By Bridget Wood
It was 2011. Married a year, I was getting my body and mind ready for babies. I was resenting my job. My head was elsewhere. You know that feeling of ‘just going through the motions’? That was me. There had to be something more.
Mum said, why don’t we go and do a yoga retreat? It felt incredibly indulgent but we’dnever done a mother-daughter holiday before and thought we may as well make it count. Samahita Yoga Retreat on Koh Samui, Thailand, beckoned. I now understand that an inspired life flows when matter and spirit join together as one; this is where we can create from our inner reservoir of inspiration, and we are virtually unstoppable when we operate from this place. At that time in my life, I felt like I was all matter, no spirit. I needed a recalibration.
And so began seven days of what was bliss for the senses; tropical island, invigorating (and tough!) yoga and pranayama, incredibly nourishing food, massages, colonics (!), nightly chanting and meditation, reading, and connection with my mum. What I wasn’t ready for was the bubbling sadness and sense of inadequacy I felt in who I was. Free from all the distractions of ‘life at home’, and faced with yoga poses that brought my subconscious to the surface, there was just as much pain as there was pleasure in the experience. What I understand now but didn’t recognise then, is that when we make space for retreat, we also make space for the deep inner work that is yearning to be done, but that we can so often efficiently avoid in our day-to-day lives.
For many women who are experts at performing this avoidance tactic, motherhood can be our awakening; our children the spiritual teachers so expertly pushing our buttons.
We often have a fantasy that the holiday, the dream job, the perfect family or the magazine-worthy home will make us fulfilled and happy. The more unrealistic the fantasy, the greater the nightmare when we actualise what we so desperately seek. This is nature’s method of getting us back into balance. We can take that beautiful trip, sure. But the stuff you’re seeking to avoid or disown will still own you when you return, if you don’t address it. As the ancient poet and Mystic, Rumi said, ‘What you run from, runs you’.
Of course, take that holiday, do that renovation, achieve that next big leap in your learning or career, but find your own way of doing it with awareness. Whether that’s on the mat with the wisdom of the yogic teachings, or reflective time in the garden, meditation, introspection, or even mindfully washing the dishes. When you feel like negative emotions are running you, ask yourself ‘What’s going on for me right now?’ and listen to your intuition for the answer.
We arrived home from the yoga retreat on my 27th birthday, and I spent most of the day in tears and subsequently angry at myself for being so ‘ungracious’ and ‘who was I to feel this sad’. Judgements. Belittling. Social conditioning of ‘how I should be’ all coming to the surface. This is what it means to embrace our humanity. We grow when we see our emotions, physiology and the people around us all as a feedback system. Not things to be numbed or shut out, but to be understood.
Embrace the life that is quietly trying to work it’s way into your consciousness; all the messy, human, painful, exhilarating, inspiring parts of it. The moment you recognise you have everything you’re looking for, is the moment the Universe gives it you.