Coming home from a retreat has so many different emotions. While the first is exhaustion, it is quickly followed by profound gratitude for being able to do this work. Months go into the planning of one retreat; I host anywhere from 3-5 a year. Each one is created very especially for the weekend. And once I get to know my participants via email sign ups, little communications; I tailor the retreat quite specifically to the journeys being walked. I never know how it will turn out; I am often my worst critic as I can say we all have that in common. In the end I am left in awe and reflection for days if not weeks to come, as little gems come back to me in offerings shared.
What I find as the greatest gift is that these women come from so many different and diverse backgrounds. This past weekend we were represented farthest in this group from MA MI OH VA TN to NC, truly remarkable. Our age range went from 51 to 85 with a 75th birthday celebration in the middle. I had my childhood friend for over 40 years who we have stayed in touch with, I had not seen in 30yrs attend, and we picked up from where we left each other! The diverse stories and voices brought gifts and blessings for each journey. We all walked away blessed in hearing these new voices and making new friends for life. The eagerness to stay connected post retreat warms my heart even more.
The season has come to a close and I will return at the end of September for an entire new round. In the meantime, you will hopefully hear more about these incredible stories through posts, essays and creating new work with the beautiful takeaways from these weekends. I love this work. Not everyone always understands what I do or counts it as real work. But my voice, my passion and my journey is shining brighter than ever and I am not stopping. Thank you, thank you, thank you for allowing me into your lives.
Breaking Open Healing
When we take a moment to reflect on how times have changed over the decades; a true turning point is shown to us in the depths of our core as to how we react to the world around us.
I embrace a sense of gratitude that we have finally reached a point of change and acceptance around emotions, mental diversity and that not all paths are equal.
What do you hear when someone asks you to break yourself open?
I was raised in an era where we were taught not to share our feelings, counseling was shameful and mental illness had extraordinarily different notions than it does today. It was a lonely time.
I have had to pause to honor and allow my grief in this turnabout for taking so long. I sincerely believe my life would have been hugely different and my struggles would not have gone on as long as they did if I were raised with an understanding that expressing my feelings was healthy.
I imagine if someone honored my emotions and validated my tears by just sitting with me, I may not have taken such a dark road through self-discovery that stole much of my life. Today, I can find gratitude in those experiences.
Just the word ‘healing’ can bring an intense reaction for many. It is terrifying for some and simple for others. There was a time when I would never consider this idea. That was a time of my youth locked away in the ideals of my upbringing that you do not talk about anything ever; hold it all in and never show yourself. That literally nearly killed me in a 14-year battle with disordered eating and body image and haunts me still in a journey walking through anxiety and depression that most individuals face. We just are not talking about it.
Hear that again; most people are struggling and yet are productive human beings. There is no shame in mental illness. The shame that has been placed on the idea of mental illness comes from those themselves who are afraid.
It took many years and pains for me to be able to put words on to my experiences, wounds, and feelings; it took longer to be able to express them safely. The ability to cry today says so much about those who walked with me on my journey; sat with me in the healing and taught me to live in this newly discovered expression of strength, hope, and light.
When we open ourselves up we grow, we heal, we learn, and we become who we are meant to be.
When we trust ourselves, we become free.
We must first break ourselves open in order to break through to our core identity. Learning to stay with ourselves during this unravelling of lies is the heart of our healing; it is the definition of courage.
Healing is not black or white.
Healing is not equal.
Healing is personal.
There are many stages of healing. I do not know anyone who walks through every stage with ease. Truer is we see people who tend to skip over some of the more intricate and painful phases hoping for relief. Unfortunately, we only continue to come back repeatedly to the wound until we are able to stop ignoring the pain that brings our levels of fear to an entirely different level at our core. Until we face those stories, those wounds, we cannot break the cycle.
Some of the stages are clearer than others.
Profound Sadness is the start of the journey. It can come from a crisis state present or past, a loss and following grief, struggling with a situation that does not have a clear answer, or general feelings about the confusion around the meaning of life for oneself. It can look vastly different from person to person, and it can be experienced in deep and mysterious ways.
Cocoon Stage is a desire to be alone, to not engage in small talk or activities that feel distracting or empty. A lot of time spent reflecting. To someone who is in this stage, they often feel a sense of protectiveness.
Aha Moments draw us towards and eagerness to learn or try new things stepping outside of our comfort zone. I relish these moments and recognize how they kept me walking through the process knowing I was receiving peace and strength as I took risks.
Adjusting to awareness is when we are knowingly feeling different than those around us…. We accept. We embrace. This can be both liberating and terrifying. It can make us feel like an outcast wanting to go back to the cocoon stage for a bit; or it can inspire us to embrace the light and truth that we can live in the world.
Re-birth of new self. When we are ready to honor the entire path of breaking open our healing, we come to know an updated version of who we are. This re-birth allows us to use our story to continue to heal and live more fully on the journey of life. This most often will change and shift relationships as those around you begin to see you in a new confidence. New interests, behaviors, beliefs that are consciously chosen are seen as a threat to those surrounding you in the pain who knew you before.
Healing is not linear.
We may have to repeat this process often along the way. But when you keep showing up, you get to see the gift in living.
You are allowed to be proud of how far you have come even if it is not where you thought you would be by now.
You are allowed to start over.
You are allowed to voice your story.
You are allowed to heal at any stage of your life.
It is time to take back your power, right the wrongs and fight the demons of your darkness.
It is time to recognize the elephant in the room, even though no one else wants you to. You have one life; you deserve to live it free.
You deserve to heal.
I see your braveness. I see your heart. I see your wounds. I will walk with you either way.
The choice is yours to allow the hurt to hurt you any longer.
The choice is yours to allow the light to heal you today.
I live by a quote I once saw that said, ‘be the adult you needed as a child.’ This changed my entire outlook on my life. I am my own parent today, as are you. It is time to take care of yourself in all the ways that have been stolen from you along the way.
It is time.
This is an idea I write about often. My talks are based off this belief; and you will find all of my retreats and workshops touching on it. Why? Because it is so damn important that we hear it, embrace it and understand it.
Beauty is not our skin, our body, our hair or even our accomplishments.
Beauty is within. Beauty is how you are in the world to others.
Beauty is what you leave behind when you leave this earth.
In the era of social media it is nearly impossible to embrace one's own body and beauty in the moment without questioning it. Every direction you turn from ads, to post and articles we are being told our life will be better 'if, when or after' we do this or that. It exhausts me, but now I am even more infuriated by it.
Who wrote the laws of beauty?
Who decided that it had to look a certain way?
Who defined beauty for you?
Our bodies change, age and become.
We shouldn't look 30 when we are 50.
We shouldn't make ourselves something we are not.
You are UNAPOLGETICALLY BEAUTIFUL as you are in the moment you breathe.
Eat the cake.
Drink the glass of wine.
Enjoy the meal that brings you joy.
I am never saying to do anything to extreme, but in moderation we are meant to live this life we have today.
We are not guaranteed tomorrow, we simply are not.
I am 52 years old. I am ok looking 52 years old.
For the first time in my life, I am embracing this body.
For the first time in my life, I am understanding what this body is asking of me.
For the first time in my life, I am learning to love who I am...
and in the process love and live the best life I know I deserve.
This is a first.
When will it be your first?
Living this every day. Seriously, aren't we all? How often are we completely spent by asking endless questions about why we are standing in the pain of that moment? I know it is hard to consider, we want a straightforward way out. If we are to pause and force ourselves to walk through the confusion, consider the gifts we will receive? Yes, gifts? Life isn't meant to be easy; we are meant to work hard towards living to our full potential. When those moments get too intense, pause and take a breath knowing that it will all be revealed.
This conversation is ongoing in my retreats, workshops, and talks. I recognize often when I am not listening as I have walked the road of body healing. It is not easy when the world around you is shouting the opposite of what is real body love and care. It is easy to get caught up in the negative voices, ads, and body shaming as we approach nicer weather. We all go there to that place; I know I do. How about today we listen with love? How about we listen to the whispers that our body is a gift which carries us through this journey, it is asking to be fed. How about instead of listening to all the negativity around our body, we embrace the acceptance of different sizes with self-love? Sometimes we just need to simply listen to the whispers. Your body is speaking. Can you listen?
You are the poet of your own life.
You write the words that are mirrored of the life you are giving out to the world. So many times within a day we all feel broken, defeated or just beyond our ability to do more. But it is at those times I noticed we often give the most.
Brokenness is beauty.
Brokenness is light.
Brokenness is strength.
Brokenness is hope.
Embrace and celebrate your brokenness, for they often teach you the greatest lesson of your life.
What are little victories? One of our biggest mistakes is that we are always looking for the grand in change. We think a big move, a job change or something radical will help us feel lifted up, supported and as if we are doing the work in the world. I want to challenge you to consider the smaller victories. I am going to risk offering that every day, you have at least one small victory on the journey. It can be difficult to see, for we are always looking for the life changing moments. What if we were to pause, take a moment to recognize that our small victory today is lifting us up in the same or even bigger ways. What if that small victory was having the greatest impact? Pause today to celebrate what you are doing right on the journey.
It's Monday. There is something about starting off the week that can be intimidating. I honestly don't know many who jump up with enthusiasm at the prospect. It is not a negative, it is reality. We are starting our week over with challenges, work deadlines, endless children's activities or just responsibilities. Wherever you find yourself, there is likely something being asked of you right off. It is ok to stumble. It is ok just not to have it together. It is ok to have a second cup of coffee or take an extra break in the day. It's ok. Give yourself a break, take a deep breath and let your light flicker. When it is ready to come back on...you will shine!
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Andrea creates, builds, and offers her teachings and hands on life tools based on her journey healing her body image after a 14yr battle and life of trauma. Her vision always is to help others live a full life with the journey they are given.