I finished some gentle yoga on the floor of the cabin, being careful to not irritate my already painful hips.
When I sat up, the words came through loud and clear, like a church bell on Sunday morning, “You need to leave the retreat.”
I began to sob. “NO, NO, NO!” I yelled back at intuition.
But I couldn’t deny my body any more. Something needed to change. My body needed healing and it wasn’t going to happen at the cabin.
It was day 15 of a month long silent meditation retreat.
THE RIGHT TIME AND PLACE
I’d been planning this retreat for the last year, knowing in every cell of my body it was right.
I had been feeling a strong calling for many years to be closer to Spirit/God/Divine, to be more free from suffering of the mind, and to see the Truth of All Things (not the way my mind sees them).
I found the perfect place to do it in – a quiet cabin in the redwoods of Big Sur, CA. And the views when I walked up high were incredible.
Everything was in alignment, the place, the timing, the amount of time, and who could say no to the stunning springtime on the California coast?
I arrived at the cabin on a rainy Monday night, with excitement and anticipation.
It just happened that the weekend before I arrived, Tjarn (the person who’s done a lot of work on the cabin), stopped in for the weekend last minute not knowing I was going to be there for a month.
He fixed 3 leaks in the sealing (one over the bed) and brought a much needed fridge that he just happened to pick up from a job site (he didn’t know I needed one either).
The first two days were moving in, getting things sorted, taking lots of naps (I was tired!), and meditating. I was in heaven.
On day 4 I thought, “What was I thinking, a MONTH? What am I going TO DO for a month?”
On day 6 I thought, “A month isn’t long enough – it needs to be longer!”
Over the first week my mind went from wanting to do to settling into just being. The 2 books I brought of Lao Tzu and Wu Sin, I had made plans to read certain pages every day – I wrote them down in the calendar when I would read which passages (my doing mind was busy at work!)
So funny now. Intuition said, “Just BE.” So I erased all the notes and began to just read the books when I felt called to read them.
I was much more at peace that way!
On day 8 something interesting happened – my mind was going through some of the people I felt wronged by – as if I hadn’t fully forgiven them. So I went through each person and forgave, my heart opening with each letting go.
On day 10 I was sweeping the cabin, as I did daily, meticulous with each stroke, opened the cabin door to throw it into the duff, when the wind picked it up and blew it right back into the cabin.
I exclaimed, “F#%k you wind!” and laughed. Everything became entertainment.
On day 12 as my mind slowed down even more, I was doing my nightly ritual when I got into bed saying good night to the trees, the birds, the insects, the stars, and the moon, when people’s names started flowing through. I ended up saying good night to every family member, friend, client and student I could think of.
It was pure joy.
I had also talked with my mentor Carol that day as a check in during the retreat and said, “Carol, I’m feeling really comfortable on retreat. Maybe it’s all the meditation I’ve been doing.” I had no idea how much my world would get rocked in a few days (and how funny this is looking back!).
I spent a lot of time just watching and listening to nature – the trees blowing in the wind, the insects dancing in the glow of the sun, the sound of the birds echoing their beautiful song.
And the creek, OH the creek! I didn’t just hear the water, but the sound of the water as it turned into a chorus or an orchestra. There was even a rock band at one point. The creek was alive!
WHAT I DIDN’T WANT TO HEAR
In the background of all of this joy was the increasing pain of my hips – a recurring inflammation of my hip bursa sacks. I had no pain going into the retreat, but by day 2 they were letting me know they weren’t happy.
I didn’t think about it much at first. “I’ll just do what has helped in the past and it would go away,” I confidently thought.
But it didn’t.
The bed I was sleeping on was firm, the weather was cold and damp, I was walking on really hilly terrain every day (there was no other option), carrying firewood 200 yards from the wood pile every 3 to 4 days, washing my laundry by hand and who knows what else was irritating them.
I rested, but no change.
On day 13 I knew I needed some help. I called my mentor Carol and talked to her about breaking silence to get treatment, I called an acupuncturist in Monterey, and called my friend Deanna in Carmel Valley (near Monterey) to see if she had a bed to borrow.
It just happened that I could get acupuncture the next day, and it just happened that Deanna had not only a mattress, but a temperpedic mattress I could borrow. I cried with tears of gratitude.
I also had the sense to call my mom, and when she answered she just happened to say, “I’m so glad you called. I’m in the hospital with Irene. She broke her back yesterday. (Irene is on of her closest friends, and like an aunt to me).
I was so glad I called. I sent prayers to Irene for her healing and well-being.
On day 14 I broke silence and made the one-hour drive north for acupuncture and picked up the mattress.
I returned with a renewed hope that by the next day my hips would start to feel better.
I couldn’t carry the bed by myself down the 200 foot narrow trail to the cabin. Chris, who lived near where my car was parked and who’s front door I’d passed every day, yet hadn’t seen him once, just happened to be outside ready to help.
I woke up the next morning. My heart sank. No change in my hips.
When intuition was clear an hour later, “You need to leave the retreat,” I knew I couldn’t change what was to come, but it didn’t stop me from trying (it’s part of my stubborn personality).
I negotiated with intuition seeing if there was another option, but the same words kept coming up, “You need to leave the retreat.”
The other part of all of this is that intuition had been telling me this for the last 4 days through anxiety (the intuitive anxiety I talked about in my ebook From Anxiety to Peace), but I didn’t know what it was telling me until day 15.
On day 16 I had a call with my teacher Matt and told him what was going on. He said, “It’s important to trust yourself if your intuition is telling you to leave the retreat.”
His words rang in my head for the next 3 hours as I walked the flat ridge line overlooking the ocean.
His words were what I needed to hear.
I decided the next day was the day to leave.
I called my friend Deanna again as she had mentioned she and her husband were going on vacation soon, and maybe I could stay at their place.
It just happened that they were leaving the next morning. She said, “Come stay for as long as you want.” More tears of gratitude flowed.
The anxiety lessened. I knew it was the right decision.
On day 16 I slowly packed up all my things, waves of tears coming and going. Sometimes full sobs. My heart didn’t want to leave.
I so wanted to be closer to Spirit, and this was not part of the plan!
After 6 hours of packing and cleaning, I drove to Carmel Valley, not knowing that in leaving the retreat wasn’t the end, but in many ways just the beginning of what was to unfold.
THE YUMMY HOUSE
I arrived in the evening, going from a 200 sq foot cabin in the redwoods to a 2500 sq foot beautiful home overlooking Carmel Valley, the ocean, and big sunny south and west facing windows.
My intuition said, “Yes, this is the right place to be. But don’t get too comfortable.”
I ignored that last intuitive statement because I just couldn’t deal with it yet.
There were some angel cards sitting next to the bed and I thought, “What the heck, let’s see what the cards say.”
I chose one, and it was the “Loss and Disappointment” card saying I needed to trust in Divine Mother Earth in supporting me during this time.
My jaw dropped. It just happened, that a few days before, when I sat down to draw at the cabin not knowing what would come out, what came onto the paper was Mother Earth supporting me (literally with a face and all) in my tears of loss and disappointment.
It wasn’t something I had thought about, it’s just what came out on the paper.
I crawled into super comfy bed that night and said out loud, “YUMMY.”
I soon started calling it the Yummy House. The bed was yummy, the hot shower was yummy, the bubble bath was yummy, the sunny deck was yummy, the big south facing windows were yummy, the central heating was yummy, the washing machine was yummy, looking out at the valley was yummy and the kitty cat was yummy.
We cuddled on the deck every morning. I lade in the sun as much as could. In fact, I couldn’t get enough sun. I didn’t realized how much I was deprived at the cabin until I was at this house.
It was also clear that my body needed rest, which the cabin didn’t allow for.
I met Victoria the next morning on day 18, who lived on the property, and just happened to be a ‘35 years of experience’ intuitive body worker.
“Sign me up!” I said.
She gave me the most incredible session I’ve ever had. When she put her arms under my back like she was going to carry me, I began to weep. I knew there was something to attend to there.
After the session she said, “Your hips are clearly saying they need to release all the carrying and holding it all together you’ve been doing since you were young. Not physical, but emotional. They’re saying you don’t have to carry it all any more.”
I knew I had done some healing around this in the past, but my body was needing the physical release.
She left the room and I sobbed yet again. This time deep, body shaking sobs. It was clear I needed to leave the retreat.
My body needed healing, not just physical, but emotional.
I believe that our bodies carry emotion from all stages of our life. It’s in the cells, the tissue, the muscles, the organs.
Sometimes it can come out as pain or disease. I know this – when I get stressed, my hips begin to hurt.
It was time to heal. Time to release whatever was still there from the past. I knew this is as much a part of the spiritual path as meditation is.
What I didn’t understand was why I was still having intuitive anxiety. It had lessened, but was still there. What was it telling me? I wouldn’t know for a few more days.
On day 20 I decided I would try to officially end the retreat by having a ceremony for myself, and the ultimate – announcing it on facebook. I did these things, but the anxiety remained.
Wasn’t it telling me to just let go of being on retreat? I thought I had!
It also just happened that a dear friend in Montana sent me a text that day with a strong sense to reach out to me knowing I was on retreat and wouldn’t hear back from me for another 2 weeks. She was surprised when I wrote back that day.
I was also realizing I wasn’t ready to interact with the world yet. I needed to stay internal, to hold this precious silent space I had created to be present for all that was unfolding.
On day 22 I got more acupuncture.
I thought my hips would start to heal by then, but they didn’t. The pain was the same.
On day 23 I felt frustrated with the pain and anxiety and had moments of resenting God/Spirit. I’ve been down that path before and knew it doesn’t lead to anything good, so I decided to go to the ocean for clarity.
I found a quiet beach to lay down on, fell asleep, and when I woke the answer was there, “You need to leave the house.”
“Oh,” I said. “When?” I asked. “Tomorrow,” wisdom responded. I sat in this new turn of events. Where was I going to go? I thought about my favorite place along the coast. I would camp at Sand Dollar Beach in Big Sur.
I had gone to nature for healing for most of my life, and was in desperate need of its presence.
The anxiety immediately relaxed.
I made a doctors appointment for the next day for cortisone shots before leaving town.
As I was cooking dinner that night, Victoria came over to say hello and I told her I was going camping the next day and please feed the cat and chickens (as I thought Deanna and her husband were on vacation for another week).
She responded, “Oh no need. They’re coming back tomorrow.”
“WHAT!? I exclaimed.
How does intuition know this stuff?
On day 24, as I was sitting in meditation in the morning, the intuitive anxiety came back again. I exclaimed “YES?” It responded, “You need to go somewhere warmer.”
I thought about it and knew intuition was right. My hips were not ready for the colder temps of the coast.
When I was talking with my mom the night before she just happened to mention and beautiful lake to camp at near San Luis Obispo called Santa Margarita Lake. I knew that’s where I’d go.
I packed up for transition number 2, this time more confident about the need to go to nature.
GENTLE AS SHE GOES CAPTAIN
I drove 2 hours south, set up camp and took a deep breath.
This felt right. My campsite was overlooking the lake nestled in lush green hills, and I was the only one there. It was totally quiet. Just the sound of the crickets, frogs, wild turkeys, geese, ducks and song birds. I was in heaven.
On day 25, again in meditation the next morning, as I was feeling more peace than I’d felt in 2 weeks, intuitive anxiety reared up again.
This time I screamed, “ARE YOU F#%KING KIDDING ME! WHAT NOW!?”
I was so tired of having anxiety and just wanted it to be done. I’d never had intuition been so unwavering for so long in the past. It was usually one action to take and it was done.
I listened, “You need to go visit your mom.”
“Okay,” I said willingly. “Just give me some time here. I really need some time here.” Intuition responded, “Okay.”
I was left in peace.
The next two days my hips began to feel better. The cortisone was working.
I was also feeling the most peaceful and much more myself than I had in 2 weeks (wasn’t this a retreat where you’re “suppose” to feel peaceful and at ease? Ha! Reminder that it’s most often not, or there would be no change!)
I stayed in the realm of silence, not interacting much with those around me and feeling more present than I’d ever experienced in my life.
On day 27 I was ready for a bike ride. Why not? It hadn’t irritated my hips before? And there was beautiful single track begging to be ridden.
The next day I could barely walk (200 yards was about it) and I knew I negated anything the cortisone was doing.
“Damn it!” I yelled in frustration and tears.
Then something miraculous happened.
I was thinking about the consequences and the reality of my hips when this went through my mind, “They could hurt like this for weeks, months, or even years.”
In that moment there was full acceptance of WHAT IS – of the pain and limitations of the pain.
I felt a complete body relaxation and relief followed by a deep sense of peace.
The resistance to WHAT IS was gone.
The relationship to the pain had changed, and that was the miracle – a shift in perspective.
I could sense a shift in energy had taken place too, and knew that’s when the true healing began.
Two nights later I woke up during the night and didn’t move. I had no pain in my lower back for the first time in weeks. I was in heaven. It was the same in the morning when I woke.
I wasn’t going to push it this time though.
Starting on day 29 I went on the ‘GENTLE PLAN.’ I took myself on little outings where I’d ride my bike on flat terrain barely peddling for about a mile, find a picnic table, lay down, meditate, or paint for a couple of hours and return back to the campsite.
Or, thank goodness for my paddle board, I could get out on the lake and move my body without irritating my hips – it was such joy!
The other piece that was unfolding during this entire week at the lake was something I’d never experienced before – moments of the deepest love, compassion, and gratitude I’d ever known.
I would cry with the sound of a frog, watching a family around the campfire, or thinking of someone I cared about (even dogs I love!).
My heart was cracked wide open.
By day 31 my body was on the mend, and I also knew it was time to say goodbye to Santa Margarita Lake and head for mom’s house. What I didn’t know was what L.A. would do to my peace I was so grateful to finally have.
WHAT NOT TO DO AFTER A MONTH LONG RETREAT
As I drove south toward Los Angeles, I felt like I was driving into the dragon’s mouth of fire. Energetically I knew I wasn’t ready for such a big city, but thought I needed to follow what intuition had said a week ago to visit my mom.
I visited with Irene (my mom’s friend who had broken her back) and continued south. “I can do this.” I told myself.
But the reality was, I couldn’t. Driving through 2 hours of traffic to get there started me on a downward spiral.
Over the next 3 days every unnatural sound caused my energy to spike and my nervous system to overload: the TV, the radio, cars, lights, even people’s energy. I could feel what people were feeling. It was TOO MUCH.
What I learned from my mentor Carol is that the wall of protection we all have to live in society was gone. I was completely raw – like a new born at a rock concert, only it was L.A., not Michael Franti.
I couldn’t do it. I love my mom and loved seeing her, but after two days I knew I had to leave or I just might implode.
I questioned, “Why did intuition tell me to come here?”
On the way down, I just happened to notice I was well over due for an oil change. When I took my car to my mom’s trusted mechanic, they called me back a few hours later and said, “You can’t drive your car back to Montana the way it is. You have no brakes left in the rear.”
“Oh my. Yes, please fix it.” I gratefully said.
Is this why I needed to visit my mom? Perhaps. Brakes are kind of important.
I drove north the next day and went right back to Santa Margarita Lake. It took 4 days for my nervous system to calm down. Thank goodness for nature.
It was 9 days from the end of the retreat before I was ready to truly interact with the world again. Much longer than I had expected. HA! Another expectation blown out of the water.
Was the cabin the right place and the right time to do this retreat?
It gave me the ability to do some much needed healing from the inside out.
Did I get from it what I was hoping – less suffering and a deeper connection with Spirit?
It’s funny that it takes more suffering to create less suffering sometimes. In order for me to be free from perceptions and old habits, I needed to heal more completely from the past.
As much as I thought I let myself be supported and carried by Spirit, in truth I had been having one foot in the shoe of trust and one foot in the shoe of doubt. I wasn’t fully committed.
That changed over the last 5 weeks.
The “just happened” that kept occurring showed me that I was supported all the time. Life will continue happening in what we want and don’t want, but Spirit is there, all the time, showing us over and over that we’re supported and loved no matter what is happening in life.
It was like being hit on the side of the head with a spiritual 2×4. I could finally see it.
I also feel more present than I’ve ever been in my life. Each meal became a ritual and a communion with the earth, the cooking, eating and cleaning. It’s the first time I’ve ever eaten more slowly and it’s sticking.
And lastly, intuition is more clear and strong than it’s ever been. It was relentless on this retreat because it needed to be.
I’ve let go even more to trust in what intuition is telling me and reminding myself I’m truly NOT in control.
Let go. Let go. Let go.
Will I do another month long retreat?
Definitely. No question. Maybe longer! (just not in Big Sur in the spring 🙂
How are my hips doing now? They’re healing. I got a little excited after a week of gentle going and they were feeling remarkably better, and thought a hike and a bike ride were a good idea, but my hips didn’t think so. Oops. Still learning! Back to the gentle plan. Thank goodness for the paddle board!
Categories: Gratitude, Heart Centered Living, Inner Wisdom & Intuition, Meditation & Mindfulness, Stress & Anxiety