Retreats to help frum women connect to themselves, to Hashem, and to their inner creativity
Meet Goldie Michal Weltscher of Manchester, England, who runs Kumi Ori meditation workshops/healing retreats to help frum women connect to themselves, to Hashem, and to their inner creativity.
I’m a “courseaholic.”
I love learning and I’m very drawn to the ideas of yishuv hadaas, hisbodedus, and achieving serenity.
Learning about it is easy — the hard part is putting it into practice. Women are so busy (with good things!), they don’t have time to breathe and to feel yishuv hadaas. They can’t feel serenity or let their creativity flow. And they’ve often quashed the creative parts of themselves because they feel they need to concentrate on their family.
But Hashem made us creative, so why should we quash that?
I wondered: What if I could create an outlet for women to get away and connect with themselves? To just be one with their neshamah and connect to Hashem? What if I could show a woman how beautiful she is, how precious, how loved…. Wouldn’t every woman want that? I think that’s our deepest desire.
We’re a generation suffering from anxiety — we just don’t feel relaxed. I think this is something in our DNA, something that has been passed down through the generations. We Jews were constantly on the run, never safe, and that affects our emotional well-being today. One of my grandparents was in the war, and I’m sure that’s why I was anxious as a child. There was no reason for my anxiety, it was just an undercurrent, always there. I never felt 100 percent safe. If someone would say, “Trust Hashem, you’re safe,” there’d be a voice in my head saying, “No, anything could happen!”
It took me three to four months of listening to meditations by renowned positive-thinking coach Chaya Hinda Allen again and again until my body finally relaxed. In one of her classes, Chaya Hinda said something that really changed me. She said, “Hashem will wait for us to trust Him again.” I was so moved when she said that. It was so healing to feel that Hashem is a safe presence and not a Being out to get you if you do something wrong. And it’s true; we’re supposed to develop a face-to-face relationship with Hashem that’s born out of love, not fear.
With this principle, using EFT and meditation, I started running workshops and private sessions in which I guide women to look deeper into themselves, see who they really are, and understand how what’s happening in their life now reflects their past. Because when you’re in a deep meditative state, things just come up.
Once, I did a session with someone who had been abused by a parent, and we looked into where this poison, this darkness came from. As she was sitting there, she had an image of a Nazi in a concentration camp flash before her, and she realized that the harshness her grandparent had experienced during the war had in turn covered her parent’s neshamah and innate compassion. This insight gave the woman an understanding of where the abuse came from.
I’ve seen this very often, that women have a big breakthrough and access these images and thoughts just through meditating and relaxing.
My dream was to take women to beautiful spaces to feel precious, have fun, and be creative. Being outdoors always makes me calm. The beauty of nature somehow lifts my soul and brings a smile to my lips. So it makes sense that it was on a walk in the park with a friend of mine, five years ago, when this idea began to take root.
Now I run retreats throughout the year. They’re not long, sometimes just a day, but that’s all you need really. The retreats take place in a boutique mansion not too far away from Manchester, and are designed to rejuvenate the body, mind, and spirit.
Although I get funding from grants, my retreats do cost a bit because I want them to be a pampering experience. I once asked a guy who does men’s retreats to help me with the money side of it. He said to me, “Oh, for men we just give them burgers or lasagna. Why do you have to give them all these salads and expensive things?”
I said, “No, women need to be nourished and feel like they’re being pampered. They’re always doing for everyone else. I want them to feel nourished now.”
So we make sugar- and wheat-free muffins, full of healthy things like oats, flaxseeds, and dates. The salads are explosions of color. Whatever the women eat fills them up and nourishes them, without that guilty feeling, because it’s all stuff that’s good for you. For meals we serve soup, rice, fish, and cooked vegetables. Good, healthy, nutritious stuff. A woman told me that she felt so good without bread, so light, not bloated and heavy. Inspired by the colors and textures of the healthy fare, she wanted to try it out herself at home.
When I get this feedback, I know I’m reaching my goal.
I’m also very passionate about exercise. I don’t do jumpy stuff, I’m more into swimming or Pilates, which strengthens the core muscles and helps with posture. I try to make sure we have some of that in our retreats. Quite a few people continued doing Pilates after coming on a retreat, because they saw how good it was for them. Often, the Pilates instructor will come for free, because she really believes in what we’re doing.
Self-Expression through Creative Arts
On the retreats, we’ll have different options such as inspirational speakers, dance, and meditation sessions, and art workshops. Everything is optional, and even if someone doesn’t want to do the meditation — it’s not everyone’s thing — she can still have a great and relaxing day out.
Art can be very therapeutic. On my retreats it’s not about who can or can’t draw, art is just a form of self-expression for creative women. As I said before, so many women quash their innate creativity. Sometimes it’s because we’re scared of being judged. When you’re little, you think the sky’s the limit. Adults see ceilings and walls — we have no idea what we can achieve, because others’ opinions have shaped us.
Oh, and we always sing, because when do women get a chance to sing? There always has to be a kumzitz. It’s not about who’s got a good voice or not, it’s just sing because you love to sing! It doesn’t matter what it sounds like. I have a harp I use for kumzitzes, and even though I haven’t had training, the harp resonates with the heart and people feel it. It’s beautiful.
Experiencing, Not Teaching
The highlight of the retreat is the meditations. I like to help women experience serenity and love, so I don’t do this through shiurim because it needs to be al levavcha, on your heart — you need to be in a meditative state. Sometimes people are wary but find that they actually love it in the end. Meditating isn’t a new thing; early chassidim went into the forest to be in a beautiful place so they could meditate.
Each meditation starts with trying to get to yishuv hadaas. The seforim talk about yishuv hadaas and that a way to get there is by breathing deeply. As the women breathe, I encourage them to visualize Hashem’s love holding them. Feeling this love is amazing, and a lot of women shed tears the first time they feel this.
When I run a meditation session, people come and get into whatever position feels comfortable for them. I have mats on the floor, couches… people lie down or sit however they want. Some people close their eyes, some stare at the ceiling. Whatever works for them.
When a person truly relaxes and quiets their mind from everything else in their life, they have space to see who they really are. Sometimes this awakens powerful feelings, things that people held bottled up inside for a long time. I always say better out than in. When these feelings and thoughts come up, you don’t need to hold on to them, just let them go.
Waterfalls of Love
We see so many sad people in the world, and sometimes I feel like I live on a different planet — one of hope, healing, and love. I don’t just talk about all that light and love; I want people to actually live it.
When I daven, I try to imagine the shefa brachah coming down from Shamayim onto me. The Baal Shem Tov says you need to visualize that waterfall of love just pouring down on you. Davening isn’t about begging, as many people think, it’s about the feeling of I’m in Hashem’s loving embrace. So when I say the brachah of refaeinu, I see healing pouring into the world, feel rays of light and warmth. I imagine the feeling of Geulah when saying the brachah of goel Yisrael. With sim shalom, I see people from all walks of life holding hands. This makes my davening so much more meaningful, a true connection with our Creator.
The Nesivos Shalom explains that the power of your thoughts is incredible — in the merit of anticipating the yeshuah, you get the salvation. When you imagine that you already have all that good, Hashem in turn will shower you with it, a never-ending waterfall of love. When you visualize that brachah pouring down on you, you know that Hashem is just waiting to give it to you. You’re enveloped in feeling precious, loved, and safe. And that’s what every woman needs.
I wish I could do more. My vision is to expand my workshops and retreats, and one day have a center in every Jewish community. There would be daycare, a room for mediation, a beautiful garden, and soft music, lovely classes, expressive dance, and singing. A truly healing center.
Kumi Ori means: Rise and shine. And that’s what I aim to be doing. I want every woman to rise up and see her value and worth, to see that she is a shining light, and to feel the Shechinah pouring light over her.
Our job is to rise out of the bitterness that can sometimes affect us. We need to do that by finding ourselves — our neshamos — expressing ourselves, and connecting to Hashem, our loving Father.
I Couldn’t Do This Without
I have so many people who help me, but the person who organizes everything is really Zipporah Lieberman. She was so passionate after coming on one of the retreats, and she just wanted to get involved. Now she’s the chief organizer. She does everything from baking muffins to finding the location, to making phone calls and planning. Zipporah is my backbone, a super organizer who always has a smile. She’s amazing and I don’t know what I would do without her.
The truth is, Kumi Ori seems to attract volunteers and incredibly passionate people, so baruch Hashem, I have a lot of help.
And it works! I’ve had so much positive feedback over the past few years. Someone wrote me a letter after an overnight retreat, saying that she’d recently gone through such a difficult time and this just saved her life. Another person was going through something very difficult at home, and she said after that one day, she was dancing around the house feeling like a young girl again. Another woman commented that her husband told her he’d never seen her so happy and relaxed.
There was one lady who came to a retreat — her husband was niftar quite a few months before. She said that she never really cried. (I always wonder why withholding tears is a sign of strength. I believe that being able to let go and cry it out is true strength.) She told me afterward that as she relaxed, tears just streamed down her face. The tears weren’t bitter, they weren’t sad, they were healing. At the end of the meditation, she said she felt lighter than she ever had in the last few months. It was so cleansing for her.
These kinds of stories warm my heart. I’m so happy that I can be there to guide people on their journey of healing.
The most unexpected feedback I ever received: When I started Kumi Ori, I thought I was creating it for busy mothers with a bunch of young children. But soon a totally unexpected demographic started coming. Older women — women who are already widowed or are carers for spouses or disabled children — and they love it! Incredibly, they seem to be the most enthusiastic about this, they join in with everything really give it their all. I really didn’t expect that they would enjoy this, but I feel so grateful that I’m able to touch them, too.
My favorite form of self-care is… sitting on the highest hill in Heaton Park so I can see all the mountains, and playing my harp.
My favorite book: Anything by Meir Uri Gottesman, his books are so real and deep.
My favorite song: The famous tune for Acheinu. I always start a kumzitz with this song. Also Halev Sheli Nikra Lishatyim by Ishay Ribo. It’s a beautiful song, but not only that, I find he sings with his soul, and he’s not just trying to show off his voice.
I never leave home without… a bottle of water.
Something about me that people might not know or expect: I’m an introvert.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 848)
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