I believe walking into the woods is a living metaphor of an archetypal journey. In the deep forest of our being we encounter the dark places, the mysterious and hidden corners of our psyches. As we continue on our journey and fight our way through the visible and invisible threats to our well-being, we emerge out of the shadows into the beautiful sunlit meadow of self-awareness and expansion.

I discovered this metaphor when I was 28 years old. I called my mother to tell her I was headed to a mountain retreat, into the woods with 50 other women to heal my codependency. I was hoping that connecting with these women would help me heal and get out of the rut I was surviving. Living alone in Los Angeles, miserable working at a job I didn’t like and enduring the constant upheaval of an on-again-off-again relationship.

My mother, with her “did-you-wear-clean-underwear” tone said; “Oh honey, don’t do that. Jason will be in the woods and will chop you up into little pieces, and then you will be dead.” I remember rolling my eyes – clearly going into the woods alone was a dangerous proposition for her daughter.

I did go to that retreat.  And, I remember walking into the woods in fear for my life; afraid that every little noise meant an evil “Jason” was stalking me. As the weekend unfolded, I confronted the very real dangers of unhealthy patterns and emotions that were literally killing my soul. As I embraced the sadness within, I cried the hardest I ever have in my life. And I learned that I could recover from the deeply rooted codependency holding me captive in a horrible cycle of self-sabotage. It would take years to fully recover, but I am forever grateful for that experience and those wonderful women. One of them, Cindy, is still a dear friend over 20 years later.

The metaphor of the woods has remained with me ever since and when I conduct deep emotional intelligence retreats with women for women – I insist in being in nature. During these opportunities for deep reflection, we connect with the majesty of the trees and listen for the voice of the divine in the stirring of their leaves, helping us find our way back to the trueness of who we are.