This is the second in a series, Finding happiness in all the right places, by a young female seeker
BEING THERE: EMMA — My decision-making mechanism wasn’t cooperating when I was weighing whether or not to go on this retreat. It was a constant back and forth — I need to buckle down and work, but I’m depressed and not productive, but I’ll feel better if I’m productive, but I can’t even get up before noon because I don’t care, but I need the money, but this trip will be good for me, but maybe I’m just escaping, but the retreat is me facing myself rather than just a distraction.
Eventually, I packed, even as I oscillated between worrying that I was running from my problems and loving the spontaneity of it all. I used to travel constantly — crazy and wild spontaneous trips — and living in Austin I had settled down with all its benefits and drawbacks. I even wrote a poem, senior year of college, called “My trips, my drugs” – a seasoned vet at life highs/experiences. It was invigorating to get back to that part of me, I told myself, so long as I do it in such a way that I’m processing my experiences and taking care of myself.
I had gone to the extreme during my senior year – left every weekend, never even unpacked my boxes, up till 4 a.m. every night working or on the phone or biking around or dancing; slept on the couch, didn’t buy books for school, left for the last month of school for my 4th United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and speaking at the Asia Pacific Roundtable on Sustainable Consumption and Productiono in Vietnam before going to Brazil to visit my sister volunteering in the favelas (slums) and do a research project on the Clean Development Mechanism’s affect on the pig farmers.
My body started saying no more – I lost my sense of time and my stomach wasn’t literally physically digesting well – a reflection of myself not digesting/processing my experience of the world.
I digress, however, so I’ll return to the roadtrip – and how wary (and worried) I was that I’d regress into an old pattern instead of embracing a spontaneous trip in a healthy, balanced way. In the end, the adrenaline rush of the getting back to wild trips – the reason why friends call and ask, “Where in the world are you right now?” – plus the intense need for healing won over.
With my confusion about my depression I wasn’t sure what I was facing – or least wasn’t yet aware. The roadtrip was healing in many ways in itself, a lovely precursor. There were 5 beautiful beings, Josh, Sophia, Andrew, Victor and myself. I was reminded of my passion for environmental-sustainability through discussions with Victor (a couchsurfing Belgian friend who spontaneously joined us), of my interest and background in Waldorf/alternative education with Andrew (a fellow yogic Austinite), and came face to face with my inner darkness.
I loved traveling with others as spontaneous as myself – three of us had decided that day for the trip. We stopped at sunset to take photos and explore an abandoned ranch – dancing on the side of the road without our egos.
Next we ventured to Balmorhea Springs – cold springs off the highway and jumped in the water with the fish. Someone decided to photograph us doing yoga poses on the diving board and rocks in the water, so that it looked like we were walking on water. After having watched the others confidently and peacefully do their yoga during lunch, I felt really self-conscious. I’m pretty sure they’ve all done yoga teacher training. I knew most of the poses that they were practicing, just lacked the confidence to just be present and listen to my body and let go of my ego. I tried to be comfortable and would do a couple poses, then would just lay down to sunbath instead and try not to show my jealously. I wasn’t able to just be okay with my level. I hoped that at the retreat I could be proud of where I’m at and be supportive of others.
I ended up taking almost all of the photos as I lacked yoga-pose-confidence to want to be in the spotlight. Finally, towards the end I stepped up and asked to be in one of the photos – doing Tree Pose on the diving board, something I knew I could handle. The other Texan travelers lounging there were intrigued and friendly about the hippie-yoga group.
Next stop was Albuquerque, sleeping in the living room of Josh’s friend, where after getting in quite late I felt like venturing for food. Victor offered to make me food instead. I felt somewhat hungry, but more felt like I should be eating based on having lost so much weight in the past 6 months. The weight loss wasn’t on purpose, I just started to listen to my body more and thus eat less sugar, breads and dairy. It felt so healthy but my family was alarmed when they saw me so I started to wonder about it. I had a strange response of feeling like maybe I should be eating more but knowing I should just listen to my body- head versus spirit. I felt weird around all these health-nuts eating pasta and sauce late at night before going to bed. I know it’s not good to eat right before sleeping. I do believe that being more spiritual and energetically aware and nurturing myself beyond through the means of physical food, I need less energy from that source. I’ve found that if I meditate and do yoga in the morning I have less need for food to get my energy for example and have less cravings.
The following morning we found our way to Spence hotsprings, on a beautiful mountainside, with 2 pools and the place to ourselves which truly allowed for us to connect with each other. On they way we found white clothes at thrift stores to prepare for White Tantric Yoga at the retreat. It was exhilirating going to the retreat with practically no knowledge of what to expect, with such strange things as White Tantric Yoga i’d never heard of.
The top pool has a small cave, the source of the spring – just enough room for one or two people, with colorful leftover wax from other beings’ delightful nights. The water is quite hot in there and if you’re clausterphobic you’ll surely not enjoy it. I went in the first time and just relaxed, the first thoughts being how wonderful it is to be on the road and how I want to keep exploring in this way. Andrew experienced the cave as going to the source, to nature, and had a wonderful spiritual encounter. So I decided to see the cave in that light – I re-entered the cave meditating on reconnecting with Gaia, our mother earth, and moved towards the underwater stone, the source. I was stopped harshly in my gentle movements by seeing a skull on the stone – I persisted, with positive momentum, desires and focus of reconnecting – and the skull turned to a face of utter agony and each second demonstrated more extreme writhing pain. I couldn’t stand my ground – I turned around and quickly went back to the comfort of my fellow companions, bluntly telling them about the skull but not offering much explanation but a white face.
I was scared – really scared. I had so strongly believed that I was going to reconnect with Gaia, ultimately with myself, that the energetic/physical world in front of me illustrated what I was up against inside. The pain and fear that I would have to move through to reconnect with my light and the light of the universe. I thought about venturing back in, to try and understand and overcome what I was up against – perhaps get different visuals and prove my strength. It had jolted me too much, and I won’t be hard on myself for having just let it alone. I suppose I knew I wasn’t strong enough to face it yet and would wait for some guidance at the retreat.
I still didn’t have a name for the pain, but now I had a second extreme visual of it.
I knew it was inside, thus of course at any time I could have access to understanding what it was that was bringing in such heaviness, but I think I needed the retreat to create the gently prodding open space for that exploration. I knew barely anything about the retreat but it probably wouldn’t have mattered too much as I was so ready to feel better.
As it was time to move on – we got out of the pools to jump in the cool river below and moments later multiple groups of people started arriving – wonderful timing.
We soon found ourselves in Espanola looking for the retreat, with no map, no internet, and no directions. But nowadays it’s rare you’re that disconnected… we called Andrew’s mom and directed her to the website. The directions still didn’t make sense, so we followed a Sikh woman in a turban to the dollar store and I asked her, after explaining why I was inappropriately in a bathing suit in the middle of town, how to find it. She calmly explained the few turns, and off we went up the 8 miles of dirt road until we saw the large circus-like tents.
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