rest & digest - the learning to love retreat

Just over a week ago I returned home from co-hosting my first retreat as a yoga instructor. We shared delicious, beautiful meals family style, followed noble silence, sat in meditation, relaxed under many blankets, shared reiki in the rain and expressed ourselves wholeheartedly with compassion, working towards understanding the concept of self-love.

It's amazing to think how far I've come in a year with the idea self-love in mind. On and off disordered eating patterns, traveling to foreign lands as an escape mechanism, the only constant being an uneasy feeling of being ungrounded. Transitioning from 10 years past graduation in the service industry, closing the bar at 4am to up-before-the-sun alarms going off at 4am... Professionally, my life has turned its direction from something toxic in my life to my healing, guiding light - yoga and meditation.

The Learning to Love Retreat was a huge career step for me in order to build confidence as an instructor, to hold space for growth and transformation, to allow myself to be vulnerable and open to share my story and my pain in order to make a statement that change is possible. Self-love is possible, even in the darkest of hearts - so long as healing is an option on the table. Stepping away from the grind of everyday life and breathing in beautiful northern Wisconsin country air did wonders for my mind and body, even though this was technically a working weekend. It's funny how when you live your dream, it still eventually becomes stagnant or you create expectations that never are met. Have I mentioned I'm Type A and a perfectionist?? However, what I didn't realize until post-retreat was the fact that I have not fully embraced my new career as an instructor.

Our group was strolling Main Street in town and we stopped for coffee. Marisa and I quickly turned into fan girls as we saw two very famous internet yoginis typing away hyper focused on their computer screens. Confused but excited to hear why these women were in Wisconsin, we introduced ourselves. To my surprise, they were here doing just what we were doing - hosting a retreat on the beach. Of course they were, this place is quaint and gorgeously inviting - perfect for a yoga themed getaway. What changed my perspective was that I was doing the same thing as these two people I put on a yoga pedestal. I'm not in waitressing, dead end shift work (this is only MY opinion, BTW!!) mode anymore. I'm doing what I knew my soul always wanted to do - but I've been scared shitless to quit the cash in hand job that allows for freedom of travel. Add on top of that the idea of being 'authentic' in the wellness world - how can I be a good yoga teacher when I can't do backdrop stand ups anymore? How can I talk about health when I struggle with properly nourishing my body with my background of various eating disorders? The answer is always: ACCEPTANCE. Being authentic has transitioned from my pedestal placed 'guru' type of yogi to this life I'm building for myself. Being honest with people who come to my class, laughter, play, expressing vulnerability and truly being open to hearing why people are here and what they want and need from yoga, meditation or simply from a conversation - it's all an exchange of energy.

The healing process was tangible at the retreat, I hope this process doesn't end just as we hug goodbye, but that it continues to blossom within the painful holes that need healing. Keep what resonates with you from retreats or classes or anywhere, close to your heart. Keep these experiences sacred. Learn to love your life, your body, yourself - just as they are. What you cannot accept as reality then you must change. But do it with compassion, know that transformation can take a lot of time and effort. Wellness does not happen over night, but in a measurable amount of tiny habits that one day you wake up, smell the coffee in a little town cafe and realize your dreams are unfolding just before your eyes. Dreams you concocted into a reality, but were too busy to give yourself credit for.

Take the time to give yourself credit. That my friends, is my version of self-love.

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© 2019 by Kaleigh Atkinson