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How do I tell my story?

‘So what did you learn?’ My friend asked me upon my return from the week-long Dreamweaver retreat at the edge of the jungle in Costa Rica.

‘A lot,” I responded with certainty. “I just don’t know what it is yet.”

Two weeks later I find myself unpacking the essence of this experience faster than the contents of my suitcase and it is profound.

My retreat co-facilitator, yoga instructor, Ashley Ludman, and I had talked about the Dreamweaver idea for a while. For several years, Ashley has been immersed in a writing project about her early experiences as an adopted child and her emerging path as a healer in several modalities. It made perfect sense that we would combine our disciplines of yoga and writing to offer this experience.

Ashley has a very story-based approach to all her bodywork. In yoga class, she asks us to consider the stories we’d like to explore within our own lives and bodies. She invites us to stretch and make space allowing new stories to emerge, stories that will allow us to become more full-hearted in everything we do. She asks us to consider what stories we are telling ourselves that might be causing imbalance or dis-ease with some aspect of our lives.

One story I’ve been telling myself for a very long time is that I am a constitutionally late-night person who can’t wake up early in the morning. I’ve stuck to this story for many years and have probably sabotaged a number of opportunities with this belief.

When Ashley scheduled our daily yoga sessions for seven o’clock each morning, I was concerned. My initial reaction was ‘I can’t do that.’ I even briefly considered requesting a time change then decided against it. And then my dancer’s discipline kicked in. ‘You will be up by 6am,’ I told myself, ‘and simply march yourself to class each morning.’

On the night before our first full retreat day, I began putting on the brakes at 9:30pm. This meant removing myself from various conversations happening in the outdoor area just outside of my bedroom. Making a little space in my thoughts, I said goodnight and headed to my room. No email, no Facebook. Shortly after 10 o’clock I was in bed. I had no problem waking to the 6 o’clock alarm the next morning.

Each morning for the entire week, I rolled out of bed at 6 am, had a cup of coffee or not, and was ready for yoga practice at 7 am. It helped that my motivation to show up was high. This wasn’t just about me; it was about the eleven retreat participants and one partner on this retreat. True, I was responsible for the writing activities so my presence at morning yoga wasn’t required but what kind of slacker message would I be sending if I skipped the very first activity of the day?

Besides, I needed the yoga experience as much as anyone else on this trip.

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