(written in Mexico)
Most of my retreats are different, I mean half of the time we’re in a new location, it’s a completely new group of people and the theme of the retreat is different or shifts in order to ensure that everyone finds their place and experiences what they need to during the time we have.
One of the questions that I always ask people before my retreats is what is something that they want to experience whilst at the retreat and what are three words they would use to describe themselves. I find this gives me an opportunity to consider the different experiences we perhaps come with that make us who we are, or who we think they are, and the different ways that people may come to experience or achieve what they want during their time on the retreat.
As a lot of people find my retreats on social media, or online and often have not met me in person, I find these two questions important to find a starting point to connect with them, sometimes it is that the words that are written are wishes, or hopes, sometimes they very accurately sum up the person, and either way it doesn’t matter because it is simply a chance for them to open up and choose some words that they wish for me to be aware of.
It's important to me to create a space for my guests to experience what they think they need to, or at the very least something that perhaps they didn't think they need to. Sometimes this is confronting, for them and for me but I know that simply avoiding or stopping these things from arising doesn't help us as human beings in the long run.
In saying that of the most important lessons I've learnt, both as a student and as a teacher, in every day life and work and yoga, is that you cannot resonate or connect with everyone, and you also cannot make everyone happy. In fact, in some ways, I need to remember it is not my job to make someone happy, it is my job to open up a pathway, to provide guidance that can be received or passed over, in order for a person to find their own happiness. I cannot create someone else's happiness, I can only offer a pathway, just like Patanjali did, for someone to find it themselves. There have been plenty of incredible teachers who I have crossed paths with as a student who I know teach an amazing class, and who are well respected and loved within their communities, but of whom I have not connected with for whatever reason. And that’s ok, I hope they are ok with that too, because I most certainly have come to terms with and accepted that as a fact with the students who join my retreats and classes too.
I have learnt that my job in leading a retreat is not to provide the answers, it is only to create a space for everyone to feel comfortable to share, to connect, to open up and in doing so to find out something about themselves they may not have been aware of or that opens up a new opportunity or pathway in their lives. Sometimes this happens, sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes it’s not needed. But I have learnt that I cannot force my learning’s, and teachings and opinions on others, I can only question and provide thought provoking insights, or challenge the normal neural pathways in order to give everyone an opportunity to EXPERIENCE something different (even if it ends up being they dislike me).
So today I wanted to write this so that I can share something from my heart from an experience that I have had, and please remember this is my perception, as I can only speak for myself.
I have had an experience where I have felt frustrated, overwhelmed, tested, and like my patience has been used completely. I am sad because my instinct was to protect those who have come to this retreat willingly to participate, to connect, to experience something new or different for themselves, and my only instinct and focus should be on creating a nurturing space so that this can continue to happen.
I have seen this group fall and laugh and even sometimes get a little teary (well I did today anyways), I have seen them support each other and be incredibly patient and understanding of each other and those around them no matter the experience, or the energy that is returned to them. I have seen them be open to the fact that everyone comes with their own stories, and that they are mindful of the energy and the space that they have arrived in to the retreat and our classes and workshops and I have seen them take leadership in ensuring that everyone is considered and included. I have also seen that this, has not been returned, and today, not for the first time, I have seen someone who openly criticised another without warrant and without the intention to better that person, and despite that then being directed at me, I feel sad that any other person in the group may actually feel that it was about them.
My instinct in that moment, when those words were shared, should not have been to protect, it should have been to nurture, it should be to remain open to every single person no matter what shit we have or haven’t been through in life, because let’s face it, life is not perfect.
But today I also learned something about myself, I learned that I am fiercely protective of those that I love, those that I cherish, and that it is ok to not be perfect myself. That I am allowed to feel frustrated, overwhelmed, impatient, but that I also need to have enough self awareness of when I am doing that, of how I impact those that the energy is directed towards.
Not everyone will always have a perfect retreat experience, most of the time we won’t know who will arrive or who we will share it with and a lot of the time we take the risk because of our own reasons anyway. Sometimes, we will choose a teacher we cannot connect with, sometimes we do but something changes that, and sometimes we realise in life that we had to be in this place, with these people to learn a lesson about ourselves and our reactions when we are challenged.
Today was the first time I have ever let someone see how fiercely protective I am over those who attend my retreats, especially when I feel that someone openly or even inadvertently is affecting the experience of those around them, and even more so when a person actively chooses to do this, openly in front of the group, during a time where others a feeling vulnerable, and ready to share their experiences.
I now sit here wondering to myself about whether I did the right thing, and I expect that the opinion of everyone may differ depending on your own experiences and beliefs and that’s ok. So I am writing this blog to take the opportunity to explore, without blame towards myself or others, my response and what I can learn from that.
Today I am the student. Today I am learning more about myself. Today I am not perfect.