I Went to a Very-Uncharacteristic-of-Me Yoga & Meditation Retreat

Monday, November 18, 2019

Even though I now own three decks of affirmation cards, one tarot deck, & multiple crystals, I still don't consider myself into "woo-woo" things. At this point, I'm probably straight-up lying to myself, but you know what? Let me be.

Here's another extremely woo-woo thing for me to have done: At the end of October, I spent an entire Sunday in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, where I was one of a handful of women who participated in Good Karma CLE's RemembHER: A RemembHER Retreat.

It was "a day retreat designed to unearth our stories and reclaim our power; to dust off our bones and greet our truest selves; to release the weight of entombed expectations." And based on that very beautiful but also very vague description, I had almost no idea what to expect of the event.

I signed up on a whim after reading about it on Shibani's blog & thinking that it sounded like exactly what I needed at the time - something to relax, rejuvenate, invigorate, inspire. You may recall that I went on a women's self-care retreat last fall & really enjoyed it, despite feeling quite far out of my comfort zone, so why not try again?

I arrived allllmost on time, just after 9 a.m., & when I pulled into the parking lot, I spotted a flock of wild turkeys, which reminded me of my dad. Signs from the universe at the start of a woo-woo spirituality retreat? Off to a good start.

For the most part, I didn't take any photos, not until the very end of the day when I was by myself again, wandering the grounds of the national park. In fact, I tried not to touch my phone at all throughout the day. I wanted to be fully present, to let my brain take a rest from technology, & to engage with humans & nature instead of with the Internet.

So here's a little bit of what resonated with me.

We created an altar together. 
You can see the word "altar" however you want, but really it was just a pile of things that mattered to those of us in the room, a few things from each of us to create an atmosphere of strength & security & support. We each brought a few items to add; we each added items throughout the day. I brought a rose quartz, my dad's Army name badge, & this sparkly costume brooch I was obsessed with as a kid.

We did an hour of outdoor yoga.
I always say I don't like yoga, but damn, I loved this session with Sam, who runs Good Karma CLE & is a certified yoga instructor. It was difficult, but not hard, if that makes sense. It challenged me. It made me a little sweaty. But it also felt really good, really refreshing, really energizing. Afterward, I felt centered & sore & all the things I think you're supposed to feel after yoga?

We did a candle-gazing meditation.
Sitting outside around a fire pit on a perfect fall day, we went around the circle & we each told the group about someone close to us who had died, someone whose power & vitality we wanted to channel. I went first, & I spoke about my friend Elissa, who died in 2013. Everyone else spoke about a grandparent or even a great-grandparent; I laughed, internally, at how amused Elissa would've been to be in a group of, like, wise elders. Totally her jam.

We got in touch with nature.
Sam gave us instructions for this part, which we each interpreted in our own ways. I found a bunch of purple flowers on the ground, semi-wilted, leftover from a wedding reception that had been hosted on the park's grounds the evening before. Purple was Elissa's favorite color - & whether or not I believe in the woo, finding them felt like, well... a gift from the universe. Again.

We explored what it means to be a "wild woman."
"Within every woman there is a wild and natural creature, a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing." Sam read to us from Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, stories by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Est├ęs, & was each shared what the "wild woman" archetype means to us. I didn't have much to say during this activity but have thought about it a lot since then.

There was more, too. We did visualizations & meditations together. We chanted & sang. We explored the park grounds. We did trust & vulnerability exercises. We discussed what we need from ourselves & one another & the world. We talked about letting go.

And when it was over, I wandered alone into the woods. Yes, it's exactly what My Favorite Murder taught me never to do, but it was so peaceful, so quiet, so meditative. The weather was perfectly autumnal, & the woods were silent aside from the sounds of the winds & of animals rustling around in the bushes & birds chirping in the trees.

I talked to myself, to God, to my dad & Elissa, to the universe. I made quiet promises to myself, goals for myself. I breathed. Deeply.

It was weird, but it was beautiful.

I felt better.

I felt OK.

I am trying.

Have you ever gone on a retreat like this? How do you feel about "the woo," like chanting, altars, meditations, & the like?

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