(Spoken From Your Average, Far from Woo Woo, Skeptic)
“Namaste, vinyasa, savasana”…. What in the world are these yogis saying!? They speak an entirely different language that can’t possibly resonate with the norm. Tell me again about how I need to activate and balance my chakras. Or better yet, speak to me in sanskrit like I actually know what you’re saying. For all I know, you could throw a bunch of letters together, pronounce them with a calming, meditative tone, and I’d believe you if you claimed they were ancient yoga words.
Am I the one who’s losing it for not being able to delve into the trend and attend a women’s retreat with these people?!
Here’s the thing, I know the women that attend these things! Seriously, try having a conversation with them about the food they’re eating. They’ll first tell you how they try to connect with their plant based meals before ingesting, or how they want to “feel all of its life and thank it for nourishing their body”. Then they’ll tell you how they only buy eggs from local farms who’s chickens are pasture raised, or how they would NEVER eat something out of a can. Or if you get really lucky, you’ll meet someone who has gone completely vegan. You’ll somehow, feel like you killed their childhood dog because you picked up a Quarter-Pounder on your way home from a twelve hour shift.
I could go on about how inadequate or displaced I believed I would feel at a women’s retreat. I have never, and will never be a tree-hugger; although crystals are pretty, you won’t see me toting them around chanting about their healing properties; I certainly haven’t mastered meditation; and the idea of composting makes me cringe. But here’s the thing, I am now a full-on believer of the life-changing impact a retreat can have on a normal woman from the suburbs like me. The silly constructs that I believed about the women who attended these retreats were all really just my own insecurities rearing their ugly head.
I want to tell you the truth about these retreats and why you’ve got it all wrong, why I had it all wrong! We live in this crazy world where we are fighting so bravely to be seen as equal and to be given a voice, yet, we still feel inadequate or better than, when we compare ourselves to other women, and for me, this was especially true when I thought about stepping foot in the same room as one of these tree-hugging yogis.
So, here you go – the truth about women’s retreats! …
Misconception #1: Women’s retreats consist only of self-righteous women clothed in head-to-toe LuLuLemon
While you may find a few women who clearly practice yoga day in and day out, women’s retreats aren’t yoga retreats! The plethora of movement workshops offered at these getaways goes well beyond downward dog and tree pose. And they don’t stop there, movement is just a piece of a retreat. For someone who had only taken a few yoga classes prior to my first retreat experience, it was a pleasant surprise to learn about their diverse offerings. I danced harder and freer than I ever have, and surprisingly this was extremely liberating. I picked up a paint brush for the first time since high school. I journaled about deep dark shit, shit that keeps me up at night; but in a way that was facilitated to help release the hold over me (this was one of my biggest breakthroughs, being able to bring that tool home and use it wherever, whenever). I had a massage without any interruptions from my toddler. I connected with nature… AND actually enjoyed it (not quite on the tree hugging bandwagon, but truly, the fresh air and picturesque scenery is beyond healing). I played a djembe drum till my hands hurt (not sanskrit, I actually learned the word “djembe” at a Rise retreat). Let’s just say this mama was wrung out, physically, emotionally, and mentally, but this type of exhaustion healed me in ways I didn’t even know I needed.
Misconception #2: You’ll be fed only kale and spinach
Here we go again with the vegans! I’m a coffee and muffin girl, and by “coffee” I mean the extremely expensive espresso Starbucks drink that has more sugar than a can of soda, and by “muffin”, I mean a cupcake! No seriously, I eat that almost every morning. I typically eat what I want, and you will rarely hear me say what I want is green. I know I feel better when I eat healthier. BUT I also know, I like candy, and burgers, and booze (did I mention I’m a high school teacher?! I need wine!). One of my biggest fears about attending a retreat was that I would starve to death because I’m carb dependent. Or that my sugar levels would drop so low that I wouldn’t be able to even stand in those silly yoga poses if my life depended on it. To say my palate was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. Sure, they fed me “healthy” food, but just because it was nutritious, doesn’t mean I’d think it was delicious! But it was!!! I mean it! The food was so good!!!! They had an entire team dedicated to feeding our bellies while the retreat fed our souls. Everything was made from scratch using local sources. Just to name a few of the things I ate; warm homemade chocolate chip cookies (of course that was the first one I listed!), eggs florentine over spinach (a little green didn’t kill me and I steered clear of the vegan tofu version), sweet potato black bean quesadillas, mediterranean cod, and yummy apple crisps topped with to-die-for coconut whipped cream. In short, I didn’t starve! I even brought home new recipe ideas that didn’t make my kids run for the hills.
Misconception #3: I can’t leave my kids, or I can’t afford it, or I can’t because I have an hair appointment. (Feel free to insert a drawn out whiny tone with this one)
Listen, I get it! We are all busy! Whether you’re a mother, or a wife, or a daughter, or the first lady, you’re busy! Of course you are! The question is, are you always going to be too busy to follow the desire to be the woman you’ve always wanted to be? To heed the call to invest in self-care? To reconnect with who you truly are?! This one is different for everyone. I can only speak for myself. When I finally bit the bullet and bought my first ticket to Rise Gatherings Weekend, I had everything I had ever wanted in my life. The beautiful home whose manicured yard entertained my “perfect” children. The husband who loved me more than I loved myself (someday I’ll tell the story about how attending a retreat helped me listen to my inner voice and learn my truth, my truth about being a lesbian, that’s my favorite story of all time!). The career that I was proud to go to day-in and day-out. I had all of these things that were supposed to fulfill me, to make me happy. The thing is, I wasn’t happy. I felt a void deep in my soul. The void grew with each sunrise and I finally knew it was time to listen to my inner voice, my desire to heal and breathe and to live. Which leads me to…
Misconception #4: You have to be going through a life-changing, transformational event to “need” a retreat.
Stick with me with this one. Personally, yes, I was going through a transformation, but in all honesty, I didn’t even know that’s what was happening. My inner dialogue was always responding to the little desires in my head with negativity and pushing them further down. I spent years telling myself, “you have no reason to be unhappy”, “you have everything you’ve prayed for and desired”, “you have no reason to feel a void”. I am sure most women can relate with that little inner bitch inside that tells us our desires are selfish and egocentric. Or the voice that tells you, no matter how much time and energy you’ve invested in working out or dieting, your body just isn’t quite right. The one that tells you a retreat isn’t for you because you won’t fit in, or you won’t be accepted, or the one that feeds your insecurities by making you believe other women would judge you or shame you. It’s hard to articulate what my inner dialogue was saying, but I can’t emphasize enough how hard I was on myself and how inadequate that voice made me feel. I used to stare in the mirror pointing out my lines. I would spend house plucking out every hair on my face. I even went to the extreme of measuring myself; like, I actually took out a tape measure and wrote down the measurements of my hips, legs, arms, and EVERYTHING in between! (Let me also say I’m 4’9” and less than 100 pounds). It doesn’t matter what everyone else sees, or the compliments you receive, if you aren’t happy with yourself, that voice will continue to destroy you.
My initial reasoning for attending a retreat was to take some time to recharge my mind and body, reconnect with my soul, and renew my spirit. Those reasons alone sound pretty transformational, but during those three days spent in the Pocono Mountains amidst 450 acres of lakefront serenity, I met myself for the first time. Sounds pretty Woo Woo, I know, but truly, I wasn’t chasing kids around, I wasn’t multitasking with laundry and dishes and school lunches. I was inside my head for the first time since I became a woman, since I became a mother. We get so caught up in the innate role as a nurturer that we forget to nurture the most important soul of all. So whether you’re going through a divorce, or finishing college, or retiring, or even if you’re happier and more fulfilled than you’ve ever been, don’t you deserve a weekend to hear yourself?! Self-care is not selfish! It’s actually the opposite. You can’t nurture and care for the ones you hold closest to your heart, without nurturing your own.
Misconception #5: You have to go all woo-woo to get deep and real.
Don’t you dare tell me my chakras are unbalanced or that my moods are determined solely by the moon! I have friends, dear friends, who believe this! And more power to them! But for me, my chakras are just fine and my mood is because I’m sleep deprived and dealing with teenage hormones all day. Now, you want to have a conversation about how I feel drained and exhausted because I can’t be everything to everyone, ok, I’m in. If, during that conversation, you suggest I hold a particular crystal because it will help me connect to my inner wisdom… um, ok. Depending on how the moon is affecting my moods, will determine what exactly I do with that crystal. I may just tell you to shove it, or I may play along with your woo woo game in hopes that it helps. Here’s the thing, you can be “spiritual”, or not. You may pray every day to a higher power, or not. You may chant “om” every morning until your throat hurts, or not. At the end of the day, there’s no judgement in what YOU do to help YOU be your happiest. The women who come to a retreat know just that. Their opinion about methods of self love and self care, are that alone, THEIR opinions. They have their own reasons for being there. You quickly learn you are surrounded by a community of like-minded women who want nothing but the best for you and they do everything in their power to help you find the methods that bring you peace and joy, those tools that resonate with you.
I know I gave myself the title “far from woo woo skeptic”, and maybe you’re thinking after reading this that I may, in fact, be a little woo woo, but you know what, woo woo is such a subjective term. Call it what you will, I call it healing, happy, and eager for Rise Weekend Getaway 2019!
About the Author: Tink began as an attendee at the first annual weekend and is now an integral part of the internal Rise team as the Associate Director. She is the behind the scenes, spreadsheet filling mastress, that supports Tami & Rachel in keeping it all together; her spirit and structure are at the heart of Rise! Nicole “Tink” Fisher is also a teacher and special education case manager and inspires her students daily to become who they are. Tink also supports many in her home purging and organization business Clean House.