I had the recent privilege to experience the BraveSoul 2022 retreat in Ireland.
This event was both world class and transformational. It’s the type of retreat you need to experience for yourself, but I’ll do my best to recap things from my lens.
BraveSoul takes place in County Clare of western Ireland. I won’t share the exact location though. That’s something you get access to if you decide to attend the retreat 🙂
I will share some of the characteristics that make this part of Ireland magical:
- Lush green landscape with rolling hills and forests.
- Access to the shores of the Atlantic ocean, dramatic cliffs and wind that smells of the sea.
- Enchanting countryside with stone rustic cottages, vibrant farm land and stone fences.
- Warm people that smile from the heart, laugh with passion, and treat you like a welcomed guest. This includes cozy pubs in every village.
- Unpredictable weather that keeps you on your toes! The sun can be shining one moment… and then minutes later cool showers roll in to remind you of your ocean proximity.
Here are a few photos to give you a glimpse of what I’m describing.
The land and environment is a huge part of this retreat. Ireland tells a story about the world that I can’t feel in my normal environment (United States). It’s filled with beauty and history that can elevate the senses. I was so captivated at times that I found myself considering what it would be like to live there.
The location also gave us access to some awesome experiences with nature. This included morning walks/runs, jumping into the Atlantic ocean, plus some memorable group hikes and walks. I really enjoyed being outdoors in Ireland.
BraveSoul is hosted by Philip McKernan, his lovely family, and his stellar team (including Miz). Philip may be the “leader” in many regards, but it’s fair to say his wife, Pauline, does all the heavy lifting. I think he’d strongly agree 😉
The McKernans are not your typical family. They have huge hearts, warm curiosity and contagious humor. To be clear here, I was mainly talking about Pauline and the kids. Philip is okay as well.
All joking aside, Philip is the type of human that sparks life into others. He’s a leader, mentor, coach, speaker, author, etc. He doesn’t even like most of those labels I used. That’s how humble and authentic he is. If I had to describe Philip in one phrase I’d say this –
He helps people find their true self.
And I don’t mean your typical coach that helps you navigate a few of your challenges. Philip’s unique approach and leadership are on another level. They’re in their own category that falls short of any description. You simply have to meet him, and then “lean into the work” as he would say, to really understand things for yourself.
A few things I appreciate about Philip:
- He’s committed to helping people with the hard, complicated, messy stuff.
- He tells you exactly how it is in a direct and thoughtful way. No fluff or bullshit.
- He truly lives life on his terms. One of the few people I’ve met who’s not wearing a mask.
- He is the best question asker I’ve ever met. Period.
- He’s also pretty damn funny.
I feel fortunate and blessed to have met Philip and his family in person. A special thanks to Miz as well, who played an important support role to Philip and our group.
BraveSoul was packed with connection, healing and discovery. Those three terms feel like a decent way to summarize my experience.
Connection was created at this retreat on different levels. We had connection with Philip and the BraveSoul team, connection with our peers, connection with nature, and most importantly, connection with ourselves.
The deep connection with ourselves was a very special part of this experience. We went back into our past to connect with our inner child, which was extremely enlightening. We navigated some of the granular details to really understand how past events have shaped our present. The insights that came from this were astounding.
It was also nice to connect with other people on similar but different journeys. The group exercises allowed us to share a safe space for empathy and vulnerability. I admire the way so many people showed up to this event and opened up their hearts. It was also cool to connect with people of different ages, backgrounds and nationalities.
Healing is a strong word, which is why I used it here. I think we all have things in life we need to heal from, whether it’s major trauma, burnout or sub conscious patterns that no longer serve us. Some of us simply need to heal and rest from all the pressure we’ve put on ourselves, including yours truly.
Philip is methodical in creating space for healing to actually occur. From the agenda and activities to the banning of cell phones, this event allowed me to recharge and focus on myself like never before. The ability to heal helped me and many others realize how little self-love and self-compassion we give ourselves. It also sparked some insight on the power of truly disconnecting and being with ourselves in a distraction free environment.
I’m coming back with a new appreciation for rest, alone time and healing.
The self-discovery at BraveSoul was the cornerstone of the retreat. It’s the WHY for most of us who attended. It’s the yearning to find who we really are.
I found that this retreat helped me re-discover important pieces of who I am at my core. For example – I love to play and compete and be involved in sports. Yet I’ve neglected that for years… and now I have a better understanding of why. I also love to create things and flex my inner artist. Yet I’ve also neglected that for a while… and now I have some new found inspiration to create again.
Finding ourselves again, or for the first time, isn’t as simple as reading a book or hiring a life coach. It’s found through intentional work on ourselves. It’s supported by the guidance of someone who’s been there before and knows the right questions to ask. It’s evoked by healthy constraints that remove all the extra noise. And it’s amplified by an environment where others show up and commit to the same work.
That’s exactly what BraveSoul delivered.
What I’m coming home with…
The things I’m coming home with would be an entire blog post in itself! So I’ll try to summarize them in simple form:
- I’m coming home with memories, awareness and perspective I didn’t have before.
- I’m coming home with new friendships and relationships.
- I’m coming home feeling like a better version of myself.
If I had to describe how I’ve changed from this experience, here’s what comes to mind:
- I’m more in tune with who I am at my core.
- I’m more aware of what’s been holding me back and creating challenges in my life.
- I’m more alive and inspired.
I also crafted this poem as part of the experience –
Life can be a challenging test
In many ways it’s one big quest
We start the game with open hearts
We dance and play and let out farts
But then we’re given a rule or two
Told how to act and what to do
We’re put in school and given books
We’re quickly judged by our looks
The play and joy is stripped away
We’re told that money leads the way
Our minds take over, we fall in line
We’re guided towards the assembly line
We play the role and wear the mask
To do the things that others ask
The art within us starts to die
And then we say how fast time flies
Years go by and hairs turn grey
We tell ourselves we will one day
The final stage is to find our gift
It’s buried deep, a heavy lift
The price we’ll pay could be vast
It requires details from our past
It won’t be easy and hard to see
We have to feel it to be set free
And once it’s found our lives can shift
We beat the game, become free of it
Is BraveSoul for you?
I feel compelled to encourage everyone to consider BraveSoul, especially if any of what I’ve shared speaks to you. There is no age requirement or criteria to apply. In fact, the diversity of participants is part of the magic. It’s a retreat for people who:
- Sense something might be missing in life.
- Want to ask and answer the deeper questions.
- Aren’t afraid to invest in themselves.
That said, it’s definitely not for everyone. It requires courage and curiosity. It also requires humility to know that you can become a better version of yourself.
If that sounds like you, check out the link below:
A final thanks to Philip, Pauline, their kiddos, Miz, and everyone who showed up at BraveSoul. It was an extraordinary experience that I’m deeply grateful for and will never forget. 🙏
Ali is a father, husband and serial entrepreneur with a deep drive to create. He writes, records, codes and builds things to inspire the artist in all of us.