When Army wife Maralis Self read multiple news reports last year discussing increasing depression and suicide rates among military spouses, she knew she had to do something.
“I’ve been a military spouse for 22 years, and I understand the wide array of stressors that make this lifestyle super-challenging,” she said.
So, she went with what she knows best: bringing holistic wellness techniques to the military community through her regularly-scheduled workshops and classes, and a new retreat to be held in Lawrence, Kansas this April.
“The main goal for The Becoming Retreat is to hold space for the spouses, to be in a place where they can find community,” Self, a Reiki master, yoga instructor and certified Mindfulness Master practitioner, explained. “We want these women to begin to feel encouraged to become the best and healthiest versions of themselves.”
The Becoming Retreat is a collaborate effort with InDependent, a wellness community designed specifically for military spouses. Self volunteers with the organization as a content contributor and will be serving alongside their team for an upcoming online Wellness Summit. But it was a conversation with InDependent’s Executive Director Evie King that prompted the idea for The Becoming Retreat.
“I was very much wanting to lead a retreat for military spouses, and InDependent had been wanting to do an in-person retreat but hadn’t found right person to lead,” Self said. “Evie and I had a mutual vision about wellness in our community, and we thought, let’s just make it happen!”
The Becoming Retreat will take place near Fort Leavenworth from April 7 – 9 at the Circle S Ranch (register by March 2). Amidst rolling Midwestern farmlands, up to 14 military wives will learn stress reduction and self-care techniques through classes on Reiki, yoga, mindfulness and meditation. Self and other InDependent team members will be presenting and leading.
It’s a long way from where Self grew up in the Bronx — both geographically and otherwise — but life has showed the 44-year-old it’s exactly where she needs to be.
“I love being able to watch people find peace again,” she said. “I’m most looking forward to that moment when people find that spark within themselves again, when they’re like, ‘Yes, I can do this.’ That’s the beginning of empowerment.”
“Empowerment” is an important term for Self. Her full-time job is as owner and operator of a wellness company called Empowering Energy, what she calls her “baby.”
“If I’m holding space for people and they’re coming, they know that for this 45 minutes, ‘I get to let my hair down, melt into my mat or chair and come to this feeling of peace and tranquility,’” Self said. “That’s hard to do when you’ve got kids running around and to-do lists.”
But when they do, Self says, transformation happens, remembering one client whose husband wasn’t interested in Self’s techniques, thinking them too “woo.”
“It was teaching her how to communicate in a way that could be well-received,” says Self, who is married to Army Maj. Amanda Self. “After, she felt like, ‘I can speak to him again, and even though he doesn’t understand, at least he’s listening and we’re talking about it.’ I love seeing when people begin to foster communication again, and that’s really powerful to me.”
For her local efforts to promote holistic wellness, Self was named the 2020 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year for Fort Leavenworth.
“One of the biggest things in my clients is they feel lost; they have lost their sense of self and have no identity other than military spouse,” she said. “They put themselves on the backburner and feel this sense of isolation.”
The Becoming Retreat, she says, is one way to turn the tide.
“We’re exposing these ladies to stress reduction tools and holistic options that they can use for their whole lives — not just in the military.”