Awaken: Self-Care Retreat
By Kristy Reyes
Last Saturday, I had the opportunity of attending Alive and Well Women’s “Awaken: Self-Care Retreat.” Recently, I have been volunteering on the social media team. This was only the second event I had been to so I did not carry many expectations, only high hopes.
The last few weeks have been very difficult. I have always been an independent person. One of those kids in high school that couldn’t wait to get out of the house because I was stuck and oh so misunderstood. In college, it has been no different. I spent the last year and a half hopping around from place to place, never staying anywhere longer than four months. In total this last year, I think I lived in my childhood home for no more than three months collectively, only returning on short breaks. My Spring semester of my first year of college I lived in the High Sierra mountains near Yosemite, with a study away program offered by the university I attend. After that, I worked at a summer camp located right on Lake Tahoe, helping to lead a kid’s day camp with a supportive and lively team. In the Fall of 2017, I decided to return to the High Sierras for another year of studying the Humanities in one of the most breathtaking places the world has to offer (yes, I milked this study away opportunity as much as I could). I know, Yosemite and Lake Tahoe, not bad places to call home for nine months out of the year. But after the fall semester was over, it was time to return to Azusa. With high hopes, I packed away my hiking boots and golden memories, and headed down the mountain, both literally and figuratively.
To make a long story short, the transition back into a city life has been painful. The life of communal contemplation, liberation and beauty has been disrupted. But unlike before, I find myself dearly missing my family and home. I have gone to visit about four times, which is more than I have since the beginning of college. It was something about realizing the importance of knowing what people I come from, the inexpressible comfort that I am known somewhere, even if my place changes.
Then about a month ago, my grandmother died of a heart attack, unexpectedly. I have been swearing for years now that she was one of my soulmates, a best friend in grandmotherly form, and the loss cut deep. The process of grief has been new to me, this is the first death of someone dear to me that I have experienced.
To say the least, this self-care retreat was needed. The week prior, I pulled myself together and got everything done so I could set aside that time for reflection and rejuvenation. The retreat was more than I hoped for.
Fifteen women gathered their emotions, strengths and concerns on a sunny Saturday to the tune of a breeze and birds tweeting in the trees. We brought them to this group with hopes that they would be safe to explore there, to lay aside and to work through. The morning was spent sharing why we had come. Though women at different stages of life, we shared a need for rest and a place where our lives didn’t need to make sense, where we would be allowed to exist as we are and find Love amidst the process.
The day was spent meditating, eating nourishing food, conversing, practicing yoga, crying, conversing some more, doing facials and self-massages and laughing. I could spend more time describing the facts of what we did, but I don’t think that would do justice to the space we created. The rest was external so it could be internal, the self-care was outward so it could be inward. There is something about doing this communally which binds you together and reminds you that you’re not alone. To hear the words of inner wisdom from women who have seen and done more than I, confirmed that we are all humans, who share the need for Love, who seek for peace and vitality for our lives.
I came upon a lot of self-discovery on this retreat. During a time of meditation, I could no longer find the line between my own inner voice and the voice of God or Love. I think that is the point. When we are most in tune with the deep parts of ourself, that is where God speaks. Not that Love can’t speak to us elsewhere, but the voices become one, easier to hear and easier to trust. I came away with some new understanding, that maybe God is a God of process. It doesn’t always have to be about the end result. In fact, I believe if I had used the retreat as a box to check off on my way to healing I wouldn’t have gone anywhere at all. But instead, we invited Love to be in the middle of the messiness. I don’t just believe it can also be found there, I believe that it can sometimes be found there because it is messy and without the pressure of perfection. That kind of safe space is difficult to facilitate, it isn’t something to be forced. And yet, among these fifteen women, with the guidance of Cissy and her team, the structure that was created for us made it seem effortless and without judgment.
I didn’t come away with all the answers to my internal questions. But I did experience the embrace of communal retreat and self-care. I came away with peace, better seeing that Love lives in the process and maybe that Love will give me the strength to dance in the valley.
Kristy Reyes is a student at Azusa Pacific University, studying English Literature and Humanities. She has a growing passion for the intersection of women’s liberation, beauty, spiritually and literature. She has worked as a tutor, choreographer, camp counselor and substitute teacher, which she hopes will help prepare her for work in high school education some day. When she’s not in the classroom, she is finding ways of experiencing Love and the beauty of the world through writing prose and poetry. As a current student and in her future teaching career, she desires to be an advocate for young women to explore their identities and the world through the empowerment of knowledge and Love.