I felt a bit sick when I first arrived at the retreat center. I had slept 9 hours the night before but it wasn’t enough to make up for the sleepless nights leading up. The 19 hour time difference, combined with the 90-degree heat and high humidity would have made anyone feel ill, but I knew my anxiety was flaring up as well. I arrived and checked in and headed upstairs to meet the 30 strangers I would be living with for the next 5 days. These women and I would walk a path of exploration and healing together. We would share our children’s stories and our own fears and joys.
One of my biggest anxieties centered around the focus on healing and energy. Crystals and messages from the universe have never resonated with me and I worried that I would be stuck halfway around the world with a bunch of hippies dancing around with crystals and singing mantras. I worried about feeling uncomfortable, but I also worried that my negative reaction would ruin someone else’s experience. I did not want my skepticism to make anyone feel badly if they found meaning in something that I didn’t. I decided that I was going to do my best to be open to whatever situations I found myself in. I don’t need to actually believe that I am growing roots out of my spine and wrapping around the core of Mother Earth in order to still be comforted by the idea of support. Crystals may resonate with me or they may not, but either way they are a beautiful reminder of this amazing experience I get to have.
Even with the change in attitude I was nervous. It can be scary and exhausting enough to spend intensive time talking about our dead children with people we know well- it is terrifying to do it halfway around the world with strangers, so far away from my family and with limited options for reaching out to my loved ones for support.
The first morning of yoga was beautiful. All the women arranged their mats in a circle around the table full of candles representing our babies. The doors were open to the morning air. The sky was blue and we could see the mountains in the distance, past the lush greenery. The yoga instructor took us through a gentle practice, encouraging us to care for ourselves and relax. She invited us to join her in three “Ohms” before she sang a healing mantra. I sat on my mat with my eyes closed and tears streaming down my face. I did not necessarily feel that I was being surrounded by healing that came from any external source, but the signing was beautiful and echoed around the room- almost harmonizing with itself. The knowledge that we had all chosen to leave our families and lives behind to travel to this beautiful area and make time and space to honor our grief and ourselves- it was almost overwhelming how sacred it felt.
I had spent the past couple months preparing myself the best I could. I bought a new camera and yoga gear. I packed two weeks early so I could be sure I had everything. I considered getting a mani/pedi and an eyebrow wax so I wouldn’t feel frumpy. I think I knew that none of this mattered but it was the only thing I could control. I understand now that all my efforts to have all the right things were really just a manifestation of my fear of not fitting in, not finding the community I was hoping for. The reality is that nobody cares what my yoga pants look like (well, that’s not entirely true- I was complimented on them today) or if my hair is frizzy. We are all just looking for a tribe of women to hold us and our stories, to listen with compassion when we talk about the worst things that have ever happened to us. I think we have found it. I look forward to seeing what the next few days bring.