Come Hell or High Water

Last Wednesday, I led a Holiday Wellness Yoga Retreat in Issaquah.  The day retreat included Yin Yoga, a delicious lunch made by Cathy Pierce, a discussion related to wellness, a walk, and a long late afternoon session of restorative yoga.  Throughout the day, everyone had a half hour massage with Julie Bacon.  This was my third annual Holiday Wellness Yoga Retreat and it was another great experience (see next year’s date at the end of this blog post).

It rained practically non stop for days leading to the retreat.  Crystal Creek flooded over so all the participants had to drive through fairly high water to get to the retreat site, which sits at the top of a mountain.  So now you understand the title of this blog entry!  No one turned back.  Come hell or high water, they showed up on time for the day retreat.  It was most admirable!  Most people had large vehicles to get across the deep water that flooded over and covered the street, but some people had economy-sized cars and they made it across, too.  Talk about determination!

Below are some photos from the day, along with some writing about the shared discussions on the topic of wellness.

We took a walk after lunch to see the extent of flooding and saw this truck driving through the flooded streets!

We took a walk after lunch to see the extent of flooding and saw this truck driving through the flooded streets!  It had been a long time since Crystal Creek had seen flooding like this!

The houses near the river were raised since the last flood, so we think they did not suffer too greatly from this flooding.

The houses near the river were raised since the last flood, but I fear they suffered flood damage.

Dayna with Willie in front of the flooded area.

Dayna with Cathy’s dog, Willie, in front of the flooded area.

Even flooded fields can be beautiful

Flooded field and forest

My walking buddies.  We were followed by a scary dog who was off leash.  He looked like a big black German Shepherd.  At one point, we were trapped by the dog at one end of the road and by the flooded field, so we called Mike to come get us!  By the time Mike came, the ominous dog was no where in sight.

My walking buddies. We were followed by a dog who was off-leash. He was a large black wolf-like German Shepherd. At one point, we were trapped by the dog at one end of the road and by the flooded field, so we called Cathy who sent Mike to come get us! By the time Mike came, the ominous dog was nowhere in sight.  I don’t think Willie (on leash above) ever noticed the scary looking dog.

The Holiday Wellness Retreat Participants were asked to do or answer one of the following:

  • How do you nurture yourself and your community?
  • Can you share a special photo that perhaps comes with a story to share?
  • Please share a poem or something you are reading that is meaningful to you.

I read the following poem:


Lisa spoke of her love of reading!  Reading is something she feels is self-indulgent and it is her key to wellness because it feeds her mind and spirit.  She then read a lovely excerpt from The Hobbit by Tolkien.

Kim said she had a hard time with self nurturing.  Self-nurturing, at times, seems to be a guilty pleasure, though she felt good about coming to this day retreat.  Coming to a retreat is about reserving the time to do it.  She spends a lot of time taking care of her parents so taking out time to retreat is challenging.  “Self nurturing is allowing myself this moment.”

She brought along a beautiful photo from the retreat she and her husband experienced in India with me earlier this year.  The photo (see below) was of all of us doing rooftop morning yoga in Rajasthan. As we passed the photo around the group,  she described the parrots flying around, the morning call to prayer from a nearby mosque, the sun rising,  and the Indian families waking up, starting their day by cooking with delicious spices.  We could smell the spices from Rooftop Yoga.

Kim's photo from 2015 Rajasthan trip

Kim’s photo from 2015 Rajasthan trip

Lastly, Kim read an excerpt from Maya Angelou’s book, Wouldn’t Take Nothing For my Journey Now. She read the short chapter titled, A Day Away:

We often think that our affairs, great or small, must be tended continuously and in detail, or our world will disintegrate, and we will lose our places in the universe. That is not true, or if it is true, then our situations were so temporary that they would have collapsed anyway.

Once a year or so I give myself a day away. On the eve of my day of absence, I begin to unwrap the bonds which hold me in harness. I inform housemates, my family and close friends that I will not be reachable for twenty-four hours; then I disengage the telephone. I turn the radio dial to an all-music station, preferably one which plays the soothing golden
oldies. I sit for at least an hour in a very hot tub; then I lay out my clothes in preparation for my morning escape, and knowing that nothing will disturb me, I sleep the sleep of the just.

On the morning I wake naturally, for I will have set no clock, nor informed my body timepiece when it should alarm. I dress in comfortable shoes and casual clothes and leave my house going no place. If I am living in a city, I wander streets, window-shop, or gaze at buildings. I enter and leave public parks, libraries, the lobbies of skyscrapers, and movie houses.
I stay in no place for very long.

On the getaway day I try for amnesia. I do not want to know my name, where I live, or how many dire responsibilities rest on my shoulders. I detest encountering even the closest friend, for then I am reminded of who I am, and the circumstances of my life, which I want to forget for a while.

Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence.

Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us. We need hours of aimless wandering or spaces of time sitting on park benches, observing the mysterious world of ants and the canopy of treetops.

If we step away for a time, we are not, as many may think and some will accuse, being irresponsible, but rather we are preparing ourselves to more ably perform our duties and discharge our obligations.

When I return home, I am always surprised to find some questions I sought to evade had been answered and some entanglements I had hoped to flee had become unraveled in my absence.

A day away acts as a spring tonic. It can dispel rancor, transform indecision, and renew the spirit.

Another retreat participant, Dayna, who recently experienced some health challenges, said, “I am taking in nurturing after having worn down my system.  I am now all about self-care. I am putting myself first for the first time in my life.  I’ve always wanted to refine my health and now I am doing just that. One of the things I am doing is cutting out sugar.”  Dayna is also making other great changes in her life and is an amazing example to those of us in her company!  She made reference to A COURSE IN MIRACLES, a unique, universal, self-study spiritual thought system that teaches the way to Love and Inner Peace is through Forgiveness. This course has shaped Dayna into who she is today and is contributing greatly to her self-nurturing strategies.

Brenda read excerpts from the book, The Gift, written by the Sufi poet and master, Hafiz.  It is amazing to think that Hafiz write in the 13th century because his words and ideas are so contemporary.  Below are some quotes from The Gift by Hafiz:

Earth would die
If the sun stopped kissing her.”
“The heart is a
The thousand-stringed instrument
That can only be tuned with
“Let’s get loose
Let’s drown in the delicious
Ambiance of
“Not loving is a letting go.
The terrain around here
Far too
“What is the root of all these words?
One thing: Love.
But a love so deep and sweet it needed to express itself with scents, sounds, colors that never before existed.”
Hāfez, The Gift
Brenda also spoke of the Five Spiritual Practices, as taught at her spiritual center, The Center for Spiritual Living.  The Five Spiritual Practices nurture her and her community.  They are the following:

Guidance from Within

Communion with the Divine

Awakening to Meaning

Seva (Selfless Service)
Oneness in Action

Participating in the Natural Spiritual Order of Never Ending Flow, Ability to Give and Take

You can read about the Five Spiritual Practices in detail here.  Brenda can also be found giving out biscuits to her neighborhood dogs.  Passing out dog biscuits is part of her nurturing program!
Cathy nurtures herself and others by engaging in “Give and Take Conversations”.  She firmly believes that kindness begets kindness.  She believes we are all interconnected.  And her new way of nurturing herself is by learning to use the concept of  integrating the affirmative “yes” and moving away from “no”.  For Cathy, “yes” gives way to possibility and “no” translates to limitations.  “Don’t tell me No!”  Don’t tell me you can’t do it.  Don’t tell me how to think.  Don’t tell me no.”
Now by contrast, Leslie S. thought that in order to self-nurture, the answer is NO!  However, Leslie’s idea of saying No comes from always saying yes and rarely saying NO.  As a result, she ends up doing too much for others and not enough for herself.  She also talked about her geriatric 15 year-old deaf dog named Nietzsche, who has become quite needy.  She is both amazed (because she loves him) and horrified (because he is so incredibly elderly) that he is still alive.  He and his needs interfere with her sleep. She is consistently awakened by him at 4 or 4:30am.  She is sleep deprived and said that her self-nurturing will begin one day when he is no longer around, at which point she will be able to sleep.
Karen self nurtures and nurtures her community by organizing an ever-growing annual Winter Solstice Candle Lighting community-wide event on Vashon Island.  She spoke of creating golden light on the shortest day of the year, golden light as far as the eye can see!  She makes magic happen for her community on December 21st.  The following excerpt comes from Karen’s weekly newsletter:
The sun will stand still for a brief moment, holding its breath over the Tropic of Capricorn while the waxing moon hovers in Taurus. In our Puget Sound region, the day will be 8 hours, 41 minutes and 47 seconds long, with the sun setting at 4:20 in the afternoon.
You get almost one hour more in Chicago with 9 hours, 7 minutes and 44 seconds of day length and in Miami you get another hour with 10 hours, 31 minutes and 46 seconds of day length. Wait, there’s more! If you happen to be in Reykjavik, Iceland during the winter solstice, you may be inclined to not bother getting out of bed with only 4 hours, 7 minutes and 9 seconds of daylight, much of that twilight.
With a dry day and many helping hands, trucks, sand, bags and candles we will light magic along Paradise Valley.
This is the moment we gather ourselves and prepare for the return of the sun to our northern hemisphere. It may officially be the beginning of winter, yet many of us will do a happy dance to welcome back the ascent of the sun as it adds daylight 5 and 6 seconds a day.
Our work begins early, the magic happens as we work and there are many opportunities for you to participate. If you wake up Monday, the 21st to a dry day, gather your many layers and come down to the farm about 11:00 AM. We will bag sand and candles, load trailers and truck beds, sip coffee and soup. We will go as far as we can with as many bags and candles as we have. One year we made it over 3 miles from the corner at 204/ Highway at CenturyTel to way, way down Wax Orchard Road.
I have been lighting Paradise Valley since 2000, when I lit a path from my house to my neighbors across the street, down to his pond in his backyard. James thought we were a little crazy, but he sure did love the candle light around his pond.
Luminaria: Beautiful painting by Pam Ingalls of the Winter Solstice Magical Candle Lighting, organized annually by Karen Biondo, on the very day of the Winter Solstice on Vashon Island!!

Luminaria: painting by Vashon artist Pam Ingalls of the Winter Solstice magical candle lighting, organized annually by organic farmer Karen Biondo, on the very day of the Winter Solstice on Vashon Island!!

marykay shared a photo of her son, David, whom she lost earlier this year.  David died on his own terms. I was lucky enough to get to know David and Rick was drawn to David’s kindness and got together with him from time to time.  They were scrabble-mates.  Please take a moment to read Windswept Wonder, my blog post from two years ago when marykay and her beautiful family (her adult children) did a yoga retreat at Little Renaissance, Ocean Shores.  David is the handsome fellow wearing eyeglasses.  marykay has taught me and reminded me that we can all nurture our community by reaching out to others who appear to be suffering from depression.  REACH OUT.  It’s a powerful message!  And don’t forget to say, “Have a nice day.”  Those were David’s words.  These simple words could put a smile on anyone’s face.
And a few more photos from the weekend:
Winter Garden

Winter Garden in Issaquah


Yoga at Crystal Creek

Julie Bacon gives half hour massages at the day retreat

Julie Bacon gives half hour massages at the day retreat

Cathy transforms her house into a holiday wonderland!

Cathy transforms her house into a holiday wonderland!

 Next year’s Holiday Wellness Yoga Retreat will be held on Wednesday, December 7, 2016.   Comment below to save your spot with Fran.


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