Lessons (Retreat Part 2)
It wasn’t until the plane had landed and I was walking across the tarmac that it sunk in. I am here, in Mexico, for 2 weeks, alone.
The feeling that came over me wasn’t fear or loneliness, it was of reassurance.
I have never felt so comforting in the fact that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Funny enough, at the exact moment my plane was landing there was a measured 7.2 earthquake a few miles up the coast that shook the entire state of Oaxaca.
I had arrived and the universe was already literally shaking things up.
And it continued to do just that the entire trip. There were many major epiphanies and turning points throughout my experience that allowed me to grow, even though a lot of those realizations left me feeling like a shattered vase on the living room floor.
‘Grab the super glue babe, we gotta put this thing back together and I have NO IDEA where to start.’
Enjoying your own company
The Mexican alarm clock of tropical birds, local dogs and bright sun shining into my room, had me up and out the door bright and early. With nothing planned and nowhere to be, I headed to the place that no matter where I am in the world, is always familiar and comforting.
As soon as I took off my shoes and put my toes in the sand, I felt at home. Growing up on the beach I was fortunate enough to have the ocean in my backyard. It is the landscape of my favorite childhood memories and now here it was right by my side as I began this new journey in my life.
After my beach walk, I rented a bike and headed out for a solo adventure. Almost instantly I learned how much of my father’s daughter I really am. In the first 20 minutes of my of my bike ride, I was yelled at by a cop telling me the park I was riding in didn’t allow bikes. I wasn’t about the walk the bike all the way down the hill I had just climbed, so I pretended I didn’t speak Spanish said ‘gracias’ and kept riding in true Barry Krangle fashion. I laughed at myself the whole way down the hill drowning out the cop yelling after me.
I spend that entire first-day biking, walking and exploring the town of Huatulco. Stopping as I pleased, taking pictures and enjoying the scenery as much or as little as I wanted to. That day for the first time ever, I realized how much I enjoy my own company.
Of course, my family has known this about me from the days I would sit in my car seat hysterically laughing at or with myself for hours. But as a grown adult and especially a planner like myself, it was incredibly refreshing to have an entire day to do whatever I pleased without having to consolidate with anyone else.
I am a ‘yes’ person always agreeing and accepting plans and invitations for fear of disappointing others or coming across rude or dismissive. This incredibly important lesson gave me permission to respectfully decline offers for companionship throughout my trip when I knew a bit of ‘me time’ was what I needed at that moment.
That alone time nurtured major epiphanies and experiences that may not have been available had I dismissed my subconscious’ message of moments and opportunity for self-discovery and the occasional breaking of the law.
The Power Of Presence
The retreat accommodations were beautiful! A three-story house 2 blocks away from the beach with a rooftop palapa where we would practice yoga, meditate, and enjoying each other’s company over home cooked meals and the most amazing sunsets you’d ever seen.
This lesson came to me after the first day and thank goodness because for me, it was one of the most important teachings I could have learned and it takes practice! I was walking back from the beach to meet everyone for lunch and was overcome by the familiar anxiety that often accompanies meal time. ‘What if there’s not enough food? Am I even hungry? Don’t overeat! What if the food isn’t ‘clean’ enough?’
This is not how I wanted to start the retreat.
There were 3 sets of different guidance cards that people had been picking from each morning. I figured I’d pick one to distract the worrisome voice repeating itself in my head. I grabbed a deck at random, closed my eyes and picked one.
Sedena. Goddess of infinite supply.
It read: ‘You are supplied for today and all of your tomorrows. Don’t worry about the future. You will always have enough to eat, your needs will always be met. Spend time at the ocean and you will be provided for.’
Are you for real?
There you have it Chara. Need I say more?
That lunch we collectively gave thanks for our meal and all the work that went into it. I savored every bite knowing I would be satiated and it would meet all of my body’s needs. Of course, you were welcome to seconds if you wanted, but by becoming present and changing my mentality going into the meal, I never needed to go back for more.
This practice is now my number one recommendation for client’s when struggling to lose weight, gain more energy, and feel their best.
The practice of being present and learning how to quiet and shift my state of mind didn’t just come in handy when eating. My whole world became brighter. I began to see details in the path I walked 6 times a day that I hadn’t seen the day before.
I became a better listener and therefore was able to supply a supportive environment that allowed people to open up and share what they needed instead of jumping in and stating my similar experience which may not be helpful to that person at all. I began to laugh more. A lot more. When I returned home it was the first thing Marc noticed and shared with me. For someone who constantly lives in their head, the power of being present was a game changer.
This lesson can easily fade as we become wrapped up in our day to day life. With phones constantly in our hands, staring at computer screens for hours a day or wracking our brain about things we essentially have no control over, we can go a whole day, even week without being present.
Performing 10 minutes of deep breathing and meditation daily has kept this practice alive for me. Some days are MUCH better than others, but that’s why it’s called a practice.
The Power Of Mentality
This goes hand in hand with lesson 2 but for me, it was a separate learning experience.
When I booked the retreat I had to mentally prepare that I would not be working out or performing any high exertion exercise for the duration of the trip. For most people, this sounds like a dream. For me, this was straight hell.
When I started this retreat I thought it was my responsibility to look a certain way due to being a representative of health and fitness. The thought of taking 2 weeks off and how far back that would set me was a scary, scratch that, a terrifying thought. But it had to be done and I had to be OK with it.
I have to give credit to a beautiful woman by the name of Cori for bringing this lesson into my life. I met Cori the evening of my arrival. When I first looked at her, I experienced a connection I had never felt before. Cori is a health and wellness guru who has been practicing decades before it was trendy.
Big gorgeous brown eyes, tanned skin and long silver hair, I knew I had to get to know this goddess. Cori had written a book that the retreat had an extra copy of for anyone who would like to read. The next morning I headed off to the beach and dove into it.
Her book titled Choosing A Vibrant Life has a whole chapter on the power of mentality and how it scientifically can rearrange our molecules making a noticeable difference not only emotionally, but on a physical level also.
Could this be true?
I began to do more research on the topic and found an amazing study by Harvard University that took place amongst female room attendants. Half the women were told their daily jobs of cleaning hotel rooms met the Surgeon Generals recommendations for an active lifestyle. The other half was not given the same information.
4 weeks later, the group who was ‘meeting the active lifestyle standards’ showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, and body mass index when compared to the control group. All by simply believing the information they had been given.
The power of the mind.
I instantly created the routine of beginning each day by telling myself the yoga and meditation we were practicing daily was enough to keep my body healthy, happy and sustain the results I had worked so hard to achieve.
Cori and I shared many laughs and she taught me many lessons beyond the power of mentality. After our first conversation, I told her about the connection I felt and that I truly believe she is the future me. Cori taught me what a belly laugh was. A true heartfelt, detoxing, in-the-moment, deep down laugh, which we shared many. Especially when she said she was going to the beach to ‘put her solar panels out’.
Uh…hello future me!
Of course, a few days after our first encounter, we learned we learned we not only shared the same astrological sign but the same exact date of birth too.
When I returned home, 3 weeks later (yes 3!) I looked in the mirror and took a photo of myself. 3 weeks away of no weights, no intense exercise and no body-shaming and I felt better then I had in years! I actually had progressed with my goals. I was leaner, more energized, more focused, and more connected with my body than ever before.
Adding to this routine being home each morning along with my 10-minute meditation I also choose a few affirmations that I state out loud to gently align my physical being with my mental. Click here to see a few of my favorite go-to affirmations.
I wish I could tell you all it took was simply changing my mental state that made this all possible. But there’s another part to this. It’s not a lesson that can be taught. It’s a realization that one needs to make in their own time.
Sadly, some may never realize it but hopefully, this next lesson will spark something in you to open that door.
Forgiveness, acceptance and unconditional love of one’s self.
Do you know what it feels like to look in the mirror every day so filled with anger at the reflection you see? Sadly, you probably do. And so do hundreds of thousands if not millions of other men and women. I had done this every single day going back as far as I could remember.
Waking up and the first thing I would do is look at my stomach in the mirror. Frustrated, disappointed and consumed with the feeling of being inadequate. I felt there was nothing to show for all my hard work. I’ve never really been someone to give up, so I would be harder on myself that day, and all the days following. This routine and way of living were doing me no favours.
I was 1 week into the retreat and had already been practicing the power of presence and mentality but there was one major key ingredient missing. One that without these other two practices in place, may not have been available to me.
I had never had a Reiki session before and was extremely excited to try something totally new! I had no idea what to expect and was more than OK with it (this means a lot coming from a micro-manager, detailed oriented, control freak).
I laid down on in the massage table underneath the tent covered in gorgeous colorful sarongs, a big smile on my face, ready to rock.
Kristen and Tanner the coordinators of the retreat and the amazing couple who would be leading the reiki session asked if there were any trouble areas I’d like them to focus on.
‘My stomach’ I told them before I had even had the chance to think about it. This completely took me by surprise since I cringed at the thought of anyone touching my stomach.
One held my head in their hands and the other held my heals and began the session. Having this sense of support and feeling the loving touch of their palms, I instantly felt vulnerable. When they reached my stomach I burst into tears. Out of nowhere a voice so strong and clear said 2 simple words that changed everything. ‘I’m sorry’.
I can’t really explain what or how it happened, but in that session, my mind had made the decision to apologize to my body. Years of judgment, unfavorable acts of self-destruction, harsh thoughts, and just downright cruel statements you would never dream of saying to a friend.
That afternoon, my body and mind made a pact to not only work together but to love each other in unison addressing any imbalances that needed healing synergistically.
The next morning I added a new routine that I had learned from my Ayurvedic massage earlier that week. Abhyanga. The act of performing a self-loving body massage. Each morning I poured a small amount of oil into my hands and slowly massaged the surface of my skin thanking each part for its beauty.
Including my stomach which I always spend a couple extra seconds showing an additional dose of love.
I have brought this routine home with me and have performed it almost every day. It is such a beautiful reminder of the amazing connection and communication we have with ourselves.
It has allowed me to begin each day by being incredibly thankful for the body I’ve been given and sets me up for another day that I vow to treat it with nothing but unconditional love, respect, and acceptance.
Just as any practice, some days are more optimistic then others but I can confidently say I have not spoken an ill word of myself since that revelation. Although not all of my health issues stated in my retreat intro blog have healed, I am more certain then ever they are well on their way.
I know this lesson may not yet be available to some of you but I highly encourage you to open up and present yourself with this possibility. I don’t regret any of the time I spent in the toxic relationship with myself.
Of course, I wish it hadn’t been as long but at newly 29, I feel more grateful than ever that I was able to discover it at all. When you gift yourself with this unique, depth of love, you are opening up your life to an infinite of possibilities.
Now that I know this way of life is available to me, I can’t help but want to further support others in reaching this sense of self-acceptance and love. I also know that you will find this connection on your own time.
Believe me, 20-year-old Chara would have politely smiled and told you to go f- yourself with this hippy magic. But it’s true! Cheesy and overstated but true. Life is short. Take my word for it, life is better on this side.
So go find a mirror, look yourself in the eye and say ‘You are fucking gorgeous. I freaking love and forgive you. Now let’s go start enjoying this undeniably beautiful life-together.’
Throughout my 3 weeks being away I learned a handful of other lessons but this is already a long blog and you got places to be and self-love to practice. So here are a few cliff notes on other teachings that resonated with me that may ignite something within you.
Lesson 5: Leave room for spontaneity.
Yes fellow control freaks, good things can also happen
without being planned.
Lesson 6: Your body has all the answers.
We just have to listen and trust it.
Lesson 7: Sometimes just listening and holding a space for someone to speak their truth without offering advice or personal experience, is the greatest gift you can give.
Lesson 8: You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink it.
You can’t make someone change or have the same realizations as you. You can only lead by example.
Lesson 9: Ask and you shall receive.
There were many moments throughout my three weeks I asked the universe for something specific and lo and behold it would appear. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want just be sure to have your eyes and heart open and trust that it will come when it is meant to.
Lesson 10: Who cares? So what?
A phrase I started to say much more frequently. Didn’t eat dinner until 8:00 pm, so what? Things didn’t go as planned, who cares? Adopting these phrases it has allowed me to shake off little details that previously would have stressed me out and driven me mad. They are constant reminders to not sweat the small stuff!
I feel beyond grateful that I was able to learn each one of these lessons at a young age. I am even more thankful to be able to share them with you in hopes that they support and guide you through finding your best self and building a life you absolutely love.
The retreat I went to was in beautiful Puerto Escondido and was held by