By the end of 2017, I had spent the majority of the year working on myself WITH myself. I had quit my cushy job as a professor that I loved. I was dealing WITH my own two D words: Depression and Dementia (my mom’s). So I took the year off, out, and in(ward). I decided to work on the book I had always wanted to write (it’s available on Amazon now—whaaat?!); I created a pop-up café in my apartment serving no refined sugar desserts and no salt lunches for 6 people at a time; I became a certified life coach and certified happiness coach; I hired my own life coach and ThetaHealing® coach, and most recently became a certified ThetaHealing® practitioner. The list goes on. I shan’t bore you. But one of the best ways I could have ever thought of (great job, Past Kyla) to end the year of self-care was to go on a retreat in Bali, then California, then Costa Rica, and then start my own retreats (!).


Not having any knowledge of retreats or ever having been on one, I simply Googled: “Best surf retreats in Bali” and Escape Haven popped up. It was dreamy: mornings spent surfing, afternoons spent yoga-ing, getting massages on-site, and an endless amount of amaaaaaazing home-cooked Southeast Asian fare served to you by servers who knew you by name and your fav drinks/snacks to boot. The turning point though was meeting Szilvia, the tarot card reader who would become my ThetaHealing® coach.


After several tarot card readings with Szilvia, a woman who hailed from Hungary but had been living in Bali for the past few years, I decided to take a leap of faith and get Theta Healing® done WITH her. ThetaHealing® is a healing meditation technique that taps into your brain’s theta wavelength to help you heal any kind of physical/emotional wounds. I had her come to my hotel room since I decided to stay an additional week in Bali after the retreat. I was super nervous having never done anything like this before. She did muscle testing on me, where your body moves independently of your mind. I remember thinking, as my body was moving without my mind telling it to, how is this happening? How is this possible? I have been hooked ever since this first session and I now “meet” Szilvia on Whatsapp calls regularly for Theta Healing® sessions and have even become a practitioner myself. Total game changer. Thank you Szilvia.

For more on my Bali retreat, check out my blog post about it here. For more on my experience WITH Theta and how it can change your life, check out my Thrive post here.


A very good coach friend of mine was going on a different kind of retreat in early January 2019. I thought, why not? I mean, since Bali I was already hooked on this whole retreat experience thing. We decided to be roomies on retreat and she invited two of her other good friends. The four of us were inseparable doing silent discos and running to the beach as often as we could in between learning about the “5 Pathways of Uncovering” from iPEC (Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching)’s founder Bruce Schneider and president Luke Iorio. You can find out more about their retreats here.


On the third day I gathered enough courage to ask Bruce a question. He was a very aloof man who looked goofy, but acted super serious, so I wasn’t sure how he would take my question: “So, you know how there are some people who are more empathetic than others? Well, would you say that they are more empathetic because they are on the path/trajectory to oneness?” He replied with a smile and began explaining, “Yeah, of course…” Whoa. My mind was blown. As a child, I would look at people who were homeless and think, “That could be me.” Now, understanding and learning about the theory of oneness (basically, I am you and you are me) it’s not “that could be me, but that IS me.”


One of our lunches, we were instructed to be in silence. We had “Silent” stickers that we posted on our nametags. My fab 4 decided to have a silent disco where we tried in vain attempts to do the floss dance. Hilarity ensued. Then my friend Lisa motioned towards the beach. A new friend named Kara joined us and headed to the beach with us. Everyone was motioning to go into the water. I was a bit afraid. I mean, what would happen to my cute outfit if it got wet? Kara held her hand out gently waiting for me. She had a warm smile. And just like that, like children, we ran holding hands running to the water.

It was magical.

For more on the California retreat, check out my blog post here.


Gateless Writing Workshop | Mermaid Sisterhood Retreat | Costa Rica | May 2019 | Photo Credit: Ali Kaukas @allliiibaba

“Bye, bye Miss American Pie…”

As I emerged from the “womb” (AKA the sweat lodge) fireflies greeted me as did the voices of soft singing coming from the 9 other women I had come to know and love on retreat deep in the jungles of Costa Rica in a small beach town called Tambor. It was a 5-day retreat filled with surfing, yoga, writing workshops, a sweat lodge experience, soul-filling conversations, homemade Vegan meals eaten together, and everything in between –where the soul bonding takes place. And just as the women were singing, perhaps we were shedding our own versions of “Miss American Pie” to become the true Mermaids we were always meant to be. The beautiful goddess of a woman, Emily, who founded the Mermaid Sisterhood Retreats is publishizing her second book The Quest; you can find out more about it, the bonuses (including one for her retreat), and her incredible journey here. And I am sure she will be beaming from ear to ear as she always did during our Gateless writing workshops on retreat as she reads this piece.

Find out more about the transformational Mermaid Sisterhood Retreats here! The next one is in November!

Sweating it Out

As the sweat left my body, I worried, how could I stay in here? I can barely last 5 minutes in a regular sauna. I am that person who usually goes to jjimjilbangs (“saunas” in Korean) for the food. Don’t judge me. There I was. There we all were at most of our very first sweat lodge experience. As I lay there, I had an out of body experience: I went back into my mom’s womb and said, “I forgive you, mom” and then my unborn child came into my womb and said, “I forgive you, mom.” Whoa.

Late Night Conversations WITH Kate

I know it sounds like the next best thing on late night T.V., right? But it was actually better. As a 41 year-old, I was a little bit nervous to have a roommate on retreat, but Kate was as best as they come: She was thoughtful, kind, considerate and this later became a retreat joke, but she invited me into her bed as I was in a smaller day bed. We talked about relationships, life, struggles, and probably lots more (but I can’t recall everything because I would often fall asleep on her!). Here’s the clincher though: it was as if we had known each other not days, not years, but decades. Kate was like an old childhood friend I had lived down the street from. That’s just what happens on retreat. Towards the end of the retreat, our late night conversations tended towards answering the question: How can we be on retreat all the time?


Gratitude Circle | WITH Warrior Retreat | South Korea | May 2019

3 retreats in. It was time for my very first retreat that I would be hosting. I had spent a year in anguish: Who am I to put on a retreat? No one will come. No one will sign up. You will have to foot the bill yourself. And besides, you don’t even have a venue. Korea ain’t no Bali. Then one day, after a swim, I had a pool-piphany (pool + epiphany): what if I had the retreat at the hotel I frequented almost on a daily basis because I was a gym member there? Whoa. Was it that easy?

“You SAVED My Family.”

In the gratitude circle on day 1, one of the retreat participants stood next to her mom, and a few women away from her sister. She had to give gratitude to her mom. We were going in a circle. Each person was supposed to give gratitude to the person next to her. She happened to be standing next to her mom. “Mom…I am so grateful to you because you worked so hard for our family…to keep us together…” she began and soon tears followed. I looked around at the other women in the circle: we were all in tears. Just when you thought it couldn’t get more moving, it did. It was her mom’s turn: “I have always deeply respected teachers and wanted to be a teacher. There are so many awesome teachers here who my daughters can learn from. I have never really taken the time to work on my happiness or myself for that matter. So this is such a great opportunity for me. This is the happiest day of my life.” She was 58 years old.


On the final day of the retreat, in the same gratitude circle, I wanted to say something brilliant, profound, wise. I wanted to hold my head up high and look triumphant, like I had come out of some epic battle. Instead I made eye contact with every single woman who had showed up for herself WITH herself and WITH us, and said, “Thank you for showing me what is possible.” They nodded knowing exactly what I meant. I continued, “Seeing you all as WITH Warriors has given me courage. And perhaps you were all WITH Warriors all along. You just needed a little reminder.”

And that is why women need to retreat more. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of the warrior WITHin or that you can start your own retreat.

You can read more about my retreat here. Or even better, come join us and be WITH us and the other WITH Warriors this October in San Diego!


  • Kyla Mitsunaga

    Global Happiness Coach | ThetaHealing® Coach | Author of WITH vs AT: Two Prepositions That Changed My Life

    KYLA MITSUNAGA is a Global Happiness Coach/ThetaHealing® Coach/Speaker/Award-Winning Professor/Founder of WITH Warriors LLC. She realized her true calling and passion for helping others when she won her first teaching award at Harvard. She went on to teach at Yonsei University in Seoul for 7 years creating unique and innovative content for classes such as Career Development, Global Issues, Cross-Cultural Communication. She even created a course on Happiness for Freshman and won multiple teaching awards. In 2012, she was invited to be a TED@Seoul speaker. She recently trademarked her TED Talk title WITH vs AT and turned it into a book as well as a retreat. In 2017, she embarked on a healing journey working WITH her depression. She decided to take the year out to finish her book, start a pop-up cafe in her apartment (serving no-salt dishes and no-sugar desserts), become a certified life coach, become a certified happiness coach, and most recently a certified ThetaHealing® practitioner. She has now realized that in order to become happy, we must first heal from WITHin. She has delivered innovative and dynamic corporate workshops as well as practiced one-on-one coaching all over the globe. When not speaking or workshopping globally, you can find Kyla swimming, baking (without processed sugar), writing, finding the best eats in Korea, and mulling over women’s rights. Kyla has traveled to 49 countries, delivered workshops in 16, and calls 5 countries “home.”