The next morning was a new day. First practice time was at 7:30am, with smoothies thirty minutes before practice, which meant I was up at 6:15am. Luckily, I had the best roommates who were early risers which motivated me to be up and ready to go by 6:45am. Walking into the studio everyday was nothing short of magical.
The smell of palo santo and healing mantra music filled the Luna Shala, while we lovingly set our mats into position. If the space between our mats was any indicator of how intimate each of us would get during this retreat, then I knew I was in for a ride.
All practices were led by Rachel — her soothing voice leading us through basic yet challenging asanas while tapping into so many layers of emotions. If a pose required us to go beyond our mat, we were encouraged to take up that space — touch our neighbor if that’s what it took. Awkward initially, but felt so nice to share and receive touch. The warmth of a hand on my head, dampness of an arm under mine. I felt so connected in so many ways. The two hour practice went by in a heartbeat, sweat dripping, arms shaking, energy flowing. During savasana, the most beautiful song played:
Breathe it in.
Let it out.
Breathe it in.
Let it go.
The mantra repeats over and over and each time I breathed in, tears would fall, and every time I breathed out, tension would leave my body. So simple. So powerful. It was exactly what I needed.
We all then sat up and asked to find a partner. “Oh shit. Here it comes.” The infamous one-on-one sharing sessions. If I thought putting a sweaty palm on my neighbor was awkward, this was on a whole new level. The idea is to sit knee-to-knee with someone you don’t know, hold each other’s gaze, and for two whole minutes, one person speaks and the other sits there in silence. No interrupting, no butting in, no unsolicited advice, no judgement. Just pure space being held for whatever needs to be released. We were given a phrase to start our streams of thought, “If I wasn’t fearful I would…”, “Right now, I feel…”. Again, simple yet so irrevocably powerful. If there is one truth I know for sure, it’s that staring into someone’s eyes long enough to see them, really truly see them, is one of the best gifts you could ever give. You touch their soul, you’re instantly connected. Magic.
Everyday was the same: wake up at dawn, walk to the studio, lay out your mat, have a smoothie, practice for a couple of hours, share session, sweat, cry, rinse, repeat. We nourished our bodies with fresh, wholesome vegan meals, and occasionally washed it down with a glass of wine or two.
We came up with our own intention and manifested it by writing it down in colorful chalk.
A hike through a deserted coastline (reminiscent of Star Wars or Pirates of the Caribbean or both) that led to a secret beach and if you kept going, opened up to the most breathtaking natural pools you could swim in.
I climbed up to the smaller pool and found myself sharing it with fish, crab, and crashing waves. The only way down was to jump from a jagged edge, which meant it was geronimo time! One of the girls sweetly asked if I wanted to go together and with a count of five, I found myself feet first into the foamy blue water and into a dark pool with seemingly no bottom. My trusty lungs floated me back up to the surface as I was met with cheers and nervous laughter. What a feeling to be alive!
We sat on a postcard-perfect beach and witnessed the most epic Bob Ross sunset, flanked by a single sailboat and happy clouds.
We got on a boat and sailed across the clearest blue ocean with my face to the warm Caribbean sun. I dived off the side of the boat, yet another jump into the unknown. This time the water bright and full of fish. My breath almost confused with the snorkel, but eventually found its way. I floated belly down arms out, still as a starfish, watching a whole other world below me. Fish and seaweed swayed back and forth with the current. So much peace.
And of course, I finally finally finally did SUP yoga. Manifesting since 2014 finally was here and real, and everything I ever dreamt it to be.
I wore no makeup.
With the suggestion of Larry, I turned off my phone so I went six days without social media, emails, sports, calls, and texts other than the daily “I’m alive” courtesy notification. Instead, I buried myself deep into books, and purged out thoughts and negative space in my journal…
I had such vivid dreams, one of them of me being part of an army and walking away because there was dog shit everywhere and I was tired of cleaning up after everyone. After some reflection, I knew I quite literally felt this way in real life, and took on a new life motto.
Perhaps the most transformative of all the events was a 6am dynamic meditation. Now even for me, this was crossing the slightly absurd new age woo-woo, but didn’t know anything about it going in, so figured I’d take the opportunity and do it. There are five stages to the meditation: chaotic breathing, catharsis, jumping hoo-hoo, stillness, and then celebration. You are blindfolded the whole time (thank God for this!). Each of the stages is meant to bring out any repressed emotion, and eject them however seems fit at the time. Some people yell, scream, punch, cry, while others curl up into a ball and try to escape. I don’t know if it was getting up while the moon was still out or perhaps sheer terror at what I could only imagine was the jungle scene in the movie Mean Girls, but my reaction was not what I thought it would be. I thought I would come out of the gates swinging and cursing, instead I felt a certain calmness and respite. I got in some punches and kicks to the yoga bolster during catharsis, but the strangest thing happened during the stillness and celebration phase. My arms were being drawn up to the sky, palms open, and I felt a radiating light shine down to my neck. I felt the urge to take the light and immerse myself in it, as I motioned slathering this glimmering energy over my head, chest, torso, back, and then back up. I did this over and over, layering this electric energy like a coat of protection, while my hips rhythmically swayed left to right, right to left.
With my eyes blacked out, I could see so clearly. Messages were coming through:
Look at what all you’ve done. You are a badass!
Be so proud of yourself.
You take care of you, the Universe will take care of you, God will take care of you.
This is where you’re supposed to be.
It will all be ok.
Let it go.
It was both a cathartic experience, letting go of all the fear, sadness, disappointments, and judgements, but also a healing experience as I gained power, confidence, and sense of pride. I was standing up taller, back straighter, chest lighter. I felt whole again.
The session ended with silence, all of us absorbing what had just happened, reflecting on what just transpired. As everyone shuffled to the patio for breakfast, I grabbed my pen and journal and wrote over and over and over and over: MINE IS THE POWER.
I checked my phone and saw the time was 9:11am. A number I’ve been seeing over and over again for the past year, which turns out to be a good number according to numerology. Of course the number 11 being a master number signifying things like spiritual awakening, enlightenment, and when doubled (11:11) is an even better sign.
Later that night, I tossed piece of paper into the bonfire. On it was: “Cancer. No more shit.”
And there it was. The heaviest most darkest parts of my being set ablaze.
I’d like to think a part of me died that night, and out of the ashes rose a phoenix.
I think of the five nights and six days I spent on that island. I was the happiest I’ve been in years. Life was so uncomplicated and I felt so free. I connected with fifty amazing souls and realized that everybody has wounds to heal from, everybody has things to let go. I formed such a bond with my roommates, that they are now my soul sisters. I laughed and cried and shed so many layers down to the core of me, exposing my most vulnerable self. This experience changed my life. Things were finally starting to fall in alignment, I’ve found my flow.
Trust that your soul has a plan, and even if you can’t see it completely, know that everything will unfold as it is meant too.” – Deepak Chopra
As I stared out the window aboard my plane back to NYC, I happened to catch a glimpse of what was probably the sweetest gift from above. On the ground painted in large white numbers: 11 11. Magic.
I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. I am healthy. I am happy. I am whole. I am blessed. It will all be ok.