The day has arrived, we are hosting a backcountry Elemental Embodiment Retreat! I awake before my alarm, I have that feeling of excitement and trepidation. I have been contemplating this climb for over a year. However, I came to realize that planning, imagining, and thinking about a climb is way different than the reality of doing it. We will meet at the trailhead in Leadville, CO which is at approximately 10,000’ above sea level. We will climb to 11,600’ over a distance of 4 miles. Sounds doable right? That is what I continue to tell myself. “You can do it!” You did it a year ago with a daypack filled with 3 liters of water. You have been practicing with your backpack on, back home in the midwest, you have done it and you will do it again.
The day before as my daughter, McKenzie, and I made our final plans and checked off our lists we each pulled an angel card (simple one word cards that help to guide me in my journeys). I pull the angel of “Flexibility”. I think, “well that’s a great angel to travel with me on this adventure”. Hosting a back country retreat definitely feels like pushing myself just outside of my comfort zone. Friday morning the car is loaded, the food is divided into equally weighted bags for the nine of us to carry up the mountain. My phone pings with a text. My angel of ‘flexibility’ is on my shoulder and I read that one of the women who has committed to coming on retreat is canceling.
Feelings of disappointment are overcome by a stronger feeling of trusting in all things happening for a reason. We shake it off and jump in the car and head to the trailhead. However, this also adds an unexpected task of re-arranging the bags of food at the trailhead. Letting go of some of the quantity and re-dividing the food into eight equal bags. Details, details, details. There are many of them to keep straight when you are a co-host to a backcountry Mountain retreat.
The trek begins:
The eight of us arrive from WI, MN, CO, and proceed to meet and greet. I create a sacred circle and set the space by honoring each direction and asking for protection. We each state our name and an ‘I am” statement. I say “I am present’, McKenzie states “I am light” and we begin the trek up the side of a mountain. We review safety and security measures and discuss the importance of self-care and self responsibility as we are hiking. We will move as a group and it is okay to go as slow and steady as your body is asking you to go. Eight women ranging from age 29 to 63 years young begin our trek with our backpacks weighing 45 pounds. Sacred space has been created and now it is up to each of us to challenge our bodies to carry us up the mountain. We begin the Elemental Embodiment Retreat by embracing the element of earth.
The beginning of the climb is quite steep. I can see the parked cars from the trail and I thought “Oh my God, I don’t know if I’m going to make it, this is really hard.” The muscles in the front of my legs are working very hard to support the weight of the pack and I continue to take steps upwards. My walking stick is a help however the air is very thin. My intention to breathe through my nose and take long steady breaths feels impossible as my body pulls air through my mouth and into my compressed lungs, short labored breaths.
The inward journey has begun. One scary thought I had was, “if a bear or mountain lion would attack me now I don’t think I have an ounce of energy to protect myself. I imagine curling into a ball and surrendering.” There’s no place to go but up from here. Both in my mind and my body. I begin to slowly climb. I’m the last of the group and my inner critic kicks in….
“Wow you are the weakest link.”
“You aren’t even the oldest one here, but clearly you are the weakest one.”
“How do you think you are going to facilitate this retreat when you can’t even climb a mountain?”
I know my thoughts are powerful. I remember I can choose my thoughts in any situation.
I begin to practice my Life Coaching skills that I live and breath everyday. I remind myself “what I focus on expands”, “thoughts become things”, “I can choose to flip ‘scary what ifs’ into ‘magical what ifs’”. My focus and attention are concentrated on each breath and each step. It is time to keep my mind focused. I create my simple, grounding mantra for my trek, with each step I repeat to myself “I am, I can”. This is reassuring. I see that I am doing it and I am reassured that I can do it. I quiet the inner critic.
I recognize that I’m not the weakest link, I’m doing what I invited each participant to do, “honor your own capacity, and take care of yourself.” I’m modeling self care and self responsibility and through my slowness in pace I’m giving others permission to do the same. I slowly move up the mountain. I am surrounded by lush green woods. I remember the, “I am” statement I proclaimed at the trailhead, “I am present.” Even though my mind is in the future and I’m imagining myself at the top in the warm cabin. My daughter McKenzie reminds me of her “I am” statement, it’s a good one….”I am light.” I don’t feel one bit light; however the thought makes me imagine it and brings a smile to my face!
Thoughts that I consciously choose: I can do this, I’m strong, one step at a time, it is the journey not the destination. I recognize that when I pause and give my body a reset it is far more efficient. Oh so different from the ‘younger me’ who believed she had to push so hard to prove to others she was strong. I now see my super power and strength as using my inner guidance and asking myself what do I really need right now? My self care muscle is strong, and my inner critic is quiet. I’m doing it, this is the journey.
After four hours of focused inner strength and attention, slowly hiking upwards the cabin comes into view. Our group has become two groups. The first group arrived 40 minutes before us. They hear us coming and give us a welcoming cheer and celebration of banging spoons on pots and pans to welcome us home into our retreat cabin on the top of the mountain. Oh my heart is happy and full. I made it, now let the magic begin. Tears gently roll from my eyes. I release the scary thought of “what if I don’t make it?” into the earth. I have arrived. My body, mind and spirit are strong and I have big gratitude to my physical body for doing it with presence and grace. Let the magic of retreat continue….
I witnessed how my angel of flexibility allowed my thoughts and feelings to be fluid. I noticed how surrendering and re-directing my inner critic to better feeling thoughts fueled my nervous system with endorphins, which then gave my physical body more energy and stamina. The intention of presence, awareness, acceptance and self care fortified my journey.
What stood out for you in this story? How will you choose to practice self care in your next challenging situation? If you are ready to learn and practice new ways to bring more confidence and ease into your life, schedule a 1:1 Life Coaching discovery call.