ELLE (Canada) - - Body -

(i.e., New Age hip­pies who smell of patchouli). But, as it turns out, we very much en­joyed our group of fel­low re­treaters—an eclec­tic bunch, in­clud­ing an en­gi­neer­ing pro­fes­sor, a re­cov­er­ing al­co­holic and a young woman with bipo­lar dis­or­der. And de­spite our dif­fer­ences, we had some­thing in com­mon: We had all gone through a dif­fi­cult pe­riod in our lives and were look­ing for a way to move for­ward.

It’s ac­tu­ally quite re­mark­able how quickly you can con­nect with com­plete strangers and then con­fide in them about things you might not even tell your clos­est friends. Our rel­a­tive ease and com­fort through­out the re­treat were a tes­ta­ment to the skill of lead­ers Jo­casta Boone and Sharon Dav­i­son, of Liv­ing With Pur­pose Now, both ex­perts in help­ing peo­ple tran­si­tion through change. With their guid­ance, we re­flected on and an­a­lyzed the pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive ex­peri­ences we had en­dured and talked about our goals and vi­sion for the fu­ture. Through a va­ri­ety of deep­ex­plo­ration ex­er­cises, we all be­gan to open up and share in­ti­mate feel­ings and sto­ries, seek­ing com­fort in one an­other’s sup­port. I was pleas­antly sur­prised and im­pressed by my hus­band’s will­ing­ness to join in de­spite his in­tro­verted per­son­al­ity. (These situ­ations typ­i­cally cause him con­sid­er­able dis­tress.) But, as al­ways, he rose to the oc­ca­sion, and I was re­minded once again how lucky I am to have him as my life part­ner.

We also had sev­eral med­i­ta­tion ses­sions—some while ly­ing down, some while sit­ting, some while walk­ing—all very chal­leng­ing since we both found it dif­fi­cult to stay cen­tred and keep our thoughts from spi­ralling. But this chal­lenge was a nec­es­sary one; we forced our­selves to fo­cus on our breath­ing, and we learned not to judge the thoughts that popped into our heads (such as, in my case, think­ing about the mas­sive itch­ing sen­sa­tion all over my body due to be­ing eaten alive by mos­quitoes—an un­for­tu­nate con­se­quence of be­ing one with na­ture). For two peo­ple who live a hec­tic and stress­ful ex­is­tence, learn­ing to have a greater aware­ness of, and ap­pre­ci­a­tion for, what’s hap­pen­ing in this very mo­ment was truly an es­sen­tial tool to add to our spir­i­tual tool box. (Note: I never thought I’d say some­thing like “spir­i­tual tool box,” but, alas, here we are. Per­haps I have al­ready changed more than I re­al­ize.)

Af­ter the re­treat ended, we made our way back to the city. As soon as we turned on our phones, the emails and no­ti­fi­ca­tions started flood­ing in. We were in­stantly pulled back into the daily grind of our lives, the mem­o­ries of our re­treat re­ced­ing like a lovely and peace­ful dream. We have been try­ing to make use of all the lessons we learned, tak­ing small steps here and there to live more mind­fully and en­joy each mo­ment as we live it. Will we ever fully suc­ceed at bring­ing aware­ness and seren­ity into our re­la­tion­ship and into our lives? I’m not sure about that, but I do know that as we move into the next phase of our mar­riage and face what­ever chal­lenges might be wait­ing around the corner, we will get through it all—as we al­ways have—to­gether. n

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