Nora Ephron, author and screenwriter of movies like Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally, was part of a project by Smith magazine to write a six word memoir. Her wise words were, “Secret to life, marry an Italian.” I’m writing to you from Tuscany on the first of what I hope to be many Qoya and Dolce Yoga Retreats in Italy and I see what she means. (We loved it so much, we actually already booked our dates for next year- June 21-28, 2014.) If marrying an Italian isn’t doable right now, just being in this country is really something special. We rented a villa up in the hills and have been exploring a renaissance way of life with poetry salons, learning to speak Italian, cooking lessons and doing Qoya classes outside dancing barefoot among the olive trees and doing yoga by the fireplace after the sun goes down. To enjoy your life, and live la dolce vita (the sweet life), requires an expansion of space in your mind and heart to believe that it’s possible, believe that you deserve it and believe that reveling in the sweetness of life is worthwhile on your to-do list. Intellectually, most of us “know” that the practices of gratitude, honoring, celebration and authentic happiness are important, but we still may not take the time to cultivate the conditions for them to emerge.
I recently heard Dr. Bruce Lipton, author of the Biology of Belief, speak at the Four Winds Shaman gathering in Joshua Tree, California. His talk was insightful on a million different levels, but one of the things that stuck with me was a story about him being at a medical doctor's conference when the discussion was about what it means to be a doctor and the consensus reached among them was their job was to provide solutions for people to reduce their undesirable symptoms (often through pharmacology) to maintain their lifestyle. He encouraged us in the role of healers, energy workers, teachers, etc. that our relationship to health and well-being is the exact opposite. It is about shifting one's lifestyle to create conditions for health. Not about curing symptoms that are a result of a lifestyle that creates stress and disease. It's about healthy meals, movement, being in nature, getting a good night's rest, cultivating your community and home, giving back to the world, expressing your creativity and honoring the sacred. It's about creating a life you love.
As Mary Oliver asks in her poem, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” We all have the power within us to heal and alter the course of our life. I lean in the direction of altering the course of our life by visiting the altar of what resonates as true for us. Qoya is based on the idea that through movement, we remember. We remember our essence is wise, wild and free. Wise, wild and free also draw reference to the movement forms that we practice to evoke this essence. Wise- the wisdom of yoga. Wild- the creative expression in dance. Free- expanding our capacity to feel pleasure and enjoy our bodies through sensual movement. Beyond the words of wise, wild and free, Qoya is created as a portal to a remembering that goes beyond words. The feeling of when you see a sunset and your whole body exhales, when you are on a road trip and feel the pure potentiality of the open road, when you get caught up in the contagious laughter of a child, when you feel the warmth of your lover's body in bed, when you have an epic catch up with a girlfriend and at the end of the conversation really, truly believe everything is going to be ok, when you feel the fulfillment of a job well done or when you are dancing in the remembrance of your soul's truth and you catch a glimpse of the physical sensation of what it is to be aligned with your own true north.
This week at the Qoya Retreat in Italy, every moment seems to be like a portal to remembering. The food is a portal to heaven (See photos to the left from our Italian cooking class!) The landscapes a portal to a daydream. The living in a villa a portal to times past and an honoring of all the ancestors who have also taken the courageous journey of life. The movement a portal to the source of love within oneself and what is really important. I've led several retreats this year and everytime, I am so moved by the amount of healing, transformation, connection and inspiration that flows through the group. As I observe the process of chrysalis in each woman, I see that it is in the space to remember that things shift. It's not through the forcing of things to be different than they are. It's not through the mental gymnastics of analysis. It's not through the exhaustion of remedies that an epiphany appears. It's through an alignment with oneself so pure that a truth that transcends oneself reveals itself and there, things just shift. Call it magic. Call it grace. Call it truth. Just be sure you call on it as much as you can.
I'm always so fascinated with how energy moves. How people heal. How things shift and a person goes from confused, disconnected and seeking to clear, connected and found. There is no "secret to life" that fits every person, so it is the assignment of the soul to take time and space to explore what is true for you and then to follow it with an impenetrable passion. It's my intention that women who come on my retreats feel that when they go, but the truth is, they are often aligned within the first full 24 hours of being away because the secret to life, as far as I can tell, is how you life your life. In other words, the secret to life is your lifestyle. It's how do you align with your truth and live it. It's how you let your creative and unique offerings shine into this world through your sacred work. It's how you receive the gifts of this world and open yourself to inspiration through art, being in nature and community. It's going to the altar of your own truth- whether that be a religion, spiritual practice, the field of consciousness or the sunset.
In Qoya retreats you immerse yourself in a lifestyle of daily movement, communion with nature, healthy meals, meditation, community, creativity, sacred rituals and space to dream. You create the conditions for remembering. You become initiated back to love. And you remember that thing that goes by thousands of names, but can never really be described with words. And there, we all dance together. Retreats are a luxury for sure. But when living in a world that does not always mirror the truth of your own inner heart, they can become a necessary luxury. A place to recharge, to rest and to remember.
The more I remember, the more I am able to feel my heart beat to the rhythm of my truth. The whole point of Qoya is to know the physical sensation of YOUR truth, of what intuition feels like in your body and learn how to follow it like North on your own internal compass. Wherever that alignment with my own truth leads me, I know on my death bed I will never regret the remembering. I will never regret the dancing. I will never regret the shared knowing glances amongst my fellow dancers. I will never regret the belly laughs of stories shared around the dinner table. I will never regret one moment of inviting another human heart to remember alongside me. Never.
In the heart of spring, I'm so thrilled to be offering the 5th annual Qoya Retreat at Blue Spirit in Costa Rica from March 29-April 5, 2014. I love all Qoya retreats, but in a way, this one is the best. It is always my favorite week of the year as women come from all over the world to begin the day with the call of the howler monkeys and head off to early morning meditation and breathing. The food is ridiculously good. Qoya sessions are 2 1/2 -3 hours. We dive deep. No experience is required as there are no levels in Qoya. No beginner, intermediate or advanced, just one level and that is when it feels good, you are doing it right. Afternoons are free to go on outer adventures like surfing, kayaking, bird watching and zip lining or inner adventures like massage, reading by the pool, walking on the beach or taking a nap. Evenings are set for sacred ceremonies and goddess rituals. Over 100 women have loved this experience and almost half of the people who have come once, have come back a second time! (Some even a third!)
Retreats are an amazing way to be initiated back into a lifestyle that nurtures you. Every woman that has been on a Qoya retreat and living and experiencing her deep remembering of wise, wild and free self on a retreat has shared with me how it made a positive impact and shift in her daily lifestyle. And..you can do a retreat at home one day a week! Or for a weekend. Let the takeaway of this post be the importance of prioritizing your daily practices, because your lifestyle is what makes up your life. To learn more about the importance of daily practices in your lifestyle, check out my post on the Daily Love here. Also, to do Qoya daily, please visit our page with free videos here.
Nora Ephron wrote her memoir as, "Secret to Life, Marry an Italian." She also wrote, “And then the dreams break into a million tiny pieces. The dream dies. Which leaves you with a choice: you can settle for reality, or you can go off, like a fool, and dream another dream.” It can be so tempting to believe in our limitations that we do not have the time, resources or energy to have the lifestyle we really yearn for. But, it's not true. Especially since the most common things we yearn for are rest, nature, movement, delicious food, community, creative expression and connection to self, each other and spirit. So, be foolish and dream. Be wise, wild and free and dance. Light the way for others to see, so that we may all have more moments of living la dolce vita.
That's my wish I threw in the fountain.
For ALL of us.
From Italy with Love,