This past week, I spent seven transformational days at a lovely resort in the beautiful seaside town Chacala, Mexico. I didn’t know a soul, except for the three instructors on this yoga retreat. In fact, these very special women are the main reason I signed up, without hesitating, taking the risk of going somewhere I’ve never been, solo. This is not like me. It’s not who I am. It’s not what I do.
I went expecting to learn how to strengthen my yoga practice, maybe acquire an arm balance or two. Perhaps I’d finally be able to touch the floor when bending over! But that didn’t happen. No doubt my alignment and understanding of yoga grew tremendously, yet we never ventured into advanced poses, and I still need to bend my knees if I hope to put my fingertips on my mat. But, I could care less about that. What happened during this retreat was so much more. I’d venture to say it was magical.
There’s not enough space to share my multiple revelations, tell you about the amazing individuals I met, or explain how mind-blowing our leaders were. But, I can impart some of the unexpected lessons that I learned this past week.
1. Really amazing people attend yoga retreats. I’m not talking about woo woo women. No, these are REAL women (and men). Yes, there were two extraordinary guys. One was with his fiancé and the other came with his mother. Never before have I been with so many people for this length of time where no one annoyed me… and I don’t think that I annoyed anyone, either! That is certainly a first (especially the second part)! Truly, I felt connected to each individual and had the most heartfelt conversations. I listened, I was heard, and I learned.
2. The town of Chacala is gorgeous, and so are the people. The Montessori/Waldorf school that Mar De Jade sponsors impressed me the most. The resort owner’s daughter, who grew up in Chacala but then finished school in Puerto Vallarta and attended Brown University, returned to her small hometown and is making a difference every day! The school she and her husband built (and are continuing to grow, adding new classrooms in order to accommodate more children and to offer higher grade levels) provides scholarships to local children. This school combines academics, the arts, creativity, nature, and personal development skills in the most enchanted setting. How lucky these children are to attend such a unique and magnificent school.
3. I can still speak Spanish… un poco. There is no need to be fluent in Spanish at Mar De Jade. However, many of the employees are from the town and only speak minimal English, that which is necessary for their jobs. While getting a very well needed (and quite excellent, I might add) pedicure, I realized that the technician did not know much English. However, this time together served as an incredible opportunity for both of us to practice our second languages. More importantly, we were able to see that two women who may have seemed quite different, really weren’t. We both loved our husband and children. We both loved to cook and to eat. We both loved nature. How beautiful!
4. I can test my limits. I’ve never participated in a sweat lodge ceremony. Fourteen people in an enclosed tiny cement hut with hot lava stones in the middle of its sandy floor, the leader constantly dousing the volcanic rocks with water while he chanted and we shook our gourd rattles… seriously? This never would have appealed to me in the past. The heat was incredibly intense, you couldn’t see, and it was difficult to breath as the air was overwhelmingly thick. But, having the surprising fortitude to not panic, to stay, to endure, well that’s pretty empowering. And, as hot as it was and as much as I sweated, I would do it again in an instant!
5. I can dive into the waves. I know that this statement seems ridiculous. Most people swim in the ocean and have no problems. But, I don’t fall into that category. Despite how much of a fish I was as a child, I had a scary experience at age ten. Basically, while at the shore with my best friend and her family, I went out too far on a raft. The last thing I remember was the lifeguard blowing his whistle. Then he was carrying me to the beach. No one told me what happened. And because I never had a true understanding of what exactly occurred, I’ve held onto a deep fear of the ocean. So, for me to dive into the surf, well that’s a pretty big step.
6. I can scream… really loud… and it feels freak’n awesome! One of the participants teaches breath work and offered to do a session. I was intrigued and decided to give it a try. All I can say is… Holy Shit… this was crazy! I felt endless energy rippling through my body after thirty minutes in this practice. And yes, we screamed, twice, and it was amazing. Screaming has never been permitted in my house (even though as a mom, I know that I’ve broken this rule). But, I highly recommend that you try it… just not directed at another person.
7. Rocks can nurture. Having recently been introduced to the power of gemstones, I believe that they hold great energetic healing powers. Many of us witnessed the beauty of what these “rocks” can do. Rock on!
8. I can meditate. This is the practice that I’ve struggled with the most. It’s not easy for my monkey mind to be still. But it can be… if only I allow it. And, meditating does calm the beast within. It creates awareness and opens the heart, showing us our connectedness to one another.
9. I can set intentions that I’m able to bring home. I recognize that being in a tranquil, glorious, natural setting makes it easier to be mindful, at peace, kind and loving. But, practicing these traits in Chacala is not the end goal. I want to take this state of being home, to utilize these “strategies” to become a more confident, wise, and graceful, all while holding myself and others in loving kindness.
10. Deep down, each person is the same. Each one of us is broken in some way. We were all on this retreat for healing, whether we knew it or not. There was something hidden inside of each individual that yearned for more, that knew it can be different, that hopes. While we cannot make the world’s problems disappear, we can soften, let go, surrender. Through our individual transformations, we can be kinder, gentler, and more loving in how we interact with others and ourselves. We may not be able to change what is wrong. But, I now believe that by slowly evolving into our higher selves, our change will ultimately contribute to the change.
Yoga retreats are really not about the yoga, at least this one wasn’t. It’s purpose dove so much deeper. Sure, I believe that yoga is the pull that got most people to this quaint town in Mexico. If the poster said, “We are going to open your eyes to your broken pieces, help you choose the magic over fear, develop your intentions, and show you how to take responsibility for your own happiness, ” I doubt that many people would have signed up. But we did. And, we grew, learned to surrender, reset, pay attention, and choose love.