This past weekend I had the opportunity to teach yoga at an intimate retreat in upstate New York. I've been craving more time in nature, and more time out of the city, so this coming my way felt perfect and like a gift from the universe.
I didn't really know this going in but the retreat was to be mostly silent. No laptops, no cell phones, no talking and even no communication via body language (no eye contact!).
I don't mind quiet - it's actually something I crave living in the hustle and bustle of NYC - but this level of quiet was a whole new experience for me.
It's amazing what a little bit of quiet can do.
Pretty soon after shutting down my laptop and turning my phone on airplane mode I had some very clear downloads (what I call the messages I get from self or spirit or intuition).
Some were more straightforward (THIS is how much you can charge for that, that food is not serving you right now, ideas for blog posts and videos, etc) and some were more out there (including one 5 page message from a past partner's spirit... believe me I was pretty surprised myself).
None of these messages would have come through so clearly or so quickly without the quiet.
Finding and staying quiet isn't always easy - there were definitely moments during the weekend where I wanted to talk to a friend, check Instagram or work on my laptop. There were moments when nature didn't feel peaceful (buzzing flies and creepy crawly spiders are definitely a test of mindfulness), where my mind felt anything but calm.
But this experience (as with ALL of my social media detoxes) reinforced the power of just being with self. Sitting in the discomfort and the feelings that come with quiet also allows us to open up to endless creativity, connectivity and real peace, as well as space to heal and process.
And while the quiet time to meditate and reflect was powerful, the biggest "aha" moment of the weekend for me was how much effort we all put into what we're saying and how we're presenting ourselves to other people, especially people that we may not feel totally comfortable being ourselves around.
And, if we're being honest, most of us don't feel comfortable being totally ourselves around most everyone, except maybe one close friend or a partner.
We spend so much energy (whether it's conscious or unconscious) trying to act in a certain way. Trying to present a picture to the rest of the world of what we think is acceptable or appropriate or right, instead of just being who we are. Instead of connecting with self and feeling our feelings and asking ourselves the important questions and going with what feels true in the moment, we're worried about how we're seen by others. Or maybe not worried, but we think we have to act a certain way based on who we "are."
I'm about to get real existential up in here but it's a good question, and something I thought about a lot this weekend...
Who are you?
Yes, I'm Emily. I'm a health coach and yoga teacher and entrepreneur. I like the beach and dairy free ice cream and the color blue. I live in Brooklyn and I ride a bike. I'm a little scared of heights, but somehow love roller coasters and my middle name is Margaret.
But is this really who I am?
No, of course not, you know that and I know that. I'm so much more than a job and a city and some dietary preferences.
But we like labels. We like to put things in boxes.
And whether we know it or not, we often use these labels as a form of communication.
By me saying I live in Brooklyn and ride a bike I'm presenting an aspect of myself I want you to see, and you're seeing a piece of me colored by your own experiences and belief systems.
Even if we think we know someone, we cannot experience reality through their eyes and filters, and as a result we cannot 100% guarantee what someone else will think of us or how they'll react to something we do. And if we're making decisions based on how we think someone else will perceive us or a situation, there's more often than not going to be a disconnect between how we think we should feel and how we actually feel.
You can however be in your own head (scary place sometimes - I know). You can be in your own body. You can see and experience life from your own individual perspective. Which is why it's so important to be THERE. To be YOU. To honor whatever is going on with your emotions, to listen to your intuition and act from a place of self interest.
My takeaway from this weekend is yes to find more quiet and more meditative time in nature.
But more than that I want to live more from that place of ME. Not Emily the health coach, the yoga teacher, the daughter, the sister, the friend... but Emily the human.
No labels, no shoulds, no what what so-and-so do. Just being and making decisions from that deep center of self.