by Aliza Sherman Risdahl (Travelgirl)
Never having enough time in the day has always been my excuse for not doing something for myself. Sound familiar?
When I had the opportunity to attend a retreat, my first reaction was, "No time," even though the retreat fell on a weekend and I'd only miss three days of work. Pulling myself away has always seemed impossible.
The retreat was called "A Fine Balance," organized by Mind Over Mountains (www.mindovermountains.com) and led by Kim Reynolds, a life coach and yoga and outdoors enthusiast.
"I wanted to combine the best of many worlds - to focus on topics that are important to women and create an environment where women can discuss these topics," says Kim, describing the blend of yoga, outdoor activities and life coaching sessions. "The outdoors has a profound effect on people, and I wanted to weave those lessons into the experience the become metaphors for life."
"Every woman needs to look inside herself when she becomes too busy and see what she is distracting herself from," advises Debbie Mandel, author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul. "The biggest problem for women is that they do not create time for themselves and feel that they must do everything. This leads to health issues and high stress levels."
PUSHING PAST FEAR
"A Fine Balance" was held at the Chipeta Lodge and Resort in Ridgway, Colorado, nestled in a lush valley surrounded by rugged mountain ranges. Accommodations were cushy, meals were gourmet, and the spa treatments included in the package were luxurious. But then there were the hikes.
I like leisurely walks, but the first hike lasted over three hours through forest, open fields, and up mountains. Every step I took was more painful than the last, and I cursed each time my boot hit the ground.
Later, I realized how angry I had been throughout the hike. As I talked about my feelings with the other women on the retreat, I voiced that my anger stemmed from a childhood fear: I correlated a fast-beating heart with imminent death.
The experience made me see how much deep-rooted emotions can rule our lives and choices we make. Even our professional paths can be affected by childhood fears. A fear of asking for a raise, for example, could be based on a lifelong fear of rejection.
Lesson #1 - To get past present challenges, we must look at what deeper emotions and fears might be dictating our choices or preventing us from making the right choices.
REFUSING TO GIVE UP
Rock climbing was the next day's activity, and although I had never climbed, I wasn't afraid. One of the other women, Margie Walker, confessed to a lifetime fear of heights but was determined to climb.
Margie later admitted that it was challenging for her to rely on others for help. "I was forced to trust the rope and the belay team supporting me by falling back into the harness and walking backwards to the bottom," she said, describing the people at the end of the rope, holding it taut to keep her secure. She felt she had a personal breakthrough on the climb.
For me, the first climb was enjoyable. The second climb was another story.
As soon as I was off the ground, a voice inside my head screamed "This is impossible. Give up!" I was shocked. I never considered myself as a person who gave up easily, but now I felt defeated.
"I can't do it," I said aloud.
Kim Reynold's husband, who was belaying for me, replied, "Yes, you can."
Focus on those words, I thought. "I can." This is all about my mind, and my mind is very strong. "I can do it," I repeated to myself, over and over again. "Just do it, dammit!" I exclaimed and pushed through the shakiness of my leg muscles, the exhaustion of my arm muscles.
I lifted myself to the next hold and the next. I kept climbing and suddenly reached the top of the rock. I cried with relief.
Lesson #2 - Don't give up. Even when you think you can't do something, there is always a way. Accept the help and encouragement of others. Believe in yourself. Knowing you can do something is half the battle.
On the last hike, altitude was a factor as we rose to nearly 10,000 feet. I was determined to change my attitude from the first day's hike. Instead of cursing each step, I thought positive, loving things. "I love you trees, I love you sky," I said to the rhythm of my walking.
"Are you limping?" Kim asked halfway through the hike.
My shoes don't fit very well," I admitted. "I think my socks are too thick."
Kim encouraged me to change my socks, so I did. While my feet were already blistered and bruised, the thinner socks did reduce some discomfort.
"I love you trees, I love you sky," I chanted, my steps lighter and faster. While I can't say I loved the hike, I can say that I did it.
Lesson #3 - Negative thoughts and attitudes can bog us down and prevent us from moving forward. Negativity can make everything we do seem difficult. A simple change in attitude could turn a drudgery into something more bearable.
TAKE A RETREAT
According to Jill Murphy Long, author of "Permission to Play: Taking Time to Renew Your Smile," short retreats can provide "essential and crucial 'me time' - time for self-care." Getting away offers "an opportunity to recharge and rejuvenate the mind, body and spirit. Whether you do absolutely nothing but sit on the sand and watch the waves or climb to the top of a high mountain, this time is needed now and frequently."
A retreat can help develop creativity and improve focus, she says, and from my own experience, I have to agree. I learned more about myself in 5 days than I had in the last 5 years, all because I took a chance, rearranged my priorities and gave myself permission to leave work behind to explore a new terrain - myself.