What is the magic equation to a life well lived? I've been asking this question and looking for the answer for over 10 years now. In my soul seeking travels to different corners of the earth, personal growth class taking and life as an experiential scholar, the answer I have today is inspired by the people I observe to have the most sustainable sense of fulfillment. They are those who have a lifestyle where they consciously give to and receive from community. The key is to balance the two. To give and receive. If you focus only on giving and don't take care of yourself, you'll feel resentful, exhausted and a scarcity around your own energy, time and resources. If you focus only on receiving and not consciously giving, there will be a stagnation of energy and a discontentment. Giving and receiving is like our own breath, best when it goes rhythmically and consistently in and out. As you approach each person, experience and day, it can be so much sweeter when you are conscious of what you can give and can receive.
To go deeper is to realize just what you are giving and receiving, because beyond material giving and receiving, the biggest present we can ever give someone is the gift of our presence. True statement.
I just finished leading the 4th annual Qoya Retreat in Costa Rica, which is always one of my favorite weeks of the year. Someone asked me, "So, what did you cover? What exercises did you do? What rituals? What adventures did you go on? Who came? What music did you use? What did I miss?" I told her not to worry about any curriculum she missed, but that in Qoya, and maybe everything in life, it's just a reason for us to be together.
She looked confused, so I went on to explain. One of my favorite quotes is when Gandhi says, "Happiness is when what we think, is what we say, is what we do, is what we feel." When there is this congruency between the different realms of our perception- mental, physical, emotional and spiritual, we can really be together and there is a totally different quality of presence and authenticity that allows true connection. How do we come into that congruent state of alignment, integrity and authenticity? Through movement, nature, ritual and community in Qoya. Through movement, we remember. Through nature, we heal. Through ritual, we honor. Through community, we celebrate.
Qoya is based on the idea that through movement, we remember. Through movement, we remember our essence. In class, we focus less and less and less on how it looks and more and more and more on how it feels. When it feels good, that is how you know you're doing it right. We shift from a sense of seeking outer validation, where there is no waiting for correction or praise, to consciously developing a stronger sense of inner validation. There are no beginner, intermediate or advanced classes. No level 1, 2 or 3. There is just one level. More than the movement feeling good, if it feels true, you're doing it right.
When we have the space to be true, to open, to see and be seen is when the deeper connection to ourselves, each other and community is possible. It is when we can really be together.
While getting feedback from women after the retreat, a theme that came forward was that one of the gifts in this retreats that made it different than any other was the intimacy. While being interviewed by I AM THAT GIRL last week, I was asked the question: What piece of advice changed your life? My answer was, "A mentor of mine told me that most people get caught in a mindset of more is better. They said that instead of thinking how big I can take my work to think of how deep I can take the work. This advice changed my life to stay aligned with the real reason we do the work and devote ourselves to our passions, which is to achieve the deepest experience possible."
This advice really shaped my approach to creating experiences with that intention, "how deep can we go." I have been to yoga retreats with over 100 people, where I would meet a couple friends and the teacher would say my name once or twice in a week, and they were fun. Then, I thought of the experience all the women received in Costa Rica, where I asked each woman to fill out a questionnaire about what is going on in her life right now, her favorite music and the one thing she hopes to get from the retreat and I studied them, built classes around them and created exercises for them to be able to explore their own truth and have their own revelations.
So much of our approach to education stems from an industrial model of creating output of information for the masses. Qoya is completely different. The learning comes from learning how to access your own answers from within and having opportunities to learn from one another with an emphasis on the experience and community. (For example, the picture above is from breaking up into groups of four and each person choosing a movement and co-creating a sun salutation.) In addition to the words you share or epiphanies you awaken to, you get the experience of truly being together and what the physical sensation is in your body when you remember. When you remember the sacred, when you remember what it is true for you.
So, what is the magic equation to a life well lived? I'd love to dance together to find out what the answer is for you.
I am passionate about Qoya and making it accessible to those who feel called to it, so I am on the move leading classes and retreats in all four directions this year. See the list below and I look forward to being together at the perfect time.
Miami, Florida: Qoya Spa Retreat at the Standard May 9-11 (with optional teacher training May 9-12) (Rooms available until April 21st!)
Stay tuned for more info about:
Tuscany, Italy Retreat in Late June 2013
Zimbabwe: House of Loveness and Qoya Service Retreat November 23-30
Costa Rica Qoya Retreat: March 29-April 5, 2014