After having some time to reflect on the Fall Retreat and what the experience meant to me, one word comes to mind: reunion. In fairness, I also just finished listening to the memoire ‘Love Warrior’ in which the author describes her yoga experience as a reunion. Whether she knew it or not, the word ‘yoga’ means ‘to yoke’ or ‘to unite’ aka ‘union.’ But the word reunion is more fitting right now. We go on a retreat not because we’re already living as a unified human-being, consciously connected to a higher power every second of every day; Namaste-ing through traffic and long work days. We go on a retreat to strategically withdrawal from the high-strung distraction of our daily lives, in order to reconnect with our body, mind and spirit. It’s a reunion because this is our true nature; we were born with and designed to use our whole self! So let me start at the beginning of this journey of reunion.
A tiny town with a ridiculous amount of natural beauty, Trempealeau provided us with the perfect setting to let go of the busy, high-strung way of living, and enter into a place where time moves slower and things are simpler. As Tracey and I were having dinner at The Trempealeau Hotel the night before the retreat, gawking at the bluffs showcasing the mighty Mississippi River, a bald eagle flew by as if the universe was letting us know that it had us covered for the weekend. It did. Saturday morning everyone gathered for the first time. Introductions were made and then we hit the mat and got to work. We moved and breathed in the same place we ate the night before. Only this time the chairs and tables were moved out of the way, and I could hear the creak of the wood underneath our feet, feel the power of the train barreling by, and notice the steadiness of my breath. We were being invited to pay attention to what our surroundings had to offer us, getting a taste of what it feels like to be one with the present moment.
The hike in Perrot State Park was one of my favorite moments on the retreat. It was a perfect blend of being covered, contained within the branches of the trees and then wide, open air with breath-taking views of the Driftless Region. On the way down, everyone was invited to make it a silent descent in order to take each step with more mindfulness vs. a full mind. It’s amazing what you open yourself up to when you close your mouth and focus on what’s right in front of you. I noticed little things I hadn’t on the way up like bugs skirting around the edges of the trail, the sound of dried leaves rustling in the wind, and a welling up of abundant gratitude for whatever I did that allowed me to be right where I was. In that moment, I was united with my body, mind, spirit, the earth, the sky – and it felt damn good!
Then there was our trip to Elmaro Vineyard where we sat outside on a perfect fall day, tasting good wine made by a good family. Maybe it was me, or maybe it was the wine, but it seemed like conversation flowed easily; time was irrelevant. We were in the experience, soaking in the kind of supreme contentment that happens when you are truly engaged in your surroundings. In the late afternoon we planned for a restorative yoga practice on a stage that’s situated between the hotel and the river. We did not plan on the Redneck Express party-bus being there [that was the real name, I can’t make this stuff up]. While my initial reaction to the loud gawkers was one of ‘are you f***ing kidding me?!’ I realized this was simply an invitation to deepen my connection to the participants, our breath, my breath, their bodies, my body. Tracey did an exceptional job creating a safe, comforting container for us explore bodies, mind and soul while the world around us beckoned us to both unravel and unwind.
Food. Can not forget about the FOOD! During the retreat all of the meals we ate at the hotel were organic, and locally-sourced. Not all vegetarian or vegan, but all were made with real, delicious ingredients! As we deepen the relationship to our bodies, it becomes easier to see what we consume and how we consume as a practice of self-care. If we consume real, healthy foods we feel more energized. If the way in which we consume is grounded in mindfulness and love vs. lack or excess, it can become another ritual for reunion. [Perhaps it goes without saying that this applies to consuming food as well as thoughts, conversations, experiences.]
It was almost weird how well the group got along. I know they say ‘Minnesota Nice’ and while I agree there is truly a wholesomeness to the Midwest, I also know there can be a tiny, wee undercurrent of passive aggressiveness behind that word ‘nice.’ But I didn’t feel any of that. Everyone was kind yet real. Engaged in the collective, yet withdrawn when they needed to – aka napping in class, or skipping class to nap, when it felt right. I loved this! By Sunday morning, I was feeling a little exhausted from hosting [and staying up past my bedtime to drink wine around the bonfire the night before]. It was evident I was not the only one still feeling tired. One person even came up to me before class to let me know they may not make it through the practice because they were feeling a little off. But they all stayed in it. Some moaned and groaned. Some smiled and laughed. All of this was perfect because it was honest. The road to reuniting with our bodies, minds and soul is not always pleasant or straight-forward because the process of unbecoming and becoming is messy. The point is to stay in it, to stay engaged with your whole self, as these 14 beautiful humans did.
So overall our first retreat was pretty awesome 🙂 We’re now planning for a few more in 2017 because it’s evident that we all need more time and space for reunion to our whole self, to other humans, to nature, to the deeper pulse of life that beckons us to explore the world within as well as the world around us.
If you have ideas for future PALM + PINE Retreats let us know! We’re here to serve you!