled with attendees sitting around the dinner table roaring with laughter. It’s in that moment that I know, I just know, I have brought people together. It is truly powerful and overwhelming and so, so satisfying. Human connection is a driving motivation behind the photography work that I do and evidently human connection is a driving motivation behind why Lauren and I built this retreat. You can read even more about Illuminate by clicking here.
So when I made my way back home on Monday morning, after unpacking the boxes, loading out the flowers, the buckets, the projector, the coffee machine, the everything I let out a long sigh. What is this exhaustion and why oh why is it so, so overpowering today?
Days later, Wednesday, and there are smudges of it here and there. Little things that would pass normally that make me teary. A sure sign that I am both emotionally charged and emotionally depleted. Who knew there was such a thing. You see I am so filled with gratitude I feel as though my heart could truly explode. Reading through the feedback from the weekend has reduced me to tears several times. Editing photos have reduced me to tears several times. Eating pumpkin soup, too. I think besides the fact that I am just overjoyed we pulled it off again, I am finally, finally, finally giving myself the space to see it all laid out in front of me. The feedback and the photographs and the “I’m so inspired!” They get me. Every. Time. It has not been an easy road to get here; to bring this together. It has not been effortless. It has challenged me and for that I am thankful. Because with each challenge and difficult day, gratitude for the final product doubles itself over. Observing the attendees transform and flourish throughout the weekend makes me want to do it again and again and again.
See when you we were building the retreat, we were so focused on the satisfying the attendees. Their experience is the centre of the planning. It has to be. When I was teaching the photography demo, I spoke a lot about a lot of the photography work I do is actually less about knowing your gear/your location/your poses. Though those elements are important, I find so much of it is about how you make the client feel. Do they feel safe? Do they feel valued? Cared for? Do they feel beautiful in front of your lens? Happy? Carefree? What they feel is what you photograph. That exact belief system was applied to Illuminate. The food, the space, the decorations, the workshops - it all matters. We care a lot deeply about it. But overarching all of that, standing high above it all is how do we make you, as an attendee, feel?
It is the reason I enlisted the beautiful team beside me. Each person working at Illuminate was there to offer the attendees the same beauty they bring into my life. Lydia Kammer, who deserves more than just a mention was our gorgeous food queen for the weekend. She cares for people so deeply. She makes you feel loved without even knowing she is doing it. It was evident in everything she did over the weekend; her grazing platters, her homemade soups, her homemade treats. Her warmth, and most obviously, her heart was in it all. Michelle Petrillo, our yoga instructor, can calm you in a single moment; a true gift that I have yet to see in any other soul. Michelle should know by now that the peace she has provided me with personally for over a year now is something that simply cannot be measured. My whole heart is grateful for her. It is a privilege to share her talent with others. So with my key team, my home base: Lauren, Lydia & Michelle at my side as well as the greater team of workshop leaders and speakers all brought in for their unique talents, we did it. We inspired, we motivated and we connected souls. And that, my friends, is why my heart is still soaring.
A very big thankful and squeeze to each of our fifteen attendees from both Victoria & SA who approached the weekend with such open hearts and open minds. Your openness, creativity and willingness to be present and give the retreat experience. You are all inspiring, motivating and on such individual paths to further brightness.
The team & I are now beginning to look at hosting an Illuminate in Queensland or Victoria, based on demand. In addition, we will soon pick our next date for Port Elliot.
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With all my love and glassy eyes, always.
As well as beautiful Jasmine, and Jordan; two beautiful souls & clients of mine who are in the process of following their dreams and will no doubt do incredible, magical things.