Everyone has been asking me about my time in New York and usually I just say, it was life changing, it's beyond words, I highly enjoyed myself. It really was so good that I simply cannot put it into words, even doing so here, I still feel like I cannot convey the profound life changing experience that occurred. I know those are hefty words too and I'm not trying to throw them around lightly. I seek out profound life changing experiences in my life, so that part should come of no surprise. I do find it quite challenging to find exactly what little bit I want to include each time someone new asks me how my time on the east side was. Hopefully, this will give you a good taste. I truly am excited to share this with you and I hope you enjoy reading about it just as much!
First, I spent five days in Philly (yeah, I'll blog about that soon too) so I didn't fly straight into Ithaca. I took a long eight hour bus ride that ended up being a long twelve hour travel day. I have to laugh thinking about this, because I've traveled a lot now and still I forget that travel arrangements never go as planned.
When I got off the bus two girls that looked about my age were there to greet me. They didn't just greet me either, they looked ecstatic to see me and gave me huge warm hugs, like we'd long been friends and it had been years since we'd seen each other. What a homey feeling.
I was escorted to my bungalow, number 17. "Am I rooming with anyone?" I asked, "Oh, no, girl. You get your own space. We all get out own space. You'll want it when the retreats start up." Again, total awe. My own space?! With understanding, respect, and encouragement for needing and wanting to take time away for myself? Heck yeah! I got comfortable, I settled in and allowed myself to fall into complete wonder of being surrounded by a new and magical place.
It's the little things
The first night was challenging to adjust. I admittedly had my first ever sinus infection that was radiating down into my teeth and jaw and hurt so bad it had me laughing and crying because of the pain and kept me tossing and turning all night long.
I became totally engulfed in gratitude. I was thanking the sun for rising, my bungalow for holding my things, as well as a comfortable space for me. Every singe morning I woke up the greenery and fresh smells that surrounded me brought smiles to my face, but the morning I saw the first lotus flower bloom, I was literally brought to tears. I got into a morning habit of soaking everything in, getting tea, and walking around the beautiful flower beds. I was headed towards an orange-yellow rose when the lotus caught my eye and I bee-lined for it. I had never seen one up close. Yeah, I guess you could say I was pretty high on life. The utter simplicity of life. When you let your mind go and can truly immerse yourself in the beauty that surrounds you, it gets a little easier to let things slide off your back and be brought to your knees by the sheer gratitude of living. Everything else seems small and pointless in these moments.
I was also dubbed the task of lighting the sauna's in the morning and periodically checking them throughout the day. I was responsible for cleaning the yoga studio and stocking the bathrooms, I assisted in handy-man duties, and at one point was also on breakfast crew. Which, included making fresh green juice.
As a staff member, I was required to work six hours per day, monitoring my own schedule. If I had extra time, I was expected to be honest and help others in need. Usually, this meant head to the garden and help with whatever was needed there. I loved this honor system. At least for myself and from what I saw in others, it worked quite well. Though there were the owners and a GM that guests could coordinate their desires and concerns with, there really was no feeling of "having a boss," or a hierarchy of any kind. It was refreshing and I feel as if I truly experienced that ol' saying, When you love what you do, it won't feel like work, in all it's glory.
We were also allowed (and encouraged) to participate in as many activities from the retreat that we desires, so long as our schedule left room for, and even if it didn't, one could easily trade with another to make it jive. Amenities included daily yoga and rebounding classes, meditation sits, various workshops/lectures from the owners themselves or an honored guest (many times, doctors), a wheatgrass shed, sauna time, swimming in the ponds, beautiful space to take a walk or go for a run, lounge chairs to flake out on, or any other activity you could dream up and wanted to pursue. My doctor told me going in they wanted you to work hard and rest harder. I think it's safe to say that is exactly what I got done.
I've never, ever "detoxed." Not intentionally. Now that I know a little about it I would definitely include nutritional resets as a type of detox. However, in this instance, I'm talking about your classic fasting protocols, purposefully leeching toxins from your body with the intention to flush them out and become an all around detoxed, individual.
All of these are completely normal in terms of a detox. The way detoxes work is that you are creating an environment for your body to pause and let go of lots of different things it has been holding on to. I think most commonly we think of this in terms of literal toxins built up in our systems that release, which is true. Yet, it also gives space for mental and emotional detoxification too.
The typical daily diet at this retreat consisted of fresh juice or breakfast shake in the morning, which was made up of mostly seeds. Lunch and dinner boasted a large beautiful salad with greens from the garden, energy soup (pictures above, green) and a third misc. item.
Like I said, I had never even heard of the word enema before my pick-up car ride to the retreat center. I still laugh about the phone call to my partner, saying,
Are you like me and wondering what the heck an enema is? Well, it's where you take a hospital bag and fill it with 1500cc's of water, you stick the tiny tube (see the picture above) 1-4 inches into your bum, and slowly release the water. It goes in and flushes everything out. When you feel like you have to go, get up, sit on the toilet, and let it out.
I was skeptical myself, but I was not about to not participate in what seemed like an extremely important aspect to the detox. There was an entire lecture on this, where I learned just how the body releases toxins into the colon and enemas are designed to get in there and wash out all those nasty toxins before the body has a chance to absorb it all up again. Regardless of my skepticism, my first enema went over surprisingly well. Of course, having support from new friends that all talked like it was such a norm made it a lot more comfortable as well. We had the option for regular, wheatgrass, or coffee enemas. Pictured above is my coffee enema set up. I will blog about my enema experiences soon and answer more questions that I'm sure are swimming through your brain right now.
Connections beyond Words
There's something truly special about taking on experiences such as this. It really makes me reflect on the pure chance of our lives, the tiny moments and decisions that put us on the path to be in the same place and the same time to share these exact moments. It's another one of life's little beauties that we rarely stop to admire or notice. We just accept the here and now. Not the compilation.
I met some really incredible people that I feel confident saying they will be life-long friends, even though I only so-far know them from this four week stint, even if we never get to hang like this again. Still, they'll always be in my heart and a part of my journey through growth.
I had a couple of deep epiphanies during this retreat.
One was what I learned about crying. How natural it is, how needed it is. Which shed light on just how much we are out of tune with ourselves and our emotions in our societies today. Especially our American society, I often here people joke or fear being too emotional. I don't believe there is such a thing. Feel all the things, because you are human and that is a unique part of our experience.
The second I honestly scare sharing, because I know not everyone will understand. But for those of you who will, because I know you're there, this is for you. During this retreat I feel as if I was able to capture full self acceptance. I felt as though I had truly fallen in love with myself for the first time. Even though I have been working on this for years, this place allowed me the space to see what imperfections or high standards I have still been holding over myself. Perhaps consciously, perhaps unconsciously, but it was again through tears and also through yoga that I experienced the total awe of truly loving me for me. Knowing that I am not perfect, but I am genuinely trying my best, and I am okay the way I am, right now. With and without all the titles I have accumulated over the years. Simply for being me. I don't know how many times I told myself I love you during this retreat, but I do know it wasn't enough to make up for the lifetime of disgust and bullying I have put myself through. This, I plan to keep close to heart. To continuously nurture and lift myself up, so I can stay strong in doing the same for others. There is absolutely nothing selfish in this act, I only hope you can see that.
Any space that allows me to feel completely happy and in pure delight of myself and my life will always hold a very special place within me for as long as I am able to remember. It also allows the space for me to feel pure delight and happiness towards the people I got to share it with. This essentially includes an entire giant blanket of non-judgement that I wrapped myself in for four weeks and through that I was able to experience love.
Love in the sense of life, not sexuality, not intimacy, not the family-kind of love - not anything in the sense that you think you know it, and I only say it that way because that's how I feel is best to describe it. I sure as hell didn't realize what it was until I was in it and now being out of it, it's still hard to grasp, hard to explain, yet I know I've experienced this in other places in my life, mostly in company with good friends.
It's love, without any judgement whatsoever for who you are or what you've done. Pure acceptance, if you will. That is plainly the best way to describe it.
Alone time and Self reflection
I often spent time to myself, as did many other people. I liked this perspective switch, as in our "normal" daily lives and society, we are not encouraged to take time for ourselves. It's all about doing your best to please others. We continuously put others first - work, family, partners - before we stop and allow time with and for ourselves. We've created this sense that we will not be loved if we do not succeed and success comes as a different definition to each of us. In that scenario, there is no end. You'll be constantly chasing "one day" or "when the time is right." Just a reminder: your time is now and your life is what you make it.
Ketogenics & Fasting
Though it is a raw vegan retreat, the owners have been studying ketogenics and intermittent fasting for three years. They are holding their first ever ketogenic retreat this year with sixty three guests attending, all returning guests, the majority doctors. Including mine. Everything I learned between ketogenics and intermittent fasting has be fascinated to say the very least. I've already delved through two whole books about it and will be experimenting on my self very soon! All the lectures I attended seemed to go hand in hand with everything I am currently learning as I'm studying to become a nutritional therapy practitioner, which also left me in awe and pumped me full of confidence to boldly step forth into my position in the natural medicine field of medicine.
The biggest passion that continues to emerge for me is the connection between our food choices, our mental health, and our perceived realities. More so, the remission of diseases such as cancer and neurological disorders, which hold a special place in my heart, as Parkinson's runs in my family.
Throughout the retreat some of the cooks were playing with keto meals in preparation for the keto retreat. These were very decadent meals, as the owners want to get across that this can be a long-term lifestyle choice where you feel absolutely no deprivation whatsoever. Pictured here is a flax+almond flour crust pizza topped with seed pate and pesto. It was delicious!
Holding on and Moving Forward
Though I highly enjoyed my time at the retreat, I was also battling a pretty big fear. The fear of going back to live my life in the city of Portland, Oregon. How would I stay centered? How could I take everything I learned with me? I doubted the possibility of being stress free. However, I worked extremely hard to be realistic about how the turn of events would be once I left the retreat. Others assured me it is not as hard as it seems and of course the teachings woulds stay with me. Still, others shared experiences of longing to be back the whole time they were away over the last year.
Ultimately, I know that everything in life is my choice. If there is one thing I re-learned and remembered during my time in New York, it is that life is so utterly, stupidly, down right disturbingly simple. Don't get it confused with easy, because obviously it is anything but easy, yet the simplicity can still prevail, and that is my goal.
I feel ready to lead workshops, retreats, and classes. To step into my important role, to spread the love and the knowledge, about the possibility that is within your grasp for true health and genuine happiness.
Love the Life you Live