Women’s Wellness Retreat

The Oregon Attorney Assistance Program (OAAP) and Oregon Women Lawyers (OWLS) held their 11th Annual Women’s Wellness Retreat for Lawyers at the Surfsand Resort in Cannon Beach on April 27 and 28. A wide-sweeping view of the ocean and the majestic Haystack Rock served as an inspiring and spectacular backdrop.

This year’s theme was “Powering Up Our Resilience Through Mindfulness.” Fifty-six women lawyers came together to learn, relax, and create new or sustain existing connections. With the help of our speakers, this two-day event was filled with thought-provoking presentations, reflections, and relaxation.

We kicked off Friday afternoon with a satisfying lunch, welcome remarks, and introductions. The atmosphere was casual, light, and cheerful. Speaker Virginia Terhaar, PsyD, encouraged us to turn off our phones for 24 hours and to observe any reactions to the urge to reach for our device.

Our keynote speaker, Laura Mahr, JD, a mindfulness coach, defined mindfulness, resilience, and power. She distinguished between discernment and criticism in explaining mindfulness as the act of paying attention to the present without judgment. Nonjudgment can be understood as being less critical of one’s present experience while engaging in discernment. Laura also conceptualized resilience as making use of mindfulness tools to bring us out of our reactive mode to a responsive mode, where we can make better decisions and enter a state of flow.

After Laura’s presentation, we were given free time to enjoy our cozy rooms and make use of the pool, hot tub, and sauna before returning for dinner. During dinner, attendees discussed their favorite ways of de-stressing, including any meditation practices, and the meaning of resilience. Most of us stayed behind for the beach bonfire. Friday night ended with our yoga teacher, Michelle Ryan, JD, guiding us with her soothing voice into complete relaxation through Yoga Nidra (sleep with awareness).

The next day, Michelle led us in a morning yoga session to help us feel grounded. We gathered for breakfast and readied ourselves for a presentation on Trauma-Informed Lawyering by Brigitte Rodriguez, MSW, and Ali Schneider, JD.

Brigitte helped us understand that trauma is an individualized experience and influenced by culture. She spoke of the main elements of trauma-informed care (realization of trauma’s prevalence, its recognition, and responsiveness toward it) and the principles of a trauma-informed approach, such as safety, trustworthiness, and peer support. Ali then described the practical steps lawyers can take, such as creating a comfortable space, making one’s legal services more accessible to clients with barriers, or spending more time introducing clients to the process during a consultation.

Virginia Terhaar later led us in a discussion on how to create a supportive legal community. She explained that the quality of our connections gives us our secured sense of self. She had us consider how we may use the ideas from the retreat to form or improve our relationships with other lawyers.

During lunch, attendees had the option of participating in an arts-and-crafts activity with creativity coach Megan Saint-Marie by creating a vision candle. Participants were given a candle to decorate as they envisioned their past, present, and/or future.

We wrapped up the retreat with Laura Mahr leading us through exercises and discussions that reflect how we can be responsive rather than reactive. She had us list our personal strengths and taught us mindfulness tools so we can build resilience, transform our emotions, and take actions that improve our well-being.

Special thanks to all of our speakers and the wonderful women lawyers who participated in our event. Your presence was truly valuable, significant, and impactful. Cheers to OAAP and OWLS for another successful retreat!