Finding Connection in Comfort and Challenge: Reflections on the CPY Epiphany Retreat

Updated: Jan 16

As I drove up to the Hartford airport, I was bursting with excitement and anticipation. Finally, after way too long I would get to see my friend Sally live and in person! I saw her and my heart did actually explode when I was able to throw my arms around her. If you have encountered her before, you know exactly what I mean when I say her smile is contagious!

Of course, we took a picture as soon as we were in the car.

The one thing you’ll notice is that when I’m really really happy I scrunch my nose when I smile, and you’ll see this in every single picture. I loaded up her lime-green suitcase in the trunk of my car and we were off to the farmhouse.

Our retreat team consisted of eight people: Sally, Doreen, Molly, Ame, Renee, Katrina, Jane, and I. While this retreat was online, we thought it would be best to have two separate spaces for the retreat team to gather together in case we ran into any logistical problems. At the time of planning, we were unsure of what COVID would look like so this factored into our decision to have two spaces.

We meandered through the beautiful winding roads of Connecticut with lakes here and a mountain there with a few little streams peppered throughout the landscape. One thought I had while we were in the car was, “her voice is a lot louder than I thought.” But that’s my dear Miss Sally, the kindest woman with an animated personality that fills up a room and leaks through the window!

The welcoming and weathered prayer flags

The farmhouse was big and white with a white split rail fence and a red front door. We knew we were in the right place when we saw weathered prayer flags strung on a tree right outside the side door. The soft, worn wooden floors creaked with love and support ready to host yet another group eager to make memories.

When Doreen found her way to our retreat home (literally, she was lost for a bit) I could feel my muscles melting between my bones and skin. How blessed we were to be together after years of being physically disconnected. I have known Doreen for over two years and yet this was the first time I was able to feel her warm energy in the same room as me.

First hug ever!

After a wild goose chase around Connecticut to find an ethernet cable with Sally, it was comforting to come back to Molly joining us. Molly has this presence and transparency that just draws you in. I couldn’t let go of her when she first hugged me! I felt so safe and secure. For me, she’s the kind of person who holds space like a friend and protects like a mother. Not only is she all these wonderful things, but her skill set is unbelievable. Rarely can we find someone who works well in corporate environments and wine-night sleepovers. With Molly, Doreen, and Sally in our intimate farmhouse, I felt like I was in the comfort of my home.

Always working through meals!

A spiral staircase was located on the side of the kitchen and breakfast area. This room had a huge picture window that gazed out to the yard full of greenery and a little bird feeder happily nourishing the cardinals who wanted in on the girl talk. Here we cooked delicious food, brainstormed about CPY, and drank our morning coffee and evening wine. Occasionally, one of us would read in the comfy chairs overlooking our oasis.

The gals in the "great room"

The great room was our favorite. It hosted our evening classes with Doreen, our dancing feet for Rachel’s class, and our intimate late-night conversations about our work, our life, and our yoga. The room had a gorgeous red and blue rug located in front of the mantle that was clearly the hearth of the home. This multipurpose room contained the lingering, smoky smells of years of use. What struck us the most, though, was a red tin sign in the shape of the Om symbol. Sally and I walked straight back to the bookshelf that doned the sacred, universal sound. We noticed something wildly familiar. There were at least a dozen books about the core yogic philosophy. It turns out the owner of the AirBnB is a yoga teacher. Again, we knew we were in the right place. And even more so we knew God was there.

Molly in tadasana during one of our practices.

When teaching a yoga posture, I often advise students to find their place of comfort and challenge. Any posture should allow a free flow of breath without tension while also strengthening our bodies and minds. Some days the challenge may just be staying present. Some days it may be folding a tiny bit deeper. The connection to our body, mind, and soul within these moments draws us closer in Christ and yoga. I am humbled and honored that for one weekend the retreatants and retreat team were able to navigate the comfort and challenge of being over Zoom and ultimately resting in a new space of connection.

Each time all of the retreatants gathered on Zoom, a sacred space was building over WiFi. We all shared three important emotions--designated by emojis--together: the warm fuzzy heart, the epiphany star, and the compassion camel. Our warm fuzzy hearts consistently flitted across the screen bringing our hearts together. Our little epiphanies sprung forth as we listened to our humble, intelligent speakers and panelists. Most importantly, we held our compassion camels when things got difficult.

I can’t remember the first time I tried camel but I do remember the first time I couldn’t do it. I was in a Bikram yoga class, a style which I can no longer practice. My chest felt so tight in the smoldering heat. I was upset with myself that I couldn’t do it. I was upset at the teacher for continuing a yoga that did not allow me to even attempt a pose. I was just angry and discouraged! Sometimes we get into those camel moments of feeling all the good and difficult emotions, and thankfully we were able to come together as a community acknowledging those moments for other people. There was compassion and space for those difficult moments.

Connection exists in the in-between of comfort and challenge. Our cozy farmhouse and my dear friends held the sacred space for this exploration.


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