Leaning into Courage, Vulnerability, & Connection | Breathwork Retreat Musings

awareness breathwork connection conscious connected breathwork courage fear inner child work presence rejection wounds trust vulnerability Mar 15, 2020

I came out of hosting my BOW | SURF | BREATHE retreat in Sri Lanka… It was an amazing experience- above and beyond- in all directions. We had a really special group… The energy was real, vibrant, special, and transformative. (Thank you!)

I work best alone… And, even if it is a lot of energy to hold space on my own, it seems to flow best for me when I am left to move to the beat of my own drum, to move to my own flow, and create as I go. This nugget: “she moves to the beat of her own drum” has been shaping my life for a long time- this is my story. It’s safe here: total comfort and control.  

When the retreat ended, I had some energy to rebuild. I spent one week in complete chill mode. I didn’t accomplish anything. I didn’t read any books, I didn’t work… Actually, most of the time, I was just looking for food. It can be challenging to feed yourself in a good way when you are in a new place! I spent many hours of my day walking along the beach in search of nourishment! But, worth it? I think so. I also snuck in daily ocean dips, of course!

I decided to sign up for the Breathwork and Yoga retreat that Martina and Alex were hosting at Green Peace Inn the following week. Green Peace Inn is the retreat center that is owned by these two lovely humans, and this is where I held my retreat the week before. 

I have never actually been on a retreat before as an attendee, and while I know them intimately on one side, I have never experienced the fruit that I sell from the other side. 

Mini story:

In the beginning of my yoga career, I could not understand why people would sign up for a retreat. As an independent, free bird style traveler… I thought: why wouldn’t people just pick a beautiful hotel with yoga included and create their own adventure!? 

And, then I was asked to help teach and organize a retreat that was coming through the yoga studio that I was working at in Nicaragua back in 2014. It was then that I realized the importance of retreats. 

The group who came through, about 12 students, came from all different places in the world. They landed as complete strangers… with different goals and expectations, but a common thread uniting them all. I watched as the week moved along… The threads began to weave more tightly, the connections began to grow and become more strong. By the end of the week, this little group of strangers were now best friends.

Suddenly, I realized- this is the reason for retreats! The connections created in a retreat setting cannot be found while you are adventuring on your own. 

Retreats have now become some of my most important work: to create safe spaces where magic, transformation, and connection can unfold in like-minded hearts and souls. 

And so, carrying on, I have been diving into conscious connected breathwork for the past year. Coincidentally, Martina and Alex teach the same style of breathwork as I do, more or less. I was so excited to learn that they had some space in their retreat the following week. This is where I am diving deep these days. Breathwork is my medicine! (and in my opinion, everyone's medicine!)

Two feet in, I was really excited to dive into my own breath practice, learn some new tools, and learn more about myself in the process. I was also excited to experience the other side of a retreat… as a participant. 

The week began, and I watched myself shrink back, hide, and distance myself from the new group of beautiful humans. 

I rationalized this for the first few days… I came up with many reasons why I was creating walls and boundaries, if only energetic. 

One of my students who was at my retreat stayed through with me for the breathwork retreat, and I found myself hiding within the comfort of our relationship that was known, safe, and cultivated.

I conceded: I am introverted, it must be the moon, the group is not my tribe, and there are so many of them!...  I am still processing my past week of teaching, I am integrating, and I am not ready to open up again. 

I created many stories, and found many reasons, excuses, and justifications for my behavior. My energy was palpable: I was creating walls and actively stepping away. 

I didn’t share in the breath circles. I often left the communal eating table first. I was closed and quiet, and in many ways isolated myself from the group. I woke up early to run, swim, and do my own practice instead of joining the group for morning yoga. There are many ways that I energetically and physically distanced myself. It's possible that this energy was only felt inside my heart... But, for me- it was a reality that was familiar, uncomfortable, and true.

Mind you, I am grateful for my choice to do my own thing in the morning, because this is my sacred time- and it was important to be in my own practice. But, this is besides the point. It still had an air of disconnecting me. Which, only further solidified my story of being an outsider. 

After one breath session, I had an insight: I wear two hats! The one where I am teaching, turned on, extroverted, and showing up in big, beautiful, and open ways. And the other one where I walk alone, independent, solitary, okay on my own. I was like- ahh yes, this! This is why I am this way, because I have two sides to me.  Actually, this wasn't fully it at all. But, it was a nugget. With my teaching hat, I hold presence and people choose to be there with me. This alludes to being chosen. With my student hat, I don't often lean into being accepted or connected... I hold my own space, I don't go out of my way to be included, in fact, I resist the need to be included at all. In this way, I don't have to worry about not being chosen. (This is also possibly why partner work is so uncomfortable for me! Haha) Of course, I'm likely working with my good old pal who lives in my solar plexus: The complex of "I am enough, I am enough." We go way back. Unfortunately. Haha

The breathwork was a struggle for me most of the week. I was challenged to activate and push my edges. I was meeting resistance, and falling into soft bliss and surrendered acceptance. Definitely not the worst, but, I was there to do my work! I wanted to feel the big things that I knew I wasn't breathing into. I kept saying, "my body knows, my body knows!" Consequently, I was feeling a bit frustrated with myself. After all, in breathwork: you are the driver. It's all up to you: full accountability for where you take yourself, you get to choose how deep you go.

At the end of the week, we closed the circle the same way we opened it: with eye gazing, conscious breathing, and compliment gifting, a beautiful practice to learn to give and receive with ease and grace. 

A girl who was in the retreat stopped in front of me. She was instructed: “tell the person who is standing in front of you what you find inspiring about them.”  She began: “You are inspiring because you just do what you want and you don’t care about what anyone else thinks. You are really true to you. And if I might add: You have mentioned a couple times this week that you are not social and introverted… But I want to reflect, we are all attracted to you, we want to be near you and include you, and perhaps you are pushing away when really you are afraid. You are wanted here and we are open for you. You don't have to separate to the outside.” 

Which hit a strong truth cord in my soul. I wanted to burst into tears... She just uncovered this deep truth that was hiding below the surface... Obviously not so hidden, after all!

All week long, I was coasting along with stories of disconnection and outsider vibes, pushing away and creating an isolated bubble of solitary existence. Of course, this is my comfort zone, this is my story! This is the safe place, no one can hurt me here, no one can reject me if I am the one who disconnects first. 

So. It dawned on me. 

For so long now, I have been protecting my past childhood, relationship, and lover wounds… I have been protecting myself and my heart all along. But this little girl was just afraid to be hurt. To be cast away. To not be chosen. To be discluded from the whole.  

It all unraveled… I have made it okay to be alone. In fact, I’ve made it more than okay to be alone. Because being alone was safe. Being alone held less risk of being hurt by others… And, consequently, I have cultivated this fierce strength: I am independent, I ride solo, and I move to the beat of my own drum. 

Yet, I know that my biggest work is connection and intimacy. It is radically in my face, in every single thing that I build. I am surrounded by opportunities to find and create and cultivate connections. I teach yoga and breathwork. I host retreats and trainings. It is the thread and reason for every single thing that I do. Connection is the root and reason for all that I choose.

And yet, as I sat in the closing circle, surrounded by beautiful humans who I resisted opening to all week long- I realized… 

Even in the things that I create, I still work with a wall. I still hold myself protected from it all. I maintain a boundary, I don’t let anyone in too close, I take space, and I hold my shield around my heart. 

I am open and loving and kind and fun, and yet, it’s really hard to know me intimately. 

In this breathwork retreat, I was faced with the stories that are shaping my world. The ones that keep me isolated, distanced from love and connection, and ultimately, on my own. I was faced with the understanding that these stories and these patterns are likely sourcing from deep wounds of being rejected, discluded, and left to play on my own. And, they require fierce vulnerability… They require all my courage to step in more fully and trust that the people who I surround myself with now will hold me in love, inclusion, and tenderness. 

I remember when I was young, in elementary school, and at recess and lunch the kids would pair up to spend their time with one person. The game was to ask a friend to walk around the school with you. I remember asking a girl to walk around the school with me, and she told me that she was already walking around with someone else. These instances, and ones similar to it, happened all the time. Being rejected, not being included, being told that I wasn’t welcome. When you are a little kid, these things really affect you. I remember these days, I would go and hide in the library… And this is where the real introvert was born. Out of being rejected and told there was no space, and to go play on my own. 

And, of course, we get strong. So, so, so strong. We have to. And, we hold our ground and we carry on. I am just starting to understand the ripples these small and insignificant events have held in my life and how they have shaped how I show up and move in friendship, circle, community, and love.

And we keep moving. And breathing. More understanding and feeling. Leaning into the discomfort and catching ourselves floating within our stories... We are what we think, consciously and unconsciously.

I thought I wasn't gaining anything through my breathwork sessions this week. No massive break through's... No wild downloads or introspective epiphanies. However, as I begin to integrate the lessons in a holistic way, I realize I learned so much. I learned exactly what I needed to, and more. I now understand why I act the way I do... Why I repel connection, even though it's the one thing I want the most. I am taking tender care of the little girl that lives inside of me, who has built up walls and boundaries to protect herself... I am moving into this understanding with deep compassion and awareness. Loving myself and allowing myself to be loved. I've got my own back, and now it's time to allow others to hold me too. It is vulnerable and scary. And, I know that there is no other option but to step into this space... A space where intimacy, love, and connection have room to breathe and grow. I will trust and I will let go.

Feeling gratitude for clarity. Excited to lean into this awareness with presence, courage, and dedication... to change my story so that I may open up in fierce vulnerability to more connection and love. Leaving fear behind, and trusting people to be kind.

May we all hold our inner child in tender love and kindness, and move toward healing the spaces that she was hurt or harmed. The smallest things can have the biggest impacts on our life... Let's open our hearts and hold each other a little more closely, kindly, and compassionately... We have been through a lot. It's time to step into more love.

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