When you go on a retreat to a beautiful place, you may be hoping for epiphanies, or the moments of truth that can turn your head around. But you never know where those moments will come from. You just have to be open enough to acknowledge them, as the good ones are usually unexpected. And often unsettling.
As I contemplated my upcoming week at a gorgeous beach with a sympatico group of NextTribe women at Troncones, I was thinking apprehensively about whether I would be up to the yoga that would be part of my time there. I had abandoned my semi-regular practice several years ago and hadn’t gotten around to resuming it. Grief following my husband’s sudden death had muddled many things in my body and psyche, and when I tried to practice yoga in the stressful days when I was hurting most, I would get dizzy and nauseated.
I came to realize I was getting sick because I was so out of balance in my life.
Though yoga would seem to be a natural source of healing for grief, I came to realize I was getting sick because I was so out of balance in my life. It was more than not being able to hold the tree pose. I was out of kilter, like when your partner suddenly jumps or falls off the seesaw and you take a bad tumble. A Native American friend told me that when my husband died, I had lost the male energy in my life, and so I had become unbalanced. Gary had been the yang to my yin, my anchor, the peaceful warrior to my dreamer.
Back to Yoga
Returning to yoga, I thought, would be one of the markers on my long road to healing. And though I did make a very slow, unfolding re-entry into the downward dog at Troncones, it was not the yoga of all styles and speeds offered that week that became my biggest challenge. Instead, the key to the question of balance turned out to be a troublesome horse named Ricardo.
I keep saying I don’t really want a man in my life. But is that the truth?
A perceptive energy worker had asked me earlier that week, “What do you want to want to work on? What is the question you want answered?” I replied, “I keep saying I don’t really want a man in my life. But is that the truth or maybe just something I say because I’ve finally gotten comfortable living alone? Am I really so self-sufficient?”
Those who have read my NextTribe story about my horse trek in Mongolia might not be surprised that it was a horse that provided the answer. But it was a complete surprise to me. I had been looking forward to the promised sunset horseback ride on the beach, but, frankly, after riding a half-wild Mongolian horse across the steppes, I wasn’t really expecting a challenge. That is, until I met Ricardo. As we gathered around the horses that had arrived at the beach, the woman horse wrangler asked our group who was the most experienced rider since they had a horse that apparently required some extra ability. I raised my hand without really thinking about it. Sure, I’ll do it.
“What’s his problem?,” I asked her in Spanish. “He’s muy rapido,” she replied. Very fast. And she pantomimed rearing up. “He’s loco,” I heard another of the wranglers say. I looked at the horse in question, who was already prancing in anticipation and practically snorting fire out of his nostrils. I noticed that he was a stallion, while the other horses were sedate-looking geldings and mares. Hmmmm.
The more excited he got, the more I forced myself to relax, despite my apprehension.
As we set out down the beach, Ricardo began tossing his head, and it didn’t take long for him to demonstrate his reluctance to be restrained. He reared up in classic fashion and bucked and twisted. But I’m a Texas woman, after all, with an aunt who was a rodeo star, and this was nothing new. My own horse, Jed, whom I rode bareback many many moons ago, loved to buck right in the middle of a gallop when he was feeling his oats. But I didn’t know Ricardo, and I hadn’t yet been able to connect with him.
The more excited he got, the more I forced myself to relax, despite my apprehension as we approached a stretch of rocks. When we reached an open stretch of beach, I decided to let him do his thing, and he took off like a rocket. Jeez, he was fast. Muy rapido. I’m pretty sure Ricardo was a refugee from the racetrack. But I was beginning to get a handle on his impetuousness, and I could feel him beginning to respond to me. He wasn’t running away with me, he was just running because it felt so good to run.
Opening the Door
As the sun was setting, I took him to the side of the other riders, and he began prancing and high-stepping like a show horse. I felt that I was gliding, barely moving on his back. A jockey had once told me that the secret to riding is to find the center of the horse, and you do know when you’ve found it. We had found a balance together, and it was, well, thrilling. Other riders later told me that we were beautiful together.
When I dismounted, I realized that I had briefly found something that I had been missing.
When I dismounted, I realized that I had briefly found something that I had been missing: the power and beauty of male energy. And I had found that I could be in balance with that energy without losing who I was. In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang are seemingly opposite or contrary forces. And yet they are actually complementary and interconnected. They are incomplete without each other.
I don’t know that one wild ride on a beautiful beach with a headstrong stallion could bring back the balance I once had with a good husband, but I did have at least a partial answer to my question that week. Yes, I do miss male companionship. I may be self-sufficient, but I’m leaving the door open.
Here are more photos from NextTribe’s fabulous Stretch Your Mind, Stretch Your Body Retreat in Troncones Mexico.
Carol Flake Chapman has worked as a writer and editor for several leading newspapers and magazines. She has covered religion and spirituality, culture, politics, travel and nature. Her 2015 book, Written in Water: A Memoir of Love, Death and Mystery, tells of her pilgrimage from grief to consolation after the sudden death of her husband on a wild river in Guatemala.