During a highly stressful week while LA apartment shopping and managing a full schedule, I called to notify the retreat staff I would no longer be able to participate in their most generous offer. “I am so sorry but I just don’t have the luxury of taking time off” I explained. Ari Nessel calmly replied that I would never feel I have the time to take a week off and there will always be something we are dealing with in this life. He talked me through my anxiety-filled tears and helped me see how important, now more than ever, taking a step back was and learning the tools for handling that which life throws at us.
He couldn’t have been more right. During just seven days, I learned to breathe again, how to effectively manage stress by responding rather than reacting, to better communicate, appreciate the little things and become more disciplined in my self-care – physical, emotional and spiritual. I learned to be more grateful, more generous, more kind. We walked through breathtaking wooded trails and meditated in peaceful gardens. We ate exquisite fresh local vegan fare and slept in comfort in the warm, cozy home nestled in the trees. We enjoyed fellowship amidst silence and gained an appreciation for reflection and mindful practices. We were richly blessed by the teachings of Buddhist Monk Tashi Nyima and the guidance and care of a loving staff.
Since returning, I have found it easy and even necessary to incorporate these practices and principles into my daily routine. I am finding myself waking up several hours earlier to enjoy mindful mornings in preparation of the day and have a sense of peace and joy that I hadn’t felt before this experience. Best of all, upon returning, God placed the perfect apartment in my path, through no effort of my own aside from releasing control. It was truly one of the most meaningful weeks of my life and I am deeply grateful. With everything we do and witness on behalf of animals, I hope every activist has an opportunity to take this much needed break to find peace and restoration for their soul. When we show up for ourselves, we are then capable of showing up for others and the precious animals we are on this earth fighting for.
In the words of Tashi, may all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.