On the Road to Ojai, Ruach Nashim 2012


We asked Dina Bernat-Kunin to share about her recent trip to gorgeous Ojai, California for a powerful and fun Women’s retreat.  

The road to Ojai is very familiar to me. I call it freedom road. I usually avoid being the driver because I just hate driving. Being the passenger allows me to relish the relief I feel while traveling. But on this trip, I offered to drive a close friend to the Ruach Nashim women’s retreat up at Camp Ramah in Ojai, California. My friend, Andrea, was in no condition to drive as she was experiencing the trauma of having to move out of her house almost immediately after her home was flooded. How ironic for her that the theme of this retreat was water. As I thought about water, images of the spray from the Banyas waterfall flooded my mind. As a Healer and an Ima, I am always working on cleansing and clearing, both physically and internally.

I couldn’t wait anymore for my freedom! My anticipation built as I exited off of the 101 freeway to the 33. It would not be long from here. The flood of memories began. My husband and I have a history of coming up here for our getaways. Sometimes we’ve made it a family trip, but more often Ojai is our couple’s refuge.  I felt my heart beat with more excitement as we passed the Blue Iguana Inn. A big exhale pours out of me with a sigh. I was waiting for that exhale all day. “We’re free! We’re free!” I yell. Andrea’s understanding smile is happy for me, even though she was still recovering from a hectic week. I took another long breath, releasing the “Aaahhhh” of relief. For some reason, I was happy to be driving. Huh, new experiences were already happening.

I did not grow up at this camp, but my kids have. They live for summer at Ramah. When they ride this road, they have a different flood of memories. Their Ojai freedom came from being a child in a place that they’ve always felt safe, independent and joyous. Don’t we all want that!
Andrea and Shawn had been encouraging me to come for quite a while. This women’s retreat has been going for 7 years. Family, finances, and work always presented obstacles to going. But a voice inside of me insisted on coming this year.

As I sat in the introduction circle of 75 women of various ages, I noticed how busy my head had been. My brain was still working, still prioritizing other things that were not at Ojai, and still a little unsure of what was to come. I didn’t want to experience this weekend with all that garbage talk in my head. I wanted to be here, to truly be present with the women in front of me. With determination and some trepidation, I stepped into the circle.

As the workshop progressed, we met each other through song, dance and Moving Torah. This was Andrea’s amazing creation as she brought a unique life to each word, to every song as the Torah moved through our bodies. All together, we mimicked, sculpted, and flowed with the feelings and meanings of our words. Like the waving of hands which welcomes in Shabbat, a spirit of joyous womanhood entered the collective body of the group. I loved the feeling of being fully immersed in the spirit and energy of women. What a gift. As my mental resistance melted, I allowed the current of Shabbat to carry me into an ongoing rush of amazing davening, incredible learning, and the joy of hanging out with great people. I was just soaking up each moment!

Prior to coming on the retreat, I had asked Rabbi Shawn Fields-Meyer, the Retreat Coordinator, if there was any opportunity for me to offer a learning session at the retreat. “Yes!” she responded with great enthusiasm, “Shabbat afternoon, for Spa Ramah, people offer different kinds of relaxing and nurturing sessions”, Shawn shared. I was so excited. It was a chance to share the work I had been developing in my private practice as a Healer called Deep Body Listening and Body Dialogue. At lunch, I told the group about the newly offered session, gushing with enthusiasm.

Then, panic struck! So many women came up to me saying, “I’m coming to your session!” I had assumed that everybody was going to take a Shabbat nap! It turned out that the idea of being gently guided to connect deeply with our bodies was very appealing. I had mentally prepared for maybe eight people showing up.

Twenty eight women poured into the workshop space! It was the first time that I would be presenting my new work to a group, and 28 women show up. To calm my pounding heart, I gave myself a pep talk. “Be open to having a new experience, Dina”.

Something clicked as I stood before this group feeling confidence and joy. I brought them to feeling our hearts, asking them to feel their chest in a more intentional way. Textures, colors¸ temperatures, shapes, and emotions arose in the women. So rarely do we, as women, get to focus our full attention on our own bodies. So often, we are caring for others. But today, it was our turn to feel the warmth of our own hearts. Using specific breathing techniques, I guided the group to bring this warmth to the bottoms of their feet as we touched upon each body part. “Do this slowly and thoughtfully so that each place in your body feels received”, I kept repeating. “Now, ask your body where you need attention the most. Just listen and receive whatever message your body has to give you. As the participants learned to listen more deeply to their bodies, I directed them in bringing their heart energy to each neglected spot. “Feel the gift of bringing that warmth to your OWN body.” Women shared how nurtured their body felt and they expressed gratitude for being able to attend to their body in this new way. The feeling of exhilaration washed over me and I felt so energized leading this incredible session.

Shabbat came to a close, allowing us to participate in an evening of arts. There was something for everyone; writing, drama, Moving Torah, ceramics and silk painting. The rooms were just vibrating with an intense creative energy everywhere.

In return for the enormous gift of participating in this retreat I expressed my gratitude and enthusiasm by asking to be included in the planning and coordinating team for next year. To all those who will be at next year’s retreat, I can’t wait to see you next year on the road to Ojai!

Dina Bernat-Kunin, LCSW has a private practice in the Pico/Robertson section of LA. Her sessions offer Intuitive Exercises, Energy Healing, Talk Therapy, and Deep Body Listening and Body Dialogue. She can be reached through her website www.dinabernatkunin.com

Lisa Ellen Niver

Lisa Ellen Niver is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 102 countries and six continents. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she worked on cruise ships for seven years and backpacked for three years in Asia. She is the founder of the website WeSaidGoTravel which is read in 235 countries and was named #3 on Rise Global’s top 1,000 Travel Blogs. Niver is represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, Inc. Look for her memoir in Fall 2023 from Post Hill Press/Simon and Schuster. With more than 150,000 followers across social media, she has hosted Facebook Live for USA Today 10best, is verified on Twitter and listed on IMDb, and is the Social Media Manager for the Los Angeles Press Club. You can find Lisa Niver talking travel on broadcast television at KTLA TV Los Angeles, Satellite Media Tours, The Jet Set TV and Orbitz travel webisodes as well as her YouTube channel, where her WeSaidGoTravel videos have over 1.7 million views. As a journalist, Niver has interviewed Deepak Chopra, Olympic medalists, and numerous bestselling authors and been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. She has been a judge for the Gracie Awards for the Alliance of Women in Media, and has run 15 travel competitions on her website, publishing over 2,500 writers and photographers from 75 countries. For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded three Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and been a finalist twenty times.   Niver has published more than 2000 articles, in more than three dozen magazines and journals including National Geographic, Wired, Teen Vogue, HuffPost Personal, POPSUGAR, Ms. Magazine, Luxury Magazine, Smithsonian, Sierra Club, Saturday Evening Post, AARP, AAA Explorer Magazine, American Airways, Delta Sky, enRoute (Air Canada), Hemispheres, Jewish Journal, Myanmar Times, BuzzFeed, Robb Report, Scuba Diver Life, Ski Utah, Trivago, Undomesticated, USA Today, TODAY, Wharton Magazine, and Yahoo. Awards National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards 2021 Winner: Book Critic: Ms. Magazine “Untamed: Brave Means Living From the Inside Out” 2019 Winner: Soft News Feature for Film/TV: KTLA TV “Oscars Countdown to Gold with Lisa Niver” 2019 Finalist for: Soft News, Business/Music/Tech/Art Southern California Journalism Awards 2022 Finalist: Book Criticism 2021 Winner: Technology Reporting 2021 Finalist: Book Criticism 2020 Winner: Print Magazine Feature: Hemispheres Magazine, “Painter by the Numbers, Rembrandt” 2020 Finalist: Online Journalist of the Year, Activism Journalism, Educational Reporting, Broadcast Lifestyle Feature 2019 Finalist: Broadcast Television Lifestyle Segment for “Ogden Ski Getaway” 2018 Finalist: Science/Technology Reporting, Travel Reporting, Personality Profile 2017 Winner: Print Column “A Journey to Freedom over Three Passovers” Social Media Presence YouTube Channel: We Said Go Travel (1.7 million views) Short form video:TikTok, Instagram Reels, Facebook Reels, YouTube Shorts Twitter: lisaniver (90,000 followers) Instagram: lisaniver (24,000 followers) Pinterest: We Said Go Travel (20,000 followers and over 70,000 monthly views) Facebook: lisa.niver (5,000 followers); We Said Go Travel (3,000 followers) LinkedIn: lisaellenniver (9000 contacts)

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