Dear self in minor crisis: I have an idea—quit your full-time job-with-benefits and high tail it to India for a loosely defined “Women’s Self-Care” training (...but don’t I already know how to be a woman and how to care for myself?)
Good plan says my heart. Bad, bad plan says my mind and, like, everyone else in my life.
Generally, however, because of how I am inescapably wired, my heart wins. I know that I don’t grow or transform by trudging through the mud, I know that I grow by forcing myself into uncomfortable and intense situations that serve up a spiritual reality check. The real kind of reality check that forces me to look right into the magnified mirror so that I can see all the bizarre quirks, imbalances and strange beauties inside of myself. The kind of reality check that shows me who I am and scares the shit out of me, while simultaneously inspiring me way beyond what I thought possible.
My inner critic (or possibly, my mother’s actual voice) continued this dialogue thusly: “Why would Chantal take a vacation to India for 3 weeks right after having quit her full-time job and without another one lined up? She really needs to hunker down and figure her shit out!” Then, my inner cheerleader retorts: “This is exactly what she needs, she is finally listening to her intuition and her heart again (and, possibly, that one great tarot card reading) and just saying YES!”
And that convo got old reeeeal fast. So it ended promptly like this: “Fuck it, I’m just gunna GO FOR IT.” So I bought the ticket to India and accepted the invitation by the retreat leader, friend and mentor, Emily Kuser, to come assist on the Women’s Self Care training on the western coast of India.
Because sometimes you just have to woman-up and come to terms with the fact that (you're not going to be lawyer like the rest of the fam) and that what you’re meant to do on this earth doesn’t have a straight and narrow path...or an institutionalized credential to legitimize it in the public eye. Well, shit.
First off, none of this was whimsical or romantic. I never wanted to go back to India again after my first trip. Traveling alone with a backpack in my 20’s on a meager budget was exciting, but definitely gave me my fill of all the India I needed. Second, I did not go to this training thinking it would be fun or relaxing, or simply to check out. I went, somewhat hesitant, because I knew I had some big inner work to do and needed to slough off a few layers of stagnation. I knew it would be powerful and uncomfortable at times, because I know what growth and breakthrough feels like.
Before this trip to India, truthfully, it had been a long time since I had really challenged myself to get honest about whether or not the work I was doing was a) aligned with my gifts and aptitudes and b) viable enough to elevate me professionally, spiritually and financially into the future. I wasn’t really caring for myself responsibly.
Likely because I had so much inner work to do, and because I needed to be prepared to hold some space for others on the retreat, the breakdown/breakthrough process began before the official retreat had even begun. It began as soon as I slowed wayyyy down. I found myself spending a number of days in my Indian hotel room in the midst of a healing crisis, just BEING. At first, all I saw was the face of breakdown. It is a face that is not altogether unfamiliar to me; it is a face full of confusion and tears and fear, one that is hard to meet eye-to-eye in the mirror. Whenever I am in the depths of confusion or pain I often get stuck thinking “when will that beautiful glowing face of ah-ha, of inspiration and breakthrough appear again? Will I ever actually see that face again?”
I was reminded that so much of our inner crap is shrouded by the DO-ing-ness of our daily lives. So when we slow down, we have the opportunity to let it come to the surface. And all you have to do is say, “OK” to pain and fear and emotion, “OK” to bliss and delight and breath and space, “OK, I will feel this and not ignore it. I will just BE with it. I will do all of this because I love myself and I want to evolve and understand more about this life that I have been given.
Sharing my recent experience makes me feel pretty vulnerable. But that is eclipsed by the strength I feel in sharing it with the women in my life, known and yet-to-be-met, who know that our power and inborn gifts can heal and amplify the human experience on this extraordinary planet. It is also a reminder that experiencing our power is key to enjoying, loving and relishing in being a woman. Because we all know it’s not easy to be a woman...it carries with it great responsibility and crazy big power. And It can feel like we are full of WAY too much sometimes -- like, I-can’t-handle-all-that-is-going-on-inside-of-me kind of too much. But the ability to integrate that power is true wisdom and feminine power.
And this is why learning to truly care for our power and our magic, our psyche and spirit is so vital.
This is the basis for “women’s self care.”
Times of rest, relaxation and introspection are not a luxury, they are a necessity for women. The immensity of just how much we take in and process each day is much greater than we realize. When we get overloaded, we have many ways to mask the pain, divert the feelings, and file them away for later. I believe that even those of us who are very skilled at processing our emotions, at communicating clearly and knowing our needs and boundaries, undervalue and under-prioritize the need for true REST and reflection. I am not just talking about a spa day or an afternoon at the beach with a book - but rather, intentional and dedicated amount of time to check in, unwind, and unravel a bit. To get shaken up, get WOKEN up, and shed the stiff and familiar skins of things we have outgrown or have been afraid to address.
Make no mistake, doing this is work - it’s spiritual warrior shit for sure. But the effects of it not being done are far more challenging to deal with than doing the work itself. Humans are always changing and growing and healing and it does require reflection and acknowledgment to do so skillfully.
This process is much like women’s monthly cycles of menstruation and the numerous phases that we move through. Women have the capacity for and need to cleanse, release and recalibrate the whole body-mind-heart-spirit system on a regular and cyclical basis. There is so much that a woman knows, sees and feels moment to moment, and her capacity for all of this is a great gift. This gift has the ability to guide decision making, create, organize, heal, communicate, lead, rectify, solve complex issues and challenges.
This willingness to do the “spiritual warrior shit,” this is the difference between a retreat and a vacation. And, Toto, I am definitely not on vacation anymore.