Cushy's First Annual Retreat

Part of being a good leader is recognizing when you aren’t the right person to see a specific task through. Case in point: the Cushy retreat. While our contributor community is still relatively new to the internets (hello, world!), our friendships and desire to take our digital space and catalyze it into a physical meetup was very real.

  Erin and Carli when they first met in 2011 in Las Cruces, New Mexico

Erin and Carli when they first met in 2011 in Las Cruces, New Mexico

I was having coffee with Carli, a rare treat, and she asked me where I was at with planning the retreat. This was in March. Anytime anyone had asked me prior to this my answer had been one of two default answers: “It’s in the works!  Or “I’m on it!”

It was not in the works and I was not on it.

I looked at Carli point blank and just said, “It’s not anywhere. I’m not the right catalyst to make this happen.” Then I braced myself for a look of disappointment to dawn her face, and, the inevitable placating or anecdotal response about how it was okay, and that I was probably really busy, and then a swift change of subjects. But that is not what happened.

Instead, Carli bounced back with, “Let me take the lead.”


Here was this woman who was working for two non-profits, going to graduate school, and had creative ventures of her own (if you aren’t familiar with Bruja’s Bag of Tricks or her book of poetry Sistar, I See You, do yourself a favor), and she was just offering to coordinate a retreat for me, for Cushy.

That’s the power of this community that’s organically grown out of a personal blog. That’s the spirit each of our contributors shares with me and each other day in and day out; a spirit of sharing, generosity, compassion, innovation, and hustle. So. Much. Hustle in our community. The retreat was out of my hands, and shit was actually happening. It was, and frankly still is, a dream. Carli quickly garnered the aid of another superstar in our community, Dani Adams. While you’ll know Dani from her Communications work as the Founder of Arrow and Ink Consulting, she has an extensive background, like Carli, in intentional and thoughtfully planning for gatherings such as this. Emails were sent, surveys were created, a beautiful, thoughtful agenda for the retreat was created featuring members of our community leading workshops and sessions. It was sheer magic, and I literally did none of it.

As a commander type personality, I have a hard time not being in control. It’s difficult to let things go from my tightly clenched fist. To see this retreat come alive, to experience it in the present and feel the love and sisterhood among the attendees spurred from the intentionality and creative vision of Dani and Carli, was one of the best gifts I have ever gotten. 

Dani and Carli created a gathering that had everything and gave everything. We danced and collaged, journaled and meditated, swam and ate, and I gathered so much data. Data? That’s weird you say, but hear me out: following my recent presentation at 1 Million Cups this past May, I’ve been synthesizing the valuable feedback and information I received from the entrepreneurial audience.

This feedback, in tandem with work I’m doing with mentors through WESST and SCORE ABQ, I recognized that this vibrant community of contributors were Cushy’s early adopters - if Cushy has a future of any kind, it’s because of them. I needed to understand what brought them to Cushy, and what kept them there. What I found out, left me breathless. I’ll be sharing that in another upcoming post centered around growing Cushy as a business, but let me just say for now the feedback was beyond my wildest dreams. Somehow, in less than two years, this really beautiful, safe, inclusive, light-filled community has formed out of love, solidarity and a fearlessness that can’t really be described but I think is felt every time someone puts their gifts out there into the world.


Mindfullness Workshop

Carli and Hannah enjoy the process of using a clementine as a focal point for Marina's mindfulness workshop. 

In our final session of the day, led by Dani, we collaborated together to create vision boards for our the future of Cushy and our shared vision for it. 


On the community: 

" if Cushy has a future of any kind, it’s because of them." 

- Erin Barrio 

With permission from the attendees, what follows are a few testimonials shared by our members on their Cushy frames. Cushy frames are a take from Danielle LaPorte’s friendship frames, as introduced to us by Marina, Cushy’s North Star. The point of the frame is to highlight a specific tenant or trait about a friendship, or in this case community, that you love and cherish.


"Being recognized as a sister immediately.." 

Melina Laroza 

IMG_1095 (1).jpg

"I feel community every time Liz posts on our page asking us how we are doing..." 

Marina Daldalian


There were several take-aways for me from this retreat, but, the biggest was:

Albuquerque Cushies gathered for the first annual retreat!

Cushy is so much bigger and more than me: Cushy is Carli and Dani showing up and planning a retreat on their own time out of the love they have for this community and what we do Cushy is Marina leading a mindfulness workshop to help us center and add tools to our tool kit for dealing with daily hurdles. Cushy is every monthly contribution someone gifts us and the world with. Cushy is Nat curating a promo journal and planning our exclusive print while working full time on a farm in North Carolina. Cushy is Liz tending to each member of the community like a flower in her own garden. She is the sun. Cushy is Adriana giving her time endlessly to recording and planning UnWomanPOD and helping me brand and promote our business. Cushy is community - and that really is key.

Erin E BarrioComment