On the 15th of April, I courageously set out on a solo adventure, to a 3 day Yoga retreat in the Northern NSW hinterlands with OM GODDESS RETREATS (Bryony Atkins and Amelia Warren). The drive down, 20 minutes out of the retreat, was so picturesque, scenery I haven’t embraced for far too long, being a country born - city dweller. It truly took my breath away. As I arrived in Stokers Siding to the 5 star sanctuary of a home on top of a mountain looking down into the sweeping green valleys, my good friend Bryony greeted me with a long awaited embrace, our souls dancing with excitement to see each other after some time apart in different cities. Meeting for the first time, the gorgeous Amelia quickly made herself known to me, excitedly announcing “Laura – the Singer is here” as she welcomed me in with open arms.
With bags, yoga mat and guitar in hand, I was introduced to the other goddesses and embraced with an unnerving wave of warm welcome love and acceptance. Our hearts were so open and ready to experience a weekend of purity, love, and presence together. We settled into our first Yoga practice over sunset, and so the retreat began and little did I know that my life was about to be changed forever…
As we gathered for the induction circle, phones were surrendered for a retreat long detox and I cannot tell you how empowering this felt. It was time to “disconnect and become connected”. With emotional walls still slightly up, it wasn’t long before we all became vulnerable, awakened and real. Without giving away too much about this workshop and its specifics, I will say this;
I bravely shared truths and painful parts about myself that I thought were buried so deep down, never to be found. My throat swollen, heart racing, walls slowly tumbling and motivated by a courageous voice inside my head, I completely broke down, surrendered, came undone and as a result…began to blossom. In a single moment physical and emotion disharmony I have been unconsciously carrying, felt as if it uncontrollably jumped straight from the pits of my stomach, out my throat, vanishing into thin air, leaving a sensation of absolute weightlessness. If only I had known how much this pain inside had been causing, I would have released it much sooner and I strongly encourage everyone to do the same no matter how “in control” or “okay” you might think you are as the results are astonishing. Imagine if we could all have the courage to be vulnerable, brave and fearless what we could achieve.
"For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction." - Cynthia Occelli
After this unburdening experience, I was asked to sing my rendition of Defying Gravity for the group. After thrashing my larynx with hurdling yelps prior, this wasn’t going to be the easiest task, but I knew the intention was not to be vocally perfect, but to tell a story, entertain and inspire. So that’s what I did. I blew them all away, with the intention in my heart to inspire courage, and it was in that moment, seeing some with tears, some with glistening eyes of wonderment, some with smiles and squeals of pure excitement, that I was beginning to catch glimpses of my true life’s purpose. It was all starting to make sense.
Lesson 1: Be vulnerable and trust your instincts…to defy your own gravity.
Starting the next morning in silence, we assembled on our Yoga mats, facing the wondrous valley, with the sun hiding just behind the mountains as Bryony guided us through a soul nourishing silent sunrise yoga. I started to notice that long-term pain from my body was disappearing without notice. I was finally going within and grasping the true meaning of Yoga – to feel at one with the body and what is. Not to compete with myself and others. To just be. Without label, without judgement.
“Yoga is not about how well you can do a pose, it’s how you bring your spiritual yoga practice into your everyday life.”
Lesson 2: Do yoga
Free time followed to partake in whatever our hearts desired. I chose to play my guitar, something I don’t do enough these days. Strumming my guitar, with not a care in the world, brought be back to the fearless 17 year old girl “that used to be mine”. I had a fire in my eyes and believed anything was possible and I was going to pursue my musical dreams, without a care in the world of what others thought, how hard it would be or how hard I would have to work because it’s what I love doing,
It was at this moment, I began to reconnect with this courageous young girl that lingered on inside me, one I thought I had lost, but has been there all along. Why had I lost this burning desire and how was I going to ignite it again?
Well then came Bryony’s angel card reading. It was brought to my attention,
“To heal relationships with others, you must first heal the relationship you have with yourself.”
It could not have been laid out in simpler terms. To say the least, it’s been a life altering, gut wrenching, soul discovering past several years of my life, with many ups and downs. I’ve hit rock bottom, stumbled to find my feet, picked myself up, grew stronger, fell down again, lost myself, thought I’d found myself and lost myself again…in other words…what best describes the majority of most of our 20’s right?! But boy am I grateful for every mistake, every heartbreak and every shitty moment that ultimately brought me to the Om Goddess Retreat to reignite that fire in my eyes of a girl that is gone, in the past, used to be mine and will be mine again but this time stronger and wiser. So now I give you this, the song to tell this part of the story, with lyrics that resonate with my soul and I hope will resonate with yours. "She used to be mine" by Sara Bareilles from the Musical Waitress.
Lesson 3: Heal the relationship you have with yourself.
After a day of Chakra Healing, self-love workshops and a special goddess ceremony, the night had arrived. Formed in a circle, with the stars gazing down on us on the clearest of autumn nights, we soulfully engaged in the letting go fire ceremony turning our OLD worries to ashes and sending our NEW wishes out into the universe. Tears of love were bathing my eyes in awe of this beautiful moment. Once again, I was asked to sing for the group, this time, what I call my life anthem - Astonishing from Little Women - a song that inspires me to keep going to ‘find my way’ in this life. The goddesses were completely “astonished” and inspired and I finally grasped my true purpose, something I’ve known all along but have been searching for affirmation, not from others, but actually from myself. I found it. I knew what I needed to do.
“What you are looking for is not out there…it’s in you.”
As morning approached, we gathered for our last Yoga practice of the retreat. For the first time, everything was in balance. I felt soft and strong, I felt light and grounded, I felt Yin and Yang. I was finally in the now. We all were.
Lesson 4: Let go of what no longer serves you and reconnect with that fire inside.
Feeling rejuvenated, Nutritionist Caitlin Rooney (Radiant and Nourished) graced us with her presence for a Nutritional workshop, for what I’d best describe as a truly emotionally unraveling experience. With wise words and an inspirational story, tears were streaming down our cheeks, leaving us inspired and informed on healing the relationship with food and learning to love our bodies, for the true artistry that they are. To nourish, love and respect them.
As the retreat neared an end, we were individually invited to meet with Amelia and Bryony for our solo goddess farewell. We were asked to share how we felt after the retreat. Choked up with tears welling, I expressed that although it’s been a hard couple of years leading up to now, this retreat has absolutely changed my life forever and I am eternally grateful.
“I have found my purpose. I have finally arrived…”
I can say with all of my heart, that if you want to make a difference in your life, long to ignite that fire within or just love being in nature and practicing Yoga, you need to go on OM GODDESS RETREATS. If it could impact my life this much, I’m sure it can do the same for you and I’m here to inspire you to be brave and do it. Or do what makes you feel in the now, makes you feel alive, follow the lessons I have learned and bring back that fire inside to start living your true life’s purpose!
This is just the beginning of the story and the songs of….
“That Singer’s Soul”