Interview with Wilhemeena Isabella Monroe the founder of SOUL CENTER
Wilhemeena Isabella Monroe is the founder and director of the SOUL CENTRE New Zealand. She has been working in dance and holistic health and wellbeing approaching two decades now. She is an established choreographer, director, filmmaker and dancer and has performed all over the world.
Before starting retreats what were you doing for life?
I have been running and teaching at the SOUL CENTRE studio for over 12 years, it is the first of it’s kind in New Zealand offering a space to support somatic and kinesthetic education, research and development. The SOUL RETREATS came as an outreach from that centre — we wanted to take people on soulful adventures and travel and there seemed to be a genuine need there for our clients to choose a wellbeing retreat for their holiday instead of just going on holiday itself. Before that I was a professional dancer for 10 years. So I still get to kick my legs up, but just in a different way now!
When did you start running retreats?
We started our first retreat in Samoa in 2013, so 4 years. But the SOUL CENTRE is a retreat in itself.
How many retreats have you been running in the past years?
2–3 a year, Samoa, and Tonga are our main BLISS retreats, and Nepal, and Tongariro Crossing are our TREK retreats. But we also do others to Bali and locally in Auckland. In 2018 we have a new one to Sri Lanka.
In which locations did you run retreats in the past and how did you select them?
We have tried several spots for retreats but have honed our favourites due to the relationships we build with the community’s in each location — we give a percentage of our profits to local communities we visit so that we are giving back in many different ways to the places we visit. Samoa, Tonga and Nepal will always be my favourites but Bali is also a bit fabulous!
What’s your personal motivation for running retreats or what keeps you excited about it?
Our retreats give people an indepth transformation experience. There are many things you can get from turning up in the studio every week for daily practice, but there is also something very special that happens when people get out of their normal existence and experience somewhere different, with a group of people that are arriving open and ready to transform something, even just a small part of their lives. It creates magic and that is what I live for. Transformational open heart magic.
2017 — we are heading to — you guessed it — our favourites — Samoa, Tonga and Nepal, but in the beginning of 2018 we are trying out a new spot in Sri Lanka — come along — it’s going to be Magic!
How big is the group of participants usually?
Each retreat is different and has a different focus. The Samoa retreats we have around 20 people, the Tonga experience is more intimate with 8–10 people, the Nepal experience is maximum 8–10people. These are small group experiences that are about quality and connection.
What’s your unique approach or what makes your retreats special?
I mentioned the word transformation before and I think this is one of our key elements. People come away from these retreats different. Perhaps you can say this about every retreat but really there is something divine about what happens and that is also the way we set up the intention for each experience and the care that we put into all aspects of the retreats. The people involved are also amazing, our tutors are heart-felt and beautiful people and especially Katherine our co-ordinator — she is probably the most beautiful person you have ever met.
What do you do for marketing, or how do people usually find you?
Oh dear — that is something we really could improve on — most of our clients come from word of mouth. And we have many return clients who come every year to these retreats. It’s creates a community of people which is so great. Yikes — we don’t even have a proper website — I really should get onto that! Too busy transforming peoples lives! I think when things are meant to roll, they roll. You can do all the marketing in the world and still get no one or do no marketing and have a full retreat.
What advice would you give yoga teachers or anybody else who wants to start running retreats?
Get a team on board, there are so many logistics that are unforeseen at the beginning. It takes great skill to co- ordinate and facilitate retreats. If you are an awesome yoga teacher it doesn’t necessarily mean you are awesome at logistics. If you know it’s not your strong point — team up with someone that is the embodiment of organization — a virgo would be good! Also the amount of energy to hold people when they are out of their home space — energetically this can’t be underestimated — especially if you are facilitating a transformation retreat. This needs to be addressed, so having more than one tutor is always the most optimum. You never know what might happen. On one retreat I was attacked by wild dogs and spent the whole 10 days in bed unable to do anything — I had such great support from my team I managed to run the whole thing from bed! Get a TEAM you can trust!
How would you rate the opportunity running retreats for the upcoming years?
This is a growing market as more people make the choice to conscious travel instead of consumerist travel. However the growth in people offering retreats is also rising. If this is your dharma then get out there and do it — if it’s not your passion — let it go — find your passion — find your path and do that! It is better to struggle in your own dharma than to succeed in the dharma of another. Live YOUR dream! Not someone elses.
My biggest wish — that is an amazing question — I wish for all beings to be able to remember what it is they came here for and to have the strength to follow their heart. If we listen deep enough to our hearts we will find that the rhythm of our hearts is the rhythm of the earth. Let us all remember that she is our mother and that all beings deserve to walk in love and grace on an earth that is loved and cared for by us.
Let every moment be a moment to return to the earth. Namaste. Jai Ma.
If there anything else you want to share please just let me know? I am sure our readers (including me) will be super excited to hear about you.
Our Sri Lanka retreat is going to be amazeballs — I am still planning it, so super excited! Come and experience a divine retreat in beautiful Sri Lanka. I also teach training programs in chi kung and shin somatics (movement therapy and developmental yoga!) and am happy to travel to people’s locale to train and/ or do retreats. So bring me to your retreat or hometown! I have so much wisdom and life to share.
A perfect team:
Katherine Tate on the left, peter Fernando in the middle and Wilhemeena on the right
Check out upcoming retreats