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Why Retreats are Good for the Soul!

I was having breakfast last week at the trendy new “ish” Ace Hotel, in Downtown Los Angeles, with a lovely woman, who was planning her 50th milestone birthday retreat. She had been referred to me by another retreat client that had spent a week with me in Maui for a yoga retreat I had hosted some time ago, for a group of very busy executives.

Our conversation turned to planning her special time away from the busy-ness of her day–to-day life, and we discussed what she could “expect” on her journey to Sedona’s red rocks and vortex energy centers. In our early discussions, she had wanted a group retreat experience with some of her closest friends and family joining her. Gradually, as we talked, her focus shifted and she decided it was best to simply go alone, with herself, and with me as her guide, to the most special places Sedona has to offer -a lone vision quest.

We spoke about some of the things that were driving her need to step away from her routine for a few days, and hopefully to come back with a renewed sense of purpose and clarity. Having hosted and attended retreats with hundreds of guests/attendees myself, I knew all too well that the pivotal decision to step off the wheel of life actually begins the true process of finding your place on your wheel of life. We planned to participate in a Native American shaman-led medicine wheel ceremony while in Sedona, so the metaphor on the wheel of life did not go unnoticed by me.

According to the Four Winds Foundation, a non-profit organization committed to cultivating conscious community by offering indigenous perspectives, values and ceremonies, the Vision Quest “is a rite of passage in many Native American cultures. It is one of the most universal and ancient means to find spiritual guidance and purpose in ones life. A vision quest offers clarity into the next phase of life.” Traditional vision quests involve days of fasting in nature within a sacred altar, after extensive preparation, to be able to receive the messages from Great Spirit that await them. It is a challenge of faith, physicality and focus. It is a powerful time to align with the Great Mystery of life.

Before someone is ready to take on a truly authentic Vision Quest, a gentle introduction into the indigenous ways, ceremonies, culture and stories is suggested. The “urban vision quest” we had planned took into account that this woman, seeking a mid-life rite of passage, had never experienced any of the traditional ceremonies, or had never been exposed to the intensity of a vortex area like Sedona’s. The experience would be no less powerful and life altering. The alignment of our energetic connection began immediately after she said “yes” to the experience.

I recall a moment when she came into my mind’s awareness, and in that exact instant, my phone rang and she was on the other end of the line. At our Ace hotel meeting, I presented her with an offering of four specifically selected crystals I had wrapped for her, along with a fresh stick of Palo Santo, that comes from a mystical tree that grows on the coast of South America and is related to frankincense, myrrh and copal. In Spanish, the name literally means “Holy Wood”. Its properties for cleansing and healing are similar to that of sage. I told her that, as a beginning to her journey, to take the next few weeks to begin to listen, cleanse and begin to journal any insights about this stage of her life, and the messages from Great Spirit.

It is said that there is a Universal law of attraction at work here; that in order to manifest the experience we are choosing, we must first release it or “give it away” before it will appear in our physical reality. That night, after leaving the Ace hotel, one couple arrived with a beautifully wrapped box with purple and green ribbon tied around a fresh stick of Palo Santo. I opened the box to find the four crystals I had given my new friend at breakfast had returned to me that same night…an example of that Universal law at work? Indeed!

We all need to take time to step away from our daily routine, a routine that is increasingly becoming more and more accelerated as technology takes over. The natural environment provides much needed food for the soul, solitude for inner reflection and insight and time for self care. It’s an investment in the “bank account” of life and the dividends it pays are through the roof!

Lori Tierney is a free-lance writer and author of the book “Cougar Yoga”. She founded the Red Road Retreat company in 2006 and organizes individual and group retreat experiences. (redroadretreats.com )

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