In my mind, a picture-perfect retreat looks like a resort villa in the tropics. I’d follow a yoga certification program where the journey would transform me mentally and physically. The retreat would provide only healthy foods so I could nourish my body and mind. I’d be surrounded by positive energy for an entire month and at night I could enjoy watching the ocean. Now that I’m writing about it, I have no idea why I haven’t started saving money to make this retreat a reality. Except when I think about, I did go on an amazing retreat and it wasn’t in the tropics. It was in a place I’d least expected it: the frozen tundra of Minnesota not far from where I grew up. The retreat wasn’t in the exact way I thought it would happen and I didn’t receive a yoga certificate at the end but I did go on transformational journey that brought me closer to myself than ever before.
I had the opportunity to stay in a cozy cabin on a frozen lake surrounded by woods. I accepted the offer after a long breath of hesitation. I wanted to go on the self-care retreat but had just moved with my boyfriend to a large city and didn’t want to leave him all alone. The area was new to both of us where and I felt like I was abandoning him with boxes to unpack. However, he–not really to my surprise–was extremely supportive and onboard with the idea. Daniel and I traveled to Duluth, Minnesota where he planned to stay a couple of nights with me in the cabin. When we arrived at we were amazed at the humbleness of the cabin. It was a perfect getaway for no more than two people. The view of the lake was breathtaking and the seclusion from the city miles away made it seem like no one could disturb us. We made the most of it by playing games, eating unhealthy food, and enjoying the nature around us as Daniel serenaded the night away. It was a lot of fun but it came to an end when Daniel had to go back to work. He left his tire tracks in the snow and that was the start of my retreat. I was all alone and I felt fear creeping into my heart. I’ve lived alone many times before in different places around the world but it was strange to have a place to myself again. The first day I did my best to accomplish the plan I had laid out for myself: yoga, meditation, reiki, and healthy eating. The last task proved difficult even though I ordered a grocery delivery service and had ingredients specific to my paleo diet delivered to my door. During the retreat, I made a mental note to prepare for the juice cleanse I was going to start once I got back home. You can read about that experience here.
At the start of my journey, I kept telling myself, “this is it. This is the retreat you’ve been needing. So you need to start feeling better now.” You’re all alone, so no excuses.” I was constantly putting this pressure on myself of what should happen rather than just letting things happen. Spiritual lessons 101: you can’t force what is meant to be. When the universe has a plan for you, you need to let it just happen and roll with the punches. The first week, I felt pressure building up, like I wasn’t succeeding in relaxing and letting go. It’s laughable now because as a spiritualist I know that’s ridiculous. I’m a cancer sign which means I like to take things at my own pace without being rushed. So why on earth had I built tension within myself? I was trying so hard to let everything I was feeling go that I made it even harder. That week taught me I was skipping steps during my “heal and release” process. I wanted so badly to let all the trauma, bad experiences, and toxic connections I had in my life to just up and leave me alone without actually letting go. Little did I know, that I couldn’t just grab those emotions like a rope in water hoping to pull something heavy out. No, instead I had to let the issues rise to the surface as they were meant to in their own time.
So my tactic switched. I focused on everything I learned the past seven years in my spiritual practice. I focused on my breath as it moved out from my nostrils. I felt the wind move my hair across my face. I moved my body consciously with every yoga pose and flowed to the music inside me. I felt discomfort in my spine and glutes from sitting in one place too long and allowed my breath to calm those areas down. I stared out onto the sparkling lake watching the frigid air move crystal flakes through the trees. I heard small critters scavenge the bank for scraps. I was finally being aware of my surroundings and that was when I noticed the difference in my body: it felt at ease. Before, I was trying so hard to focus on the problem that I completely forgot to be aware of where I was and what my body was going through. As my meditation felt more aware my heart started to open up more as well. Everything I was feeling started to creep from the watery depths of my soul. Individually, each issue bubbled up where I could finally see and acknowledge them. I took every bubble that floated at the surface in my hands separately, processed what I was feeling and why, then accepted what happened. Only then, I was able to release the negative emotions I was holding on to that I so desperately wanted to get rid of. Each bubble popped on its own after I let it fly in the air to meet the wind. Each little explosion allowed me to breathe a little deeper and sit a little straighter in my meditations. By the end of these sessions, my cheeks were tear stained from the overwhelming emotions of relief and love that I felt.
Self love is an easy concept to understand but can be incredibly challenging to perform. Through our own hardship, experiences, and self-doubt we seem to lose the love for ourselves as we grow older. The universe, my meditation practice, and self reiki sessions opened my eyes again to see my inner child was waiting for me with outstretched hands ready to receive a hug. Little me wanted present me to take all of her in my arms and just let her know it was all going to be okay. I know now, that she’s always there wanting to be close to me. Seeing myself in this light is emotional just like it was for previous reiki clients that connected with their own inner child. To see your untainted self and feel that love for yourself again is extremely powerful. I do believe that loving yourself is like having a master key. Obtaining this key is a massive accomplishment and it opens so many doors that lead to a happy life. You’ll find so many positive changes in your life through goals, relationships, and even your attitude. I’m still forming my master key as it doesn’t happen overnight. I’m still on my journey but I know this retreat brought me that much closer to loving myself than when I started. My inner child is with me and I’m grateful to have found her again.
As the retreat came closer to ending, I took time to reflect. The change I saw in myself was amazing. My lungs were filling with air rather than shallow breaths of anxiety. My journal entries started to list things that I was grateful for in my life rather than questions and thoughts about overcoming negative situations. Animals caught my eye as they danced on the ice running past fisherman. One instance in particular was an afternoon where the sun was high and the woods were creaking from blustering winds. I stared out the large cabin windows at the lake. A tear fell from my eye as I thought about what my life could have been, should have been, and what was. At that moment, two deer sprinted across the ice. One ran after the other trekking deeper into the lake. They both stopped near a campsite where fisherman huddled in their ice houses. The leader turned around and stared at the house I was sitting in. At that moment, snow whisked around both the deer and the leader kept staring. It at me and I back at it. As if acknowledging my doubts and telling me it’s okay, it continued to stare into my soul. It was the most beautiful thing I had seen. The snow drifted around the deer as if to confirm that it was a message meant for me. The staredown seemed to last forever but it couldn’t have been for more than a minute. Like the snap of your fingers, the leader of the pair took off on it’s normal path. The other followed behind and eventually they ran out of sight. I will never forget that memory. It was a message from the universe that even in my weakest moments, I was loved and cared about. Being the curious person I am, I instantly researched the meaning behind deer. Let’s just say I was impressed with the universe and understood the message that was sent. I moved on from the thoughts I was having and began to trust the universe more and the path I was on.
By the end of the two weeks, I let go of toxic relationships and experiences from my past. Overall, I was feeling really great and couldn’t wait to get back to my new home in the city. From time-to-time, anxiety of being judged still knocks on my front door but I do my best to be dependent upon my spiritual practice, love, and enlightenment to guide my day rather than negative emotions. As a cancer sign, my emotions could whisk me away at any moment and I could end up back where I started before the retreat. The lesson to take away from my story: it’s not about the destination that can bring you solace. It’s about the journey and allowing yourself time to heal. You can do it anywhere as long as you give yourself the time to do it. You don’t need fancy resorts, structured programs, or enlightened beings around you. You just need to look within yourself.
I hope you enjoyed my travel and enlightenment story. If you would like to read more articles similar to this, be sure to subscribe below and like this article.
Also, have you gone on a retreat before? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. I’m still thinking about going on a tropical retreat for yoga at some point in my life. I need ideas. So don’t be shy!😘 Scroll below for a gallery of the magical winter wonderland and adorable cabin I stayed in.
“You can’t force what is meant to be. When the universe has a plan for you, you need to let it just happen and roll with the punches.”
“The view of the lake was breathtaking and the seclusion from the city miles away made it seem like no one could disturb us.”
“I stared out onto the sparkling lake watching the frigid air move crystal flakes through the trees. I heard small critters scavenge the bank for scraps.“
“I was finally being aware of my surroundings and that was when I noticed the difference in my body: it felt at ease .”