Belize Retreat 2013
“Stay… I got this.” That was my text to Jill after she painfully made the decision to stay home instead of return to our beloved Belize. It was last minute, in hopes her back would somehow miraculously heal. Each morning I texted her (in a slang it seems only we understand), “How is?” and her replies about the same… no miracles. After her decision, came the reminder where the universe is concerned, you just never freaking know. A year of planning, dreaming, and fantasizing, it came down to me leading the retreat. No friend, no partner, no Jill.
Well okay then.
The interesting thing about this particular retreat is we hadn’t met about half of the people who signed up. No clue about personalities, or practices, or purpose. All we knew was 16 yogis were gathering in Belize, and they wanted their yoga experience.
All of us from the Raleigh / Durham / Chapel Hill area gathered early Saturday morning to catch our flight. We were to meet the rest of our crew upon arrival in Belize. The flights were easy, and right on time we landed in Belize, a country that, from our first retreat there, seemed to welcome us like a long lost friend. This time was no different. Jessie the director of Belize Yoga Retreats and our guide for the week greeted us as planned.
I must mention the only contact I’d had with Jessie prior to our arrival was a few emails. At first glimpse, her smile was worth a thousand meetings and instantly I knew she was like us… or rather, she was us.
After introductions and a few post travel stretches, we loaded into our vans and took off for a 2.5 hour ride into the jungle. Our destination: Black Rock Lodge. We roll in late in the afternoon. The magnificence of the place, well, there are no words or pictures that can do it justice. The light seems to filter differently so that an ever-present glow surrounds everything. The jungle in every shade of green is within reach at every turn, and a low running river served as the bridge between earth and sky. I feel an instant and profound pull, as if gravity had just increased tenfold.
At dinner that night we gathered at our outdoor dining room. The view and sounds of the jungle were the perfect backdrop for our gathering. Through our conversations we learned just who and what our group was made of. In no particular order, we were a judge, a lawyer, a violinist, a doctor, two engineers, a coach, a nurse, two social workers, a vet, a marketing manager, a (pregnant) Lululemon manager, a therapist, a flight attendant, and oh yeah, a yoga teacher.
Our jungle mornings began with yoga, then breakfast, then one of the following: Mayan Ruins tour, kayaking, horseback riding, cave tubing (floating down a river in an inter-tube, meandering in and out of wondrous caves), and lastly the ATM Cave. What, you ask, is the ATM cave? See for yourself.
At the end of our days was more yoga, food, drink, and laughter.
Repeat, repeat, repeat.
The Journey Moves On
After three days in the jungle, we packed our bags and headed to the beach. A two-hour van ride took us to our boat and, as they say, the journey is often more important than the destination. We got to see Belize and her people, poor and rich alike. You couldn’t miss the culture, the history, the magic… its chaos made perfect sense.
The days on our private island ran at a much slower pace. Yoga always bookended our days, but in between there were hammocks, swimming, napping, snorkeling, paddle boarding, and more napping.
It was because of the slower pace we could really dig into the practice of yoga. As mentioned, about half the crew had no idea what my teaching was like.
(Those of you who attend my classes… I can hear your chuckles.)
Needless to say, the chakra practice, the arm balance class, the chanting, the meditation were new to some. Most definitely, tough for all.
But guess what?
One night I invited the crew to my 5:30 a.m. personal meditation practice (I say this like I do this EVERY morning, which I sure as F do not), thinking no one would show. Well, they did. Everywhere I turned there was gratitude and a genuine curiosity that through our week together turned into an unquenchable thirst.
For me, watching their journey was the best part of the whole week. From fear to courage, from unsteadiness to strength, from imbalance to balance, and from unknowing to knowing.
Tamaso mā jyotir gamaya
From darkeness to the light
The journey back to the States was, at its best, full of beauty.
And at its worst, full of fear.
We met each hour of our last day together with goodbye after goodbye. But with the goodbyes came the promise of enduring friendship, sisterhood, purpose, wisdom, and love.
I am grateful that I could be a part of the experience.
I am grateful. Full Stop.