Facing her fear of the ocean helped Cheryl face other fears

I am terrified of swimming in the ocean, let alone surfing. I had recently moved to LA and lost my job that I relocated for. I felt scared of a lot of things in my new transition so it seemed like facing a literal fear would help me move forward in facing some of my mental fears.


I didn’t think I would be comfortable getting into the water. I didn’t think I would stay in the water very long. And I was afraid that I wouldn’t learn anything new about myself.

What I learned was whatever you set your mind on doing you can do. Even if you don’t do it perfectly the act of trying is far more gratifying than not trying. The biggest limitations in my life are the ones I set for myself. My attitude dictates what I want to try and what I can try. I realized I need to let go more often and let my life metaphorically move like the waves in the ocean.

I moved back to the Bay Area in October where I feel more at peace with myself. I love it here. I’ve stepped out the corporate job track and have two jobs in two different restaurants right now. I don’t know if I’ll be serving for the rest of my life, but it certainly has allowed me to learn more about myself, gain back some confidence and give me time to do more things for myself like yoga, reading and cooking.

I’m starting to realize I have a big spiritual journey ahead of me. My life experience is something really special to share with other people when the time comes. The surf retreat was part of opening this up for me.Cheryl

I’ve started thinking about traveling abroad. Doing some kind of yoga retreat, maybe a winemaking apprenticeship and then who knows!? I need to really set myself free and find out who I am more deeply. There’s this inner calling I’ve been feeling for a very long time that I am going to acknowledge and honor. I don’t know how I’ll get to the next steps, but I’m giving myself 6 months to save the money and plan accordingly.

The retreat was overall very relaxing and fun. While some of the group activities were uncomfortable for me, they also pushed my comfort zone a little, which is always a good way for me to learn and grow. I discovered I’m not scared of the ocean as much as I thought I was. It’s better to let go and have fun than to sit back and miss out.

Cheryl Johnson


Fun became Shannon’s Secret Weapon

The pictures from the first Into the Fire struck something inside me. The sunshine, the waves, the smiles, the fun that occurred that day was evident and I could tell something deeper had happened. I wanted to experience the magic I witnessed for myself.


It was 3:30 pm on Friday afternoon. The retreat began early the next morning in Malibu. I was in San Francisco General Hospital with the rest of my family receiving the unexpected news that my dad had late-stage pancreatic cancer. Time stopped. Soon came the questions. Now what? What to do? Do I cancel the surfing plans I’ve had for months? Do I begin now putting off my life as a result of the jarring diagnosis that smacked my family? And if I do choose to go, can I even manage to enjoy myself, let alone have fun, with all that had changed that afternoon?

Into the Fire was a pivotal experience that profoundly changed the course of my year and continues to impact me. Receiving the diagnosis of my father’s late-stage cancer the day before the Surf Retreat set a powerful context to what I thought was going to be an easy day at the beach. The chance to have fun, play, relax and take a break from the sad and difficult news I had just received the day before was the best soothing balm imaginable. It re-jiggered my whole strategy on life. When I connect to this — even in the most challenging moments — I see opportunities for more fun and adventure.

Fun changes me for the better. Fun allows me to show up powerfully different for the challenges that life throws at me. Fun transforms the way I interact with family, friends, overwhelm and everything else. Fun became my secret weapon (with some good doses of gratitude) to making my way through my family’s journey with cancer over the next six months. Even with the realization that my world was taking twists and turns that I knew would not end the way I wanted them to, more than ever I needed the sweet break of fun. Most importantly, I realized that no matter what life dealt me, it was still possible to have fun.

Shannon Ratay, Professional Business & Life Coach

Breathing Space

I came to the Into the Fire Surf Retreat for two reasons – first, I needed some breathing space, and second, after being a mom for 14 years, I wanted to find myself again. I worried that I’d never be able to figure out who I am.

Elena Spithas Surfing

I loved the surfing and the meditation! The retreat was relaxing, eye opening and a wonderful bonding experience. I realized that I have a lot of common with most people, and I remembered my many strengths. It got me started on my writing again — and feeling really good about myself. Into the Fire will refresh your spirit.

Elena Spithas

Run, don’t walk Into the Fire

My sister had recently passed away, my family lost all contact with her kids, and I was looking to change careers while I was at home with my four kids for the summer.  I needed a retreat to help revitalize my soul.  However, I hated the beach, I didn’t like sand, I was fearful of getting sunburned, and I wear contacts so I always thought I could never try surfing.  I called Karen and she reassured me that it would be fine. She was more than right!

annelise 083

Karen and Gary had us do activities which really made you realize a lot about yourself, and then I was able to be successful when it came time to surf.  It was perfect! Changed everything for me!

Through this surf retreat I found out that I LOVE the beach. I’ve actually returned to take more surf lessons and my kids started surfing too. It’s been great! I realized that there were people who wanted me to succeed and do well. I realized I made a lot of assumptions about things, people, what I should be doing, making other people happy.   This retreat gave me the open-mindedness to try a lot more things. I’ve started playing roller derby, decided to get my Master’s degree, I found my new career path and most importantly my four kids think I’m awesome now too!

Don’t hesitate! Run, don’t walk, to sign-up for this retreat it will change everything about you!

Lena Kohut

Yoga for the Mind

Into the Fire was a nice break from the daily stresses and experiences I was having getting a new startup off the ground. The games we played teased out some new ways of looking at different experiences, and gave me a few more tools for my inter-personal toolbox, ultimately giving me more flexibility. If you’ve ever taken yoga you know that it gives you balance and strength. This retreat was like several hours of yoga for interpersonal flexibility.



Mike McElligott, Software Consultant and Inventor

Incredible Insights

At the retreat, I gained incredible insight into myself and how I tend to carry around old stories of who I think I am. Stepping away from my normal day-to-day and participating in this retreat gave me a chance to re-look and re-experience myself. It’s not that my everyday life doesn’t already give me these opportunities, but I have to be open to them.

Beth Mahar

The group dynamics were very powerful in cracking this openness inside me. I felt myself gain courage seeing others willing to face their own fears and in their own way. I needed to see that.

I realize that I thrive when given instruction and support from others, which wasn’t always there when I was growing up. My self doubt was born at an early age when I seemed to always be left to figure things out on my own with no guidance or positive feedback. This has set up some very unhealthy self-talk. Stopping these old thought patterns and seeing myself in a different way actually allowed me to have more fun — be happier!

I loved the activities where everyone worked together. It reminded me to give myself time to pause before jumping into the most common response and try doing things a little differently.

Coming back to work on Monday I definitely felt more relaxed. I wanted to keep that openness and feeling of pause when interacting with others. Just allowing myself a little more time between responses and knowing that’s ok.

Being able to surf was a wonderful surprise, and I loved every minute of it! The ocean still intimidates me a little, but again having the support and proper instruction was the key to my successfully riding the wave into shore.

I will definitely recommend this workshop and would love to participate in others in the future. You guys have great energy and it was contagious.Beth Mahar 2

Thank you so much for a fantastic experience! Beth Mahar — 12 Roads