Muscle Memory: our innate and unique wisdom in group..

(..remembering our group time in Nicaragua, our quiet time, our physical unraveling and our emotional strength. Lots of love to you who were there… the following is a glimpse into what ‘group time’ and 'group memory' entails..)

When I am asked how a retreat or training went, I stumble and fumble over all my thoughts and ideas. I instantly am lost in a fog of memory, love, longing and bittersweet emotion for the times shared with many different groups.

Let me elaborate a little on the inherent power of congregation. By this I absolutely mean the strength, intensity, intimacy, and unspeakable forces that arise when we come together in group settings.  Moreover, being in group for more than a day or two cannot easily be compared to a yoga class one attends in a studio setting at the end of a workday. Yes, there may be a similar type of release, a similar connection made to the body and a similar gratitude towards the unseen and the indescribable.   But what occurs when we congregate, when we commit, when we step away from the familiar routine and expose ourselves to strangers (which may even be our own selves), is so magical, that I get stuck on how to accurately convey it to others upon returning home.  There is power in what unfolds, in how we embrace ourselves through every step every day, in how we support and respect others in the group, in how we can grow and change in such a short period of time.

When we meet in a group setting we make agreements, we set boundaries and what happens in the container of safety remains in our muscle memory for decades even if we can’t find the words to express it. In Nicaragua last month, we created as a group, we grew as a group and when the group dispersed there was an emptiness, met with overwhelming thoughts and the need for ample processing time.  So who am I to convey all of this to others who are excited to hear the stories of what happens on retreat?  For me, I cannot begin to talk about it until many weeks afterward. For me, it's hard to share without consulting the group first….

I look back already with such sweet tenderness towards all that we experienced. However, retreats are not only for the spiritually enlightened nor should you expect to get totally emotionally rocked while on a retreat. But if you come with a question, if you come amidst turmoil in your life, if you come having never really paused for yourself (or tried 7 days in a row of yoga) before, then I know what will ensue. And I know it is beautiful and powerful and challenging and confusing.  No matter what setting or country you find yourself in. And I know that my recollections below barely scrape the surface of our group memories...

This time around, in Nicaragua, our group naturally shared laughs to the max. There was a beautiful balance of individual time in hammocks, jogging on the beach, and resting combined with gathering for breezy yoga classes and for healing moments of laughter.  We were in a country where Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston are still at the top of the charts.  We lay in tidal pools on the edge of the universe. We played in the waves and swam with phosphorescents by night. We aided each other through yoga poses, through bedrooms critters, through tummy rumblings.  We supported each individual in the group by giving space, by quiet journaling, by unconditional acceptance.  We complained about and compared our rashes, bug bites, sunburns. We sighed in unison whenever anyone mentioned “yin yoga”.  We laughed in awe at the volcano boarding (and volcano bailing) captured on an IPhone. We supported the local artisan community by having thread weaved through our hair (aka rat tails).  We braved a thunderous storm atop a mountain and screamed like toddlers at the flying cockroaches who were drawn to our phone lights everytime the power cut out.  We realized that finding the Boom (surf break) on an afternoon outing wasn’t the point after repeatedly getting lost once we stumbled upon an ideallic rocky jetty for sunset gazing, photo ops and a lifelong group joke of searching for the Boom.

I consider myself as much a student in any group wherever possible. I journal and spend time in deep reflections throughout retreat. My inner turmoils surface about whether I am good enough, where my path is headed, whether I am present enough and joyful enough. The learning never ends if you are open to it. I am forever learning about how to contribute to a group, how to be independent in a group and how to lead a group. My instincts have quite simply pointed me to this path: the long road of growth and self-improvement is now my career.  I leave every group silently praying that we can all follow what fulfills us and share it with others. I hope that we can learn to trust our inner wisdom. Thank you for showing up, for being you and for letting me be me. 

I will complete my reflections with something I reminded the group in our final sharing circle on our final day – take all the time you need to process what unfolded during this journey, don’t rush to share what happened. In our group the healing may continue long after we have gone separate ways. We have so many memories in our skin and bones.  Take moments to listen, and feel all the memories within: of the salty ocean, humming waves, salty tears, quiet breaths. Trust that our week as a group in Nicaragua created much space for healing, ahas and lightheartedness and none of it will ever be forgotten within the wisdom of our bodies.

“The body is a living record of life given, life taken, life hoped for, life healed. It is valued for its articulate ability to register immediate reaction, to feel profoundly, to sense ahead.  The body is a multi lingual being. It speaks through its color and its temperature, the flush of recognition, the glow of love, the ash of pain, the heat of arousal, the coldness of nonconviction. It speaks through its constant tiny dance, sometimes swaying, sometimes a-jitter, sometimes trembling. It speaks through the leaping of the heart, the falling of the spirit, the pit at the center and rising hope.  The body remembers, the bones remember, the joints remember, even the little finger remembers. Memory is lodged in pictures and feelings in the cells themselves. Like a sponge filled with water, anywhere the flesh is pressed, wrung, even touched lightly, a memory may flow out in a stream."  (C Pinkola Estes)  

Posted on December 26, 2014 .