Chocolate Villa. Four Days. Twelve Women. Glorious Enlightenment.

Chocolate Villa. Four Days. Twelve Women. Glorious Enlightenment.

I’m walking into this palatial mountain home in Heber Valley, about to meet the twelve women I’d be spending the week with. The only thing I knew about them was that we were all in the same moment- we wanted more. We just didn’t know how to get there. Chocolate Villa is the brainchild of Merrilee Buchanan and a group of friends who built a retreat that helped women executives figure out their “next.” The women here in my retreat are from all over the world, they’re software designers, philanthropists, vice presidents of financial institutions … and me. You can see where I’m a little intimidated.


Building the bonds of friendship.

Merrilee gathered us together in a pleasant, practiced way that told me she’s done this before. A lot. And this is true, she teaches these principles to female executives all over the world, including the United Nations. It all comes from an understanding that women process information differently. They approach their careers with challenges men may not experience. I’ll be honest – I come from a career in media where women are still clawing their way up. We don’t stick together, and we should. I’m used to holding back a little, but that initial hesitance was calmly demolished by the circle of women who shared stories, admitted disastrous moments and applauded their successes.


“Shuddup! I’m not crying!”

I was genuinely surprised at what took me off guard. One of my favorite exercises was standing in front of ten numbers on the floor, then visualizing where I was in the pursuit of my goal, in this case, building my position as a Pinterest influencer. I was at a two- still trying to figure out where I should put in my energy. The others helped me walk through the process and make my way up the numbers. But there’s something about that number ten- it’s terrifying! Am I ready? What happens then? Sharon not-so-gently nudged me on to ten. “How does it feel?” Sharon asked. “Ummm…” I shifted uneasily on the ten. It signified that I’d reached my influencer status. It meant a whole new level of our career opening up. It meant…  I started crying. “I feel relief. I can take care of my kids. Zoe can have a college fund. Zachie can have a trust to make sure he’s cared for, protected.” It’s these kinds of shocks and surprises that make this week so memorable. You experience emotions you hadn’t expected and it makes you understand yourself – the issues that insist on confusing you, the things that are holding you back – you get them. You finally understand what you want and how to go after it


Putting it all together.

Then, there’s the pondering. There’s so much information- so much revelation every single day that you need time to absorb it. Along with some excellent manuals, books, notes, and worksheets, there’s time.  It’s deliberately placed to let you catch your breath after 12 hours of information. Yeah, there’s a chef that makes extravagantly wonderful food. The lodge is huge and comfortable. There’s a pool and a hot tub. Because you need the time to go through everything you learned that day, take notes, think about what it all means in your life. Trust me, every day is a revelation. The most powerful part of the Chocolate Villa experience goes back to these women. Women that occupy high positions in government, the business world, entertainment, and more. And every single one of them was there for each other. We explored ideas and fears that would be kind of painful to share in the outside world. But we were all safe together. Gathering information from their copious life experience helped me so much with mine. And since the week has been over, I’ve spoken with at least half of “the girls.” While I walked away with my mind crammed with new information and enlightenment, I also gained a … a gang, for lack of a better word. We check up on each other. We follow through to see how everyone’s doing, we support each other.


I finally “get it.”

So here’s my big moment of enlightenment: we were working with an Aikido master who was teaching us the “ancient” art of breaking boards to overcome our fears. I was kind of sucking at it until he said the magical words. “You’re looking at the barrier, Erin. Ignore it. Look past it and focus on what you really want. The barrier really isn’t there at all.” So I took a deep breath, focused and broke that board into pieces like it was cardboard. And this to me is the ultimate message from Chocolate Villa. They’ll teach you to look beyond your fears, your boundaries, your barriers. And when I broke that board, I felt invincible.

What about you?

Are you ready to become invincible? Chocolate Villa’s next retreat will be shortly after the new year in 2020, plenty of time for you to get ready, make your boss pay for it (more info on how to do that here) and prepare for what will be the most powerful four days of your life. Find your “next.” It’s time.

What's New

The Villa Thirty Day Confidence Boot Camp

Welcome to your new decade! Merrilee Buchanan and some close friends created the Chocolate Villa executive women’s retreat to help participants find the way to what they wanted – not just in their career, but in life as a whole. As a graduate from a Chocolate Villa retreat last year, I can tell you from personal experience that it changed my life.

Because Merrilee is … well … made of Awesome, she wanted to offer something that created small, substantive steps toward confidence and inner strength. The thirty-day “Villa Confidence Boot Camp” is designed to get you started on the way to understanding yourself, finding the weaknesses and fears that might be holding you back. Are you ready? Let’s get started!

Oh! This is so important! The next Chocolate Villa retreat is scheduled for March 8-12 in beautiful Heber Valley. You can learn more about the retreat here, and have a look at the incredible mountain mansion we stay in here. This is an experience that’ll stretch your boundaries in the best way, with support and care from Merrilee, Meagan and the other moderators. There’s helpful advice on how to ask your company to pay for your retreat here, and my experience at Chocolate Villa is here.

Cover image credit: Pexels