Photo by Edu Lauton
Moving through life is like hopping from one stone to another over a rushing river. Every time you jump, there is a moment when you are suspended in space, wondering if you will fall into the current below. Sometimes you make it to the next stone, but sometimes flying through space turns to falling through space, and the water below seems all too real as you plunge. You drift with the current, chundered in white water, barely able to breathe as the river pushes you down again.
I found the Be Luminary Retreat in the middle of that river.
It was the tail end of October and the end of another successful river season. I had met and laughed and made memories with nearly 200 new faces. Nearly every night since April I slept under the stars in the bottom of the Grand Canyon, falling asleep and waking up with the light.
I was sitting in my empty room at my mother’s house, which until then had served as my de facto home address. My Astro was packed to the brim, kayaks loaded on top. I was about to embark on a 14 hour drive to San Francisco to salvage a relationship I had neglected for the last six months. Everything felt backwards. I was leaving the quiet mountains for a crowded city, abandoning my friends and family for a place I had hardly visited. I couldn’t figure out if this was moving forward or backwards. In an instant I went from feeling like a successful and adventurous professional to feeling alone and insecure.
At the end of each river season, I kept finding myself in moments like this, overwhelmed and powerless, unsure of what to do and scared to do it. It was like I had jumped to my next stone only to plunge into the water instead. When I got an email from Cara and Amber, it felt like a lifeline.
A few months later I arrived at the rustic Northern California resort unsure of what to expect. My daily routine rarely includes a shower, let alone ten minutes to take care of myself. In my work and my life I put the needs of others first. A retreat seemed indulgent, excessive, and completely out of character.
Once I settled in, however, I began to understand how necessary and challenging self-care is. It was an experience that, two years later, I still find myself reflecting on.
We would wake up each morning around sunrise and meet in the yoga studio, cradling our cups of coffee and tea. With serene music playing we would sit in silence, drawing, journaling, or simply observing the world as it woke up. For an entire week we put to practice some simple yet powerful shifts in our lifestyle.
Each day incorporated optional yoga practices or meditative walks to practice mindfulness. We enjoyed plenty of delicious, healthy, fresh food. We worked on our relationships with ourselves and our bodies, and spent hours dissecting concepts like shame, worth, vulnerability, and courage. And then there were the dance parties, and the cartwheels, and the endless opportunities to play.
Throughout the week, I learned the importance of presence. I learned that happiness isn’t much affected by our big adventures, but rather dependent on how we choose to be in those day-to-day moments. By always looking to the future, we rob ourselves of the present. We are so focused on the rocks that we miss the moment of sudden upward flight.
I’ll admit it: that instant of flight, the feeling of total presence in the moment, is a sensation I often shy away from. Instead, I focus on the cold water I am attempting to leap over, or the distant rocks I hope to reach in the future. Yet each time I hurl myself towards my next stone, I can’t help but find myself in this uncomfortable liminal state. With the guidance and support of my Luminary tribe, I’ve spent the past two years trying to stay present mid-leap.
I wish I could say that after my retreat this fear went away, or that I never again fell into the river. But flying through space is scary, and sometimes, I still find myself plunging into the water below. When I fall in, eventually I wash up on some other stone and drag myself out. And before I know it, I am leaping forward again.
When I stop worrying about where I am going, the world opens up in unimaginable ways. After my retreat, I discovered a scholarship so I could continue learning. I took an opportunity to guide on a remote river in Western China for two months.
While there is always fear, my Luminary course gave me the tools to unhook from the fearful thoughts and instead, embrace the hundred liminal moments we experience in our everyday lives.
One day your stone will pitch you forward before you’re ready, or you might find it sinking and realize you have to jump. And how, if you’ve never spent time swimming in that icy river or hurtling yourself through space, can you expect to navigate it? How can you learn to fly if you’ve never even tried?
P.S. Registration for the Winter Be Luminary Retreat is open until January 10th while spots last! We hope you’ll join us.
As a yoga teacher, educator and Grand Canyon river guide, she instills people with a passion for the natural world and shows them places where rivers run wild and dark skies still exist. When not traipsing around the globe, you can find her rocking on her boat in the San Fracisco Bay, singing songs about humpback chub on her ukulele.