“Mommy I’m scared, I don’t want you to go,” she cried as I was leaving for the airport. It was her first time staying at her grandmother’s house alone for a week, and my first time leaving the girls for more than a few nights.
“I know Emy, but we have to try new things, that’s how we grow. We feel the fear and do it anyways.” And I knew in that moment I was talking to myself. She was mirroring me, because I was anxious and terrified to leave the girls.
I was nervous to spend money and invest in myself, and I was scared about what I might uncover.
I knew I needed to do the work. You know the hard, messy, emotional look at myself and feel the big feelings and dig deep into the pain in my heart. Work thought my grief of the passing of my sister-in-law, and deal with all of my physical pain. I was determined to find the meaning behind it and heal.
So I started looking for mediation retreats six months prior. I combed the internet of course, and asked my friend who is a life coach for recommendations, as well as my acupuncturist. They told me about numerous beautiful spas and wellness centers in Sedona and the Berkshires, but the price and fear always held me back.
Until one day an email newsletter popped into my inbox. My acupuncturist, spiritual teach, healer at Conscious Feminine Medicine…basically the woman who helped me become a mother, decided to have a retreat in North Carolina and had one spot left. It felt like the Universe was nudging me when I looked at flights and found one for less than $100 leaving 10 mins from my mom’s house. So on a whim I booked it, and a few weeks later walked into a house in the middle of the mountains with my comfy clothes, favorite pillow, and a mound of expectations.
We were late, two of the women from the retreat I’d never met picked me up at the airport. I bonded with Sara right away, a vet from my area. She was sweet, bubbly, full of love, and totally spoke my language. We walked into the retreat right when the first process was starting. It was a group meditation and I immediately started to cry.
I didn’t let anyone see me of course, I was humiliated. I had no idea how to act in a group setting but I didn’t want to be the first one to breakdown. Luckily someone else did that a few minutes later. Like a big, scary, emotional outburst and boy was it was uncomfortable…but it broke the ice, and I quickly realized that there was no holding back feelings. We were just supposed to be ourselves, our whole, REAL selves.
The sessions were broken up into the category of before lunch and after lunch. We did a group session in the morning and then food was provided. We could go to our private rooms to journal after each session, and Sara and I were lucky to have our own basement getaway complete with our own balcony. We were treated to beautiful trees, hydrangea growing wildly, and bald eagles flying above. It really was a beautiful solitary setting.
We did many different processes throughout the week, prayer chanting, fire dancing (which I said I soooo wasn’t going to do but did in my PJ’s anyways!) acupuncture, and of course meditation. And I would need to write a novel to describe all that transpired in that short week; the way the light feels when it enters you. How euphoric you feel when you finally let go of every emotion and just gaze at the sunlight filtering through the window. And how beautiful it feels to just allow your essence to guide you.
I also was enamored with the mountains and hiking we discovered while Sara and I broke out of the group for an afternoon adventure which included waterfalls, hidden streams, and rotisserie chicken. (This was a vegetarian retreat and mama needed some protein!) But the meditation retreat was so much more than a girls getaway, and I was surprised and how much I needed to work through.
I thought that this would be a way to heal my body and mind of all the recent pain in the past year. The endometriosis, and the knee from the two surgeries, and a little hiccup with my shoulder. I had this ridiculous expectation that in one week of exploring my emotional chaos that I’d be able to heal everything, my mind, body, and soul and return a happy, healthy, pain-free, refreshed, absolute best version of myself.
HA! I laugh now at my naivety.
Instead I uncovered so many deep issues I didn’t know existed. So what did I learn in my week of stillness? More than I ever could have imagined.
6 Truths I Learned From a Week-Long Meditation Retreat
- That I felt guilty for not saving my sister-in-law from pancreatic cancer. Crazy huh? I didn’t even know that was in there. I mean I sort of grieved her after her less than three month battle with pancreatic cancer, but it was at the retreat that I learned I had this deep guilt of not being able to do more. I somehow thought that I should have been there earlier for her (yes, I shoulded myself), and that it was my fault she was taken from us. Releasing that was monumental for me. It took me two days to get there, but once I did it was a complete shift for me. And after that, the guilt thing became clear. I dropped my guilt for being away from our daughters and was finally able to immerse myself in the experience.
- Triggers are everywhere and the people we meet are our mirrors. I’ve always know that our children are our mirrors, this was my first big lesson in motherhood. But at the retreat I learned it on a bigger scale. A woman there triggered me and reminded me of someone toxic in my life and at first I avoided her. But the more I really looked at my piece and my emotions, I learned so much from our interaction. So many of us get triggered by people we meet and their behaviors and react emotionally. But if we can just take the time to really examine the why, usually there is an important lesson for us to learn.
- Expectations suck the joy out of life. The first four days I was feeling worse. My room was downstairs and at that point I hadn’t been able to handle the stairs because of my knee surgery, so my pain was worse. And I was so mad that I wasn’t getting better at the retreat, and frustration set in. But on day four I understood that the pain wasn’t making me mad, my expectations were. And I finally realized I could walk up and down stairs, I was actually making progress and was finally open enough to see it!
- How to be still. I have been meditating for almost 15 years, so being still is nothing new to me. But thing is, in the trauma and chaos of the past year I had forgotten how to connect with the light. I used to be able to do it, but lately I’ve felt stuck. But here in this environment, with the cool mountain air, and the guidance and compassion of Dr. Leonor Murciano, I was able to let go. I could finally begin to trust myself again.
- There is nothing outside of you that will fulfill you. Dr. Murciano said this one morning, and it’s one of those things I already knew, but needed to be reminded of. We all have what we need inside, the question is are we listening?
- What I love. I hate mornings, I know – weird one right?! But I’ve never been a morning person. I always w s a slow waker-upper, and hated loud noise in the mornings as a kid. And at the retreat I recognized that I didn’t miss the early morning chaos of my family, instead I loved being in stillness. I loved making my coffee, meditating, journaling, doing my exercises, and then starting my day. In motherhood I had forgotten pieces of who I am, and it was there in this cabin, in my comfortable little room that I returned to myself, and what I needed. So since coming home, my husband has been handling the girls in the early morning and giving me 30 minutes or so to slowly wake up, as acclimating back into the noise of life was tough!
I know not everyone can afford a mountain meditation retreat, and it was something I scoffed at and didn’t think I needed. But it was an eye-opening experience and proved to me that we all have so much work to do on the inside. This time away was a gift, and since my return my own mental health is my first priority. Even if I have to put in that work early in the morning or late at night. My hope is that everyone can make this time for themselves, today and always.
If you would like to try a FREE meditation event with Conscious Feminine Medicine, register here.
If you have never meditated – yes you can! I promise. Here’s something I wrote to help others not suck at meditation.