The difference between existing and living is as wide as mountains are high and the fact that I had been unable to shift the pressure over a period of months, weighed heavily on my soul.
Stress had me by the throat.
It was a combination of unhappiness at work ( did you know that bullying is not only a high school thing?) boiling tension at home and the fact that I had recently decided to stop feeding my body unnecessary hormones.
Making the decision to let my body be itself, after pumping it with the contraceptive pill for over a decade, in order to cover the fact that I was unable to get my period more than once a year, was a scary one for me, which brought back all the worries I had as a 16 year old.
Is there something wrong with my body? What if I can never have kids? Will my husband leave me if I suddenly grow a beard (I did ask him and he said he wouldn’t! fingers crossed)
The urge to feel better, grew stronger each day and I was desperate to find ways to feel content and free again, yet the pressure I put on myself whilst trying to do so combined with all the other issues I was facing did quite the opposite.
As if my internal battle field of emotions wasn’t enough, I was being bombarded with never ending questions about my life plans, my unborn curly haired children and future home, which made me realise that my friends were so much better at life than I was.
It felt like I had been thrown into this race which then cunningly mutated into the
“89th-SOMETHING Hunger Games”
Finding yourself in one of those can be unbearably nerve wracking- especially when you realise that you are
A)not good at running
B) only own a pair of Birkenstock Sandals instead of high performance running shoes.
I was completely immerged in a cloud of doubt, fear, mental exhaustion and could sense that it was time to get away! Thank God for Ercilia !
I first met her 8 years ago whilst doing Yoga on the grass, when I was desperately looking for a place to stay and she was looking for someone to move in with her. Destiny? Hello!
From the moment I stepped over her doorsill, she gave me a sense of belonging, and a few years on she was going to save me again with her annual Health Getaway retreat weekend.
Hidden in the beautiful countryside of Normandy lies the “Mill retreat centre”, which invites you to communicate and fall in love with nature again.
Every year is a unique experience which always starts with sharing our intensions, thoughts or reason for coming to the retreat.
Filled with so much joy and relief to have finally gotten away from all the stress at home, a flood of tears overcame me as soon as I had finished my first sentence. It was clear that I needed to breathe again. Our first exercise was a 20 minutes’ walk around the beautiful lake followed by 10 minutes of silence.
For the first time in months I could feel clean air filling my lungs and a sense of tranquillity replacing the anxiety, which I had been carrying around for such a long time.
My feet were on the ground and immediately connected to the earth and the heavens again.
Our days would start with an early Yoga session given by my beautiful friend Halinka ( who introduced me to Ercilia at the Yoga on the grass event over 8 years ago) and were filled with other wonderful activities such as Qigong, singing, creating Mandalas, Tibetan bowls, walks around the small town a few kilometres further down the road and the most delicious food you can think of, especially cooked for us by the magnificent David.
Nothing ever felt like an obligation and there was so much space and so many personalities to explore.
The company we found ourselves in was outrageously amazing and made the retreat what it was.
Being the youngest in the group, with the oldest member being close to 90, was quite an experience and some of the conversations, which ranged from heart-warming to pubic hair rugs on an unfortunate waxing day, will be remembered until the end of time. It was such a wonderful thing to see how much life, authenticity and joy there was in people from older generations and I realised how much I could learn from their conversations and actions.
So, I observed and joined in as laughter hit the ceiling whenever and wherever we came together, especially when we decided to dress up, paint our faces, do the HAKA (in honour of our lovely Sandra from New Zealand) and some African dancing. How the heck did that even happen?
One of the things I was looking forward to the most was re-living my Childhood by staying in one of the gorgeous Gypsie Caravans, which had perfectly been placed next to the river.
It reminded me of all the summer nights I had spent sleeping underneath the stars and brought back memories of all the wishes I had made that one particular night, when shooting stars were performing an unforgettable spectacle.
Where did all this sentiment come from?
Why did this place give me the feeling of being that young girl again, stepping into the world with confidence, taking the time to appreciate every moment, feeling comfort from a warm kiss on the cheek or a surprising touch on the back to say that I was part of the family?
I did not know the answer to that question but started thinking about what it meant to be a “child”.
I realised that “being childish” does not have to describe an irresponsible, stroppy or immature attitude but should rather define an attitude that allows us to look at the world through eyes filled with wonder, which carries an even greater responsibility than we could ever imagine.
If you have ever seen the excitement in a small child’s eyes, admiring the flowers on the side walk, you will understand how much light there lies in living in the moment and in being your true self.
When I saw Annie walk through a garden of lavender, sensed Maureen’s excitement whilst admiring the coiling lines of our Mandalas and noticed Lyn’s tears running down her cheeks over a precious memory she kindly shared over a poached Peach at the dinner table, I understood.
Realising how much I needed the exchange with the older generation to understand how important it was to live life through a child’s eyes touched me deeply.
They reminded me that our life’s were never intended to be an endless loop of struggles upon struggles or worries over what you have or haven’t got.
Nor were we supposed to walk down the exact same road, if we were our paths would never cross and wouldn’t that be a tragedy?
If we embrace who we truly are, we realise how much we have got to give and how much colour we can actually splash into the never-ending Mandela of life.
I think Peter Pan was right after all when he said, “Don’t grow up- it’s a trap”.
Even if we never learn how to fly, keeping that happy thought might just be enough to carry us into the wonders of Neverland.
When I returned home, I knew that some of the problems would still be there, but that didn’t matter.
My perspective had changed- I had found my inner peace and my body its flow. I was ready, to face whatever I had to face with the boldness of this little girl I once was.
Life was not given to us, just so we can simply exist but to wonder, explore and embrace whatever we can through the eyes of a child and in the time, we were given.
Allow yourself to rest; to breathe and connect with whatever it is that makes you feel content.
It sounds almost too cliché but maybe we need a little reminder:
When we are facing difficulties, let’s acknowledge it, address it, do something about it, if we are able, but let’s not drown in it. Life will keep on flowing like a river, no matter what we do or however we feel, but it is our decision whether we find our own personal rhythm down the stream or struggle as we are desperately trying to hold on to branches which have long lost their roots.
and if it means to trot about in your old dusty Birkenstock sandals, so be it.
It is not a race. It is a colourful Mandela.