We couldn’t have asked for a better autumnal evening to close the weekend at my recent yoga retreat. An evening that involved lighting a campfire, sitting around it, sharing prayers, and singing songs together. An evening that was soft, peaceful, honest, and attentive. An evening in sharp contrast with the busy life of working people, whom I imagine bursting out laughing while reading this description thinking what a stereotype of an airy-fairy retreat this must have been. While a cliché to some, this was all I needed, away from hard hitting news, busy strategists, journalists and marketeers.
Sitting around the fire reminded me of the slightly forgotten joy of the simple analogue things that make us human. Melissa Colon, one of our retreat guides from Breath Body Earth, explained that fireside rituals are as old as humanity itself. For millennia people have congregated around fires – often used as symbols of the omnipresent sun – praying and performing various rituals. We emulated the millennia-old tradition and were invited to say a prayer and then throw tobacco in the fire. As someone who does not pray often, I found the act of praying in company extremely challenging. There is an intense intimacy about praying that leaves you feeling naked, your soul out in the open for all to see. It took listening to the prayers of most of my fellow retreaters for me to be able to summon the courage to utter mine. But in hearing these prayers and vocalising mine, I felt fuller, happier and stronger. I felt my previously dwindling hope for a better future for my children being miraculously rekindled. Like Roald Dahl’s giant peach, gradually my hope just grew and grew. It grew out of the shared humanity of 15 individuals that was on full display that evening, illuminated by the fire that kept us warm and connected. It fed off the prayers of others which were so splendidly, fundamentally, like my own. When you boiled it all down, we were all ultimately praying for connection, kindness, acceptance, mutual understanding, care for each other and the planet, love, peace, and hope.
At the end of everyone’s prayers Melissa made an observation that stuck with me: “We look for hope externally around us, not realising that hope is inside us. We are the hope we are looking for!” It suddenly made perfect sense to me that we carry the hope we are craving for, for if we do not have it inside of us, there is nothing to crave.
In signing up to this Nourish retreat, my hope had been to reconnect with myself. In fact, the healing moments came as much from connecting with others, who reflected back to me the values I so wish to live by, as they did from connecting with myself. I found a new (or old) hope and trust in the future that had been slipping through my fingers like desert sand. I realised that to live joyously and purposefully, we need hope and connection, as much as we need air, water, and food.
That weekend, I took one step from my head on the long journey towards my heart. Now I just want to keep walking and asking myself: Am I aware? Am I aware? Am I aware?