Friday 9 May 2014

Seeds of Change: A Spring Yoga Retreat 2014

       In Sue's "White Stag" hippie van, we set out for our fourth retreat to Salt Spring Island last weekend. This time around we SOLD OUT!! 23 yogis booked Friday off, saved up, and made the effort to treat themselves to some RnR, self exploration and play. I knew we were blessed with a great group, when we missed our second ferry to the Island, which caused us to miss our Rock Salt restaurant reservation. Nobody was choked or worried. Instead they were relaxed and seemed confident that it would all work out. Which it did, because in the parking lot of Swartz Bay ferry terminal, it gave us extra time to get to know each other. What floors me every time we retreat out of the city is how quickly strangers can connect and how conversation always seems to flow comfortably. Before boarding the second ferry, my gut told me that these group of yogis could be trusted; a metamorphosis would occur.
       That evening, in our comfy cozies, we snuggled up on our yoga mats to unwind with some Yin with Sue. Before doing so, our intentions for the weekend were shared. Many were there to treat their body, mind and spirit to some peace after hectic work schedules. Others were there to find clarity and to ponder upon life changes. Some didn't know what brought them to Stowel Lake Farm. When it came around to me I knew exactly what to say. For the first time, I had put some thought into what I wanted from the weekend. In the past, I really made sure I was professional, the teacher who had their shit together, who observed the group transform from the sidelines. Although, I was still the facilitator, I didn't want to order others to go through the journey without having gone through it myself. My intention was to take off my masks and to renounce the roles assigned to me. I wanted to be real, approachable, present and honest with the work and the other students  teachers there.
           We dived deep within, when we gathered along the stone wall to journal about our goals, and to contemplate what area of our life we'd like to invite change. Usually I cringe at the thought of meditating on my 1 year, 2 year, 5 year, and 10 year goals, but that day it flowed straight out from my gut onto the blank paper.  In 2 years, I'd like to return to the farm, with Sue, to lead a 200hr teacher training. In 5 years I'd like to be married with a bun in the oven ;) And in 1 year, this year, my strongest of longings is to deepen my spiritual practice. I'd like to leave more room to sit in meditation, to spend more time with nature, to seek out wise answers to the many questions and concerns I have in my mind, body and heart. I want to worry less and play more. I want to experience Spirit in many forms. When my boyfriend's not home (only because he hates it) I'm going to light more incense. I want to create more rituals. And more than anything, I want to be comfortable and proud to be in my own skin. Not giving a shit about what anyone else thinks of me is the ultimate goal! It all projected itself out of me during that special, stone wall circle. I then experienced it beginning to manifest on the Saturday night, when we took part in... KUNDALINI DANCE!!!!!!!
                          What a trip!
  This year we brought Martine along to lead a free dance through the chakras. She instructed us to move intuitively and in anyway that felt good-free of inhibition or judgement.  This was right up my alley, but I could feel others a bit timid at first-fair enough! All it took was the second, base heavy song to kick in and we were off. Eyes closed, arms went up, hips went low and we danced the night away for 2 hours straight. I could feel layers and layers of armour being peeled off me with each song, and I became more trusting and in tune with my intuition. As I moved, I saw my sister (and dancing partner) in front of me, smiling and encouraging my joy. I was taken back to my years at the Randolph Academy for Performing Arts. For a moment I was with my fellow actors learning that week's hip hop combo, then felt us warming up in musical theatre class. Then I was slow dancing with my main man and that's when the tears started to flow. Good tears. Healthy tears. Tears of gratitude and healing. I felt thankful for all that is abundant in my life. I felt thankful for the support of the strangers who I was sharing the dance floor with. It was truly an evening I will never forget, as it transformed me into a more authentic version of myself.
           When it came time to leave the magic of the Island behind, I knew I was heading back to the city vulnerable and ready to greet any stranger with a welcoming face and open eyes. Obviously, it's not entirely safe to walk around like an open book- boundaries serve an important purpose- but I wasn't going to let myself try on old habits or masks I wore prior to the retreat either. I wanted to ride out the Island/retreat vibes as long as I could. 
                 I don't know if it was because I felt enormously grateful for our weekend, or if I felt excited for my year ahead, or if I felt fired up to not lose sleep over others judgements, but I wanted every being on the planet to experience the happiness I was currently experiencing. Out of this urge for Universal freedom, I finally understood the chant,  "lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu". The chant means, "May all beings everywhere be happy and free and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all". I've sung it many times, but the words usually flew out of my mouth without connection or intention. Kinda like when I visit my family and we say grace before meals. Well, it's the same damn grace we've recited for 28 years; I know it off by heart, but there is no longer any meaning behind it. But, NOW I GET IT (the chant not the grace). Hallelujah!
                After weekends like these, I'm reminded to not give up on humanity. I'm reminded that it is possible to connect with strangers on a deep level, finding commonality and community. I'm reminded that we need one another to get through the hard times, to share the silly times- we need fellow cheerleaders to encourage us to succeed and grow. 

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               So, if you're feeling disconnected and lonely, book your retreat with Unity Retreats now! We guarantee a weekend of transformation, break throughs, crazy dancing, yoga, and healthy crying, with zero small talk or surface relationships :) You won't regret it. I never do!