Saturday, February 11, 2017

Restorative Shiva Powers: Expat Retreat

“Sometimes,' she said, 'it takes a woman to bring out the best in a man.” 
― Christopher McDougallBorn to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen (

Lately, I have been feeling the need to run away. I needed to discover a voice to assure me that running away was not a metaphor for fear but a testament to strength when faced with adversity. From the first page- I was hooked; this idea of being lost in pursuit of a mystic, an aberration and legend drew me in. At different points in my life, I too became lost in big beautiful spaces. Caballo Blanco's character, an ultrarunner of Copper Canyon drew me in and reminded me of that yearning to let go of time, place, and politics to focus on one pure thing.  When the opportunity arose to join a yoga retreat on a mountain top in el Limon, the Dominican Republic, in a Shiva cave, how could I resist the signs?

Every day here is sort of an ultra marathon; I'm up against my own ineptitude at language, my own impatience and my own atonement for always being so certain in my core values without truly testing them.  A women's yoga retreat in the mountains of Las Terrenas couldn't have been more apropos. The inauguration of a president and congress so divorced from my realities and my efforts to inact real change made me morose.  A cleanse was in tall demand.

The bus transported us to a nameless dirt road and a hill climb too steep for cars. We walked and turned off our text messaging. This man machete hacked coconuts to quench our thirst and whacked them again in order to scoop out the meat. Our sustenance for the next few hours of our first session in the yoga cave.

"We run when we're scared, we run when we're ecstatic, we run away from our problems and run around for a good time." McDougall, Born to Run.

90 steps down a staircase affixed to rock ledge overhanging the Shiva cave. I stepped away from reality. For 2 hours I opened my muscles and mind without distraction. I sweated (yo sudo) and breathed deliberately. We climbed from the cave up to the host's terrace for our meal and then retired once more to the cave for meditation.  

And I tasted a single raisin. 

Actually, I almost missed the metaphor. Feeling full from the meal I emphatically and carelessly rejected the offer of a raisin. Noting the awkward silence, I grabbed it and popped it quickly into my mouth. Again, a polite silence led me to concur I was still missing the point. The cave was lit against the darkness and all that which hurries and busies itself; I needed to slow down.  In a haste to control or correct or check things off a list, we can miss the sweetness of things. A moment spent with a single raisin, placed between the teeth and rolled on the tongue before consumption is added to those I do not rue. Small moments add up. 

It was dark when we awoke, shuffling out of mosquito netting, migrating to the kitchen for coffee. We held our cups without conversation until the caffeine found its course. Aching from the previous session we warmed up with the sunrise to the notion of the morning challenge. I sat on this wide open veranda thinking about caves and metaphors I was accustomed to. Plato's cave taught me to fear shadows on a wall (ie- Trump election drama on social media). But this Shiva cave was different, open to elements: rainbows and rain and the colors, sounds, and wildlife of  Caribean farmland. Hummingbirds and lizards flitted in and out. Turkey vultures rode lazy air currents.  I became distracted not from the practice but from myself. And I found my yoga pose, the headstand that hadn't been there in years. And in this moment lay my rogue hope for a better tomorrow.  I'm not running away or chasing shadows. I am in this world as I was meant to be.

There were may reflective moments shared and in quiet isolation during the weekend at Monte Placido. I read, I took time for some pampering with pedicures and massage. I hitched a ride to town and then ran non-stop past the beaches and coaxing sounds of Dominican pop. I set an intention to run all the way to our hilltop villa without pause despite mi corazon pounding through my chest.                                                                                    Unlike Caballo Blanco- I can not retreat for long.  My daughter had specifically asked me to return with intentions to do my part as a woman and a citizen.  Only 12 years old and she worries about the state of the current US government. The Million Women march in Washington was taking place so we gathered to send a video prayer and shout out to those activists. Claiming back my right to social media I thought about what could follow. The stamina, perseverance and patience, taught me to love power not to hate it.The cave has taught me to face all elements; this transpired into an idea- what if, a million women marched in August or October of 2020? Why not bring people together before an election instead of after it is too late?  We walked out on the same road we came in on. Mary, one of the leaders and organizers has no idea how much this experience has done for me and how I'm already thinking of the future.  I have a heart full of intentions on an island with some pretty awesome chicas by my side. I think you are going to see quite a bit of us in action in the months to come.  

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