What does one expect on a yoga retreat? Expectations are an interesting topic. There are expectations you should have about a retreat (clean accommodations, organized, peaceful, competent leader, delicious food, etc). And I can assure you these things can be expected during our August retreat.
But what about the experience you will have on a yoga retreat? How can you expect to feel when you get back? What impact will this have on your life? What will you get out of the experience? Is it worth the money?
I thought it may be helpful to share my own experience with yoga retreats. I have been on retreat five times in the past 10 years. In this post I will share about my second retreat, because expectations were a big issue for me. I was very pregnant with my first child and pregnancy was not easy for me. Once my husband made the casual comment that some women describe pregnancy as the best time of their lives. Note to men everywhere: never say that to a pregnant woman. I wanted to hurl knives at him. Fortunately, he’s a great husband, and I didn’t inflict any bodily harm.
So as I said, I was very pregnant and feeling like I needed to rest, regroup and figure out a way to get through the last weeks in the blazing hot summer. I heard about a yoga and meditation retreat in the North Georgia Mountains led by a local teacher who had experience in the medical profession in addition to yogic traditions.
I registered far in advance so I had plenty of time to think about the retreat and for my mind to come up with a million expectations. That’s a typical response: we want to know how it’s all going to work out, and lacking this information we often don’t take a chance and miss out on something magical. Magical? Well, yes there is a kind of magic that happens, though probably not in a way you expect because expectations get in the way of the magic.
Below is a wonderful quote that is posted on the Elohee website:
“You cannot transmit wisdom and insight to another person. The seed is already there. A good teacher touches the seed, allowing it to wake up, to sprout, and to grow.”
-Thich Nhat Hanh. Buddhist monk
I love this quote and its 100% truth. The magic of the retreat happens from the people who show up, from getting away from your daily life, and letting go of expectations to make room for magic to arrive.
It’s been nine years since that retreat in North Georgia and I remember very clearly my thoughts on the drive home. It was not what I expected; it was so much better and so much more.
Over the course of our almost 3 years in business I have pondered the idea of adding a blog to our website. I would occasionally draft a post, think it was not compelling enough to share, and then forget about the idea for a while. It was always my intent to share yoga-related stories or information but my writing tends to be very personal and I therefore shied away from the public forum.
Now that I am finally making the leap to writing a blog post it is my most personal writing to date. I have breast cancer. For me, it’s hard to say that, but I’ve come along way on this difficult journey.
Cancer is not a big secret, and many people who are diagnosed jump right onto social media and share with the world. There were many times I thought of posting my diagnosis on social media but chose to be more private about what I was going through. In the beginning it was hard for me to tell anyone, and I took my time slowly letting people know. My astrological sign is cancer the crab (of course nothing to do with the disease). My character traits are pretty typical of the cancer sign, and just like a little crab when I feel threatened or hurt I want to pull back into my shell and hide. This was my initial reaction to cancer but it can be quite lonely in that little shell. The more I opened up and told people what was going on the more support I received, and I even met some wonderful new friends also dealing with cancer by poking my head out of the shell.
So over the course of several months I shared my experience slowly in my own way but then I would wonder if I should share more publicly and be part of the brave group of women who speak out to normalize breast cancer and help other women to feel less alone. I wasn’t quite sure if I was simply being private or was I hiding in my little shell out of fear?
I found it helpful when other women shared their stories publicly, and it made me feel less alone on my journey, so it didn’t quite feel right not to share as well. I was encouraged by two very different women who shared their story. Both were already public figures but could have chosen to be silent or reserved about their diagnosis, and I am so grateful they did not. The two women are Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Shiva Rea.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (whom I a big fan of) was diagnosed near the same time I was in late 2017. I rarely use Instagram, but when I saw the news that she had breast cancer I immediately started following her. I love her spunky attitude toward cancer which is basically giving cancer the big middle finger and a strong F* you cancer! In the beginning I did not feel strong at all, though I put on brave face for my yoga students and out in public, I felt everything but strong. So I was surprised that I received strength and encouragement just by quietly watching her from behind the scenes, safely in my little crab shell.
Then in May of 2018 Shiva Rea shared that she had breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. In a social media post she discussed that she wasn’t quite sure what her treatment path would be following surgery and that she was considering all healing modalities including chemotherapy. Shiva referred to chemo as ‘the Fierce Nectar’ and that was something I desperately needed to hear.
I can attest that chemo is no doubt fierce, and you have to take it like a warrior. But the word nectar spoke to my heart and gave me the courage to keep going. Though the hardest of my treatments ended in April I’ve struggled getting through the remaining weekly treatments that leave me fatigued and impatient to get the whole thing over. Telling myself I can take the Fierce Nectar for just a few more weeks helped me to keep going. As I write this, just 3 more to go.
It’s amazing what a change in perspective can do. Recently I’ve been reading The Book of Joy, a conversation between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Below is an passage about perspective from the Dalai Lama.
"Sadly, many of the things that undermine our joy and happiness we create ourselves. Often it comes from the negative tendencies of the mind, emotional reactivity, or from our inability to appreciate and utilize the resources that exist within us. The suffering from a natural disaster we cannot control, but the suffering from our daily disasters we can. We create most of our suffering, so it should be logical that we also have the ability to create more joy. It simply depends on the attitudes, the perspectives, and the reactions we bring to situations and to our relationships with other people. When it comes to personal happiness there is a lot that we as individuals can do."
We can change our life with a change in perspective. I have three more treatments and then time to rest before surgery in late August. I plan to teach yoga as often as I can when I have the energy from now until surgery. Thanks everyone for your patience and support. I have mounds of gratitude for my wonderful yoga community.
With love and gratitude,