I journeyed to Lucca, Italy in the heart of Tuscany this past June with 13 strangers for an immersive wellness getaway called Seven Senses. Founded by Erica Matluck and Paul Kuhn, the retreat encompasses a wide variety of reflecting, reframing, and revitalizing modalities all themed around the seven chakras — the energy centers of the body. As a conscious journalist, I’ve covered an array of wellness retreats and experiences, but I truthfully have never experienced anything as transformative as Seven Senses.
I first arrived to the villa in the rolling hills of Lucca with my mind and heart open about the experience, but also slightly skeptical — as I typically am when arriving at a retreat with a group of strangers. I’m pretty much an open book about my journey and past traumas, but the subconscious realm is scary and I knew that was one of the deep layers that we would penetrate on this trip.
The setting was serene, yet energizing, with the Italian majestic charm courting to my inner-child around each and every corner. First the magic garden, then the Italiano kitchen packed with fresh produce… YES, there’s a terrace…wait, two terraces?!…Oh my, that tub though.
Little did I know I would spend a full day of silent solo time scrutinizing every corner of that villa and the surrounding outdoor space — but more on that later.
I spritzed my Dr.Singha Feng Shui Spray in my room to ground myself and unpacked. There is typically an agenda with a jam-packed schedule planned for everyday. Lo and behold, there was indeed a printed schedule placed on my pillow in addition to a notebook, pen, and a Seven Senses reusable tote. However, to my surprise, the schedule had a decent amount of whitespace. I later learned that approximately 60% of Seven Senses is pre-planned and the other 40% is intuitively guided by what emerges from the attendees throughout the journey. It’s common that personal anecdotes trigger a sensitive story for others in the community, creating a domino-like dialogue and synergy between the group. It takes some serious presence, empathy, and expansive knowledge to lead a retreat like this, but Erica and Paul do lead with ease and grace.
We all chose that retreat, that unique experience in June, in Lucca, with Seven Senses to connect, reflect, dive deep, and heal. We were all there for our own self-exploratory reasons, but we were all guided there in one way or another to be together.
On the first night, we cozied up at an outdoor patio table, saying our welcoming, yet somewhat awkward, introductions. Flowers billowed over the stone stair steps as the chef swirled Italian aromas from the stove onto the patio enveloping our bodies, which felt like a warm hug after a long day of travel.
After we settled, Erica and Paul gave a brief introduction and there was one sentence that made every single one of us smile and relax a little deeper into our seats. Erica voiced, “We are currently sitting at this table as a group of strangers, but we will leave as family.”
Needless to say throughout the arch of the journey the ties between us grew stronger and tighter. There were late nights under the stars and mustache suppers down in town thanks to a mother-meets-comedian who continuously shined light on the healing power of laughter. I have a bond with these humans that will always hold a special place in my heart.
Each day of the journey began with a nourishing chef-prepared meal before we grounded into the day’s chakra work (starting from the bottom, root chakra, and working our way to the top, crown chakra) using genres of yoga, body-buzzing breathwork, introspective meditation, and vision-inducing sound sessions. The compilation of morning modalities typically unearthed turbulent, nostalgic energy and subconscious emotions. Sometimes I laughed, a lot of times I cried, and other times I simply sat there, my body sinking deep into the floor with spontaneous shakes or involuntary movements — releasing whatever my body needed to set free that day.
Droplets of insightful information downloaded regularly, stemming from this potent state of presence. So much internal information was swirling around my being in these moving morning sessions that I often felt fragile, confused, and fatigued afterwards. Barriers were broken, layers were peeled back, and hearts were cracked open as all of our third eyes slowly, but surely, began to rise. Let’s just say some serious healing was going on here.
On a spiritually lighter note, we pulled a tarot card everyday – which if you follow me on the gram, you know I do at home daily as well. Although you have all of the answers “within,” it’s always fun to see what the universe is pinging down to you to ponder about a bit more. Other miscellaneous afternoon additions included an organic oil massage on a vine-adorned terrace and lazy afternoons indulging in some vitamin C by the pool.
As the afternoon program progressed, we dove deeper into the chakra of the day — the developmental time in our lives, the properties, other optimizing exercises etc. We shared stories about our upbringing, past, present, traumas, and triumphs. Each and every one of those stories resonated with me on a deep level, whether I knew it then or not.
Other’s stories allowed me to consciously connect the dots of my own life, creating an all-encompassing awareness that I have never felt before, but was always nestled deep inside my being. We reenacted sensitive situations for some individuals to allow that person to reframe past traumas and emotions, fueling their soul with soft forgiveness and boundless love.
I’ve been told many times by healers and mystics that the world around you is simply a reflection of you, your perception, and your life. I learned a lot from these reenactments. Alas, the environment (the retreat, the people) was just a mirror of my own reality.
One of the toughest, yet transformational, experiences on the retreat was a day-long vipassana. According to Dhamma, a vipassana is an self observation-based way of mind and body self-transformation, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion.
Throughout the 24-hour Seven Senses vipassana, there was not only no speaking, but no technology, no reading, and no eye contact. We were also discouraged to nap as it is a trick to distract your mind from simply being. It was just me, myself, and I.
The group spent the day doing whatever they so pleased (within the vipassana parameters) — yoga, walking, swimming, exploring, cloud gazing. When in the world was the last time you were able to “just be” for a day without any obligations, but to be an observer of your own mind? I let my imagination run wild staring intently at the clouds and the beauty around me. Everything was brighter, more vivid. I stared at a village of bees sucking sweet nectar from juicy flowers for about an hour. I never realized how beautiful these little insects were. They have always been that way, but I guess I never took the time to notice.
The vipassana was hard for me. I experienced chapters of elated joy and mind-racing anxiety. The juxtaposition of doing nothing, but having the time to think about everything all at the same time. I caught myself playing mental baseball with new business ideas, new ways to organize my life, my goals, my work, my purpose — my Capricorn moon is really revealing itself here. However, in this state of saturated silence (this state of aloneness vs. loneliness) I discovered a lot about myself and life —
- All moments shall pass
- Nature is the greatest teacher
- We are all interconnected
- Everything is perfectly timed — even though there is no such thing as time. What a mind fuck that is.
- It’s hard being the observer, but that’s where a lot of the growth stems from… the processing
The group has kept in touch post-retreat and Erica and Paul even offer an integration program to continue the work back in the “real world.” The program is a safe space where you can continue to grow and evolve with accountability partners through private coaching, bi-weekly group video calls and more — which is so helpful given how easy it is to fall back into your old habits.
When I landed back at home, I took one step into JFK and felt a rush of stimulating energy pulse through my body. I instinctively grabbed my phone to Instagram story that I was back, but paused, pocketed my phone and kept walking — mindful and proud of the conscious choice to be fully present in the here and now. It may seem small, but this moment of mindfulness was huge for me. It’s an expanded sense of awareness that I hold powerfully in my presence today. This is just one of the many awakening shifts that Seven Senses gifted me.