This morning my daughter gifted me with some time to write so I'm feeling so thankful. And so I got to share a story that I love, and it's about how my journey with saying yes to love REALLY began.
I shared a few days ago about how I unintentionally prepared for my self imposed 5 month sabbatical to go seeking me. The day before my sabbatical began, I broke up with my 90% awesome relationship for no clear reason, and I left on a yoga retreat to Costa Rica. I didn't have much of a plan for this sabbatical, but I did know that I'd been involved in the same patterns and habits in my lifestyle, schedule and love interests for over a decade, and I’d felt I was on a plateau; so it was time to switch things up in my head, heart & habits, to see what & who else was out there for me. And this sabbatical was beginning in Costa Rica on December 2nd.
The sweet man I'd just broken up with drove me to the airport in the wee hours of December 2nd for my flight, and as he helped me with my luggage, he said, "I want you to go to Costa Rica and decide if this relationship is what you want." He'd given me a window to repair this weird breakup I'd just initiated for no reason, so I was grateful for that. Maybe I'd arrive in Costa Rica and miss him like crazy and being apart would ignite something that hadn't been there in the almost 11 months we'd been together. Maybe. But maybe not. And it was the maybe not that made me hug him good bye and begin my journey to Costa Rica.
When I arrived into the Liberia Airport for my week long retreat with Don Miguel Ruiz, the Toltec Shaman & author of The Four Agreements I didn’t know what or who to expect to meet. I only knew that I'd just just broken up with my 90% awesome boyfriend, and I felt a little crazy for doing that. And so I was in Costa Rica for that to get clear about me. And to just be with myself for a week without the distractions of my cell phone, without my normal daily responsibilities and be in a hot climate that was outside my comfort zone. As I emerged from the customs area of the airport I knew there would be someone waiting for me with a sign, directing me to an area off to the side, where we'd be waiting for others in the group, and that was exactly what happened. And so I sat on the floor of the airport and waited for over 2 hours with a group of new faces, and just blissfully watched the comings and goings around me knowing I had nowhere else to be except exactly there. And that was really freeing. The group around me began to grow and over the course of 2 hours, we had about 15 people, mostly in their 50's and everyone seemed quite friendly. I did notice a younger couple in their 30’s who didn't have rings on, but they seemed to have been together a while. They were sitting beside me on the shuttle and I was on the aisle seat, so I’d occasionally overhear them conversing during our 90 minute shuttle ride and I could feel that the energy between them was a little aggressive, scattered and chaotic, so I just closed my eyes doing my best to tune them out and the rest of the scene in. There were lots of curvy roads, lots of cows, lots of dogs and lots of people on bikes with no helmets on the narrow road we were on. It was just a different expression of life here that was so different than what I was used to. And suddenly in the middle of nowhere, an entrance appeared off the road and we turned into a resort that had sign on the outside that said “Hotel Sugar Beach,” and that was that; we’d arrived. There was a welcome committee of hotel staff & two group leaders when we pulled up, and it seemed like each of us had our own attendant to help us with our bags to our room. I was in room #13, and it was a triple (the least expensive option), but it turned out that I only had 1 roommate so I felt very fortunate. Her name was Lisa and she was the retreat planner's daughter, she lived in Denver and we connected instantly. She was already there when I arrived, so she opened the door and greeted me warmly and gave me my retreat gift bag when I got to the room; it was a nice welcome. In the gift bag were several nic naks; a journal, some snacks, a mini "Four Agreements" book and a black tank top that had a faint, “I love you” printed on the front in a deep red. I loved it and it fit me perfectly. This was a great beginning to my trip.
Lisa was awesome; she was divorced and had 2 sons and worked for a construction company in Denver but had big dreams to open a dance studio for youth and was also working through leaving a man, because according to her, he was not good for her and she knew that. He’d send her text messages while he was drink, which made us get to talking about the kind of relationship we both wanted; and receiving awkward drunk texts from a grown adult was not on either of our highly desirable list. We described how we both wanted something that gave us that feeling; best described as a yes in our heart's core. Though both of us didn't really have much experience with that feeling thus far in our life other than what we'd seen in the movies, but that felt like a big part of what we were there to learn.
The primary focus of the retreat with the Toltec Shaman Don Miguel Ruiz, was how to say yes to love. And though it may seem like a very simple concept, I clearly wasn't getting love right, seeing as how I was 35 years old and newly single because I'd just said no to 90% awesome love. And that missing 10% was that feeling in my heart of knowing I was with the right person, that I’d had yet to experience and wondered if it even existed. Don Miguel Ruiz talked a lot about yes’s and no’s and how they can show up in the body as your body's responses, and the importance of listening to them. And so I began to reflect on my life and could see that a lot of my decisions were in fact responses to a feeling of yes or no, so that as encouraging. But what if my life could be more of a conscious meditation of seeing and feeling yes's and no's? I was beginning to realize and learn that I had an inner GPS that was guiding me to and away from love, and it had been in me a long time, just waiting to be recognized by me.
I wondered whether being in Costa Rica, and being so out of my element, with a group of complete strangers was helping me see a new way to think about my life? Perhaps and hopefully. And so I got more willing to lean into every aspect of this retreat and what it was here in my life to teach me. It felt like I was on a YES trip, so what sort of mini yes's were going to unfold? I'd have to be patient and find out by being fully present in my moments, and not thinking about scenarios in my life at home that needed to be fixed or changed.
And since this was a yoga retreat, that meant yoga was happening every morning, taught by an adorable couple, Patrick and Cameron who were new parents also from Denver, and they owned several yoga studios, 1 of which was a studio in Denver called Vital Yoga that I went to a few years back to seek solace when a Match.com getaway weekend had gone wrong (or right in a different way). After class, the girl at the front desk of the yoga studio asked me if I wanted to get on their mailing list, which usually would have been a no since I lived in another state, but I said yes, and 3 years later I'm on a retreat that I found out about in one of their emails. How interesting; and I was wondering if everything really was all connected and I was meant to be here for something bigger.
The general structure of the retreat was that we'd have breakfast together, a yoga class, workshop time, lunch, more workshop time, a sunset meditation and then dinner; and I was loving it. Most of the time Don Miguel was the one doing the presenting, but his son was also there, and he was talking a lot about attachments and the different types of attachment, and how they can be in the way of living a life that says yes to love. I'd never really thought of life in that manner before; of removing things such as ideas that were in the way of love, so I was intrigued. I learned about how energetic ties can keep us bound to people, places, ideas and things, so we have to have a willingness to let go of those in order to align ourselves with the course that’s intended for us.
While listening to these lessons on love and attachments, both healthy and unhealthy, I felt a pang of guilt because I knew I had a big cord to cut that was in the way of healthy love for me. And that cord was with my ex boyfriend S*** (from Day 78), whose messages would come like clockwork every 3-4 months, and thoroughly create a stir in me that disrupted whatever I was doing at the time. It’s almost like he knew I was trying to create a real relationship with my current boyfriend K****, but I still had a seed of doubt around that, so there was S*** to water that seed of doubt. Although I knew I didn’t want to be with S***, there was something alluring about his messages to me, and I wanted to disconnect from this allure and be free of it because whatever it was that he was fostering was not good for my heart. It felt like an old commitment to being with the wrong men.
On the second day of the retreat, when we were with Miguel Ruiz Jr., he took us through a cord cutting exercise, and this was my first one, so a small piece of me was rolling my eyes a little; but I went along with it. He had us visualize anything or anyone we wanted to be free of, and then we went for a walk along the beach, picked up rocks and were told to embody the rocks with the energy of who or what we wanted to release, and then with all our hearts, toss them back to the ocean. Huh? Put all my thoughts of S*** into a rock and throw it? Hmm, ok, but it seemed quite weird and hard to feel a tangible result. In a way, it was a fun game to play, but I quietly doubted it would really work, because how would I know?
Well, a little over an hour I had my answer. There it was; one of S***’s haunting emails, “Hey there...how are you...” and that “...” that used to signify the lingering confusing feelings, was gone. I was shocked to realize I didn’t feel the same draw to his words; suddenly they were just words on a page and I just smiled at them. This time, something was different. I did respond to S***, but literally from a different heart space. I felt detached from him, finally, and for the first time I asked him not to reach out to me again, and I meant it. And after I clicked send I realized the power of what I was doing and what had just happened. I’d just said yes to love by saying no to someone that wasn’t love. It was working.
In our workshop with both Don Miguel & Miguel Ruiz Jr, they continued on about why we want to say yes to love; because it’s an energetic commitment that feeds the soul, which is the center of life, right? Coming from a strong Christian background and going to church 6 days a week until I was a young teen, I hadn’t had much “soul talk” in my life. Lots of God talk, but no mention of the soul. But Don Miguel Ruiz spoke of the soul in such a fluid way that it helped me deepen my understanding of this concept and help it feel less abstract. But I still had some big questions that were personal for me, so on the third day of our workshop in the morning before we began, I asked Don Miguel if he could sit down with me for a bit after class to help me work through some ideas and apply his teachings to my everyday life. He said yes and we made a date for that afternoon at 4pm. It was Tuesday December 4th, and I remember it because it was a conversation that was going to shift the focus & direction of my life.
The day’s workshop ended and it was about 3pm. Everyone was clearing out from the presentation space, which was also the dining area that overlooked the Pacific ocean, and the tables were beginning to be rearranged back to a be the dining area, and not a bunch of chairs together in front of a slideshow. I wondered if Don Miguel would remember we had a date. But as my anxieties wanted to wander, I saw him walk around the corner and come in for a hug. He felt like a teddy bear and I loved it. He directed me with his hand to take a seat a little glass table with two chairs, and there we were eye to eye, 1 foot apart. A man whose book I first read when I was in middle school for a class assignment. He looked at my name tag and then at me straight in the eye, and asked if I wanted to say yes to love in my life. “Umm, well yeah, of course I do” I replied.
“Then you need to say yes to yourself first in your life.” And his words felt like a quote I’d have on a magnet on my fridge at home, but I was looking for the EXACT action steps to take. I told him that I’d just said no to a 90% awesome relationship and how I felt really guilty about that. I told him I felt like it was an indulgent dream to have a relationship that’s better than 90%, especially since I was 35 and single, and had often heard people say “all the good ones are taken.” At my age I didn’t hear of many women taking sabbaticals and finding emotionally available and amazing men. It seemed like women my age were finding men who were divorced, had kids, or were divorced with kids. I’m not saying that it was impossible to find a man at my age, I just didn’t have a lot of that kind of magic happening around me. But could saying yes to love and myself be the missing link? Huh. Interesting.
And so I asked Don Miguel how exactly to say yes to love, thinking and hoping there’d be a recipe or potion he’d come up with that I’d happily take, because I for the first time, felt willing and ready, even though I was just a few days out of my previous relationship.
But there was no secret. His words were simple.
“You need to say yes to you first.” He said.
And for the first time in my life, I heard words move through my entire body and settle into my soul, the place I was learning how to be with and love.
“I need to say yes to me first, but what does saying yes to me look like?”
I needed specifics.
He looked at me, leaned in closer and almost shared in a whisper as he pointed at my heart. I don’t remember exactly how he phrased his instructions, but this is what I took from it. I needed to make a list of everything I loved about myself and my life. But not only that, I needed to include what I wanted create in this life and not hold anything back. And that
“Make a list of everything you love about yourself and who you had to be told me to make a list of everything I loved about myself, my life and what I wanted to create. But the best part was that he said, “and then imagine the kind of man who would love that girl.” And THAT would be me saying yes to me in love. Whoa. Ok. I was so excited that I now had instructions, and so I returned to room #13 and curled up on my bed to make my list. And it took almost 2 hours written in the journal that was in my welcome bag for the retreat.
I wrote words, feelings and places…”connected”, “Loving”, “I feel sexy with him”, “I’m inspired”, “I heal people”, “I remember anything I need to”, “I’m funny”, “I’m abundant”, “timeless”, “my love is deep and unconditional”, “Esalen”, “real”, “dogs”, “travel”, “I’m happy”, “healthy family”, “balance”, “healthy relationships”, “I’m peaceful”, “life feels good”, “comfortable clothes”, “my relationship is inspirational”, “beautiful skin” “healthy body”, “strong”, “crazy”, “healthy food”, “hydrated” “spontaneous”, “I’m bold”, “I’m fun”, “I will volunteer at an orphanage in Africa”, “I will run healing retreats”, “I will host workshops”, “I will have a book”, “I will love myself”, “time alone”, “deep friendships”, “inspirational”
This list felt so good to write, but it also felt like I was an imposter, because a lot of this didn’t reflect my life right now. So if I imagined the kind of man who would love the expansive me in this list; he would be a fucking unicorn, and that’s exactly what I said to my roommate Lisa after looking at my list. This man would have the freedom to travel the world, this man would inspire and challenge me in all the right ways, this man would inspire softness in me while still challenging me to grow. He’d love my business sense, but would also know business isn’t everything. These were tall orders for a man, so my list was both empowering, with a tiny bit of doubt, because it felt so out of my comfort zone, and unlike the men I’d been with.And when I showed my list to my roommate Lisa that Tuesday night, and we both laughed at how seldom men like this and love like that come along.
But I followed Don Miguel Ruiz's instructions, and I congratulate myself for doing following directions, and I told Lisa I was going to go for a walk to clear my head. And as I wandered out the door of room #13, along the narrow cobble path, I just let myself follow the turns and slopes of the path, and I ended up in the lobby of Hotel Sugar Beach. It was after dinner so the lobby was quiet, but I did see a table in the corner with a lot of signs and sign up sheets, so I wandered over there. I then remembered that the next day was a free day, which meant you could sign up for an excursion such as zip lining or horseback riding, but that didn’t sound appealing to me at all. I just wanted some peace and quiet to take in all I was learning, so I decided to stay on site for a self care day. I remembered hearing there was a massage therapist who was also a chiropractor named Jim who came highly recommended, so I was curious if he’d have an opening. But as I perused the sign up sheets for all the activities and services, I saw one flyer in particular that caught my attention. It was for Chakra Balancing and energy clearing with a guy named Adam. I knew of him because earlier in the day, he and his friend were in the lobby selling crystals. But I’d been so focused on preparing for my chat with Don Miguel that I just walked through the lobby briefly, so I didn’t get to officially meet or look at Adam. But from his picture on his flyer, he looked friendly enough, and chakra balancing and energy clearing sounded like just what I needed given all I’d just been through, and so I signed up for his 11am session on our free day. Jim’s flyer was next to Adam’s, and he had a 3pm opening, and so I signed up for that too. I was going to have a free day full of yes’s. Something in me was shifting, I could feel it. I know my response to the letter from S*** was the first indication change was happening in me, but my willingness to try a chakra balancing session, I world I didn’t know much about, felt exciting and full of possibilities. That night I slept peacefully and awoke with a strange giddiness; perhaps it was my soul’s way of telling me that my world was about to change.