In many respects, I have travelled down the road of tradition in my life. I am a working mother that began creating my family at a fairly young age (by today’s standards). By age 31, I had two beautiful children and a wonderful husband.
While I feel incredibly blessed, the idea of going on a weekend retreat without my family seemed like an impossible feat. That was a far-off idea born in the land of the single woman.
Since discovering, and immersing myself in my Bikram yoga practice, I’ve uncovered a deep passion that resides in me to pursue this journey within. In the last year, I have managed to find the time in my schedule to consistently practice yoga. I began to read more about this ancient spiritual and physical discipline and soon began following other yogi’s that inspire me. I’d been following Jennifer Pastiloff on facebook for quite a while. After reading her amazing essays on manifestation, I was truly inspired.
I read about her -Manifestation Yoga retreat @Kripalu Center for Yoga and Wellness and was instantly intrigued. I discussed this idea with one of my dearest friends, whom I am also incredibly inspired by. Having been to Kripalu before, she was very enthusiastic. I knew that if she and I shared in this together it would surely be memorable. At first, I felt immense guilt. My inner dialogue was full of self-doubt, “can I really leave my children and go away for the weekend?” “Is that self indulgent?” “Am I a ‘bad mother’?”
After much contemplation, I went.
What I uncovered was restorative, soul quenching, and truly therapeutic. I initially set out to deepen my yoga practice, and engage in some new writing endeavors. My first yoga retreat exceeded my expectations in every way. It did, in fact, help me go deeper but in none of the ways that I planned. It deepened my faith in three things:
As we sat in a circle on that first night to introduce ourselves, I was truly moved by the amount of courage and strength in one room. The open hearts and hungry souls that surrounded me radiated a palpable energy, an openness, unmatched by anything I’d ever felt while sitting with a new group of people.
All too often, we are surrounded by tales of how awful the world is. We want to close off from incessant media images of pain. In the circle that I was blessed enough to sit inside of, I encountered people that had the deep desire to turn their struggle into strength, their fear into courage, and their hurt into love. Every person was determined to work with their mind, body, and spirit so that pain would not harden their hearts or dull their spirit. They’re warriors. As we all shared our goals and struggles, I felt a deep connectedness with them. We all expressed the deep ambition to let the light inside our hearts shine down even the darkest road that we may encounter. As we shared, practiced yoga with intention- allowing our inhalations to serve us while exhaling away all that no longer can, as we danced, wrote from the recesses of our hearts… we all had a common goal- to release our limiting beliefs, and manifest the life we deserve. I realized how hard it is for women to believe that they deserve such a life. We supported each other as if we had known one another our whole lives, because… in a way, we had. I saw a piece of myself in every person in the tribe.
This experience restored my faith in the beautiful light inside of the human spirit. In feeling a deep kinship with my fellow tribe members, I began to tap into my own strength and desires. By surrounding myself with like-minded people, I need not despair- this world is filled with beauty; a beauty that is inside of me, as well.
As someone that has pursued mind-body connections for quite some time, read lots of literature, philosophies, and has a consistent yoga practice- this experience showed me that even still… I was getting comfortable in my “truths”. I CAN break out of my comfort zone. The theme of this retreat was manifestation- “What are you manifesting?” was a tattoo that we all wore the entire weekend. I broke out of my comfort zone. I drove 4 hours with my friend. I engaged in mindful moving meditation, wrote down my deepest soul desires, forgave, ripped up my excuses (literally), and opened my heart like never before. I did something authentic. I stepped out of the safety of my rituals and trusted myself. I am manifesting courage and authenticity. It was eye opening. The grace and courage of the people I shared the weekend with assisted me in my own awareness that two things can sit in the same place. The world is filled with beauty and pain. What am I manifesting in that awareness? I have a renewed faith in my own courage, my desire to keep moving, keep learning, and keep manifesting those very things.
A Tibetan Buddhist quote was read at the retreat, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” That intensely resonated with me. I am attracting and manifesting exactly where my energy is actively being applied. I’m ready. My mind, body, and spirit are ready for change, transformation, and love. I realize that the process of becoming, of self-exploration, and transformation is one of effort, not idle day-dreaming. I cannot read about this in a book and expect it to magically appear before me. The process is action- my own life in motion, my own thoughts in motion, and my heart in motion. One of my yoga instructors always says, “Motion is lotion.”
It really is. This process is up to us… somewhat. We will hurt. We have no control over our circumstances at times. Life can be incredibly unfair, and we hurt far more than we deserve. A 35 year old diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, a woman loses a child… this is soul shattering pain. The women that I sat with – they chose not to free fall down the black hole. They chose to love themselves enough to stand up in a room and say, “I am love. I am strong” They trust the process, even if they loathe this part of it. If they cursed the universe, they lowered their fist and put their hand on their heart and had faith in their spirit.
This Yogi went on a yoga retreat expecting to deepen her yoga practice, to write, and to meet some cool people. I left with a deepened faith in my fellow human beings, in myself, and traveled deeper through this journey within.
Am I a “bad mother”? No. I hope that my children will learn that it is never too late to invest in their own happiness, their own power, or their own authenticity. They have choices. In every moment, they have choices. It takes practice and effort. I write this for all women- try to step out of your comfort zone. Try taking care of you. See what you manifest. Expect to be delighted.