When work brought me to Phoenix a little over nine years ago, I was fine with the move. Over the years, work has taken me to New York City, Houston, Dallas, New Jersey, and I’ve had to travel a lot between cities. I thought Phoenix would be just another move.
Yet, both my daughter and I found ourselves strangers in a very strange (hideously hot) land. We’ve joked that people in Phoenix are weird and nasty because they’re all suffering from heatstroke, but no matter how hard we have tried to make friends, we’ve failed miserably. The only person we ever hung out with was our hair stylist.
Over time at work, I became close with one African-American woman, Erica, and a Chinese-American man, Fai (pronounced Fie). But, it took Fai getting laid off until we all decided that we needed to be friends outside of work, and luckily, the three of us, along with Fair’s husband, now have regular Sunday lunches. I adore all these people and just assumed that this would be my limited world of friends in the desert.
However, little did I know that Erica (who recently left the company where we met for a better job) was friends with another woman at our job, Monica, who I just recently found out shares many interests with me. When Monica came up to me at a Hackathon I was helping to host and asked if I wanted to go to a spiritual retreat with her at Big Bear Lake, I was so taken aback, I told her I needed to think about it overnight. More surprising was when I told my daughter about this potential trip and she said, “Mom, you really need a break. I’ll pay for you to go to California.”
I didn’t even have to drive, as Monica offered to do that. This was a gift as I hate driving. And, no surprise, even though Monica and I barely knew each other, we had the best time driving to Big Bear Lake. We talked about metaphysics and spirituality and our kids and past relationships and her current fiancée and what we wanted out of life and even hit upon an idea for a side business.
When Monica and I got to the retreat, she already knew the woman hosting the retreat, Andrea Cruz, but I was new to Andrea. I found her to be a loving, beautiful woman who opened up a world of new friends for me. Andrea had invited Daniel Gutierrez, a former businessman turned spiritual healer and mentor, who not only led the group in wonderful discussions, but also let us experience rapé, a powerful cleansing snuff used in the Amazon and Peru. Daniel had told us that people sometimes trip, but the snuff is used more for cleansing and clarity than anything else. Of course, I actually saw something when I inhaled the snuff. Still noodling on what my visions means – have an idea, but needs some verification.
Alec Johnson, a young man trained in classical guitar, serenaded us throughout the weekend with music that soothed us, made us laugh and dance, and just provided a wonderful background. In the evenings, Shannon McInteer (also known as Omshanti) played her bowls, enveloping us in sound clouds of love and healing. Brett Hand showed us to give us all Reiki sessions, after telling us how he’d left a career in which he’d risen to management, to follow a new path to becoming a Reiki healer. I’m still amazed at how he got rid of all the pain I’ve been living with for the past four years. Click here to read more about Andrea and all of the wonderful healers she pulled together for the retreat.
As if this wasn’t enough, Andrea had Stephanie Bosco, The Superfood Goddess, cooking for us throughout the weekend. She and her boyfriend outdid themselves. I told Stephanie that I’d post some of her recipes on this blog in the future. Even if you’re not vegan, I highly recommend Stephanie’s recipes, as her food is amazingly delicious.
While I know unconditional love with my daughter and a handful of friends, and while I’m finally making new friends here in the desert, I must tell you that I’ve never felt so much love as I did this past weekend, hanging out in a beautiful cabin in the mountains, the air chilly, the fire crackling, and so much laughter and support. I was very glad I took the Monday after the retreat off, so I could just rest in the knowledge and warmth of that weekend. It was hard to go back to work, but it’s been interesting as, for the most part, I’m finding that I just don’t want to care about the lunacy of the job any more than I have to. I’ve always been a worrier, but I learned a good lesson this weekend that, unless danger is near, I’m fine within the chaos.
This group is planning on meeting up in the early autumn, so I know I’ll see all of these lovely people again. I’ve already heard from two of the guys and now that I know Monica, I won’t be so alone at work (until a better job finds her). But, even if I end up here on the job alone, that’s okay, because Cali is not that far away and I’ve got things to do – like publish my book, using the advice Daniel gave me – and so much more. If any of you feel like such a retreat would be for you, contact Andrea. It’s an experience you shouldn’t miss.
Love & Light!