Since I have arrived home, I have been marinating in the memories, the lessons and the love from my new friendships.
The day before I left, a question circulated among a group of us as to what we planned to take away from this retreat and implement into our everyday life. At that point in time, I said I wasn’t sure. My emotions and thoughts were in overload. My new friend, Christina, suggested the first thing I should do was write. So here I sit, not sure what I want to say, but I will write. Write from what flows from my heart and without direction.
Several months ago my husband gave me a birthday present and told me I could choose one of four things. One of the gifts was an experience, a week away just for myself. It wasn’t but a few weeks later, this Costa Rica trip posted to my Facebook feed and it took all of a few minutes for me to decide this is what I wanted. I was meant for this experience and it was meant for me.
Of the 21 other people on this trip, I only knew two. One of those two people I had only seen a couple of times since we graduated high school almost 25 years ago. Joining a group of strangers for a party, let alone a trip to another country, is way out of my comfort zone. When you don’t feel confident or always comfortable in your own skin, you tend to keep your circles small. I have spent much of my life feeling like I didn’t quite belong. It is a hard thing to describe. It’s like you are participating in events, but doing so within an invisible bubble. You are present, but there are layers that keep you from feeling like you deserve to be there. These layers have been manufactured from years of believing I wasn’t smart, funny, pretty, thin or ‘cool’ enough. I know this is a load of bullshit, but the self-talk has been spoken for way too many years to be broken down easily by rationale or encouragement from other people.
It only took a short time with my new travel companions to understand these layers may not stand the test of time over the next nine days. I will forever remember the gestures of love and acceptance I received within even a few minutes of arriving at the airport.
As the days passed and the experiences compounded, my heart strings began to connect to strangers one by one. As our hearts opened and our vulnerabilities were shared, it became obvious we are a group of individuals who need to feel loved, accepted, forgiven and connected. It is through these commonalities, a sense of belonging begins to grow and a community is forged.
Every day during this retreat we sandwiched yoga as a bookend to start and finish the day. Our yoga practice did not just consist of asanas (yoga postures), but also included lessons and group exercises. Some of which, were uncomfortable to say the least. Have you ever stood face to face with someone, looked into their eyes for over a minute without saying anything? When was the last time you just listened, without offering advice or words of comfort, but acknowledged what someone was saying with just your touch or your eyes? Have you ever held your hand to the heart of a stranger and felt their heartbeat and breath connected to your own? These experiences challenge ever layer you have built, and expose some of your deepest vulnerabilities.
During one of the exercises we were asked to think of a phrase or a statement we felt we needed most at that point in time. We were instructed to phrase it as if it was present and true. When it was our turn, we stood in the middle of a group circle while everyone else pounded the floor with their hands. As soon as the pounding stopped we said what we needed. Statements such as “I am brave”. In return the group would yell back “You are brave!!!” When it was my turn I knew exactly what I needed to say and hear. I was called to the middle of the circle and when the rumbling stopped, I said “I AM AMAZING!!” I will forever remember the looks on my friend’s faces as they yelled back to me “YOU ARE AMAZING!!” The memory of their faces will be a gift that keeps on giving for years to come.
On the very last day we concluded our trip by spending one minute each with the 21 other members of our tribe, holding hands and looking into the other person’s eyes without saying anything. There were tears, smiles, laughter and a complete surrender of ourselves to that other person.
As I looked into the eyes of my new friend Maya, I saw myself in the reflection of her pupils. This was the only person in which this happened. As I looked into her eyes, I could clearly recall her face as she had yelled back to me “YOU ARE AMAZING!”
The universe does not create coincidences. It delivers lessons and gifts.
Without words adequate enough for my appreciation, I thank my new and old friends for creating a place of belonging, acceptance, forgiveness, healing and love. It was not a coincident I was on this trip. It was a gift I will cherish always.