Upon finishing my season at the Lassen, I had the opportunity to spend 12 days in Mexico, mostly at Iztac, a retreat center about 2 hours southeast of Mexico City. When I signed up, I didn’t have much of an idea what I was getting into. Mainly I decided to go because the timing worked out really well, it was affordable for me, and it was supporting a friend who was co-hosting the retreat. The brief description I read about it also sounded great: yoga in the mornings, natural building learning and service during the day, and workshops on music and dance in the evenings, and a healthy diet of whole foods.
The magic that awaited me at Iztac was more than I could have ever expected. Arriving into this beautiful land, into a group of incredible people, I was instantly absolved of the feelings of missing community that had upwelled after living for the season in quite a bit of solitude, and I was launched into a creative space. Wendolyn’s morning yoga classes set the tone each day to be one filled with peace and light. Our meals were wholesome, healthy, creative.
We participated in evening workshops each day, taught by incredible instructors. Jaocobo taught percussion, Alejandro taught music and harmony, and Deva led international peace dances. Each of them were so engaging, and everything we did was appropriate for all age and ability levels.
The other thing that stood out to me strikingly was the amount of intention that was poured into each aspect of the retreat. Not everything was perfect - sometimes we’d run out of an ingredient of food and have to improvise, or have many more people than expected for a meal and make things stretch; sometimes things would run very very very late (it’s Mexico!!); sometimes we wouldn’t have the perfect tool for a particular task in building the temple. But the level of depth that the organizers (Deva and Wendolyn) had put into thinking through creating a community experience of service for a greater cause overrode any of the things that didn’t work out perfectly. The conversations we had around the dinner table were so much more than skin deep. The friendships forged with the other participants were raw and real and I know that these people will be forever friends, albeit not close-in-proximity friends. Love in its purest form was at the center of activity. The beauty and magic of each of the performances that we participated in and witnessed will stay with me for a long time. Being introduced to International Peace Dances (which I’d never heard of before) opened up a whole new world for me and I hope to participate in them again whenever I am in a place where they are occurring.
A personal challenge I had was that while I was there I realized I had an injury (a small tear in my rotator cuff) which prevented me from participating in some of the natural building activities. Anyone who has suffered an injury understands the psychological toll it can take aside from the physical pain that manifests. It took a lot of humility to do my best to walk in grace and service even as I had to accept my inability to help with some of the natural building projects. Instead, I spent more time in the kitchen, embracing the opportunity to nourish the group of people that was working so hard building the temple. In this I learned, not only about food, but about myself, and more about accepting and being content with what is being given to me and what I can give.
Leaving Iztac I was full of inspiration to bring back into my ‘off-season’, and I plan to completely throw myself into all of my things in coming back: developing my botanical illustration portfolio and applying the best of them to products on a new Zazzle store, continuing to improve my photography and offer yoga photography shoots and seek outlets for my landscape images, giving to the beautiful Double Gum Tree Farm in Three Rivers, and to offer yoga workshops when/where I can and set aside some time to spend at an ashram again this year during my off-season, so that my personal and spiritual growth can continue.