Heaven on Earth Italy Retreat
I just returned from a yoga and spiritual retreat in Tuscany, and over the next few posts, I’d like to share how it transformed me.
What was it like? It was quiet. The Tuscan hilltops are a perfect place to listen, because they are so peaceful. I loved the silence. The air was dry and hot, so hot that it was best to move slowly. The ground was dry and dusty—thirsty, just like we were all thirsty for connection to the divine. One day light rain showers moved through, and it was blissful to walk in the rain. The raindrops were icy cold, such a welcome relief after the heat. The rain cleared up quickly, and the heat returned, along with the buzzing insects. I jumped into the pool, gasping for breath after the initial shock of the cold water, but then letting it relax and refresh my body. In the evenings, the breeze picked up as the sun set, and I needed my sweater. After dinner we walked back to our villa by the light of the waxing moon. I slept with the windows wide open, letting the insect sounds lull me to sleep.
There was quiet, but there was also much laughter. And talking. And some music, namely Madonna.
In one of our yoga sessions, just as Kelly was leading us into savasana, a helicopter crossed overhead, reminding us that we weren’t completely isolated. Reminding us how to notice the noise and then let it go, because eventually it passed.
One afternoon, during a session with Bree, a thunderstorm crashed overhead. We huddled in the open-air dining room, pulling the plastic tent-like window covers closed. We had to listen much harder that day, in order to hear each other over the noise of the rain.
But we laughed about that, too. It reminded us that no matter how much tranquility we have in our lives, helicopters and thunderstorms will always interrupt. Insects will buzz in our faces. Dust will blow over us, making us thirsty for cold water with lemon. But it will pass, and we can always return to the silence.
I went to Italy because I wanted to do some soul work. The timing of this retreat, coming three weeks after we took Laura to college, was perfect. After a very busy summer, it offered five days on a Tuscan hilltop filled with yoga and meditation, plenty of time for me to hit the proverbial “reset” button. I wanted time to reflect on the next phase of my life. The empty-nester phase.
But first I had to deal with my feelings of guilt. I felt the need to explain to everyone that I booked this Italy retreat before we decided to build a new house. Because after a summer filled with travel to Elon, Silver Spring, Charlotte, Asheville, Blacksburg and also Paris, a week in Tuscany seems extreme.
However, I got a message about that quickly. On the first night of the retreat, Rachel (one fellow retreat participant) offered to do an angel card reading for me. Rachel shuffled the cards and asked me to pick three. I fanned out the deck and randomly chose three cards. I didn’t feel any special energy or anything—the draw was completely random.
Rachel turned the cards over. The first card spoke about how important it was for me to take time for myself. The second card (which was upside down, which means you should pay special attention to it) said that I should pamper myself. Both cards emphasized that I should rest and take time for myself, because I spent so much time and energy taking care of others, and now it was my time.
I was floored.
The third card spoke about not judging other people. That one was a little confusing at first, until I realized that I was judging myself. Judging myself for taking this expensive, self-indulgent trip to Italy.
So I opened myself to that idea—Take time for me, indulge ME. Without guilt. Without judgement. Open my heart and listen.