The retreat was called "Heart Refuge and Revival." It was my daughter's 38th birthday and we decided to celebrate this year on the cliffs of Big Sur, doing yoga and meditation with Shiva Rea at the Esalen Institute. The two of us have been on retreat together many times, hosting my Creative Wellbeing Retreats, but never have we taken the time to go just for ourselves.
Even though it was Brita's birthday, this was a gift for both of us. What could be better than to share an experience that will live in our hearts forever?
Here's what I know:
There is no material gift that compares with sharing time with someone.
Especially when it includes bathing in natural hot spring tubs, watching planets align in the fading sunset of a California sky, trance-dancing after Thanksgiving dinner, and practicing yoga in an enormous circle with 50+ other people in half darkness. That is now our thing-- we will always have it. Another wonderful memory.
Esalen is a place that seems to have been lifted out of time and space into a realm of its own. It's impossible not to be moved by the forceful beauty of the mountains and the twinkling diamonds that lavish the night sky. Down below, the sparkle and fizz of the ocean is more intoxicating than any champagne. It is so compelling being there-- you can feel the primal energy of indigenous tribes that settled here, on this precarious corner of the planet. It made me hyper-aware of nature and the importance of drinking in heavy doses of it's goodness whenever possible.
I felt very happy doing yoga in my cozy corner, where I made a nest with my mat, blocks, blanket and ever-present cashmere wrap. (It was cold there). The vast space was filled with the collective energy of dozens of other willing souls. The yoga was more than just yoga. In fact, much of what I think of as yoga (the actual poses) was absent from our program, but instead, was replaced with a near-constant stream of eclectic, heart-warming music and the calming effect of Shiva's voice. Our daily practice, so in tune with the rhythms of nature, flowed through an array of moods--from spontaneous high energy percussion-fueled flash mobs, to loosely choreographed vinyasa flows, always with the option to just lie on our mats in transcendent, aimless meditation. (I opted for that more often than I expected.)
Now that I am home, so calm and energized, I find it hard to recall my initial reaction when Brita first suggested Thanksgiving at Esalen. It felt like such a big leap at the time for me to say yes. My mind said...it's so far, it might be cold, how will we get there, blah, blah, blah. All the things you tell yourself when something just out of your comfort zone presents itself. But, really-- I should know by now to ignore my brain and listen to my heart. The very act of taking a chance is a way to expand horizons. Life is so much better when it's revealing new and wonderful things.
So, to quote a friend who, when I shared some random earthly complaint of mine offered me this alternative message to the universe:
"Thank you for everything. I have no complaints whatsoever."