Every woman can ask herself:
am I being called to a retreat or to a reclamation?
(Sacred Expression Women's Retreat, photo by Tamia Hurtado)
Maybe there should be a word for it. That moment when you feel utterly called to a yoga retreat. It's often an impulse, an invisible escape button that is begging for you to push it. Something tells you, it's time. It's necessary. Your heart's crying out for it.
What often compels a woman to a yoga retreat is a deep down visceral sense of needing to step away, to withdraw, to find a space where she can connect with her own center, hear her own voice and discern her own truths.
Intuition. There's the word.
Whenever a woman is called to step away so she can reconnect with her center, she is also hailed by a complementary energetic force. She's also called to step in.
What calls her?
There is something in a woman’s life that needs her more than anything or anyone ever will.
There is something waiting to be filled by her, that can only ever be filled by her, which holds out with a patient and loving fury and whispers, “stand in me.”
How often is a retreat also a woman's bid for a reclamation of her own footsteps?
I've met many women who, like me, have the vague sense that they are holding back from fully claiming their voice, their life, their steps. Far too often, there’s just not enough of us in our footsteps—we are adept at finding crafty ways to shrink away from them:
We sign a contract with self-limitation: I will not take up space.
We make a pact against expressing our nature: My voice isn’t worth sharing.
We develop habits that sabotage our heart’s desires: I’ll keep too busy to paint.
We accept a bargain that folds us somehow: I’ll slave for external approval.
We apologize for our presence: “I just wanted to ask…”
We play small: I got lucky. There weren’t really that many entries.
Behind our own backs, we find that we too often conspire with self-rejection. Reclaiming our footsteps takes the courage to admit we’ve shied away from them. It takes acknowledging that our footsteps need us and nobody else will fill them.
When we recognize that hidden within the urge to step away is sometimes also the call to step into ourselves more fully, then we are given an amazing opportunity for courage.
We can listen to our hearts and recognize the ways in which we are spending our precious energy on holding ourselves back. We can allow ourselves to admit our habits of self-denial and self-rejection. We can see that we are not alone – that these are collective skins we are all called to shed and outgrow.
We can re-channel the energy we’ve tied up in resisting our lives back into living them. We can let more of us show up, where we most ache to be present to ourselves and others. We can dare to step in:
We can sign a bold contract with self-trust and self-empowerment.
We can make a brave pact to express our nature.
We can develop habits that nurture and foster our heart’s desires.
We can strike a daring bargain (with anything) that opens and nourishes us.
We can throw away our inner apologies.
We can honor the beauty of our own presence.
Every woman can ask herself: am I being called to a retreat or to a reclamation? The most powerful thing about stepping away is often the opportunity it gives us to step back into ourselves.
(Adapted from an elephant journal article for Book Yoga Retreats.)