This month I was fortunate enough to experience what it is like to go on retreat at my own retreat center. This is something that I have never experienced in the 7 years of running Present Moment. Initially, I found that the greatest challenge was to step out of the role of doing and managing. I have never considered myself to be much of a control freak. Instead, I often feel like I am cursed (or maybe blessed) with the opposite characteristic of letting things be as they are. Apparently that is not the case. It was only when I became consciously aware of not doing, that I realized my tendency to want to do, and underlying that was a need to feel responsible (code word for needed). I had to seriously force myself not to straighten out the chairs on the beach, pick up towels at the pool, or re-align the stack of bolsters on the yoga platform…the list goes on. After a couple of days, that urge abated. However, I still could hardly restrain myself from double checking a guest’s dinner order in the restaurant or asking a waiter to fill someone’s half empty glass of water…who am I?
This is always a good question…one that I have asked myself many times in my life. Good thing I was on an introspective retreat that could help me get to the bottom of this. The retreat I chose to take was Sacred Sensual Splendor facilitated by Leela Francis of Vividly Woman, a great teacher and friend who has been doing retreats at Present Moment for the last 6 years. I have always wanted to take one of her retreats as I see the beautiful transformation of the women that journey with her. The week is designed for women specifically, and is focused on our sensual, emotional and intuitive wellbeing.
Our journey together began at sunset where we sat in the first of many Sister Circles as each one of us shared why we were there and what drew us to the retreat. Besides my admiration for Leela, I knew that there was something valuable for me in being among all women, but I didn’t really have a clear intention or a specific reason for being there. When the “Talking Stone” came to me, I was surprised with the ease in which my seemingly unknown intention flowed out of me, and my authentic self immediately opened up to this group of women that I didn’t even know.
I found that I felt completely safe in these sacred circles and throughout the week, was able to uncover personal cravings, excavate shadows within, recognize my still-binding ties and unwritten contracts with previous relationships and discover my need to honor and release the souls of the three babies I have carried and lost.
Once I was no longer distracted by the need to do and manage, I was able to surrender control and my need to feel needed. Also staying in a bungalow with one of the other Sisters rather than in my house with my man gave me a new perspective and a new way of living and being for the week. Suddenly there was time and space to get a clearer understanding of what aspects of myself really needed attention from my soul. Wow…I was actually on RETREAT! What a great concept. I got to understand first hand why people come to Present Moment and places like this…it is truly a healing and transformational experience. Ok…now the real work begins…
Sensual: Movement and dance have always been great teachers and healers for me. My sensual self is inspired and expanded when I am dancing. Through the expressive and playful nature of Nia Dance and a variety of exercises and exchanges, I was able to identify that which I crave. I heard myself say that one of the things that I was craving was to be seen beyond my identity…my identity as a retreat owner, a yoga teacher, a healing practitioner, a boss, a friend, a hostess, a counselor, a whatever. When I was able to surrender to this craving, I realized that I didn’t actually need to be seen any differently by others. My craving was that I see myself beyond my identity as my own true Self…my Soul Self. Beyond that I learned from Leela’s teachings that we crave the craving, knowing that the longing itself can be the richest part of the experience. This teaching opened up my sensual being to feel the excitement of the craving. In other words, my whole body danced my cravings and embodied the juiciness of my true Soul Self…beyond identity.
Emotional: There was an unexpected moment in the training when we were hiking. We came to the peak of our excursion and opened a Sister Circle at the mouth of the crystal cave we were about to enter. We each were asked to share a shadow or secret with our Sisters. I thought, “Ooooh…I don’t really want to share or hear about other people’s secrets…what good could that bring?” It didn’t feel very present and certainly not very comfortable. But then, once again, like the Talking Stone experience in the first Circle, I found myself effortlessly blurting out my truth…it was about my shame and fear around one of my biggest shadows…alcohol. I have found over the years that I have tried to use alcohol as an escape from that which I don’t want to (consciously or unconsciously) deal with. So after repelling down the rope into the belly of the cave and sitting for sometime in the darkness with just me, myself and my shadow, I experienced a nurturing come over me that helped soften my emotions around this issue. Upon emerging from the cave, I felt reborn with great compassion for myself. Whatever doubt may have still been lingering was disintegrated with the vibration of an orchestrated group scream. It was one of those screams that had just been waiting to come out but had been silently and effectively suppressed due to unexpressed emotions. I felt like my mouth opened as wide as the mouth of the cave. The frequency of that howl was carried from the inside out and touched everything around us with its cathartic call for individual and collective healing. Once I was able to confront, feel and sense these emotions in my body, the fear began to dissolve and the trust in my ability to handle all situations in a graceful, balanced and positive manner was renewed. Hmmm…that wasn’t so bad after all. I might have even kind of liked this experience of revealing my shadow Self to myself.
Intuitive: At one point, Leela gave us an exercise to build an altar. I don’t remember much instruction around it, but I found myself pulling pieces of my past to bring to the altar…stones and crystals that represented my past and present loves, candles that represented my 3 miscarriages, and my healing Mesa bag which represented my current shamanic practices. I wasn’t really sure what it all meant but when I saw the formation in which I had placed each piece intuitively, I realized I was preparing for a Letting Go Ceremony…a ritual that I have been practicing on the full moons for the past couple of years. We were approaching the full moon so this made sense. What didn’t make sense was the fact that I had never held a personal ceremony to let go of my past relationships or miscarriages. I did some work with a medical intuitive a week before starting the retreat, and through his guidance, I was able to see the link between the ties to my past relationships and my fibroid tumor that has been haunting me on and off since my last miscarriage almost 3 years ago. Intuitively, I knew there was a connection between the holding, binding, contractual pacts that still existed on an energetic level and the hardening wall and density of this tumor that existed on a cellular level. So I made an agreement to release those unwritten contracts, and to cut the ties. The ritual began that day at the altar and continued with a fire ceremony on the full moon. There is still some work to do here, but after compassionately letting go, there is a peaceful resonance that reigns. I trust that my intuition will guide me to continue healing my past and creating more space for more light to shine through!
I am grateful to Leela, the Talking Stone and our Sister Circles. I am grateful for the Sisters who held space for me as we held hands on this journey. And I am most grateful to myself for truly being able to let go of doing, and experience what it is like to be on “retreat” at Present Moment Retreat. As a result of this experience, my sensual Self opened me up to the beautiful cravings of my soul Self, my emotional Self stepped in to help me face my shadow Self and my intuitive Self guided me to the process of letting go of my past Self. This is Sacred Sensual Splendor!