It was truly a moving weekend for me. I am honored and grateful to have been a part of something so powerful. While the weekend was focused on our brave Veterans, I also took away a few very valuable life lessons.
Thursday night we had a campfire. The sky was crystal clear and I saw the stars brighter than ever before. It was a beautiful sight and oh, so quiet. As we sat around the fire, we shared our stories. I was moved to tears as I listened to these remarkable human beings talk about the trauma they have been though and what struggles they face day in and day out as a result. I wasn't weeping because I felt sorry or bad for them, but moved by how strong those folks have been.
After morning meditations and breakfast, we had our yoga practice. I was excited be able to provide yoga mats for our campers, as most had never experienced yoga or even really knew what it was about. I'm grateful that my job allows me to connect with other people in my organization to make this kind of gift possible. The gift of yoga and the gift of living a life you love. We practiced yoga in a beautiful chapel on the camp property. I'm not a very religious person but I find spirituality through my yoga practice. This chapel had something new and different to offer me. It wasn't like any chapel I've been in before and the company of the folks around me probably had something to do with it. I'll admit I was a little nervous, I didn't know how the Veterans would take to the practice. They loved it...
Something else that was new for me was understanding and experiencing the healing power of animals, especially in people with post traumatic stress disorder. One of the participants was extremely enthusiastic about his dogs. The man lives with SIX HUGE dogs! He had taken them all in to prevent them from being put down. He and his wife actually started a business that helps rehabilitate and find new homes for dogs that usually get a bad rap, like pit bulls and other similar breeds. He is so passionate when speaking about his dogs and even attributes his own life being saved by one of them. While we didn't encounter many dogs on our weekend trip, we did get to go horseback riding. It was so peaceful These massive, beautiful creatures were so gentle and I could really see how therapeutic it was for our group... even the volunteers.
As if the mediation and yoga were not enough for "stepping outside of our comfort zone," we had a ropes course to dominate. I was inspired to be brave because of the company I was with. If they can face what they face every day I can absolutely face my fear of heights.
During our second day of meditation I had another major epiphany I'd been four weeks clean of sugar, dairy, and gluten. At that point I had dropped 20lbs and completely changed my diet. Again, I sat in mediation and felt a strong sense of being grounded. But my realization that morning was that "I am not my body." I am my soul living in a body. A body that needs to be honored, nourished, appreciated and loved for housing my spirit. I'd been on my weight loss journey for the wrong reasons. I was trying to "change" my body. I found a new respect for myself that morning and began, and will continue to respect the body I have the privilege of living in. I have no plans to fill it with the "junk" I was filling it up with a few months ago...except maybe on birthdays.
Everything I learned was great and dandy but the most rewarding aspect of volunteering that weekend was by far being able to witness the peace and stillness that the people I was with got to experience for the first time through yoga and meditation. Sitting still wasn't an option for most of them before that weekend.
I will be forever grateful to that group of people for allowing me to be present with them, for sharing themselves with me, and for them opening up their hearts and minds to what I love and cherish so deeply.. yoga.