Alarm rings and on autopilot, the hamster wheel of to-do’s begins to cycle through. Laundry, dishes from last night, dogs need exercise, baby needs another 4 oz of milk to make it through the day without me, car needs to get packed, need to print registration list. Big stretch, body muscles wake up, the day begins at dawn with the feeding, chirping chorus. The morning flies by completing what I can before I need to get out the door. Fill water bottle, find keys, glance at the clock... shoot, it's already 7:30a and I need to be in woods of Verona by 8:00a from the far east side. Slipping on shoes, "I can tie them in the parking lot."
Hitting stop light after stop light, I'm finally to the countryside, taking in music that helps me ground into the present moment. Oak savannas open into farm fields that are feeding grounds to a few sandhill cranes. A hawk is being chased out into the open sky by crows and circles back over the car. "Today will be just as it needs to be."
Pulling into the daylot, car is parked, boots meet the gravel, lungs inhale. Immediately I feel relieved and connected. This place feels sacred. Woods feel sacred to me. Its colors send a relaxing response to my body to calm down. The fresh air fills me up and I breathe deeper. My brain shifts from hamster wheel to gratitude. Mood is lifted, brain is centered and the creativity of the day can now download. I am in the present moment interacting with my landscape purposefully, questioning the flow of the day's retreat.
I write my intentions for my own purpose on a polyspot to share with the group when they arrive.
Arrival of Guests
Guest arrive mostly one by one, checking in, finishing last minute housekeeping procedures and then receiving the invitation to create their own intention with pieces of nature. The goal: no one needs to arrive and make small talk unless they want to. Take some moments to ground into the space, connect with the outer landscape and find alignment in intention-making. Press pause to remember why you are here, instead of being swept about by a quick beginning.
Why are you here? Why am I here? Why did our paths cross and stories weave together today? What might we get out of today? What are people looking forward to most? All of it? One specific modality? A few of them? What might surprise them after listening to their compelling why's this morning? Introductions are the roots beneath the soil to what makes a retreat successful. We need to know where you've been, where you are now and where you want to be so that our conversations are tailored to your own personal growth, and the growth of the group. Activities & invitations often change after this portion of the day unfolds.
Movement & Breath
Whether we begin with forest bathing, yoga, light stretching, a game, tai chi or qi gong practices- movement and breath always follow introductions. It's time to activate, play and feel alive in our bodies. It's time to breathe deeply & honor the source that lives within us - the life force energy that flows in and out of our lungs. Often this is when participants start to livin' up, joke around, offer more smiles and look relaxed.
Part of every retreat Hike and Heal Wellness programs, forest bathing is our core practice. Sometimes we begin here, sometimes we end here - depends on the group, weather and other parts of the agenda. The group learns about the history of forest bathing, it's benefits as well as the many health benefits we receive by just being outside in nature for 3-4 hours. Often I notice gratitude here in body language as well as curiosity, surprise and interest. When we begin the practice, we start with an opening of the senses - the more than five basic senses. By the time we are done and talking about how it all went, people are talking in slow motion. The pace has set in and people are ready for what's next. Invitations to move - invitations to be still - invitations to play - invitations to create - invitations to explore - invitations to go within & ponder - invitations to search on the outside and on the inside - a reflection of both. What happens next depends completely on the trails, people, conditions, weather and season. Forest bathing is a remembering of yourself - your basic sense of self and your connection to her/him/they. It's a continuation of relationship building with the land from when you last left off. It's a remembering of what the earth gives us without much effort - in any given moment. The winds, the waters, the low-lying plants, the wingeds, the invisible, the big and the small. We notice it all. We appreciate it all. We play with it all. By the end, the group is all ready for a nap - in the most serious sense - the body now needs to rest. So often, we follow forest bathing with some food and then Sound Healing.
A cellular detox nap of beautiful, relaxing sounds. Snoring is a compliment to the musicians. The science is real - sound healing relaligns our cells to a higher vibration and brings our brainwaves to the theta or delta state where we do our best healing. It's a short cut to meditation that can have profound impacts on people's physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies. We guide you into it and guide you out. It's the easiest part of the day - you just get to close your eyes and go where you need to go. Often people will say they saw colors and were not sure where they went. They also can't believe it's 45-60 minutes long because it feels like 15 minutes. There's a transformation in just resting and it's usually the part of the retreat that people are most pleasantly surprised with.
This is a new addition to wellness modalities, as I am still learning from mentor Vince Aiello. People usually think forest bathing will include foraging and learning about plants, but forest bathing is not about that at all. There may be a little learning about some specific medicinal benefits from ingesting certain plants I gather in the background during the forest bathing walk, but other than that I leave it to relationship building and sensory exploration. Foraging is a separate practice all on its own, as it should be. Foraging is fun, relaxing and exciting all at the same time. On the October 16th retreat, Vince will be the guide, and he is as witty as he is intelligent. You will learn more plants in an hour than you can remember. He will ignite your passion for plants, their healing properties and encourage you to continue to learn.
On most of the Hike and Heal Retreats I offer or sponsor, you'll find a yoga class or two. I normally hire other yoga instructors to collaborate on this portion of the retreat because I feel like I don't practice yoga enough in my daily life to teach others. I am capable and certified, but it's not my passion. If I do teach a class, it's often community-based and playful as I am a K-2 teacher at heart & by trade. Whoever the teacher is - I make sure they teach to any body. Whether you're a novice, expert or somewhere in the middle - it's important to me that your body feel good after practicing yoga. These classes offered on retreats are not power flows requiring a significant amount of upper arm strength, balance or coordination - the classes offered are grounded, restorative & possible for any person to do. In fact, surveying the group before the retreat about their yoga experience is always part of the behind the scenes work. That way we know how to tailor the class to all.
Smiles. Laughter. Gratitude. Storytelling. It's all there an more. What is next? We spend some time talking about what stood out to each person most and where they may go with some of these practices next. What shift was made, and what did you learn about yourself? What surprised you? What grabbed your attention? Who did you bond with? What did your intuition convey to you today? Closing circle is organic and never fully planned. This is a spontaneous coming together of minds based on the amount of time we have left. I find it hard to end a retreat on time. No one wants to leave, unless they have a prior arrangement already scheduled. People linger and continue to tell stories and ask questions. They exchange numbers and hope to meet up with fellow retreat guests in the future. It's a bittersweet moment knowing you just shared such a vulnerable part of yourself with strangers who really feel like a chosen type of family - to say goodbye or see you again soon. Eventually, things get packed up and people head to their cars carrying their own belongings and offering to help with some of ours.
Gitty. Tired. Relaxed. Me and whomever I am working with debrief the day as we pack up and share our favorite moments with one another. We pack and haul, pack and haul until everything is back into our vehicles like it was when we began the day and had first arrived. Huge, long hugs of thankfulness. It is such an honor to create these experiences, and even more so when I can share them with another person to see it all. With all of the coordination, organization and prep leading up to the retreat, setting up the day of, programming and then packing up to once again follow up with the group - it always feels like a big chapter being completed in a book. Gratitude and exhaustion frolic together as I take a few last deep breaths in the familiar, sacred woods to travel home to family whom I miss dearly. I always feel excited to go home because I also feel restored and ready to give back to them. Driving, music on, snacks and water on hand, smiles abound. It's time to move beyond what was and live in the present moment.
A weekend focused on learning the art of forest bathing for life-long benefits with a combination of restorative practices to aid in the alignment of the body, mind and spirit. Sound healing, foraging, forest bathing, yoga & gourmet meals! Camping is optional, as is a day 2 experience. Three immersion choices available to accommodate time, budgets and interest. Click the register now button above to learn more!
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Hi, Moira here. When I'm not playing with my dogs, listening to music, enjoying nature or being with my friends/family, I'm probably writing. Read these blogs for wellness opportunities we offer at Hike & Heal, ones I know that are awesome or just some tidbits about living a healthier life.