Why Madre Tierra?

The idea for the Madre Tierra Retreat began in 2011 when Ella Drufrene, Founder of Lila Art Therapy, visited the Hostel in the Forest in Brunswick, GA for the first time. There, she caught her first glimpse of the fundamental benefits of community living in a natural and ecological environment. The hostel quickly became a safe haven for her, a place where she felt free and empowered, a place that allowed her to explore herself and relationships with others. She continued to visit this magical hostel year after year without knowing where it would eventually lead her.

After completing her Masters in Art Therapy degree in 2015, Ella went out into the field as an art therapist. To say that this work was heavy would be an understatement. Ella started running weekly groups at an eating disorder clinic, a drug addiction rehab center, a retirement home, and a homeless shelter, all while working part-time in hospice and juggling private practice clients at the same time. As you can imagine, she inevitably experienced burnout. Ella knew there had to be a different way she could do her personal work while helping others. Although she had found her passion, she needed to take a step back to find an approach to art therapy that would fulfill her as well as provide more benefit to her clients.

Ella knew herself well enough to understand the hustle and bustle of city life was not the path to her personal and professional fulfillment. After a time spent going through the motions, she decided she would leave Miami to undertake some volunteer work and soul-searching at the Hostel in the Forest. While she lived at the Hostel in the Forest, one of her jobs was to clear the hostel’s labyrinth, a space constructed of leaves, earth, and stone with a large, beautiful “giving tree” at its center. She did not know at the time that one purpose of this space was to ask the universe a question before entering the labyrinth, with the hope that an answer when come when one arrives at the center. As the raking began, so did the soul searching. Ella spent two full days clearing the twisting path leading to the labyrinth’s center. When she finally made it there, she plopped down next to the tree, and that’s when it hit her. She understood that she had to quit her job, leave the concrete of the city, go live somewhere in nature, and create her own retreat.

When Ella returned to Miami, she did just that; she quit her job, cancelled all of her contracts, and moved to an organic farm hostel in the Sierra de Santa Marta in Colombia. There, she hosted her first Madre Tierra Retreat. Ella’s intention was, and still is, to offer eco-getaways in which people take a break from their daily routine to quiet their minds, connect with nature, and tap into their inner peace. Madre Tierra continues to flourish and grow by providing a safe space that promotes well-being and self-care though various alternative, holistic, and expressive therapeutic teachings with an emphasis on sustainability and community living. Madre Tierra is exactly what Ella so desperately needed before she burned out, and what she wholeheartedly believes many others need, too. Next year, in 2020, Lila Arts Therapy & Yoga Retreats will be hosting our 5th annual Madre Tierra Retreat, and it continues to fuel Ella’s passion and nurture her soul. 

Madre Tierra’s continuing capacity to inspire and change lives is what makes this retreat Ella’s most beautiful, fulfilling, and authentic creation yet.

-Ella Raphaelle Dufrene

Founder of Lila Art Therapy and Madre Tierra Retreat