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Let Go

Affirmation: I let go of struggle.

 

IMG_2839-2The immaculate Conception parish in Durham, North Carolina held it’s annual woman’s retreat this last weekend. It was at the Baptist retreat center on Oak Island, North Carolina. Approximately fifty women attended. They were of all ages and ethnic backgrounds. There was one man, Father Jude Siciliano but as one of the women tried to explain to me, he was such a remarkable man that the women attending would be very comfortable with his presence. She was right, very right.

As you probably know if you regularly read this blog, I am very familiar with creating and presenting retreats. This year will be our eleventh Pink Ribbon Yoga Retreat. At the time of this blog, our first planning session is about to take place. It takes a solid six months to get an event like ours together.

IMG_2830-2The committee for the Immaculate Conception retreat also works on their event for many months beforehand. It was very obvious. They didn’t miss a thing. It was everything I’d want a spiritual retreat to be. The design was very gentle with lots of free time. The rooms were comfortable and well appointed. The setting was originally Fort Caswell with remnants of the cement bunkers and walls in the midst of lovely houses and stunningly beautiful ocean vistas. We were able to watch the sunrise and the sunset. The theme was, Reclaiming the Gifts of Sabbath Living and we were encouraged to come with something written out that we wanted to eliminate from our lives. We were then encouraged to “take an intention” to help us accomplish our desire. I was right at home. I must admit I also felt a little smug; I mean I’d already looked at the year and I had set an intention. I was ready! I really was but just like all adventures there was so much to experience than I could even imagine.

IMG_2834-2We were a carpool of four. We were the only four from our part of the Triangle. It was a delightful ride to the beach. One of the other women took on all the driving and another coordinated our pickups. I was honored to be with these three spiritual sages. They had all worked hard at getting in touch with God, each in their own way. I couldn’t wait to see what I would learn from each of them. The simple fact that I was not in charge of any aspect of this trip, other than packing my own suitcase, was a gift in itself. What a way to start a new year, in the company of three very loving, wise women and then to share in the journey of several dozen other women all with the same desire to know God better, to find a way to be better connected to the Divine.

IMG_2836-2Father Jude led us in several ceremonies but for me the most meaningful were the two Centering Prayer sessions, twenty minutes of eyes closed and emptying the mind. How easy that sounds but how difficult to put into practice. I’ve meditated now on and off, mostly off, for over thirty years. I’m great at praying and of course, I always journal but being called upon to just sit silently, without going to sleep, for twenty minutes, twice a day, is simply something I haven’t made happen in my life, probably because I really don’t want to. I am a busy person. There is so much to do and to think about and of which to be in charge! I do fully realize, however, the multiple benefits of meditation, of resting the brain and in this case in finally being silent so that I can listen to God, not always be dominating the conversation. That’s what we were given, two twenty minute sessions to simply listen. Did God speak to me? Yes, She did!

During both sessions I received images that I cannot explain. I went into the first session with a question to which I could not find an answer and somewhere in that twenty minutes, an answer came and one I feel I never never would have arrived at using any other modality. I was actually stunned and felt a great sense of peace. During the second session I was prepared to simply sit quietly and repeat my word or “mantra” but once again I was visited with an image. It was a warm, comforting person and I was so grateful for her care. I might have stayed longer but the bell rang and she left. She left and yet I still feel her with me. I’m not sure if or when she will ever leave again.

Unknown-2I’m curious now, will each time in Centering Prayer bring a new insight, a warm feeling, a sense of peace and calm or was it the power of almost fifty other people sitting with me that presented me with these gifts? A few years back I took a ten week course in Mindful Meditation at Duke Integrative Medicine. I sat quietly in lotus position, crossed legs, on the floor twice a day for twenty minutes for ten weeks and then the course ended and so did my practice. I know all the benefits meditation presents. I’ve read about lowering blood pressure, increasing self discipline, improving concentration and about how the brain actually changes its state with ongoing meditation. This January there was a Sixty Minute episode that showed a computer scan of the beneficial effects on the brain during meditation. I haven’t read a self-help book yet that doesn’t at some point tell the reader to meditate. Presently, I am listening to Richard Rohr’s, The Art of Letting Go. I just began session four this week. Guess what the topic was? Contemplation or meditation and why it’s so beneficial not only to our bodies but to our spirits.

Am I ready? Can I do it? Even as I sit here and write I can feel the resistance. “Be careful what you pray for,” I’ve been told. So, I’m not going to ask God to help me with this intention. Instead I’m simply going to allow the time to unfold and present itself to me. My intention for the year had already been set before I ever got to the retreat, this is, The Year of Trusting in Christ. The quality I left behind at the retreat to honor Sabbath living was struggle. My affirmation is, I let go of struggle, even the struggle to meditate daily. I’m simply going to see how the days evolve and maybe this time, with God in the picture, my desire to sit quietly and discover His/Her message will come as a welcome gift.

Stay tuned. I’ll report back in a few months. Maybe you want to join me in this journey? I’d love to know what you might discover.

Trusting in Christ

Affirmation:  I dedicate this year of 2015 to
trusting in Christ.
It’s January 1st, 2015 and that can be a time for
reflection and retrospection.  I know
many people make some sort of New Year’s
resolution.  It can be a very common
topic during the first few days of January; “Have
you set any New Year’s resolutions?”  We all
know how they usually go.  Most people
are lucky if they hold onto those resolutions for more than a day.  You know the usuals: lose weight, stop
smoking, begin exercising, eat healthy, spend more time in prayer and or
mediation, etc. and then life takes over. 
The holidays are finished and most of us head back to work or to our
normal routine and that routine doesn’t
include those good intentions.  There is
however, ways to make permanent changes in our life.  Some changes we choose, those can be a gift
we give ourselves.  Other changes are
thrust upon us, and depending upon how we approach those, they can also be a
gift we give ourselves.  
I’m
very excited about this New Year.  I must
admit coming out of Christmas and looking towards the New Year, I didn’t feel excited. 
I felt anxious but I’ve been consistently
journaling and reading as much inspirational and motivational writings as are available to me and I’ve decided that this is my
year to simply go with the flow, to let go of the struggle and the challenges
that I’ve always created for myself.  My study group, The Seekers, is presently
reading Martha Beck’s Finding Your Own North
Star.
  I really had a difficult time
relating to the beginning of the book but midway through it took on new
meaning.  The section we are presently
studying is about The Change Cycle. 
Change, one of those elements that every human being experiences and
experiences all the time.  Sometimes we
are aware of the changes, they are dramatic and potent but most change is
subtle and insidious.  We go through life
not paying much attention to it.  It hasn’t really commanded our attention but it’s always there and how we deal with small changes is a
precursor to how we deal with large changes. 

My Enneagram type, Type 7, is
prone to anticipation.  It’s part two of Martha Beck’s Change Cycle. 
That may sound exciting but the truth is it can be exhausting and it
takes me “out of the moment,” out of
the experience of the present.  I miss
too much by not paying attention to the Now. 
Between Martha and the information about my personality type in the
Enneagram, I decided not to live like that this year.  This year my intention is to allow life to
unfold.  I want to live in the movement
of the spirit.  I can’t tell you what that will look like and I will tell
you I have prayed that I am not called to be a martyr but I’m still going to go with it. 

I owe this year’s intention to one of my dear friends and study group
traveler.  She gifted me with the book, One
Word That Will Change Your Life
by Jon Gordon and she has shared with me
over the year the impact of focusing on one word, like taking a mantra.  I know my intention is more than one word but
the word I’ve chosen to focus on is Trust.  It’s been
here now for a few years, floating in and out of my consciousness and my
affirmations.  A while back I developed
the RTR principle: I fully Rest in God’s care,
I Trust in God’s love and I Release myself from any struggle.  It was helpful but it was a little like a
resolution; I didn’t hold onto it for very
long.  I have discovered that when I take
an intention for the year, miraculous things, subtle and not so subtle take
place and without a lot of effort my life takes on new meaning and color. 
This is the third year of taking
an intention, declaring the year a “year
of.”  This
last year you might recall was “The year of connecting to the
Divine.”  It’s been a wild roller coaster
ride with the publishing of my book in February, the death of my mother,
Margaret Grolimund in March and the marriage of my daughter, Ellen, to Adam O’Sullivan in May but through it all there’s been a peace and a sense of being in the presence of
a greater power.  Each morning my journal
had the year’s intention written at the top of the page and even
though I mostly left the thought as I went throughout my day, I still carried
it with me in my inner being.  As with
all affirmations I believe they first enter your consciousness, then our
subconsciousness and then they permeate our cellular being and we are
different, different in ways we might never even imagined but different in ways
that enhance our lives. 

I’m
ready!  I’m
excited about this year’s intention.  I am expecting amazing, miraculous
things.  I know life will still hold all
the challenges life normally holds and maybe a few I can’t even imagine and for which I would never ask but I’ll be good.  I’ll let this new intention seep deep within me and
whatever the world throws at me, I’ll be
breathing deeply and knowing that since I’ve made
a conscious choice, every day to trust in Christ, I’ll look back on this year, just as I did on 2014 and
see the miracles and the blessings in all the hills and the valleys that is the
ride of my life. 

Choosing Your Words, Creating Your Thoughts

Affirmation:  The words I choose affect every aspect of my
life.  I choose mindfully.

The question I’ve been asking myself while preparing
for the September 9, 2014 Barnes and Noble signing has been, “What makes
you think you’re someone who can inspire or motivate another to live an
intentional life?”
Truth to tell, I am simply another human being
probably a lot like you who is trying to live a rich, giving, compassionate
life.  My mission statement for my life
is, “I live a Christ centered life of love, peace, joy, hope, gratitude
and compassion.”  And, everyday I
have to remind myself of it and of how I want to live.  I’ve written before of my desire to be loving,
forgiving, nonjudgmental, non-grasping and compassionate.  It’s a meditation.  It’s something I have to keep in mind
everyday, sometimes every moment.  Do
I?  Of course I don’t. 
I know I’m not an expert on human behavior.  I have studied it for many years and I’ve
worked with a lot of people in many different capacities.  One of my first loves is a study group.  I facilitated my first study group at Barnes
and Noble in Cary, NC around 20 years ago with another MSW, Jane Cook.  We presented the book The Artist’s Way
by Julia Cameron.  We had around 35
people participate for the twelve-week session. 
I’ve either facilitated or participated in hundreds of groups since
then.  From my observation I would
propose that most people are trying to find a way to live a more fulfilled
life.  What that takes is of course
different for different people so I don’t claim that I can offer everyone that
opportunity but there are some basic skills available to most of us and using
our words to shape our thoughts and therefore our lives, is a very powerful
one.
I recently had a women ask me if I’d read Ten
Percent Happier
.  I have not.  She explained to me that the author’s secret
to a happier life was meditation and he shared that approach in his book.  He felt he became at least 10% happier
because of his practice.  I believe
it.  He therefore, felt a desire to help
others find this same sense of well being. 
I think we can definitely improve the quality of our lives by meditating
but while it’s simple, it’s not easy. 
It’s takes practice.  It takes
discipline.  It’s no different than
exercising the body.  It’s exercising the
mind.  In fact it’s easier to exercise
the body than it is to quiet the mind. 
What I am proposing, however, is something that almost anyone can easily
put into practice.  I don’t mean for it
to be a substitute for meditation, certainly not a substitute for prayer, but
another tool to be utilized in the search for a better existence.

We are all talking to each other and ourselves all the
time. With just a little effort we can start carefully choosing the worlds we
use.  You know what I’m saying.  In fact, it’s probably easier to shape the
words we use to describe events and others than it is to shape those we use for
ourselves.  We can be our own worst enemies.  I have a long list that I’ve collected of
negative self-talk phrases.  Things I’ve
heard people say to themselves or perhaps I read somewhere.  For example: 
“I am so stupid!”  “I am such a
klutz!”   “I just never seem to get it
right.”  “I just can’t make any
friends.”  “I never have enough money,
time, energy, etc.”  “My right leg, arm, hip,
etc. is my bad one.”  The
list I’ve compiled has about one hundred negative phrases.  Two others that don’t sound negative but have
that effect are, “I am right!” and “I can do that
better.”  Those two statements may
be vey true but I’m here to tell you (and I know I’m right!) most people don’t
want to be around someone who has all the answers and who willingly will tell
them how to do something better, even if they’ve been asked. 
So, I’m not here to give you any answers.  I am here to propose questions and to tell
you what has worked for me with the same hope as the author of Ten Percent
Happier
.  I want to share the
practice and the words that have made my life better, not perfect, but
definitely better.  The positive
affirmations I have created for myself and that I write about here and in my
book, Creating Positive Affirmations, Living An Intentional Life, have improved
the quality of my relationships, my health, my work and perhaps, most
importantly, my faith.  They aren’t
designed to improve your life.  They
simply serve as an example of what has worked for me and in case your
searching, what may work for you.

My dear friend, Joanne Dawe shared her wisdom with me
many years ago when we spoke about using positive affirmations.  “They have to work,” she said,
“I’ve been using negative affirmations for years and they’ve always
worked.”

Love is Your Only Job

Affirmation: My Only Job is to Love
There are many asanas (poses) in yoga that are designed to help
one open their heart.  For example, any
sort of back bend will put you in a position where your chest is raised towards
the sky.  Even a slight back bend opens
the heart as in Fish pose.  In the book Eat
Pray Love
, Liz Gilbert tells a story about a man she meets in the ashram in
India who shares he’s been seeking an open heart.  She asks him what motivated him to come to
the ashram and he tells her he kept asking God to “open his heart.”
One day he had a heart attack and his heart was literally opened.  One need not have surgery to create a more
open heart.  There are many more gentle
ways to accomplish this worthwhile trait.
Many years ago when my children were younger I found myself
struggling with one particular incident. 
I felt very hurt by this episode and was sharing it with a good
friend.  It really wasn’t such a big deal
looking back on it but at the time I was upset and I felt I was justified in my
complaining.  So, there I was moaning
about the situation.  She listened and
then gave me some of the best advice I have ever had in my whole life.  She said, “Remember, Jean, your only job
is to love.”
As a journaler who has written three pages every morning for the
last 20 years, I have many many journals boxed up.  Every time I begin a new journal I transfer a
few things to the front paper pockets and the beginning pages.  I transfer my intentions for the year, my
daily prayers, my list of people I am presently praying for and my positive affirmations.  I also write on the inside of the front
cover, “Remember, Jean, your only job is to love.”
I believe that with all my heart. 
It’s the main message Jesus Christ came to give us.  When he was asked; Mt 22:36 “[Jesus], which is
the great commandment in the law?”
He said to them, ‘’You
shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and
with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is
like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments
depend all the law and the prophets.”
Why do some people seem to have a greater capacity to love than
others?  Do you think it’s because of
their DNA or is it because of their upbringing? 
Is it “nature” or “nurture”?  It’s probably like most of our traits; it’s a
combination of both.  But, can we learn
to love more, love greater?  Can we be
people who can love no matter what? 
You’ve heard the stories about people who forgive their worst
enemies.  Can you learn to love an
enemy?  Can one learn to separate the
sinner from the sin?
I’ve been very lucky in my life. 
I married a man who has a huge heart. 
I believe he was genetically predisposed to being a loving, kind man and
then, he had the additional advantage of having amazing parents who showed him
by example exactly what unconditional love is, especially his mother. I have
never heard my mother-in-law say anything, ever, that was derogatory about
another human being, and especially about someone in her family.  My husband teases that if we had a bank
robber in the family his mom would say, “He’s the best bank robbed
ever!”
On my travels through Ecuador, I was kissed in three weeks more
times than I have been kissed in three years. 
Almost everyone I met gave me a kiss on the cheek and a warm hug.  One day we went to the soccer practice of my
consuegra’s (my daughter-in-law’s mother) granddaughter.  Six of us sat in the bleachers watching her
practice, her three grandparents, her aunt, my son and myself.  When the girls were finished practicing the
entire team came up to the stands to greet us. 
I watched these teenage girls start down the row kissing and greeting
all the grandparents, then they kissed the aunt.  I thought they’d stop at that point and was
amazed when they continued on to kiss my son and then me, two people they
“didn’t know from Adam.”
I know it was a cultural response to greet us all in that manner
but at this point in my travels I’d been greeted like this for several
weeks.  Greeted and welcomed into
people’s homes, lives and in some cases into their hopes and dreams.  As far as I could see these people in this
culture responded with more affection and respect than I normally
experienced.  I had the honor of being
hosted by my consuegra and I can share with you that the hugs and warm daily
greetings and good nights were freely shared with anyone who happen to be in her
home. 
When I first received the directive to love no matter what, I
remember thinking, “I can do that.” But, I must admit it is easier
said than done.  There are many in my
life that I find very easy to love and there are some I struggle to love.  Some days I feel like my heart is closed and
hard.  When I am aware of that state, I
engage my breath to help me open up.  I
take several deep breaths and visualize my heart expanding in my chest, like a
red balloon.  I’ve also done many other
“open heart” mediations.  These
mediations usually involve inviting loving thoughts and feelings into one’s
heart.  First, you invite those who you
find easy to love, then you invite someone you may be struggling with and
finally, you invite yourself.  You take
the time to allow each person to rest within the warmth of your bosom and then
you release them and yourself out into the universe, full of light and warmth
and wonderful energy, a release that blesses you, them and the world.
I believe we can learn to love more fully, more deeply,
unconditionally.  But, I think there’s a
secret.  I don’t think we need to be born
into a family of warm blooded Latinos or Italians.  It’s nice if we’re born into a loving,
affectionate family.  It probably makes
it easier but the secret is to learn to accept love, to believe you are worthy
of love, to believe that you are truly loved, loved for who you are because you
are and not for any other reason.  We
need to believe we are loved, loved first and foremost by God.  We need to know without a doubt that we are
amazing wonderful beings who deserve to be loved.  Once we can fully embrace that concept, we
can open our heart to receive and then to give that which we have
received.  If we don’t accept it, we
can’t, it is impossible, to give it out. 
It’s like filling up the car with gas. 
If you don’t open the gas cap and let the gas flow in, you won’t be able
to go anywhere.  You’ll be stuck in one
place, empty and dried out.  
What if you approached everyone in life with the thought,
“Remember, (your name), your only job is to love.”? What kind of an
effect would that have on your relationships, on you, on your life?  What kind of an effect would that have on our
world? 

Setting An Intention

Affirmation: 2014 is
dedicated as “The Year of Divine Connection.”
It’s January 2014, the beginning
of a new year.  I’ve already visited and
examined the past year and now I want to look forward.  Of course, I don’t know what whims of fate
await me but I’ve stocked the tool box with tons of coping skills so I’m not
going to go forward in fear.  I am going
forward in faith and with joyful expectation. 
What would you expect from someone who writes about Positive
Affirmations?  Last year was a good
year.  When I answered the 1st of last
week’s blog questions about the hardest thing I had to do, the answer wasn’t
really all that difficult.  It was a lot
better than some years that’s for sure. 
After I wrote the answer I actually felt myself smiling at how blessed I
am. 
Many years ago I owned a
refrigerator sized calendar that had the entire year on one piece of
paper.  I loved that calendar.  I loved looking at the whole year ahead and
planning our adventures and special occasions. 
I still like to look at the year ahead but now it’s all on my
computer.  Somehow it doesn’t feel as
satisfying but I’m adjusting. 

Taking an intention is a regular
part of a yoga practice.  I’ve expanded
that to my “off the mat” practice. 
I sometimes take an intention for the day. It’s pretty cool when it
appears in my daily journal.  We take an
intention for each of the Pink Ribbon Yoga Retreats.  We’ve just begun the planning for this year’s
retreat.  I’m very excited to see what
will appear.  It usually comes fairly
quickly as the committee discusses on that which they’d like to focus.  Last year was the first time I decided to set
a personal intention for the whole year. 
I declared 2013 “The Year of Love.” 

I have always loved the color
yellow.  I live in a yellow
“submarine.”  It makes me feel
happy and yet I still feel grounded when I’m in a yellow room.  Not all yellows, however, it’s more buttery
than gold.  I’ve usually added other
colors to punch it up, like hot pink or purple. 
For the last few months I’ve had an attraction to the color green.  I mention this because it’s a new phase.  In the past I have avoided green.  There wasn’t any green inside my home or in
my wardrobe.  Now, I’ve painted my office
apple green. I’ve added a Kelly green print to a couch and then I went crazy
and chose green granite for the renovated kitchen.  Nothing I had in the former kitchen went with
the green color but I was irresistibly drawn to it and I just relaxed and let
it happen.  Why I wondered was this shift
taking place?  I was discussing my
intention for 2013 with a wise yogi and mentioned my new bent towards the green
color.  She reminded me about the chakra
colors.  Guess what color the heart
chakra is!  Yup, it’s green. 
I’d like to believe that my
dedication to The Year of Love led to more than just an attraction to green and
a new decorating scheme.  Personal growth
and internal development is a slow process. 
It’s just like most other changes one is attempting.  They take time.  There are subtle differences that may not
even be perceived for a long time.  It’s
like that with our affirmations.  We
choose them carefully, write them, read them, perhaps say them to ourselves and
let them slowly permeate our subconscious and eventually our cellular
structure.  Then one day we respond to a
situation differently than we had in the past, in a way that affirms us, not
diminishes us and we realize our affirmation has manifested. 
As I looked forward to 2014 I had
trouble deciding on what besides love was important enough to focus on for a
whole year.  I thought about choosing
faith as a focus and I considered forgiveness but neither of those felt
right.  I do however; want to keep a
focus on forgiveness.  One of my
affirmations is, I freely forgive myself and others.  And, I do want my faith to grow. I attended a
retreat many years ago with my friend Ann Baucom and her spiritual
director.  I was going over those notes
very recently and there was the spiritual direction for which I was
looking.  It entreated me to let my

faith
grow not because of a sense of obedience or even a sense of belonging but
because it is rooted in experience. 
Faith doesn’t only increase because of our religious experiences
although it is possible but for many, me included, my faith experiences happen
both in and outside of church and that’s exactly what I want.  I want to see the moon and the stars, I want
to feel the sun warm my skin, I want to relish holding someone’s hand, I want
to hear the bird’s song and the ocean’s road and I want in that experience to
feel God’s presence.  I want to feel
connected to the Divine.  I’d like to be
connected at all times but this is a mediation, a practice.  In order for me to achieve this relationship,
this intention, I need to pay close attention and focus on my ultimate desire.  Yes, that is something I would be willing to
spend a year cultivating, even a lifetime. 
I have dedicated 2014 as The Year of Connecting to the Divine. 

What are you willing to dedicate
of year of your life towards?  Perhaps,
it’s not one phrase; perhaps you have a list of intentions.  I have one of them too.  It hasn’t changed from last year. It reminds
me of God’s bounty and of the truth that I cannot fathom the riches that can be
found once we connect to the Divine. My ideal life always includes optimal
health but good health and an ideal life require more than care for the body,
the body will cease to exist one day no matter how well I care for it.  I need to focus on the spirit too.  As in past January months I carefully
considered what my ideal life would include. 
I have carefully crafted ten intentions. 
Pray Unceasingly
Forgive Continually
Accept and Give Love Freely
Hug Whenever Possible
Learn Constantly
Dance
Often
Eat
Mindfully
Recognize the Shadows
Smile Early, Laugh Daily
Be Grateful, Always and for All
Things
Happy New Year!  May your year be filled with abundant
blessings, prosperity and joy.  Take some
time and write down your intentions. 
Won’t it be wonderful when you do your 2014 review, if you find you’ve
manifested your dreams and aspirations? 

What Was I Thinking?

Affirmation:  I carefully choose my thoughts. 
 
This year’s 2013
Pink Ribbon Yoga Retreat has just ended. 
It was our 9th retreat.  You can
gather more information about it from the web site, www.PinkRibbonYoga.org or you can find us on
Facebook.  The retreat provides women
breast cancer survivors with support, coping skills, and relaxation.  It is designed to be both nurturing and
empowering.   What happens over four days
and three nights?  Miracles happen. 
 
 
This year 29
people attended the retreat. We always take an intention to guide our planning
and this year our intention for this year’s retreat was “On Wings of
Joy.”  We borrowed a thousand paper
cranes from the Duke Cancer Patient Support Program and hung them from the
rafts and Nancy Soho, one of our committee members, created mobiles for
everyone.  She hand folded 5 paper cranes
for each one and then added a hand cut card from which they hung.  Along with Irene Talton, our gifted
yoga-off-the-mat instructor, they crafted inspirational words on the top of
each mobile.
 
We have a very
specific format that the retreat follows. 
It’s proven to be extremely beneficial for creating a healing
environment for each individual and for the group as a whole.  Over the years we’ve discovered that if we
provide a single meaningful word for each person they are more comfortable
speaking in our opening circle.  This year
we used the words on the mobiles to initiate sharing.  We then left the mobiles hanging on the back
of the chairs and reused them for our closing circle.  I think only one person got the same word for
both circles and that was me.  It was
“healing.”
 
Healing is one of
the miracles that take place during these four days.  I know because I always come away feeling
healed.  I like to hope that it’s a
complete healing from all my ailments: mind, body and spirit but I don’t know
that for sure.  There certainly could be
some rebellious cells floating around inside, although I hope not.  I do know, however, that I come away feeling
rested, valued, calmer, centered, nurtured and empowered.  I know too that all those positive emotions
can lead me, my body to a place of better physical health and even if I am not
cured of all my ailments, I know I am healed. 
There is a difference and I know I am not alone.  I know it because over the last nine years
the women, who have participated in the retreat, have told me so.  It is true.
 
 
 
The very first
thing we do when the retreat starts is to provide an atmosphere of safety.  We encourage everyone to respect the
confidentiality of any sharing that takes place.  We ask that only one person speak at a time
and that everyone else simply listen.  We
ask that each person use the word “I”, not the third person
“you” or “we.”  We
let everyone know that sharing is optional and that silence is not only
accepted but valued.  Before the next
person begins speaking, the last person must declare that they are
“complete.” 

We tell everyone
that this is their time, all four days and three nights.  We have all sorts of wonderful offerings but
their first responsibly is to take care of themselves and so if they need to
take a walk or a nap or to just have some quiet time, then that’s what they
should do.  Of course, if they want to do
yoga on the beach, try creating a water color of spirit, participate in yoga
dance, eat ice cream with the group, try the meditation sessions or experience
laughing yoga, they are welcome to join in. 
One other thing that quickly becomes apparent is the lack of judgment
that permeates the event.  For at least a
short while no one has to hide whatever might cause one to be embarrassed in
the outside world.  With that, the women
can simply be.  There is no striving, no
pretending.  It’s liberating.  It’s another modality that promotes
healing.
 
One of our
traditions is to jump into the ocean after the early morning yoga.  There’s something very magical about floating
on the warm waves early in the day with a group of friends.  One morning I was quite tired and I thought
maybe I’d skip the swim and just head back to breakfast but I wore my swimsuit
just in case.  The yoga ended and several
ladies headed towards the water.  I
joined them.  As I floated over and
through the gentle waves, I couldn’t imagine what I had been thinking that
would have kept me from this amazing experience and then I realized, I often
find myself in really neat situations that I was initially hesitant to
join.  Sometimes they involve big steps,
like when I joined my daughter-in-law and traveled with her to Ecuador and
other times, they’re small steps, like jumping into the ocean.  Each time, however, I find myself wondering,
“What was I thinking?”
 
Perhaps, if we
paid close attention we’d discover that most of the time we’re not very clear
about what we really want or what will make us really happy or perhaps what our
best choice is.  An example would be when
we choose to have that second helping of something that tasted really good but
which is not good for us.  How often have
any of us done that and then shortly afterwards wondered, “What was I
thinking?”  It would be wonderful to
always be clear about our decisions, to always be mindful but it’s a practice,
a life-long practice.  We can only stay
alert and be aware.
 
 
After the retreat
is over I find myself asking that same question about having this idea of a
yoga-beach retreat for women breast cancer survivors, “What was I
thinking?”  What made me think it
would become a reality?  Did I believe
that it would turn into such a powerful, healing experience for so many
people?  Where would the money come from
so everyone could afford to attend? 
Where would we find a place to stay? 
Who would volunteer to be our teachers? 
How would we advertise?  There
were dozens of questions and challenges to making this a reality.  “What was I thinking?”  I was thinking this was a good idea and if I
moved forward and it didn’t happen, well at least I tried.  It’s better to try and fail than to never try
at all but it didn’t fail.  It
happened.  It happened and it has
provided comfort and healing, support and respite to more people than I had
ever imagined.  “What was I
thinking?”  I don’t really know what
I was thinking but I do know I’m really glad and actually very proud that I was
thinking at all. I’m thrilled that the retreat exists and that because of the
work of so many wonderful people, we achieved the creation of such an amazing,
awesome experience.  As of today it’s
been over a week since the retreat began and I am pleased to say I am still
floating on the “wings of joy.”