I am in love with retreats. So much so, that I started a company doing it. So, I wanted to jump on here and talk about what to expect on retreats. While, I can give you all the logistical information, I thought it would be a lot more enriching to include some of my blog post from my first retreat experience in Bali. This is fresh from my soul post-retreat. I hope you enjoy.
Connection in Bali
Connectedness is what I crave. Soul, authentic connections. When I began my "unlayering" journey I had an eye-opening experience realizing how many surface relationships I had cultivated in my life. When you are what some label as a people-pleaser, you tend to lose yourself along the way - morphing into what you think others want you to be. Well, when I had my turning point a few years ago, I had a lot of "oh-shit" realizations that my life was no longer mine and my personal fulfillment tank was completely empty. It’s a long story, but basically my priorities had gotten SO out of whack that when I realized how out of whack, it felt like a tsunami blasting into me with a wall of emotions. This was followed by ALL OF THE FEELINGS as if everything I knew, had come crashing down with each realization.
In my early adult life, I was always hungry for quantity of relationships. Being the person who was friends and well-liked by everyone . With that, came the urge to remain BUSY – have plans for every moment of the weekends, wearing my "I’m SO busy" as a badge of honor - proving (to who?) that I was worthy. There is A LOT more to this, but for sake of this being an article, let’s just say, I work really hard these days not to be "busy". I work to replace ‘busy’ for ‘depth’, ‘meaning’, ‘gratitude’ and ‘connection’ of each moment.
So… where is this tangent even heading? Well, through my unlayering journey I realized how codependent I had become in life. And by this, I mean, almost completely depending on external factors to create my happiness. My spouse, my career, my friends, my family, how many people liked me, alcohol, other’s happiness, social media, you name it. With this, when 2017 began, I decided to push myself out of my comfort zone (this is truly where you grow, you know), to promise something to myself that I would accomplish in this year. This meant, it had to be something for myself. Totally, completely, utterly all by myself for no one else but little ol’ me. Now, for many people, this may sound magical. For me, this was utterly terrifying. When I travel alone, my anxiety skyrockets (in fact, I never even knew what a panic attack was until I traveled alone for the first time). Flying – has also become an extreme anxiety trigger for me. But guess what?! This journey, MY journey is the one of me unlayering this shit and all of these barriers I have created. Peeling away these layers I have added over my true self. The layer of I can’t do anything without validation. The layer that I will always live with anxiety. The layer that flying will forever be terrifying for me. And from deep down under all of these stacks of layers upon layers, my true self cleared her throat I said quietly that I was going to take a yoga retreat in 2017, and it was going to be all on my own. I am taking back my life each and every day from now on. I am the driver, and I am driving the road I want, not what everyone else wants or what the façade of layers tell me to do.
Needless to say, all the lead up to Bali and once I landed, I really did believe it was a soul trip for myself. I lugged along four novels, three magazines, downloaded podcasts, all the music and two journals. I was fully expecting a week intimately with me, myself and I. The insecurities set in immediately. Sitting at the bar during my layover in San Francisco, no one would talk to me (my projection) – I honestly thought about getting the next flight back home. These thoughts, "why are you even doing this?" "you are so selfish to spend this money and go travel across the globe", "what if something happens to you and Jay and Brayden are left without you?" "you can’t do this – you are so stupid for thinking you can truly manage to do this on your own." Now, I am not saying this for sympathy. I truly am not. I am saying this because in this part of my life, I am choosing to live authentically, and real. This is true life folks – people deal with the inner demons in their heads every single day. Not the highlight reel we see on the internet. But, I am here to tell you – I am letting fear come with me, but it aint driving the car (Elizabeth Gilbert reference). I am driving my car of my life – from now on. And you all can do this too.
So, I had a few moments of panic and feeling sorry for myself sitting at the bar and then I began to say, "shut the f*ck up, you are completely capable", "stop feeling sorry for yourself", "you have the power to choose how you want to live this moment".
And that is what I did. That is what I chose.
I simply spoke from my heart. Without any expectations. I leaned over to the couple I had been sitting next to for 15 minutes with a pit in my stomach, "where are you guys off to?" Fear inside was telling me they would ignore me, pretend they didn’t hear me or roll their eyes. Guess what you guys? They leaned over and said to me, "can you please mind your own business, we are in a very serious conversation". KIDDING! Could you have imagined? 😊
They spoke up, "well I am going to Paris to meet my grandmother and he is just seeing me off. We are going to spend two weeks there and I will meet my cousin there in one week…" and we continued to have a true, authentic connection. And when they left, I met another person who I connected with and then another. The point here - SO much of our doubt and fears are layered in our head. How would it feel inside of yourself to challenge those doubts and fears from time to time? Well, I am here to tell you, I did it. I was scared, but it was so FUCKING EMPOWERING! I got on that plane, I got on the next plane and I got my ass to Bali. ALL. BY. MYSELF! And I made so many new connections along the way I would have never made if I had gone with someone else.
When I arrived at Blooming Lotus (the yoga retreat in Bali), I honestly had no expectations of meeting folks and was content doing my own work. Holy shit, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Yes, I did a TON of self-work while I was there, however, that came naturally secondhand to the connections I made.
Connecting to M.E. (Mother Earth)
Call me a hippie (my husband does and I actually aspire to be more of one on the daily), but one of the strongest connections I made during my life warming week in Bali, was back to Mother Earth. Ugh – I honestly do not know that I could love something more than I love being in nature. Surrounded by it. Feeling the soil, the humidity, the smell of the richness of the earth, the sounds of the birds. It is the top of my most soul-filling food for my mind, body and soul. When I am in nature, I am home. And it doesn’t matter if I am actually in my geographical home in Colorado or across the world in Bali - I am home. Like the kind of home that feels like peace and natural belonging.
What is it for you in your life that has the power to just wrap you up for hours upon hours making time feel like it stands still? For me it is simply sitting in nature. Nothing more. I am such a kid in a candy store – quieting myself and becoming an observer. Watching the beautiful birds, trying to identify the various trees, observing the ants working hard. It is as if I can hear the heartbeat of the most magnificent planet we are so blessed with calling our home. While I always feel connected to nature, on this trip I felt a stronger bond. A bond to do something more for her and as I connected with Mother Earth every single day there, I have listened to her and commit to becoming and earth warrior for her.
Connecting to Others
What I was NOT expecting was the insane amount of amazing connections I would meet on the retreat! I want so badly to tell you all about each one of their stories and how amazing these people are, but since they are not mine to tell, you will simply have to trust me in the fact when I say these people are REAL, they are AWESOME and they are committed to doing self-work as well. Every one of the people who attended the retreat, were amazing people, but the connection I had to a handful of mind-blowing powerful women made my trip over-the-top.
My AMAZING roommate Meg (you guys seriously – we had beds that were a foot apart and it was like having a teenage sleepover for a week. We laughed, we cried, we played, we CONNECTED. We are soul sisters across the world (she lives in Wellington, New Zealand ☹),
Laura – my other soul sister from Chi-town. My fellow PITTA, my amazing-race partner (we literally sprinted through Ubud to catch our shuttle back to the resort), my deep dive conversation partner. Oh, my heart, I love you so and so glad we are a short jaunt away.
Julie – OMG, my kind of girl who just tells the honest truth. Authenticity is the one way I would describe her and the confidence she exudes is awe-inspiring, on top of her huge heart. I had a big cry in shavasana when she left (she was only there for four days).
Rebecca – her story almost as profound as she, simply amazing. So freaking thoughtful and smart, the things she would say were so brilliant – the stop and think type. Her love for those around her – enthralling.
Roseanna – her courage to take charge of her life and real as f*ck lit the fire within my spirit. Not to mention her lovely UK accent that made everything she said sound like cotton candy.
Kirsten – the way she exuded the live in the moment life, curiosity for more and her fierce love for her family. Incredible.
It all happened so naturally. The first day some of us gals had a pool day between sessions simply getting to know each other and talking about our lives. There is something magical about being around others where you have zero walls up. You find yourself sharing things that you wouldn’t normally share in years getting to know someone. That is the magic of a sacred space that a retreat allows. And let me tell you right now - when you find these people in your life – cherish them. Love them hard. Cherish those moments, those conversations and connection. These people, these connections are the heartbeat of making this world a better place.
Connection to My Family
Jay - Okay, I am the biggest sap when it comes to ‘absence makes the heart fonder’ concept. I love it. The second I am away from Jay and Bray I get sad, but it’s a good type of sad. The type that fills your body with all the warm fuzzies of reminders on how amazing your life is. On this retreat, when I got quiet, the things that REALLY, TRULY matter in life came up. I recounted how amazing it is to have a husband who supports me to be the best me I can be. How he has stuck beside me truly at my worst and supported me as my #1 fan through my breakthroughs. He has held me time and time again when I felt friendships fading and being overwhelmed with feeling I no longer had a relationship I could lean on. He worked his ass of with me during the hardest years of our marriage to make it through because we knew we wouldn’t give up. While I have realized truly over the last few years all he has brought to me, this trip further solidified our deep, deep connection that will never be broken. And believe me – there is not one day that goes by that I don’t thank this universe for bringing this man into my life.
Brayden – my son. Dear god – I cried a lot about this one. Our "miracle child" that chose us as his parents. Sitting on my meditation cushion in Bali thinking about this precious human that happens to be my son. I reflected on the connection we have. First, the nine months of our bond together before he entered to this outside world. It was him and I against it all. Then seeing him truly bloom and blossom into the beautiful spirit he truly is. In a reading I got once, the lady told me Bray and I had been together in a past life and I believe it. We get each other – we feel each other’s feelings and we have the fire in our bellies that drive our forces. Again, counted my thanks every moment for this boy. Heart full.
My Parents – Okay, so when I write my book each one of my immediate family members growing up are getting their own chapters, but for the purpose of this article and the topic of connection, I connected so incredibly deeply with my parents while I was on the retreat. SO many things from both my mom and dad that brought me to tears of joy. All of the things these two did for me growing up. Through the lessons they taught me whether verbally or through their actions. I attribute so many of my wonderful qualities to these amazing parents of mine. They are truly two of the strongest connections I have in my adult life and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love them both fiercely.
Connection to Self
And finally, the connection to myself. As I wrote this sentence it is 11:11. 😊 Through ALL of these previous connections, I did so much connecting with my true self. Getting back to the roots of me, my essence, my soul. The things that ignite me and fulfill me: Being authentic, enjoying the moment, appreciating and honoring all that mother nature does for us thanklessly every single day, CONNECTING. The connection inside of myself has never felt stronger in my life, in fact I am not sure if it was ever truly there? While, I will continue to connect with myself daily, I now look forward to these times alone. The quiet in mediation and yoga recharges me rather than panicking me. I now believe after meeting other folks on this path, that true change in this world starts with those who dare to look within. It is not pretty, it is not easy, and it does not always feel pleasant. However, I can tell you without a doubt in my mind, unlayering the beliefs you have built up over the years is the most rewarding process you can take in this lifetime. And it’s not nearly as scary as you would ever think.
What did you think? Incredible? While retreat experiences will widely range on all of the variable factors, I can promise you one thing. When you say yes to a retreat, the Universe responds in a big way. You set the intentional action to give yourself time to disconnect and reconnect. In self-care terms, that is literally gold. Retreat is time specifically dedicated to you and your well being. You deserve it. You MORE than deserve it. I believe we should go on retreat at least once a year. So, what do you say, wanna give it a try?