Self-Discovery at a Yoga Retreat

There’s something special about the change from one year to another—something more than just the chance to drink or dance. Most people find themselves reflecting on their lives over the past 365 days and projecting new ideas and goals for the coming months.

As I look back over 2008, I’m thankful for the many writing assignments I’ve had that allowed me to explore new ideas—most applicable to my own life. One that stands out in my mind is my article about life-visioning retreats, called “Journey to Self-Discovery,” http://www.experiencelifemag.com/issues/january-february-2009/whole-life/journey-to-self-discovery.html which is in the January/February issue of Experience Life magazine.

What is life-visioning? It’s something many of us are doing at this time of year: dreaming about what the future will bring. As I learned while researching this article, it helps you to accomplish your goal(s) if you dedicate some focused time for self-exploration.

Having a week or a weekend—ideally at a retreat center or a place where you can be alone and in proximity to the healing power of nature—can help you firm up your intentions, set concrete goals, and visualize yourself achieving the goal. It’s also helpful to set aside some time to plan small, doable steps you can take toward your goal—and to write those steps in your calendar so that you have deadlines.

Does it work? I think I surprised even myself.

Contemplation at Shoshoni Yoga Retreat

Last July when I was writing my life-visioning article, I decided I should test the methods I was researching, so I visited a beautiful mountain retreat center just an hour’s drive from Boulder, Colorado: Shoshoni Yoga Retreat.http://www.shoshoni.org/ Frankly, I was petrified to do all the jumping through hoops that I thought I needed to do in order to create my own life-changing getaway.

At Shoshoni, I stayed in a cute cabin (without electricity) in the woods, attended yoga and meditation sessions, hiked a trail to the Buddha Rocks, and dined on fabulous vegetarian Indian food. I was having a great, relaxing time, but by nightfall I had barely started my collage project. I was supposed to be making a picture of my ideal life by following the steps outlined in Visioning by Lucia Capacchione, PhD, ATR (Tarcher/Putnam, 2000).

So there I was with moths dive-bombing my headlamp as I hunched over my collage at midnight, but by then I’d become so intent on cutting out pictures and arranging them on the poster board that I barely noticed the insects.

The moths inspired me to paste a giant pair of butterfly wings behind a photo of a young woman wearing a dress of flowers. Earlier, in the meditation temple, I was impressed by the intricately carved Hindu elephant god, Ganesh, the remover of obstacles. His picture went in my collage too. (I needed all the help I can get to eliminate my personal roadblocks.)

By morning’s light, I could see that my collage was filled with images of dancing women and pens, typewriters, hieroglyphics, calligraphy (because I’m a writer). A boat’s sails billow with exotic locations I plan to visit. Shells unfurl their spiraled chambers; doors stand ajar with possibility. The words “magic,” “adventure” and “fearlessness” leap out.

As it happened, my collage lit a fire in me. Shortly after my mini-retreat, I asked my dear, creative friend, Ann Kontak, to design my website. And then we manifested that website together.

Shortly after that, I launched this blog. And, right now I’m serving as interim Production Editor for the Sounds True, an audio and book publishing company that focuses on spiritual and self-help titles. The permanent editor will be back in February from her maternity leave, and it’s a real thrill to be working on book manuscripts.

So much personal and professional growth¾all directly traceable to a simple (?!?) collage.

Big Dreams

In these tougher economic times, you might be tempted to forego the dreaming and stick to “realistic” plans for your life. (Yes, out of fear, I could easily succumb to that line of thought myself.)

However, I urge everyone—myself included—to dare to dream. If you don’t have the money to go to a fancy retreat center, create a reflective, meditative environment in your home and do it yourself. (I have some suggestions in my Experience Life article for do-it-yourself retreats too).

Make a collage, draw a picture, meditate, answer life questions, explore new possibilities. (I highly recommend Your Heart’s Desire by Sonia Choquette http://www.soniachoquette.com/ and Visioning: 10 Steps to Designing the Life of Your Dreams by Lucia Capacchione, http://www.luciac.com/ Ph.D.

So, as the first day of 2009 approaches, I’m dreaming of even more change—and I’m envisioning how my life can be for the next 12 months.

What wonderful things are in store for you?

—Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor