The first retreat that I ever went to was at the Omega Center in upstate New York.
I had been a big Gabby Bernstein fan, and I credit her a lot with being a massive catalyst in helping me commit to a meditation practice and open up spiritually.
When she announced that she was doing a retreat, I hopped on the chance to go.
I had never been on a retreat before, and like many of you before you come on retreat, didn’t know what to expect.
I trusted that it would be a great experience, but wasn’t sure what else other than that to expect.
This was just a weekend long retreat, which is a great place to dip your toes into retreating if you haven’t ever retreated before.
Driving to Upstate NYC
I convinced a friend who was a yoga teacher and also deepening into her spiritual practice to come with me, and together we drove across the border for the retreat in upstate.
What was supposed to be a 6 hour drive quickly turned into a 9.5 hour drive because…directions are not my forte.
We were so close to getting to the retreat center when, in the middle of a quiet, empty street in the back country of the Catskills, got pulled over for speeding.
We finally arrived at Omega center overwhelmed and exhausted.
When we arrived, they welcomed us with open arms and said “Classic Mercury Retrograde.”
I had no idea what they meant.
“Oh Mercury retrograde! Things always get disrupted during it. Things don’t go to plan. Your plans went topsy turvy, but you are HERE. You have ARRIVED. This means that you are going to have an epic retreat.”
When You Arrive on Retreat You Often Feel Overwhelmed
I now totally sympathize when people arrive for retreat with me. At this point, most of my retreats are in Costa Rica, but even when they are 2 hours outside of the city for a weekend retreat, something about simply leaving your usual comfort tends to bring up a lot of feelings of overwhelm in people.
There is literally always at least one person who arrives in tears, and another who arrives angry.
This has nothing to do with the retreat, and typically nothing but minor inconveniences with their travel days, but we like to say now that the retreat begins even before you arrive.
The second you begin your journey to come to retreat, if you need to chill out, have some emotions surface and clear, or see just how stressed out you are…it’ll happen.
In my first retreat, I had this happen. My friend and I were so on the go at the time that I see now the gift of making our car ride take so many extra hours and continuing to get delayed because it helped us to let go and surrender to the timing.
I felt intimidated
Since I had never been on a retreat before, I was intimidated when I walked into the room and saw a whole crowd of people.
I think there’s absolutely a benefit to holding retreats of 50-100 people, like this retreat was, but I’ve also intentionally now kept my week-long retreats to a maximum of 20, and my weekend ones to 40.
This is because having a big group can be intimidating and also it’s more difficult to create a cohesive experience.
The first night Gabby did a talk, a meditation, and then went into Q and A.
She was on fire in the Q and A and I loved the questions that other people shared.
My friend kept poking me: “I want to ask a question! What should I ask? Tell meeeeee…”
She couldn’t think of a question so never asked.
I felt uncomfortable
The next morning we woke up in the retreat center and I was feeling a little uncomfortable.
Omega is set deep into the Catskills and you are surrounded by nature.
I now know well enough to know that when we leave the city and are immersed both in nature and a retreat, it can make us feel a lot as our nervous system recalibrates.
I was feeling uncomfortable and thought it was the setting, but really it was just my nerves settling down after being so fried all the time in my daily life.
This is also such a normal part of retreat, and is why so many retreats take place so deep in nature.
Again, every single retreat I have run, people end up having some really cool experiences where their systems literally reset, but the process of getting to that reset can feel a bit intense at the time!
This is all good stuff though. We are meant to be in nature, and so if immersing yourself in it for 24 hours brings up a lot of stuff in your system, it’s showing you that there’s definitely things that are ready to be healed.
I asked for guidance
Feeling uncomfortable, I asked spirit for guidance. I went to the book store at Omega and they had oracle cards.
The oracle card I pulled was: listen.
I decided to take the advice.
My new intention for the retreat was to sit back and just listen.
Sometimes we are meant to share, and sometimes we are meant to listen and to learn.
My Biggest Lesson of the Weekend – Listen
My biggest lesson of this retreat was based on the card: listen.
Usually I’m a really extroverted, chatty person, and when I’m uncomfortable sometimes I’ll talk even more than usual, but this retreat taught me the power of just being present and listening, even when uncomfortable.
I was really quiet that whole weekend, but it didn’t mean I was devoid of connection.
Instead of looking for communication and connection, I let it flow to me with ease.
The lesson I needed was to turn inward, to listen to others, and to let Gabby’s teachings and my own inner wisdom come through.
Since that time, this lesson of listening versus speaking has been powerful.
Every retreat I go on, every new event I go to, or new situation I find myself in, I try and tune in: am I in a listening mode, or am I in an engaging mode?
We need both, of course, but for some of you who are like me and feel pressure to be “on” or lead a conversation, it’s a real gift to learn how to step back and just listen.
Be the Light
From what Gabby was sharing at the retreat, my biggest take-away was that our job is to be the light.
This means for us to be a source of love and inspiration, in whatever way the Universe guides us to do that.
All of us on the retreat came from different backgrounds and were encouraged to meditate on the question of: how can I be of service?
This simple reflection has been one I’ve continued to take forward with me since that time, and one that I always return to any time I am feeling out of sorts in any way.