I attended a reconnection retreat this Spring focused on reconnecting to myself, others, and the universe. Here I learned and practiced new self care rituals beyond the typical meditation for mental health. As I've shared before, the last year has been physically and emotionally difficult leading me to relearning self care. I hope you'll enjoy the following as much as I did at my retreat.
Meditations have been found to have profound benefits upon the brain, mind, and body with just 11 minutes a day of meditation for 8 weeks changing the amygdala and hippocampus of the brain thereby reducing fear and increasing emotion regulation.
The retreat day started by sharing a welcoming invitation into the space and welcoming yourself and your neighbor to be present with the idea that we are all on a pilgrimage. One's pilgrimage may differ from another's - perhaps it's a journey of self acceptance or letting go. No matter the personalization, we were on a pilgrimage in life and this brought us to letting go rituals.
Letting Go Rituals
We wrote about something we would want to let go of and then we could burn or bury it. Or perhaps, we would hold onto a small rock for the day's journey and at the end release the rock and what we had instilled it with and let go at the end of the day.
I chose to write a letter to my younger self and keep a rock that I was instilling the contents of the letter only I would keep both so that I may remind myself of what I needed to let go when I tend to forget. Also, the rocks symbolized a vault for me so I can lock away what I need to let go of inside this rock and look upon it as a reminder.
Dear Young Self,
You have endured so much trauma for such a young, tender age. Things no one should experience, especially as a child. These lessons seared into your being - flesh and soul, burned and scarred forever more. The pain so deep on the mind festering.
How were you to cope, there was no way. So you blamed others for your pain and waged war against them. Although you have forgiven most, there is still more to do. You are not free through you've tried so hard and worked so hard. The work is not done nor may never be. You are a work in progress and that is ok, that is life.
Give yourself the permission to be - to be how you are and how you want to be. You've come so far, too far to quit now. You will go so far when you let yourself be.
Life isn't all joy but it isn't all sorrow either. You can and should experience both. You need both to grow. It creates the right environment as there is no progress without lessons. Let yourself feel the pain, remember Let It Burn and the soul torture you felt and the strength it gave you. You have that in you still. Draw from it, use it. You don't always have to feel it, but remain aware and open to life.
Let yourself live and enjoy what life gives you. Do not over burden yourself. Let yourself be.
Labyrinths were introduced as a physical meditation - to purposely walk slowly to allow the mind the think. The retreat grounds had two labyrinths to walk and a hand labyrinth was allowed as an alternative. There are a variety of hand labyrinths available for download here.
I did not participate in the labyrinth exercise but it sounded like an intriguing practice I would like to participate in the future for the mental and emotional benefits of purposeful walking with contemplation.
Next was a gratitude circle with journaling prompts. There are a variety of mental health benefits for a regular gratitude practices.
First we envisioned ourselves during a visualization as our future selves. What does your future self look like, where are they and what do they share with you? How are you different?
Within the gratitude gathering circle, what are you hearing lately and how have you been responding? What do you need to hear? What gifts do you have that you can ponder upon?
Utilizing a form of GRACE as a Daily Examen,
- Gratitude - ponder what you're grateful for
- Request Oneness - seek wholeness and harmony with the universe
- Attitudes and Actions - think of your attitude and actions, do they align with a grateful heart
- Cocreate - convert or change one thing to another - negative to positive
- Enthusiasm - enthuse about your gifts, gratefulness, and life
My future self told me that I have, I need strength, courage, and appreciation. Strength and courage to make changes and go through changes of life. Appreciate people in my life, keep them in my heart now and relish, savor time with them. Do what makes me happy, find happiness in what I do. Let myself make changes if I need to in order to be happy not just safe but also happy. There is happiness in where I am and what I do but I can change to find more if I want to.
It came to me during the circle that I place a lot of pressure upon myself to do everything even when I'm told by others that I don't need to do everything. I need to give myself permission for openness to life and to balance.
Lectio Divina Meditation
We then completed a Lectio Divina exercise with the poem Finisterre. This was completed in a group by slowly reading the written work three times. The first time to identify a word that illuminated itself to yourself, the second a phrase, and a third time to journal our reflection. This practice could be done with any written work.
The road in the end taking the path the sun had taken, into the western sea, and the moon rising behind you as you stood where ground turned to ocean: no way to your future now but the way your shadow could take, walking before you across water, going where shadows go, no way to make sense of a world that wouldn't let you pass except to call an end to the way you had come, to take out each frayed letter you had brought and light their illumined corners; and to read them as they drifted on the late western light: to empty your bags; to sort this and to leave that; to promise what you needed to promise all along, and to abandon the shoes that had brought you here right at the water's edge, not because you had given up but because now you would find a different way to tread, and because, through it all, part of you would still walk on, no matter how, over the waves.
- David Whyte
For me, the word that highlighted itself upon the first reading was promise and the phrase upon the second turn was at the water's edge. And so I reflected upon this and journaled:
I am at a precipice, a turning point where I can change my course to whatever I want. I owe that to myself, to care for myself and do what would be good for me. I need to honor myself by taking care of myself.
Metta Meditation and Sound Healing
We completed the retreat with a guided Metta Meditation and Sound Healing. We were guided through the following loving kindness meditation to help replenish ourselves so that way me then replenish others. During this, we thought of those important in our lives who drew support and love from and who we wished to send support and love to as well.