To support and empower women who are dealing with cancer by creating a safe and healing community, grounded in contemplative practice and integrative medicine, by offering tools to transform fear into courage so that they might face life with awareness, kindness, and openness.
From the very first Courageous Women, Fearless Living retreat held in 2006, our vision has been to give women touched by cancer the community, support, knowledge, and contemplative training they need to better care for themselves or for their loved ones - physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We welcome women who currently have cancer or have had cancer, as well as family, and caregivers.
Hundreds of women have attended, many attend multiple times. We have been blessed by the generosity of many donors over the years, including Shambhala Mountain Center (SMC), which has so graciously offered room and board discounts; healthy meals designed for the women attending; and marketing support every year.
Most of our faculty has been with the retreat since inception, along with the workshop leaders, which creates continuity, builds on what's come before, and allows for flexibility and safety.
ABOUT THE RETREAT
Mornings: Yoga and Mindfulness Practices
The morning sessions, led by our senior teachers, begin with an hour
of guided meditation, designed to strengthen the body’s ability to heal itself and to quiet the mind. Following breakfast, we move into contemplative practices such as mindfulness, loving kindness meditation, yoga postures and breathing techniques—all of which can be done on your own to promote personal growth and healing at the physical, emotional
and mental levels.
Afternoons: Integrative and Practical Information
Every afternoon, our integrative doctors present the latest research on alternative therapies, treatment options, nutrition, and lifestyle choices. They break down the research and explain what options are available. You’ll have ample opportunity to ask questions and share your experiences. Later in the afternoon, we offer breakout sessions, led by our faculty, which include art therapy and yoga and discussions on sexuality, body image, and loss and change.
Community and Shared Experiences
Our nurturing, safe environment allows participants to open their hearts, knowing they'll be accepted unconditionally. To encourage this open exchange we break into smaller groups, which meet together several times during the retreat. These clusters, under the guidance of a trained leader, offer the time and space to share stories and feelings, to practice deep listening and to receive the loving attention of the other women.
Evenings: Art, Music and Beauty
Our evenings are rich with offerings designed to get your creative juices flowing. Put your dancing shoes on and let loose; create collective art with our art therapist; join our PJ party, where you'll learn all about safe cosmetics and clean organic products - maybe even leave with a bag full of skincare samples. And, of course, there's always the option to chill out and do nothing!
Goals & Objectives
CWFL offers women touched by cancer an annual retreat in a natural and peaceful setting.
CWFL retreats introduce participants to the healing power of meditation and mindfulness, including yoga and healing arts, and provide resources and information on integrative medicine and nutrition.
CWFL retreats provide an opportunity for participants to forge heart connections, many of which continue well beyond the bounds of the retreat.
SHAMBHALA MOUNTAIN CENTER
Nestled in a serene 600-acre valley, high in the Colorado Rockies, and surrounded by pine and aspen forests, Shambhala Mountain Center provides a safe and supportive setting for the Courageous Women program.
It offers participants a wide range of housing options, from dormitory accommodations to private rooms in one of the two gracious lodges. Three meals (and tea snacks) are provided each day - fresh always and organic whenever possible. Click here to access the SMC Participant Guide.
Vegetarian, Vegan, and other special diet options are available at all meals. Please note your special diet requests when processing retreat registration.
Communicating with Family
Cell phones do not get reception, but public phones are available to all guests. Internet access is available in most rooms, but access is unpredictable due to the remote location. There are no televisions.
All bedding and towels are included with lodge room accommodations.
Once you have registered for the retreat, Shambhala Mountain Center will send an email with retreat details and a list of recommended items to bring for a comfortable stay.
Wellbeing & Accessibility
Residing deep in the Rocky Mountains, Shambhala Mountain Center offers an opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone. While we would love to be able to accommodate everyone, the 8000-foot altitude and the rugged, sloped terrain may not be suitable for everybody. The Center is accessible by unpaved, but graded and well-maintained roads. Please note that the nearest medical facility is located in Fort Collins, Colorado,
approximately 45 minutes from SMC.
We will work together to determine if the venue of the retreat is suitable for your current health status.
Please feel free to email us with any questions or concerns.
Unfortunately, we have limited space, and cannot always accommodate everyone that would like to attend.
However, we aim to touch base with all aspiring participants to offer information and support!
When we have cancer we can lose our feeling of connectedness and humanity. Sharing with others on a deeper level brings us back to a community and examples of strength and friendship that we can draw upon in times of weakness and self doubt. This retreat has true value and will hopefully continue indefinitely.
What was so amazing was that so many different types of women and from all different backgrounds and with different stories of cancer but yet after the first day we all were united with tears and smiles and laughter.
When I attended this retreat the very first time, I was literally almost scared to death... what I found was a comfort in feeling so safely and lovingly cared for and that by opening up my mind and my heart to more possibilities than I felt existed, I was able to reset my bearings and continue my life in a more accepting and more peaceful way. I learned what it was I had to do “next.”
The strength of the program lies in the people responsible for it: the mix of experienced and knowledgeable faculty members, who have been teaching in this program for many years, as well as the alumnae, who return as staff members, offering up their own experience and enthusiasm.
Judith Lief is a respected Buddhist teacher who has taught for many years on the power of awareness, kindness, and openness to change the way we relate to sickness and death, both personally and as caregivers. Judy helped found and shape the CWFL retreat and has been on the faculty since the beginning. She is the author of Making Friends with Death: A Buddhist Guide to Encountering Mortality.
Victoria Maizes, MD, executive director Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, founded by the well known integrative physician Dr. Andrew Weil. She is an internationally recognized leader in integrative medicine and co-author of Integrative Women’s Health. Victoria offers the women the knowledge they need to ask questions, partner with their doctors, and understand integrative/complementary options in cancer treatment, including nutrition
Linda Sparrowe, former editor-in-chief of Yoga International, has helped bring the ancient teachings of yoga to women facing modern-day challenges. On the board of the Yoga and Body Image Coalition, Linda leads workshops, writes about, and speaks nationally on the topic of yoga and women’s health. Her books include A Woman’s Book of Yoga and Health, Yoga At Home, and YogaMama.
Alumnae Faculty Teachers
Jemi Steele began her meditation practice as a teenager in the 70’s; spent years doing solitary retreats and living in Nepal in the 80’s; and completed a traditional 3-year Buddhist retreat in the 90’s. Her overseas experience led her to get an MA in Teaching English as a Second Language, which she taught in elementary schools for almost 20 years. She runs a small non-profit, Norbulingka Dog Hospice, to rescue and care for elderly/special needs dogs facing euthanasia in animal shelters. She is also a cancer survivor.
Chasse Bailey-Dorton, MD, MSPH completed a fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. She has also completed training at the Benson-Henry Mind-Body Institute and the Center for Mind-Body Medicine. She is currently Chief of Integrative Oncology at the Levine Cancer Institute in Charlotte, NC. She is the mother of 3 nearly grown children, married to the best guy in the world and is herself a 16-year cancer survivor.
Ann Braden, CYT, E-RYT500, holds certifications in yoga therapy from Loyola Marymount University, Yoga of the Heart and the yoga4cancer program. Her light-hearted teaching style combines breath, movement and an invitation to root down, rise up and grow love as you learn to relax deeply, move well and connect with your inner healing resources. A 5-year cancer survivor herself, Ann created Lovetree Essentials, an apothecary line of organic skincare that supports inner & outer self care.
Vikki has graciously served as the CWFL Retreat Coordinator since 2013 and stepped into the Executive Director role in February 2018. She brings great humor, vast business experience, and heart to the position. Vikki was first diagnosed with breast cancer in October of 2000, and then again in October of 2006. It was then that she attended her first Courageous Women, Fearless Living Retreat. The Retreat had a profound impact on her....physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Director of Operations
Theresa first connected with CWFL in 2015 as the Program Manager of Shambhala Mountain Center, and joined our staff in Spring 2016. She oversees organization operations and manages our ongoing projects .
Theresa graduated Cum Laude with a Masters in International Business Administration from Arcadia University in Paris, France and has an undergraduate degree in Anthropology.
Transpersonal Art Therapist Laura Scott, MA, facilitates the annual silk banner along with mandala workshops and a collaborative bead project at the retreat. She also aides the CWFL Wellness Committee.
Laura has been supporting women diagnosed with cancer for 20 years.
Each year volunteers, many drawn from the pool of past participants, enrich the program and provide practical and heartfelt support during the program.
We could not do this without their dedicated and heartfelt contribution!
Volunteer activities we could use help with are:
Distributing marketing materials
Introductions to potential corporate sponsors and donors
Scholarship program support
Wellness program support
Group Facilitator recruitment and training
If you are interested in volunteering with CWFL please complete the Volunteer Interest Form.
We will contact you regarding your interest and appreciate any help you can offer.
From left: Laura Swaim, Ellen Frohardt, Beth Foster, Natalie-Pascale Boisseau, Kirsten Johnson, Vikki Wagner, Jemi Steele, Ann Braden, Theresa Connolley, Chasse Bailey-Dorton, Shannon Carney, Muffie Noble