A Contemplative Path To Health and Well-Being: Immersion Program Reflection
By Emma Gonzalez
Have you ever been presented with something that you didn’t think you needed but then realized it was exactly what you needed? This is what I keep thinking about in my attempts to conceptualize my experience at Alive and Well Women’s Immersion Program Retreat: A Contemplative Path to Health and Well-being.
This path of deep reflection, contemplation, and awareness, has taught me more about self love than I could have ever anticipated. When I first began volunteering as a member of the Alive and Well Women social media team, I was excited and eager to spread the word that as women we should all have the opportunity to empower and embody in love. But, I knew little about what this looked liked for me personally. During the retreat, I kept wondering how I received the opportunity to be in a room surrounded by so many incredible women who were willing to be vulnerable about their life experiences and at the same time desired to listen to mine. As our first day together progressed, I became aware of something that helped me define this sacred space: I can simply be myself. This was both a spoken and unspoken realization we all slowly began to embrace. This space was not asking us to put on any type of mask in order to fit in but instead invited us to take off every mask in order to be fully seen and listened to.
As for my own life, I have experienced various moves between both Mexico and the United States. At a young age I learned that in order to survive I needed to master the skill of “code-switching”. This often becomes a very familiar term for those of us who identify as bicultural. I realized that if I emphasized the part of myself that identified most with the specific cultural context I was in, I was more likely to fit in and make friends. Though code-switching can be very helpful it can also be exhausting and often cause one to ask the question, so who am I really? Each moment compels me to further identify when I am truly being myself and when I am being who I think I need to be. So, when I came to realize that Alive and Well Women was asking me to simply be who I am, I knew this was exactly where I needed to be. Of course, this was only the beginning.
What happened next I definitely could not have predicted. As a college student I am constantly surrounded by amazing women who encourage me to feel empowered but I cannot say I have ever had anyone encourage me to feel “embodied”. Little did I know that this act of embodiment is fundamentally both empowering and an act of self love. During the retreat we were invited to practice embodiment by slowly becoming aware of our bodies through practices like meditation, dance, and self-reflection. Though it may sound like a simple task I have come to learn that it is an act of courage.
We may know that our bodies are awesome. With them we can do so many marvelous things. And they can show us that we are capable of more than our minds allow us to believe. What can be more difficult to admit is that our bodies are also fragile. There are many activities that our bodies can’t do or don’t feel comfortable doing. It is always easier for me to praise my body when I think it is doing well and ignore it when it is not helping me accomplish my goals. I found that practicing awareness of my body is difficult and even scary at times but it is also an act of self love.
I now think of embodiment as a way of strengthening my relationship with my body. I can ask my body to do things and it will listen. But my body also tells me to do things and I too need to listen to my body also. If the relationship is one sided then someone ends up feeling unloved, uncared-for, and exhausted. If the relationship is mutual then both sides grow stronger individually and collectively. As I began to listen intently to my body I feared it would be angry and upset with me for not listening in the past, but instead it was gentle, kind, and understanding. I realized that my body was not fighting against me but along side me. Through every difficult move and traumatic loss I experienced, my body was always there with me. It listened when I felt misunderstood and it validated the emotional pain I didn’t feel comfortable sharing.
I couldn’t be more thankful for this Alive and Well Women retreat and the tools it has equipped me with to better learn how to love myself. I am learning that a contemplative path to health and well being asks that you be courageous and brave as well as reflective and accepting in order to fully embrace self love and love of others. It is both a process of fully letting go yet also leaning into and walking toward a complete love that was always there.
Emma Gonzalez has been a student at Azusa Pacific University since 2014 where she is studying Psychology and plans to double minor in Religious Studies and Biblical Studies. She is passionate about cultural and religious diversity and their relationship to the study of human behavior. She enjoys spending her free time growing in her relationships with friends and family. Her current pastimes include biking, exploring the outdoors, meditating, working on art projects, and traveling. Her love for working with school-aged girls begun when she had the opportunity to coach a running team of young girls through a non-profit named Girls On The Run. Now and in her future endeavors, Emma hopes to continue empowering women of all ages in love and cultivating a more holistic understanding of people and belief.