[[ NOTE: How I wish I’d composed this entry the same day I returned from the retreat, which was the original plan. Obviously that didn’t happen. Consumed by depression, my current feelings stand in stark contrast to the way I felt then. Maintaining a sense of chronological order necessitates this post before any others. Trying to revisit the metaphorical Cloud 9 of that weekend feels bizarre. I hate that my emotions no longer coincide with my words, trying to revisit that mindset proves difficult. ]]
Mindfulness of the Soul [referred to as MOTS or the remainder of this post] transported me to a faraway realm. Though the return drive from my house took less than ten minutes, I felt worlds away from the oasis that was MOTS, I could have added another week to my stay, easy. Yanking me out of this Zen-like reverie only to be thrust back into the ‘real world’– teeming with stress and problems I’d managed to forget over the weekend– seemed inhumane. Leaving my reverie to abruptly be thrown back into the chaos outside of the cocoon wasn’t something I was equipped to do. In fact, it was only a few hours post-MOTS where the harsh slap of reality reminded me I was no longer in paradise. Sigh.
I cannot speak highly enough of the St. Columba facility and its staff, who were kind enough to host our group for the third year in row. St. Columba makes every effort to recycle on their premises– an endeavor very much appreciated by our eco-conscious bunch– and the homecooked meals were vegetarian friendly. Every employee we encountered was so friendly and welcoming. Imagine my delight when I found out they offered an affordable summer camp option!
Their grounds are breathtakingly beautiful and offer multiple trails and ample space to just…be…outdoors. Chrysti Hogan [one of the first friends whom I had the pleasure of meeting at Neshoba] generously permitted the use of the photos she took on our nature walk. Initially I felt upset and somewhat panicked without my phone. By the end of the weekend I saw it as an asset. Any missed photo opportunities I can relive through viewing our MOTS page on Facebook and I spent my retreat unplugged– the perfect antidote to life’s stressors.
P.S. Be Funky is my new best friend. It’s a free site that allows you to edit photos and create collages [much like those nifty apps on your smart phone] on the computer.
Glimpsing at our Saturday itinerary it’s easy to see that we’re not you’re typical group of women. Most of us come from Neshoba Unitarian Universalist Church— which isn’t your typical church– but that’s certainly not a requirement. There is a definite Pagan influence felt throughout MOTS and several of our ladies walk that path. Buddhist tenets occur as well. Ours is a welcoming and inclusive group. We embrace the bond between women and celebrate sisterhood. While I do not proselytize, I can barely contain my enthusiasm regarding MOTS and Neshoba and will gladly discuss them if inquiring minds want to know.
One of the most appealing aspects of the retreat was the freedom of choice [see what I did there?]. Although there were regularly scheduled events participation was not mandatory. The Mamma Mia singalong wasn’t my cup of tea so I used that time for meditation instead. And I inadvertently journaled my way right through the Flower Crown craft but apparently I needed to write. Being able to follow your intuition when it comes to exploration ensures everyone can get what they need from MOTS. Participate in a structured activity or take a nap– whatever feels right at the time. But be sure to set an alarm clock if something really suits your fancy. Or you just might be wandering around the nature trails during the Coming of Age ceremony for the youth. True story.
I assembled this photo to display the rocks I collected on my various excursions juxtaposed with some of the crafting materials I took home with me. No sooner than the smell of hot glue guns wafted through the air and glitter covered my hands did I get hit with a wave of nostalgia. Childhood memories of the arts and crafts cabin at Camp Ozark flooded my brain. Collages and creative visual expression have always appealed to me. I have no talent whatsoever in terms of drawing or painting but making things has always been an outlet for me. An instance in California reminds me of the power of crafting: Kelly Castle and I [without a dollar to our names, mind you] wandered through Michael’s for over an hour, transfixed. We excitedly discussed how we would spend our non-existent money, with particular attention to molding soap, making candles, and decoupage. The fact that I could wander into a craft room at MOTS was cathartic. I owe it to ME to treat myself to some crafting activities when the funds accumulate.
“Raising Your Vibration – Shifting Your Consciousnesses through Sound” was the official title for Saturday night’s experience. Facilitated by the enchanting Madra Little, she came bearing bowls. Not just any bowls but giant crystal ones, emitting various tones and causing vibrations. WOW. W-O-W. I rank this experience in the same realm as that of the satsang I experienced in New York. Five years ago at Grace House a wonderful lady came with a few of her crystal bowls for a demonstration. Just from that Crystal Bowl 101 crash course I realized this was a powerful tool. Sound meditation rockets me to another dimension. Giving me the ability to transcend and go elsewhere, my soul felt invigorated yet relaxed, purged yet filled….my words are futile. It is no coincidence that as our session was coming to a close an intense thunderstorm was just getting started. As our group was winding down, fierce flashes of lightning and resounding thunder filled the air. Yet another example of how in tune we are with nature.
Within the first few minutes of returning home I located her website, Cranial Visions. I realize to the skeptic these sort of concepts my sound a little ‘hocus pocus.’ Trust me, I get it. Once upon a time I was that person. I did not view my peers with derision or laugh at them behind their backs– I just thought they were drinking some intergalactic Kool-Aid that didn’t much affect me. Oh, how times have changed! Now I consider myself to be one of the enlightened ones. I am a spiritual being who is capable of engaging with Spirit, plugging into the Universe, and finding the Goddess within. Yes I just went there. All I ask is for you to approach an experience like this with an open heart and open mind. You just might be surprised with the results.
Let’s take a moment to discuss the phenomenon that is Chelsea Orland. I first met her at Neshoba when she was a couple of years into the teenage experience. Seeing as how her dad is our church’s Musical Director, the pleasant sounds of her family singing constantly fill our church. Though hers seem to be filling a little less these days seeing as how she just PASSED THE BAR!! I look forward to seeing how this new platform will enable her to continue making our world a more progressive, unified, and just place. She’s a trailblazer. Had my life not…taken a certain deviation…she is very much the type of young woman whose path I would emulate [minus the music] and whose personality, creativity, intelligence, empathy, and hard work will take her places.
But I digress. Watching her perform for us Friday night– singing both covers and original material and even playing her ukele!– reminded me just how talented she is musically. Much of her focus lately has been finishing law school and taking the bar [understandable] so that’s the side of Chelsea I’ve been witnessing, not the powerhouse performer. I must add that she makes an incredible roommate! She’s a fantastic, non-judgmental listener [which probably means I was talking too much] and I felt comfortable opening up to her. Furthermore, she earned the distinction of being one of a select handful of individuals who know the entire, unabridged edition of “How Sloane and Allen Met, Their First Date, and Eventual Courtship.” 😂
Sunday morning I spent some quality solo time in the Red Tent followed by one of the best massages I’ve ever had in my life. Does anyone know the name of that massuese?! I most definitely will include her and Madra in my future budget. Endless thanks to all who took part in planning MOTS. My way of paying it forward is to involve myself with 2020. I cannot wait!
With infinite love, gratitude, and respect,