Teaching Yoga twice a day. Sweating more than I thought I could. Looking out from the Yoga studio and watching the Pacific Ocean gently lap on the shore. Hearing the sounds of the rain forest all around me. The energy of 26 strong beautiful women moving in harmony with their breath on their mats. Sharing three fresh and delicious meals a day. Marveling over monkeys and toucans and bright orange flowers. Holding the space for each other so that we could reveal and truly see ourselves. It was pretty magical.
A little over a week ago I returned from a retreat I led in Costa Rica, along with the talented life coach Dana Baruch, supported by True Nature Education. It was a year in the planning. We wanted to create a space for women to find renewal and return to themselves. If you are not sure what that means, I’ll elaborate. Many of us spend most of our days taking care of things—working and doing our jobs, and often caring for others. We live busy, productive lives, and that’s great. However, we rarely take time to re-charge ourselves when we have given a lot, depleted our energy, or used up our inner reserves. So, we opened up the retreat and filled it up with 26 women, ranging in age from 26 to early 70’s. Most were from Texas, and we had representation from California, Utah and Maryland. Some practice Yoga on a regular basis, we even had some teachers, and some were new to Yoga. We came together with open hearts and minds, and a true spirit of acceptance. Once we
were a community, we created a tacit agreement to live this week fully, embracing the experience, including aspects that were difficult and uncomfortable, such as no air conditioning, no hot water, tight quarters in the group room and spotty wi-fi. Instead we laughed at the minor annoyances, and put our attention, and hearts and souls to the shared experience.
It was a first for Dana and me. We both had experiences leading groups, but not in this way. We planned and planned, yet knew that all the planning was only preparation for the spontaneity we would need, depending on the energy of the group, the facilities, the weather, and more.
Well, as you might have guessed from the opening description, it was absolutely amazing and it created a shift—for the leaders and participants. I’m still sorting out and processing, but as of now, I’d like to share what I learned and saw:
- The power of connection: Within the first moments of our group gathering, connections began to happen. Sharing the experience of the retreat facilitated this, of course, and we expected that bonds would be formed among the participants. However, the bonds quickly became deeper and richer, and with that, a true sense of belonging and being accepted. The camaraderie and encouragement created a real shift, and by excursion day people were stepping out of their comfort zone and into their strength, and daring to go on adventures they never thought they would. The connections created a strong and cohesive community. More importantly, the connections created a true sense of empowerment for the individuals as well.
- We all thrive when we are truly “seen”, by others, but also by ourselves. With the freedom each woman felt to be herself, I saw each “retreater” begin to show her true Self. Without our daily roles, tasks and masks, we allowed ourselves to be seen by the others. And, when everyone responded with love, we actually could take a look at ourselves as well, free of the day to day trappings in our lives. For me, seeing myself in my natural, relaxed state reminded me of a lot of good things about myself that get lost during the work week. This created a surge of energy and motivation…I’m still riding the wave of that and look forward to harnessing the energy from it.
- We all want to trust our inner wisdom and intuition, yet we seem to need permission to do that. In our discussions, we talked about our challenges, and of course the group chimed in with advice. Interestingly, when given a little bit of time to think, everyone admitted that they did already know what to do, they were just afraid. This fears comes from external messages that create doubt in our minds. Time spent retreating allows us to peel off the external influences, and at least take a look at them, so that we can begin to understand their influence, separate from them, and listen to our inner guidance.
- The most fulfilling experiences are never the easiest nor most convenient. Our location in Costa Rica was hot. There was no air conditioning. No hot water. Lots of bugs, some of them quite large. The walk to the beach involved a challenging hike through the rain forest. It was another walk to the Yoga space that also involved lots of steps. And yet, all of this faded away with the experiences of the week. Jumping in the swimming hole after hours of sweating. Feeling stronger after the consistent and challenging Yoga practices. The thrill of seeing monkeys swing from the trees or watching groups of toucans fly by took away the sweat and fatigue and itching. In fact, it was a richer experience because of the sweat and fatigue and itching!
- There’s a lot we can learn from the sloth. We had the unique opportunity to spend some up close and personal time with Rosita, a young sloth from the area who was being nursed back to health after an injury. She visited with us, gently hugging a tree branch, one afternoon. It happened to be our afternoon of silence, so we were able to really see and feel her energy, without the distraction of noise or conversation. She was amazing. She seemed to have a sleepy smile on her face, and she moved like dream. She would slowly and gauzily move one arm, leaning lazily back a bit, making slight adjustments in her slow-motion dance. She was not in any hurry, and made adjustments as needed. She received us all with grace and ease, and her sweet sloth-smile. She seemed to reach out to us when we were close and I think she appreciated the silent interaction. She was unflustered by the picture-taking, the parade of on-lookers, and shifts in the orientation of her branch. She just took it all in at her time, her pace and truly went with the flow. I’ll never forget her.
Nor I’ll I ever forget the experience. We all need some time to renew. Magical things can happen when we take a break to return to ourselves. It’s great to take a week in Costa Rica, but if you don’t have a week to get away at least carve out some time for yourself. Yesterday, a week after the retreat, I had the pleasure to help out with some Yoga teaching at a one-day women’s retreat in San Marcos, just 45 minutes from Austin. Within minutes of arriving, I felt the power of connection, and being seen and tuning in to inner wisdom. I invite to take some time—perhaps you’ll join me on the next week-long retreat that I can’t wait to plan, or maybe just join in a workshop or one-day retreat with me this summer.
From Costa Rica, and Rosita the sloth: Pura Vida!